HURON -- When an EF-1 tornado rolled through downtown Burke in August, it could have made for a disastrous fall sports season.
Instead, the Cougar football team cruised to an impressive win in the first round of the Class 9A playoffs on Thursday and the volleyball team sits atop the Region 6B standings. But sometimes forgotten, the Burke cross country team ensured it could no longer be ignored at the Class B state cross country championships on Saturday at Broadland Creek Golf Course.
The Cougar boys captured its first state championship in program history -- and the first cross country state title of any kind since 1977 -- while the girls finished third to give Burke the overall Class B championship.
“It seems to me like we always have good runners,” Burke senior Jackson Liewer said. “But it’s fun when we can show up to the other teams and say, ‘Hey look, we’re here, too.’ ”
As a sophomore, Liewer was a member of a Burke boys team that placed third in 2017 and it left him with a feeling of disappointment. On Saturday, Liewer was the first Cougar to cross the finish line, taking seventh in 17 minutes, 43.99 seconds.
Jackson Bauld was 24th in 18:21.09 and Washake Vaughn was 35th in 18:49.55 as Burke finished with 37 points, eight ahead of Timber Lake. The score was also 10 fewer than third-place Platte-Geddes, which edged the Cougars in the Region 3B meet a week prior.
“I have the greatest respect for that Platte-Geddes team,” Burke head coach Laurie Kenzy said. “The people we run against make us better -- running against Caden (Tegethoff) from Platte-Geddes. This is what builds your team.”
While the boys team did their part, the girls team entered the meet projected fifth, but bumped up two spots to third on a tiebreaker. Burke and Hanson each had 49 points, but Brecken Bolander’s 63rd-place finish as the fourth runner was the deciding factor.
The Cougars also received a huge boost when Hallie Person was lodged in a pack led by Andes Central/Dakota Christian’s Isabella Brouwer with 200 yards left.
Person made a move and pulled into a tie with Brouwer. At the last second, Person gave one last kick and was able to edge Brouwer at the finish line by 0.05 seconds for third place in 20:11.55. The late surge secured the one-point spot as champion Madison Fairley (Gayville-Volin) and runner-up Jolie Dugan (Jones County) did not have teams in the mix.
“At first I thought she was going to beat me,” Person said. “Then I was about 15 feet from the finish and I decided I could beat her, so I kicked it in.”
Brouwer puts personal results aside
When Brouwer crossed the finish line, it was not immediately known if she had beaten Person.
The ACDC freshman could have consumed her time with searching for the answer, or finding a place to rest her knees wrapped in Kinesiology tape, sore from the pounding of a grueling season.
Instead, Brouwer stood roughly 10 feet from the finish line and congratulated all 115 runners that came through behind her. Cross country may be an individually-based sport, but Brouwer wanted to make sure each competitor felt appreciated for completing the race.
“Every single girl that’s here has worked hard for it,” Brouwer said. “We all had to run super hard, so they all deserve to be told, ‘Good job.’ No matter how you did, you deserve to have someone say you did amazing and you finished the race.”
Santiago runs through injury
Since the summer, Dominic Santiago had a goal of finishing in the top-10 of the Class A boys meet.
The Chamberlain sophomore placed 21st the year before and he trained throughout the summer and season to move up. Santiago entered Saturday’s race with the top Class A regional time in the state, and through the first mile, he was on pace to meet his goal.
But as he entered the second half of the race, an Achilles injury suffered in practice leading into the meet flared. Santiago was forced to slow his pace -- determined to finish the race -- and finished 68th in 18:49.39, bringing a promising start to a disappointing end.
“It hurt a lot to know that I’ve been working all this season and all summer, and to have it end this way is a bummer,” Santiago said. “I’ve never been one to give up on something. I just push through and work on recovery afterwards.”