The NSAA State Cross Country Championships finish line is at the bottom of a hill at Kearney Country Club.
Once runners stop the clock and earn their standing, they walk up that hill on a narrow pathway between two barriers of orange snow fence to meet with their supporters. On tired legs, the Blair High School girls were met by coach Darren Harsin at the top Friday afternoon.
“Good job!” he exclaimed with open arms.
The Bears earned their top team finish in school history, claiming fourth in Class B with a total time of 1:23:04.9. The previous best was the seventh-place finish in 2002 when Kiley Gutschow was 14th.
On Friday, BHS' top five runners all notched top-10 school-record times on the 5-kilometer state course.
“Our girls had a really good race as a group,” Harsin said. “Hailey's 13th was really good.”
Sophomore Hailey Amandus earned her first state medal, finishing in 20:20, which is recognized as Blair's second-best time in school history. The state medalist said she was motivated to finish out a cold race by a promise.
“My friend said if I get top 15, then I'll get Scooter's (Coffee),” Amandus said, smiling.
The sophomore improved her times — and finishes — from the beginning of the year to Friday's close.
“She's just gradually gained more and more confidence,” Harsin said. He had Amandus in 22nd with just abut 600 meters to go. “She's just running with a lot of confidence right now, which is really the biggest difference between this start of the season and now.”
Senior Mary Roskens was the next Bear in, claiming 26th in 20:48.1. Her finish was good for seventh on the all-time chart.
“It's a great team this year and I wanted to place as high as possible for that,” Roskens said.
Chloe Schrick, Allie Czapla and Cayli Penner, meanwhile, logged the eighth, ninth and 10th best times on the BHS cross-country history. Schrick finished in 20:54.8, while Czapla and Penner clocked in at 21:02.2 and 21:03.1, respectively.
Emily Lamoureux finished in 22:51.1.
“I was super happy with how everyone did,” Roskens said. “Everyone did their best on a day like today and that's all you can really ask for.”
The Blair boys certainly took note of the cold temperatures, too.
“It's probably one of the worst races in regards to weather,” Dawson Fricke said. “It's not fun, but it's great getting through it.”
The sophomore earned the highest Bear finish, claiming 32nd in 17:39.9. Nolan Slominski was in next at 17:49.3 for 42nd, while Nick Wayman was 57th in 18:08.3.
Fricke said BHS enjoyed their Kearney experience.
“It just feels good to make it to state in general,” he said.
The results surely provided a big boost for coach Harsin's team, too.