KEARNEY — Head coach Jake Hasenauer and North Platte wanted the best in Class A, and Monday’s UNK High School Invitational provided that challenge and more.
The Bulldogs weathered the dogged heat and a slew of loops and hills at Kearney Country Club to finish eighth on the boys side and 12th on the girls against some of the top ranked teams in Class A.
“We’ve talked all week that if we wanted to be competitive in Class A, then we had to do it against Class A schools,” Hasenauer said. “Our kids were tested today, and they showed toughness against a good Class A field and the fact that it was 94 degrees outside and not great running weather.”
Led by sophomore Evan Caudy, who finished in fifth place with a time of 16-minutes, 50-seconds, the North Platte boys held their own against nine of the top 15 schools in the state, knocking off powers like Omaha Burke, Elkhorn South and Papillion-La Vista along the way. All three schools currently rank ahead of North Platte (17) in the NSAA latest district seed rankings.
“Our boys really stepped up today,” Hasenauer said. “I thought knocking off schools like Elkhorn South, who was ranked ninth in Class A, and finishing eighth out of 20 schools showed the kind of grit that we want to see going into championship season now that the conference meet and districts are around the corner.”
And with Caudy leading the pack, the rest of the Bulldogs followed.
Joel Bradley finished in the top 40, while Thomas Moss, Tayler Kleinow, Kean Jared and Jonah San Miguel clustered together to finish among the top 100 out of 258 runners.
“The fewer guys you can get in between you and your teammates it’s big in cross country,” Hasenauer said. “Evan Caudy going out and getting fifth for us was huge, but I thought Joel (Bradley) despite being a little sick finished in the top 40 and gave us a boost. And then our third, fourth, fifth and sixth runners all finished 30 seconds apart from each other, so having them all in a group and finishing together really helped us finish in eighth as a team.”
On the girls side, Zarah Blaesi led the way for North Platte with a 25th place finish. Alexis Hoatson, Baylee Evarts and Nelia Rivas all finished in the top 90.
“The girls had a little bit of a rough day,” Hasenauer said. “But I was very happy with how they pushed through adversity and finished strong. Sarah Blaesi, for example, finished 25th in a very loaded Class A field.”
The North Platte Bulldogs return to action on Thursday for the Gothenburg Invite at Wild Horse Golf Club.