Girls Cross Country Captures State Title
Rice, Arens, Sinsel Earn Medals
In the end, the girls huddled on top of the hill and waited. Led by Rylee Rice’s win and other team members’ places scattered through the late teens to early forties, the possibility existed. But years of agonizing closeness told this group not to celebrate until the official word was given. Last years’ runner-up finish by 11 points, a third-place tie break loss in 2015, along with five other top three finishes from the last time the Lady Bulldogs captured a title in 2004, made everyone wait. Finally, the announcement was made and hundreds from the community celebrated the Ainsworth girls’ second title in the team history. This win definitely highlighted the day for the Bulldogs at the Kearney Country Club, but it was far from its only reason for celebration. Rice would capture all-class gold honors while Ben Arens would race to a runner-up finish, with Jacob Sinsel adding a 7th place medal.
Rylee Rice would cruise to repeat her title. Having a small lead at the mile, Rice would extend that at the two-mile mark, before really running strong over the last 1.1 miles to win the title. Enduring mid 70s temperatures with wind gusts to 40 mph, Rice would cross the line in 18:44.62. That time would be 59 seconds better than runner-up Haley Arens of Crofton. The time would also hold-up for the all class gold in what is unofficially believed to be the first ever individual from Class D to win the all class gold medal in cross-country. Rice’s biggest challenge came from the Class A race. Gabby McGinn of Millard West would finish 2nd in the all class comparison as she crossed in 18:49.6.
Running 2nd for Ainsworth was freshman CeeAnna Beel. Beel would race well as she crossed the line in 19th with a time if 21:30.41. Senior Elizabeth Salzman would cap her career with 36th place showing in a time of 21:57.19. Freshman Madison Welch would finish in 41st place with a time of 22:07.27. Fellow freshman teammate Molly Salzman would provide added assurance as she battled to a 49th place finish in 22:22.6. Junior Mikki Arens was 78th in 23:27.0.
In the team race, Ainsworth’s 60 points outdistanced last year’s defending champs Aquinas Catholic and Malcolm. Both teams scored 90 points, but a 5th runner tie-break determined Aquinas second. McCool Junction finished in 4th place with North Platte St. Patrick’s and North Central rounding out the top six.
“This was special today,” commented Coach Jared Hansmeyer. “In all activities in AHS, we have a had a string of some close finishes. I think as a school we have been runner-up 11 times since 2005. In that time, we may have had that many other top five finishes. To finally breakthrough is something that our girls will remember for a long time. This title is obviously special for the girls that ran today, but also for the rest of the girls on our team, and for the runners, both boys and girls, who have raised the bar of what our expectations are for state. These girls earned it today but there are a lot of kids who have worn the Ainsworth jersey over the past fifteen years who should smile and take satisfaction in seeing this group capitalize on the dream we have all shared over the years. “
Ben Arens led the way for the boys as he has done all season. Despite being knocked down and reinjuring his hip, Ben managed to get back in the race and use a strong finish over the last 200 meters to move up to 2nd place. Eli Frasher from Aquinas Catholic was the winner with a time of 16:33.4. Arens was 2nd in 16:50.7. Jacob Sinsel moved up into the top ten and captured the 2nd state cross-country medal of his career. Sinsel would finish 7th with a time of 17:32.8. Trey Schlueter finished in 68th with a time of 19:07.8. Qwentin Kappelmann was 112th with a time of 20:06.1. Tate Fernau crossed the line in 21:24.0 that was good for 132nd. Luke Peters closed his cross-country career with a 146th place finish in 22:57.4.
In the team scores, Malcolm proved to be “as advertised”. Malcolm won with 36 points. Thayer Central was 2nd with 83 points. Bridgeport finished 3rd with 113 points. Ainsworth would lose a close battle for finishing in the top five. Just six points out of 4th, Ainsworth would fall to 9th place with 129 points.
“It was a good day for our boys,” said Hansmeyer. “State is a always a good reminder of what can happen when you’re not 100%. We had some lingering sickness that affected our ability to be in the top five. With the 40 mph winds, the times were irrelevant today, but with one more runner at 100%, we are top three or four, and we avenge a bunch of losses from earlier in the season. Ben and Jacob had a terrific seasons and it’s a great honor for them to come away with top ten medals. Those two work so hard, with each running nearly 500 miles in the summertime, that it’s really nice to see their success. They earned it. We have a lot of kids that put in a lot of hard work. As driven as this group is, it leads us to be very optimistic for the future.”
NSAA State Championships- Class D Team Scores