Blair freshman Allie Czapla wasn't too surprised by the fast start to her cross-country career Tuesday at Rhylander Park in Plattsmouth.
The Bear sprinted the hills as directed, and learned pacing during practice, but still couldn't quite explain how she'd led the veteran Bears lineup.
“I don't know,” the ninth-grader said through a smile.
Czapla finished sixth in the season-opening, 5-kilometer race.
“She's real humble,” senior Mary Roskens said, cutting in. “She asked me over by the shed where the finish was. On the last lap, she's like, 'Where's the finish at?'”
Talented freshmen Bria Bench and Czapla led Washington County's best-finishing teams Tuesday at the Blue Devils' invitational. Bench earned fifth in the girls' race, leading her Fort Calhoun squad to a third-place finish. Czapla and Roskens, meanwhile, were sixth and seventh, helping Blair take second behind first-place Omaha Duchesne.
Elkhorn Mount Michael won the boys' team race, while the Pioneers were fourth and the Bears claimed fifth.
“My goal was to place in the top 15,” Bench said after running her 5K in just 21:55.7.
FCHS sophomore Dala Drowne finished 10th just behind the freshman, clocking in at 22:32.26 while junior Tessa Skelton was 14th in 22:40.4.
“Tessa Skelton really helped me start,” Bench said. “I ran with her at the beginning just to see a good pace. She really helped me and I went off from there.”
In addition, Rowan Roehr was 33rd and Kylie Perfetti was 37th for the Pioneers.
Czapla, meanwhile, clocked in at 22:04.2 — less than 10 seconds behind Bench — before Roskens finished in 22:06.6 for BHS. Caylie Penner, Chloe Schrick, Sophia Baedke and Grace Galbraith then earned 16th through 19th to push the Bears to second overall. The 16th-place Penner finished in 22:54.6, while Galbraith clocked in at 23:56.9 for 19th.
Olberding leads county boys
Fort Calhoun's Ely Olberding was Washington County's top finisher in the boys' race, earning fifth in 17:57.0.
The sophomore was just ahead of teammate Jacob Rupp, a Blair transfer, who earned sixth in 18:02.5. Lance Olberding followed in 18:40.8 for 13th before Luke Gustafson impressed coach Kyle McMahon with his 21st-place finish in 19:01.2.
“Just keep close to those three,” Gustafson said of his goal. The Olberdings and Rupp are the expected top finishers, but depth is necessary for the Pioneers to reach their goals, McMahon said.
“I was just excited for this run the whole day. I just kept boosting my team, kept giving them encouragement,” Gustafson explained. “Then I used that stuff when I was running. I just kept saying, 'Let's go. You got this.'”
Senior John McKennan was 29th for Fort Calhoun, while freshman Johnathon Schwarte was 31st.
Blair's Nick Wayman, meanwhile, led coach Darren Harsin's squad with a 12th-place finish in 18:38.6.
“I'm supposed to set a good example being fast and pacing myself well,” the junior said.
While he logged the Bears' top time, Wayman said he left some seconds out on the course after a stomach ache showed up just as the 5K race got going.
“If that couldn't have happened, I probably would have been solid,” he said.
Sophomore Dawson Fricke was 22nd for the Bears in 19:05.5, while Nolan Slominski was 26th and Mason Bell was 27th. Zyler Wyman took 32nd in 20:18.6.