SIOUX FALLS-It came full circle for Chamberlain's Ella Byers on Saturday at Yankton Trail Park during the South Dakota High School Activities Association state cross-country meet.
Byers, a senior, said she felt good before the race, which showed when she crossed the finish line in 18:22.78 to claim the Class A girls title by five seconds, earning her second state championship.
"It's just so crazy, I can't really process it," Byers said. "After being out all summer (due to a stress fracture), I didn't really think I'd ever be back here."
Byers, who also missed all of last season with a pulmonary embolism, won her first state title on the same course as a freshman in 2015, though she said the second time is even sweeter.
"I think it's a lot sweeter this time around just because the adversity I faced before," Byers said.
She, along with teammate Allison Hough (19:00.37), who took fifth, helped Chamberlain finish third as a team, with Custer taking the boys and girls Class A titles.
Winner freshman Sidda Schuyler crossed the line in 18:46.96 to take fourth, while Ethan/Parkston freshman Lindsey Roth (19:04.81) finished in ninth.
On the boys side, Platte-Geddes junior Caden Tegethoff crossed the line in 16:58.03 for 13th.
Schroeder, Brouwer take second in Class B
Freeman Academy/Marion senior Thaniel Schroeder was in the front pack for most of the race, including leading when the runners made the final turn. However, on the last straight-away, Warner's Cody Larson (16:32.14) passed Schroeder (16:35.05) to take the individual title and bump Schroeder to second.
"I think I ran my absolute best today," Schroeder said. "... I ran out of energy (at the end). Didn't have anything left to give."
Schroeder's performance still helped the Bearcats finish fourth in the team standings, with James Valley Christian winning a tiebreaker over Warner to claim the team title.
Mitchell Christian's Alec Nelson crossed the line in 17:34.40 to take 12th, helping the Golden Eagles finish 10th as a team.
Eighth-grader Isabella Brouwer, of Andes Central/Dakota Christian, had the opposite experience on her final kick. Despite Brouwer saying she's "never had a good kick," she raced by Gayville-Volin's Maddy Fairley in the final stretch of the race to finish in 19:30.30 and claim second place by less than a second.
"I never had a kick like that ever," Brouwer said. "The whole thing was not giving up because when we started battling out, we still had 400 (meters) to go."
Freeman Academy/Marion eighth-grader Jada Koerner (20:12.18) took 10th, followed by Kimball/White Lake runners Sidney McCord (20:13.77) and Christine Gaulke (20:15.58) in 11th and 12th, respectively. McCord and Gaulke helped the WiLdKats take fifth, while Deubrook Area won the girls team title.
Kernel girls take 12th
Mitchell eighth-grader Kennedy Olsen paved the way for the Kernel girls as she medaled in 19:33.89 to take 20th overall. Her performance helped Mitchell finish 12th in the 17-team field.
Mitchell's next runners were Adelyn Prunty (20:54.01) and Madeline Vogel (20:57.97) in 69th and 73rd, respectively, while Tyann Hart (21:14.93) finished in 85th.
The Kernel boys also finished its season as it took 18th, led by Lucas Moller (17:53.56) in 50th. Dawson Miller (20:03.86) and Nate McCormick (20:05.11) placed 110th and 111th, respectively, too.
Sioux Falls Lincoln won both the boys and girls team titles.