Pierce sophomore cross country runner Alexus Sindelar tried to imitate her brother. “I’m always envious of him, because he’s able to smile through a race, because he knows that no matter how he does, he’ll just run his race,” she said.
Alexus finished third at last year’s Class C state meet about an hour before her brother, Mason, now a junior, crossed the finish line in second place in the boys race.
“So, today, I wrote on my hand, ‘Just run, don’t think,’ ” Alexus said. “Then, right before I ran, I got so nervous, but then I looked at my wrist and I thought, ‘I think I can do this,’ not win, but I think I can beat my time from last year.”
Alexus did win and did beat her time from last year while defeating last year’s champion, Jordan Stopak of Boone Central, in the 36th annual Norfolk Catholic invitational at Skyview Park.
Sindelar and Stopak ran stride-for-stride after the first mile, but as the pack made its second pass in front of the crowd at the northeast corner of Skyview Lake, Sindelar had taken about a 10-second lead.
The Bluejay sophomore continued to lengthen her advantage into the final mile and maintained her lead up the steep incline known as separation hill.
“I kind of blanked out,” Sindelar said. “I just had this voice in my head say, ‘Up the hill, tighter arms, lean forward,’ and then when I’m going down the hill, ‘Stride out, stride out!’ and so I just kept that in my head.”
Sindelar seemed to grow stronger in the final half-mile and finished the 5,000 meters in a time of 20 minutes, 24 seconds. Stopak was second in 21:05.
Stopak and her Boone Central teammates did earn the team title. The Cardinals defeated runner-up Wausa/Bloomfield 19-35.
“Our second, third and fourth runners (Alicia Weeder, Morgan Johnson and Autumn Simons) have been doing a great job of running kind of together so they can pace off of each other,” Boone Central coach Justin Harris said. “Jordan did a great job of battling with Alexus. Alexus pulled away in the second half of the race, but Jordan, I thought, ran a really good race.”
As good as Boone Central is as a team, the Cardinals could be even better. Stopak is running without her teammate, Samantha Weeder, who injured her ankle during the summer and is out for the season. The duo were known for running side-by-side, at or near the front of the pack at most meets during their freshman and sophomore years.
“I’m kind of learning how to run by myself,” Stopak said. “I haven’t run by myself in cross country since eighth grade, so I didn’t know it was that much of a difference, but it is.”
Lutheran High Northeast’s Alison Stineman finished fourth and was pleased with her time of 21:40. “It was about 20 seconds faster than last year,” she said.
Mason Sindelar tried to imitate his sister by winning the boys race, but a freshman from Hartington had a different plan.
Carson Noecker (rhymes with maker) — a student at Cedar Catholic High School — said he knew Sindelar would push him the whole way. “I knew he was strong on those hills from the start, but I eventually got far enough ahead of him to finish before him.”
Sindelar tipped his hat to his new rival. “He’s a great runner. For a freshman, man, he should be going four years, state champion.”
Sindelar said Noecker’s consistent pace made it difficult to reel him in. “I kind of fell back a little bit, then tried catching back up, and he just got too far away from me, out of my reach.”
Noecker’s winning time of 16:43 was 22 seconds ahead of Sindelar’s. “My time this year, was faster than last year by about 30 seconds,” Sindelar said. “So, I was happy with it, whether it was gold, silver, bronze, last place, I’ve just got to keep improving.”
Osmond coach Joe Ortmeier was also happy. Three of his runners placed in the top 15 and the Tigers edged Pierce in the team race, 61-67. Hartington-Newcastle finished third, while Stanton was fourth and Norfolk Catholic fifth among the 15 teams.
“We were hoping to come in here and be in the top five,” Ortmeier said. “My kids kind of ran together, and at the end, they really pushed, and you’ve got to give them a lot of credit, they really ran hard.”
Osmond’s Mason Bykerk finished 10th, Graysen Schultze was 13th and Johnson Chishiba, 15th.
While many cross country coaches use the strategy of pack running, Ortmeier smiled and said his team kind of does it by accident. “They do stay together during practice, and we tell them, ‘When you feel it, then go,’ and they’re just pretty good runners.”
Norfolk Catholic coach Doug Zoucha was pleased with the school’s 36th annual invite. Including the kids who took part in the junior high races, there were 502 entries. “That’s over 100 more than last year,” Zoucha said.
“We had a beautiful day, maybe a little warm, really great crowd and big-time competition with B, C and D schools here, so we get to see a wide variety of schools from the area and fairly far away, too.”
Zoucha said, he originally wasn’t sure if he was pleased with his young boys team. “This was the first meet that we’ve had that I can remember that we didn’t have a medalist (top 15),” he said. “But when we were all in, we had eight people run, five of them had PRs (personal records). We actually ran pretty well. The competition was just that tough.”
Only four athletes compete for the Knights on the girls team. “Three out of our four had PRs on the course,” Zoucha said. “I’m real happy with Charli Fischer, who placed 12th. She was our lone medalist in the high school today, she had a real good run.”
Girls top 15
1. Alexus Sindelar, PIE, 20:24
2. Jordan Stopak, BCEN, 21:05
3. Christina Martinson, B/W, 21:24
4. Alison Stineman, LHNE, 21:40
5. Alicia Weeder, BCEN, 21:48
6. Morgan Johnson, BCEN, 21:55
7. Sara Reifenrath, H-N, 21:59
8. Bree Eisenhauer, B/W, 22:07
9. Afftynn Stusse, BCRK, 22:11
10. Chaney Nelson, O-C, 22:13
11. Sara Burbach, H-N, 22:13
12. Charli Fischer, NC, 22:24
13. Autumn Simons, BCEN, 22:34
14. Jayda Bernecker, H-N, 22:37
15. Ann Woockman, B/W, 22:45
Other Norfolk runners
Emily Faltys, Norfolk Catholic, 25:14
CC Kann, Norfolk Catholic, 25:14
Morgan Timmerman, Norfolk Catholic, 26:36
Boys top 15
1. Carson Noecker, H-N, 16:43
2. Mason Sindelar, PIE, 17:05
3. Connor Arens, CRO, 17:40
4. Bradley Schindel, BCEN, 17:45
5. Gavin Geneski, PIE, 17:53
6. Kolter Van Pelt, STA, 17:58
7. Hunter Bennett, EV, 18:01
8. Abraham Larson, STA, 18:06
9. Addison Smith, B/W, 18:14
10. Mason Bykerk, OSM, 18:14
11. Brady Thompson, O’N, 18:16
12. Brayden Kathol, H-N, 18:22
13. Graysen Schultze, OSM, 18:25
14. Payton Biermann, W-P, 18:25
15. Johnson Chishiba, OSM, 18:30
Travis Kalous, NC, 19:11
Ben Hammond, NC,19:12
Eli Pfeifer, NC, 19:37
Trey Foecking, NC, 19:41
Dalton Brunsing, NC, 20:28
Owen Ash, NC, 20:39
Brady Jackson, LHNE, 20:42
Temo Molina, LHNE, 22:35