Arlington cross-country coach Michaela Curran couldn't help but smile wide after Thursday's Nebraska Capitol Conference meet at Walnut Grove Park in Omaha.
“It was good,” she said before correcting her wording, emphasizing a new adjective choice. “It was a great day.”
On a challenging 5-kilometer course, and with equally challenging warm weather, Washington County's Capitol Conference teams — the Eagles and Fort Calhoun Pioneers — produced standout performances. Coach Kyle McMahon's Pioneers earned the boys' team title with four top-10 finishers, including first-place Jacob Rupp, while Curran's Eagles notched two top-6 placers to earn third.
Rupp claimed the conference title by nearly 48 seconds, dominating his competition. He finished in 17:17.2, while third-place Lance Olberding clocked in at 18:08.2.
FCHS' Ely Olberding and John McKennan were in next, earning ninth and 10th in 18:48.01 and 18:48.02, respectively.
McKennan, the Pioneers' lone senior, said his team's third and fourth runners — Ely and he — have taken it upon themselves to close the gap and push their group to title contention this fall.
“Got into weights this summer,” he said. “Had nothing else going on and got a lot stronger. Especially as a team, we were all up there almost every day.”
Luke Gustafson added a 14th-place finish before Johnathon Schwarte came in 20th, capping a highlight afternoon for coach McMahon's lineup.
“We're trying to stay healthy,” McKennan said of the Pioneers, who've had runners miss races with injuries this fall. “Hopefully, going in, we're healthier than other teams and we come out on top at state. I feel like we're going to do well at districts.”
Fort Calhoun next competes 5 p.m. Thursday at that Class C District 1 meet on Sycamore Farms near Waterloo. It'll be joined by Arlington, which had, arguably, its finest showing of the season at Walnut Grove Park.
Colby Grefe led the Eagles with a fifth-place performance, clocking in at 18:13. Freshman Nolan May was sixth in 18:28.8 and Connor Flesner claimed 12th in 19:01.3. Sebastyen Taylor (18th), Barrett Nielsen (24th) and Hunter Gilmore (28th) rounded out AHS' third-place performance.
The Arlington girls, meanwhile, were sixth with freshman Brynn Eckhart out front. She wound up 15th in 23:34, while senior Elizabeth Morrison took 17th in 23:50.
“It's a really pretty course,” the 12th-grader said, catching her breath. “But it does not feel the best.”
Gradual climbs from one end of Walnut Grove to the other kept runners' heartbeats up.
“I definitely feel a lot better than I did last year,” Morrison said. “And the team environment is just great this year. We have a great group of girls running.”
The Eagles' Charzlie Lambert and Hailey Hill were 34th and 40th, respectively.
Dala Drowne, meanwhile, led the Fort Calhoun girls to a third place finish behind Douglas County West and Ashland-Greenwood. She finished in 22:23 to earn ninth, while Tessa Skelton was 16th in 23:41. Rowan Roehr (25th) and Kaitlyn Thalman (31st) were in next, while teammate Bria Bench did not log a complete time on the 5-kilometer course.
Bench is expected to contend for a top finish Thursday, however, as the Pioneers and Arlington Eagles compete at the district meet.