A Nebraska state champion and perhaps a future South Dakota star crossed the finish line first in the boys and girls divisions of the 41st annual Norfolk Lyle Moeller cross country invitational at Skyview Park on Friday.
Meanwhile, a pair of siblings earned Norfolk's only two medals.
In the boys race, junior Liam Chot and his Lincoln North Star teammates finished first, second and third in leading the way to the team championship. The Navigators topped runner-up Omaha Burke 25-69. Norfolk finished eighth in the nine-team field with a score of 146.
Chot — the defending Class A state champion — took the lead early and wasn't seriously challenged. “To come out here in Norfolk, it's always hard. It's always hilly, windy and sunny, so today wasn't really about times, it was just a good workout,” he said.
Chot had a 22-second lead on the pack when he came upon separation hill at about the 4,000-meter mark in the 5,000-meter race. The steep incline, southeast of the lake, is always formidable and was even more so on Friday as the competitors ran into the teeth of a southeast wind.
“That was bad, that was terrible,” Chot said. “I almost stopped, I almost walked off the course.”
He didn't, of course, and finished in a time of 17 minutes, 12 seconds, which was 21 seconds ahead of teammate and runner-up Daniel Pierce.
Norfolk senior Matthew Protzman had the best performance of anyone not wearing a North Star jersey. The Panther finished fourth in a time of 17:45.
Protzman said he and the other front-runners took it kind of slowly through the first 1,000 meters. “I started out about fifth or sixth with the top group of guys,” Protzman said. “And, then when we hit the 2-mile, we kind of spread out a little bit for separation, and I just tried to hang on to that fourth spot.”
Norfolk boys coach Aaron Bradley said Protzman is believing in himself and his training. “The last three weeks, he just keeps improving and amping it up,” he said. “We ran against a couple of these schools last Saturday, and he says, 'I'm gonna beat that kid.' I'm really proud of him; he's going after his goals.”
Bradley admitted he was disappointed in the eighth-place finish out of nine teams. “We've just got to get the rest of our guys up another level,” he said. “The effort was great today, but we just need to keep plugging away and getting better and believe that we're going to get better.”
Among the other Panther runners, Carson Means finished 31st, Cole Uzzell was 33rd and Bryson Callies 38th.
SIOUX FALLS Roosevelt freshman Cierra Watkins passed up another freshman, Thea Chance of Yankton, in the final half-mile to win the girls race in a time of 20:44. Chance finished ninth after falling with about 100 meters to go. She was able to get to her feet and finish, then was treated by trainers.
Watkins said she spent most of the early and middle parts of the race in and around fifth place. “I kind of had a bad start and then I kind of came in with the pack once we went around the trees,” she said. “And then, up the hill, I kind of backed down because the hill was tough, and then I went downhill and passed everyone.”
Watkins' teammates finished third, fifth and seventh to help lead the Rough Riders to the team title, 29-66 over runner-up Omaha Central.
Norfolk's Esther Protzman — also a freshman and Matthew's sister — finished eighth. “The first 1,000 was fast, but the second and third, it just didn't feel very good,” she said. “It was slower than it should have been, but this is just my second varsity race, so I'm still trying to figure things out.”
Norfolk girls coach Angie Means was proud of her young team. “We're led by a freshman, who just every week, comes and races like she's hungry for doing well.
“We had our second pack of girls, two freshmen and a sophomore, started off that first mile kind of a little bit timid and realize that now, and know that that's an area that we kind of need to work on.
“But, as the race went on, they just kept on attacking and getting after the girl in front of them, so we had some finishes that were not in the top 15, but they had really moved up in the last couple thousands of the race.”
Melorie Summers finished 19th for the Panthers while teammates Rachel Mortimer and Danika Brown were 22nd and 24th, respectively.
Girls team scores
Sioux Falls Roosevelt 29; Omaha Central 66; Yankton 90; Norfolk 104; Lincoln North Star 108; Millard West 124; Omaha Burke 167; Columbus 193
Cierra Watkins, SFR, 20:44; Lauren Anderson, CEN, 20:58; Saylor Weiland, SFR, 21:04; Mohussin Abakkar, CEN, 21:14; Jaide Geurts, SFR, 21:14; Sydney Beaudin, MW, 21:17; Sheridyn Winter, SFR, 21:18; Esther Protzman, NOR, 21:39; Thea Chance, YAN, 21:39; Abigail Adams, BUR, 22:15; Madeline Krause, CEN, 22:17; Sydnee Serck, YAN, 22:19; Faith Boyer, SFR, 22:34; Jaeden Webb, LNS, 22:37; Madison Howard, SFR, 22:48
19. Melorie Summers, NOR, 23:05; 22. Rachel Mortimer, NOR, 23:15; 24. Danika Brown, NOR, 23:32; 31. Paige Godfrey, NOR, 23:58; 33. Pareena Poniah, NOR, 24:02
Boys team scores
Lincoln North Star 25; Omaha Burke 69; Columbus 112; Papillion-La Vista South 114; Millard West 119; Sioux Falls Roosevelt 134; Yankton 137; Norfolk 146; Omaha Central 278
Liam Chot, LNS, 17:12; Daniel Pierce, LNS, 17:33; Asim Ali, LNS, 17:39; Matthew Protzman, NOR, 17:45; Logan Hauschile, BUR, 17:49; Ethan Zaborowski,LNS, 17:54; Joe McFarland, COL, 18:06; Leo Schumacher, BUR, 18:07; Douglas Davidchik, COL, 18:18; Seth Fey, MW, 18:21; Logan Narduzzo, BUR, 18:24; Carson Reese, SFR, 18:26; Jimmy Nguyen, LNS, 18:27; David Jabens, PLS, 18:28; Mason Welker, YAN, 18:3331
31. Carson Means, NOR, 19:09; 33. Cole Uzzell, NOR, 19:10; 38. Bryson Callies, NOR, 19:19; 43. Berkly Brummond, NOR, 19:31; 44. Wyatt Mead, NOR, 19:33; 46. Isaac Guenther, NOR, 19:39