The Rapid City boys' and girls' cross country teams used the Best of the West as a practice meet for next week's state meet and got what they needed Thursday at Hart Ranch.
The Raiders picked up two team wins along with two individual champions — sophomore Simeon Birnbaum and junior Hailey Uhre — and more familiarity of the course that will be used for the Oct. 24 Class AA State Cross Country Championships
"This race didn't matter much and we are just focusing on state," Birnbaum said. "That's the big deal."
Birnbaum, a transfer from Rapid City Christian, continued to lead the way for the Raiders, winning the 5K boys' competition in 17 minutes, 17.5 seconds. Stevens swept the top four positions and six of the top eight.
Alex Otten was second in 17:30.8, followed by Hayden Grosz in 17:36.8 and Stone Graves in 17:51.5. Morgan Papenfuss of Sturgis was fifth in 18:01.3, barely ahead of his teammate Taylor Tobias at 18:02.
Stevens finished with 17 points, followed by Sturgis with 43 points, Douglas 100, Spearfish 112 and Central with 120.
The top four Raiders ran together for about half of the race before Birnbaum kicked it in high gear. He said that coming into Thursday's race they wanted to work on packing up as a team.
"I felt it out and when it was appropriate to throw in a serge and push everyone, I did," he said.
The meet featured the area Class AA runners form Stevens, Central, Douglas, Sturgis and Spearfish. They all had to battle high winds that gave them a boost at times, but also headaches depending on the direction they were running.
"The first mile we had the wind to our backs and it felt nice and easy. But you really had to pay for it in the last mile with all of the head-wind," Birnbaum said. "This will get us ready for any conditions. We run in 90-degree weather, and like a week later, it is 40 degrees."
Birnbaum placed fifth in last year's Class A state meet as a freshman for Rapid City Christian, and after this regular-season, he has much higher goals.
He's shooting for an individual win and a team win.
"Obviously I want to win, but more importantly we have a good team and our team has a good chance, so that is the big one," he said. "We have a really solid top four, and after that there are three or four guys fighting for positions. So if we can get our fifth guy to stay up with us more, that is what it will take."
Uhre ran alone for much of the race for the Stevens girls, and despite the wind, was pleased with her effort.
"The wind was horrible on the back stretch, it just killed you," Uhre said. "Actually, the whole race was kind of windy. But I felt like I ran alright. There was no one pushing me, so I really didn't have a pace."
Uhre finished in a time of 19:48.7, followed by teammates Lucia Vidas in 20:08.1 and Gracie Uhre in 20:08.2.
Josie Tobin of Spearfish was fourth in 20:10.1 and Iris Zylstra of Sturgis was fifth in 20:37.3.
The Stevens girls scored just 19 points, to 62 for Spearfish, 81 for Sturgis, 94 for Central and 117 for Douglas.
Uhre said her main goal on Thursday was to focus on herself and the course.
"I feel like this race is going to help me at state," she said. "I was running the course a lot, working on my spots to take it hard, and where the wind is and it isn't. I was just feeling it out."
Uhre also feels good going into the state meet and is excited about the competition, not only for herself, but for her team.
"I think my team is really in shape this year. We're looking really good," she said. "But we have to do a lot. Sioux Falls Lincoln is pretty good. I think we have a shot."
Uhre placed ninth at last year's state meet and is shooting for a top-five finish this season.
"I don't know what the times are going to be at state because this is a real course; it's not flat and there are winds and things," she said. "I'm not really going for a time, just a place."
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