Ranger boys state champions

Esther Noe
They won conference, they won regions and now the Hill City High School Ranger boys won the Class A State Cross Country Championship Oct. 21.
“We’d seen it all year,” said head coach Joe Noyes. “We knew where the boys were and what they were capable of. We just wanted them to do it on the biggest stage, and they rose to that challenge and handled it in an impressive fashion.” 
The Ranger boys not only won but “dominated,” according to Noyes. The teamwon with 26 points while Sioux Falls Christian in second had 54 points. Hill City also had four runners place in the top 12.
Senior Luke Rupert was the double champion of the day winning the state meet individually. 
Noyes said, Rupert stuck to his strategy and put himself in the mix early. Then with about a mile to go, he made an aggressive move, and no one could handle it. He finished at 15:26.51. 
“He set a course record for the meet for Class A,” said Noyes, “And then he also had the largest margin of victory by any individual state champion. He won by 21 seconds over the next runner.”
In fifth was senior Leighton Aves finishing with a time of 15:58.76. Next, Tate Grabow placed eighth at 16:02.47 and Brandon Escalante achieved a personal record with his time of 16:24.29 earning 12th place. 
Aiden Williams finished 67th with a time of 18:10.24. Then seventh grader John Titus Isakson wrapped things up for the Rangers in 88th with a personal record and time of 18:45.91. 
Meanwhile, the Ranger girls placed sixth at state. Noyes said, “The girls had a great day and ran hard. I felt like they did an excellent job representing our community and school well.” 
Senior Abby Cutler placed 10th for the girls coming in at 19:09.62. 
“Every year that she’s run at a state meet for the Rangers, we’ve placed as a girls team. So her leadership has been essential,” said Noyes. “She’s been to five state championships, and five times she’s helped bring a plaque home to Hill City.” 
Aspen Veneklasen was next across the finish line for the Ranger girls, achieving a seasonal record and placing 31st at 19:56.45. After that, Brooke Thayer-Burke finished 55th at 20:44.56 and Jaelyn Peters finished 58th at 20:54.02 with a seasonal record. 
Paiton Flick also achieved a personal record as did seventh grader Hadley Walker. Flick finished 73rd at 21:11.19, and Walker finished 75th at 21:13.91. 
Four seniors including Rupert, Aves, Cutler and Lillie Ross will move on from the Ranger cross country team.
“We’re just really grateful for the time. All four of them have been with me since they were sixth graders so I’ve gotten to know these kids better than most,” Noyes said.  “They’re going to go achieve whatever they set their minds to,. If they can do it in this sport, they can do it in about anything. So a huge thank you to those seniors and their families for their commitment to our cross country program.
“The reason why we had that kind of success is because these little sixth graders seven years ago trusted in what I was saying and decided to give the sport a try. And man it’s awesome to have it pay off in this fashion for them their senior year.” 

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