Two student-athletes from Red Cloud High School will join thousands of runners from across the nation next month after qualifying for the 2011 United States of America Track & Field Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships.

Red Cloud sophomore Daniel Lucero and freshman Percival I’atala were among the competitors from North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin who participated in the USATF Dakotas X-Country Championships on Nov. 5 in Aberdeen.

Lucero placed first with a time of 18 minutes, 22 seconds as his teammate I’atala came in fifth with a time of 23:26 in the intermediate division of the 5K run.

“It was really a great atmosphere with a lot of talented runners from across the Midwest,“ said Lucero, who finished sixth in the Class A state cross country meet last month.

“After the state tournament, our family, friends and coach Matt Rama thought it would be something fun for us to try,” I’atala said. “It was a hard meet because it was really windy, so I’m glad we finished. I’ll be finding ways to increase my speed before South Carolina.”

I’atala’s father, Tama, chaperoned the boys to the USATF tryouts in Aberdeen.

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 “Now that we are heading to nationals, I know that we will be going up against some of the fiercest competition in the United States, but it is these kinds of meets that push me to do better,” Lucero said. “I am going to train as hard as I can for the next three weeks.”

The two will join over 3,000 high school standouts from across the nation in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Dec. 10 as they represent the Dakotas Region in the intermediate category.

“It’s a tribute for these young runners to receive an opportunity like this,” Rama said. “They worked hard all season long. I am proud of their dedication not only to Red Cloud, but to running and the spirit of the sport.”

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