Heavy rain on Sept. 9 flooded parts of the cross country course in Walnut Grove and made other parts muddy. Additionally, lightning nearby had the officials ready to cancel Millard South’s only home meet entirely at any minute. But the rain subsided, and the invite went on as planned, for the most part.
The original schedule for the races held last Friday was the JV girls race, Varsity girls, Varsity Boys, then JV boys. The weather forced a change though, so the varsity girls were moved ahead and became the first race, with Varsity boys second, and it was uncertain whether the JV races would even be run. With the first race being run just a few minutes after the rain stopped, the athletes would have to run through mud and water to reach the finish line.
The two heavy favorites going into the Varsity girls’ race were Taylor Somers of Millard South and Emily Venters of Lawrence Free State. Venters won the Millard South Invite in 2014. Venters ran her fastest time ever at that race and became one of only three people to beat Somers in a Nebraska high school cross country meet. However, Somers came back and won the Millard South Invite in 2015, running her fastest time ever.
From the second the starting gun went off, Venters and Somers were in front. They were neck and neck until about a mile into the race, when Venters started pulling ahead. Venters lead from that point on, with Somers finishing a fair margin behind her. Somers ran this race a full minute slower than she did the year before. She isn’t letting it discourage her, though.
“There’s nothing else I could have done except run faster.” Somers said of her race.
When asked about it, she said that she just isn’t in top shape yet, and is planning on improving as this season goes on.
Aside from Somers placing second, the rest of Millard South’s girls team also had much success. The three freshmen on the Varsity team, Lorelei Hayden, Maddie Krull, and Hannah Denson, all ran personal bests, and finished 12th, 20th, and 21st, respectively.
After the girls’ race finished, the boys’ Varsity race started hastily, as the sky started to darken again. With rain seeming inevitable, the race began with no further ado. Seth Hirsch, the defending state champion, faced some early opposition, but quickly brushed it off. Behind him was a pack of runners vying for 2nd through 10th place, among them was Millard South’s top runner, Noah Rasmussen.
About ten minutes into the race, the rain came. A deluge of rain fell, that turned the nearly dry-course from clear to soaked in just a few seconds. Luckily, most of the runners were at least halfway through the course.
Despite the downpour, three Millard South athletes, Noah Rasmussen, Gunner Mattson, and Dylan Lessig, ran personal bests, with Rasmussen finishing 7th.
Nevertheless, the officials were not willing to risk any of the runners getting injured and canceled the JV races, to the delight of most of the runners. Everyone quickly gathered their stuff, and rushed to shelter. The coaches made sure all the athletes were accounted for, and then they were free to go. Medal presentations were skipped, as the rain showed no signs of letting up.
Although the weather at this year’s Millard South Cross Country Invitational was far from ideal, neither of the races disappointed. The races will go down in all the athletes’ and spectators’ memories, even if those memories are of running to shelter.