Cross country is a unique sport where the last place runner gets as many cheers as the first place runner. It’s a grueling personal challenge for each competitor, which makes Aidan Ruddy’s 12th place, all-conference finish Tuesday, Oct. 12 at the Heart O’ Lakes meet in Breckenridge, Minnesota, that much sweeter.

Ruddy, a consistent top-20 and top-10 finisher, never shows his nervousness. Tuesday was different for the senior, as he knew finishing inside the top 15 runners would earn him all-conference honors. Ruddy ran between 10th and 12th throughout the three-mile race, fighting fatigue during the last leg at the Bois De Sioux Golf Course to record a new personal best time of 17:42 for the Breckenridge-Wahpeton Storm.

“Today was a nerve-racking day, it was our HOL meet, one of the fastest ones in Minnesota,” Ruddy said. “It got to the point where, if you look over by the starting line, you can see my lunch. The race itself went fast, from feeling pretty strong in the first half, to having to tough it out during the last half. Everything considered, today was a great day.”

It was a beautiful weather day for the Storm to host the Heart O’ Lakes. When junior high races kicked off at 4 p.m, it was 61 degrees and partly cloudy with winds at eight miles per hour. The Storm boys finished seventh of eight teams and the girls placed fourth of six, but both groups certainly lived up to the standards they set for themselves with multiple personal best times and overall improvement.

“It was a stellar race. We had quality teams here,” Storm Head Coach Larry Lasch said. “One of our team goals this year was to get five guys under 20 minutes and today we did that. I thought the girls ran well, too, we took advantage of a great day and great competition.”

Lady Storm senior Rachel Gowin narrowly missed all-conference, finishing 17th in the girls field with a time of 21:34. Gowin still ran extremely well, logging an average pace of under seven minutes per mile. The senior expressed optimism heading into Section 6A competition with her eyes set on the field in front of her.

“It was the best race of the season, it felt good to go out fast,” Gowin said. “Based on my times, I knew I was sitting in the top 20 and close to top 15. It’s been warm (weather) lately, so for it to be cooler today definitely helped. The season started slow, but as we’re cooling off and getting closer to the end I’ve started to pick it up again. That’s very promising leading up to sections.”

Junior runner Luke Baumgardner placed 24th for Breckenridge-Wahpeton, clocking in at 18:28 for a 5:56 average mile. Jaxon Hill (19:30), Troy Berndt (19:57) and Bryce Awender (19:58) rounded out the Storm boys runners with sub-20 minute times.

Kierra Wiertzema, eighth grade, ran a great race for the Storm girls, finishing 21st with a time of 22:00. Aubrey Boesen, seventh grade, broke the top 30 of a 44-runner field with a time of 22:38.

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