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Jan Schultz | Johnson Publications
Seniors on the Longhorn cross country teams include, from left, Clay Meeske, Brandon Mintling, Lindsey Mendenhall, Charles Barnes, Kambree Meeske, Mason Nordhausen and Cedric Maxwell. The team opens its season Thursday at the Dundy Co. Stratton Invitational.

Longhorn runners open cross country competition this week

Chase County remains in Class C, but state adds fifth district meet

    Coach Carl Zuege is looking forward to the high school cross country season with excitement this year.
    With a roster of 16 athletes—nine girls and seven boys—he has both experience and some talented new runners on his teams.
    The team kicks off its season today (Thursday) at the Dundy Co. Stratton Invitational in Benkelman.
    Running starts at 5 p.m. with the girls’ race, followed by the boys about 5:45 p.m.
    Junior high runners will compete after the boys’ varsity race in a non-timed event.
    Runners will be on a different route this year in Benkelman due to recent flooding that forced DCS to move the course from the golf course, which sustained damage.
    Thursday’s race will start and finish at the football field. Athletes will run a loop between the school and hospital, according to DCS officials.
    Coach Zuege said he will be taking his junior high runners to Thursday’s opener, as well.
    The Longhorn runners will compete again in Class C this season.
    Zuege said it looked like they might drop back to Class D, but the NSAA upped the number of teams in C.
    It will make it difficult comparing this season to last for his team, Zuege said, when it comes to districts because with the added Class C teams, the NSAA also added another district.
    That may shove Chase County to a district further to the west. Last year’s district race was in Ogallala.
    However, Zuege said Chase County will likely see many of the same teams they ran against at districts last year.
Returners, new talent
    The girls’ team has nine on its roster, five who are returners and four runners competing for the first time in high school cross country.
    Three who ran on the 2019 state qualifying team are among the returners—junior Caelyn Long, along with seniors Kambree Meeske and Lindsey Mendenhall.
    Other returners include junior Matalie Wallin and sophomore Madelynn Hanes, who are joined by first-year team members Jordan Jablonski, Morgan Peterson and Sophie Fiedler, all juniors, and sophomore Keirsten Colton.
    Zuege said the depth the returners and newcomers bring to the girls’ team will be exciting to watch.
    The girls lost its top runner, Madison Brown, to graduation, but Zuege said there are two to three girls this year who can replace her.
     On the boys’ side, Zuege said it’s been great having seven runners out, four of whom are first-time runners in high school cross country.
    That’s up from five on last year’s team.
    “It will take them (newcomers) some time to learn about the race, but I’m excited with the talent level,” he said.

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