RC sophomores set the pace at Swain

Sophomore Abigail Novick sprints in the final stretches of the Swain Meet.

The Rush City boys and girls cross-country teams traveled to Duluth Oct. 7 to compete in the Swain Meet, the Northland’s premier cross-country invitational. In the Class A varsity divisions, the boys finished 22nd of 27 (565 points) while the girls placed 26th of 28 (721).

The girls were first to take on the hilly 5,000-meter course, already muddied and torn up by a series of junior varsity races earlier in the day. Sophomore Paulene Gottwald set the pace, finishing 130th of 172 (26:20.1), just ahead of sophomore Selena Schmidt (132nd, 26:24.7). Sophomore Isabel Medina (144th, 27:00.5), sophomore Anna Bush (148th, 27:09.0) and senior Alexis Schmidt (156th, 28:33.5) picked up the rest of the points. Senior Sydney Fulcher (158th, 28:38.5) and sophomore Abigail Novick (163rd, 29:15.0) also competed.

“All the girls have been in a nice clump, and a little internal competition makes everybody better,” head coach Mike Vaughan said.

The chilly temperatures and overcast skies that prevailed during the girls race gave way to clear skies and rising heat when the boys took their marks. The Tigers were led for the first time by sophomore Matt Papke, who finished 52nd of 204 (19:29.4). Sophomore Ashton Langworthy, the usual No. 1 man, settled for second on the team (105th, 20:13.9). Sophomore Broderick Larson (115th, 20:25.5), sophomore Sandon Stepp (138th, 21:02.7) and senior Jesse Stearns (153rd, 21:29.5) completed the scoring lineup. Junior Derek Murphy placed 188th (23:38.1).

“Matt ran a really strong race, he was really attacking the hills hard,” Vaughan said.

Senior Jesse Stearns (left) and sophomore Sandon Stepp work together early in the boys Class A varsity race.

With sophomores making up the top-four on both varsity squads, the future should be bright for the Tigers.

“I’ve been looking forward to this group since they were in the seventh-grade,” Vaughan said.

The Tigers ran at Royalton Tuesday after press time in their final tuneup for postseason racing at the Great River Conference championship (Oct. 17 at Pine City) and Section 5A championship (Oct. 26 at Mora).

“In my 16 years of coaching, I’ve seen a lot happen in the last three weeks (of a season),” Vaughan said. “It’s a tenuous time of the season: you want to make them ready for the big races, but you don’t want to back off too much, either. We just have to make sure we’re in a position to run our best times and fight off any injuries.”

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