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Stuckey takes home gold at Aurora Invite, upsets two former state champs

Stuckey takes home gold at Aurora Invite, upsets two former state champs

York girls gain confidence after performance at Aurora

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The York girls, led by meet champion Kassidy Stuckey (547), break from the starting blocks at the Aurora Invite this past Friday. Stuckey defeated two defending state champions on her way to the first-place finish.

AURORA – The field at the Aurora Invite on Friday was loaded as Class B defending state champion Chelsey Espinosa of Hastings and Class D’s Alayna Vargas of Hastings St. Cecilia were expected to come down to the wire to decide the individual champion.

That expected finish, however, never came to pass as York freshman Kassidy Stuckey cruised to a 7-second win over Espinosa to capture her second win in three tries.

As a team, the York girls finished in fifth place out of seven teams, but head coach Eric Rasmussen continues to see improvements from his young group of runners.

“We have a young team and I am proud of the way that they have been working. Hopefully this meet is a confidence builder for most of the team,” Rasmussen said. “We have a chance to be really good by the end of the season.”

Stuckey, who won her debut outing in McCool Junction a few weeks ago and took third at the talent-laden Concordia Invite last week, ran the 5,000 meters in 19 minutes, 7.7 seconds, which was a full 7 seconds ahead of Espinosa, who was clocked at 19:14.93.

Vargas came across the tape at 19:53.38 and Seward runners Keegan Beisel and Tandee Masco rounded out the top five.

“Kassidy ran a solid race today. She ran relaxed the whole race and had a solid finish over the last quarter mile to win,” Rasmussen said. “She faced some really tough competition today with the defending Class B state champion and defending Class D state champion finishing second and third.”

Stuckey said after the race she likes the direction the team is headed in.

“It was a great opportunity to compete with some of the best in the state,” Stuckey said. “Our team will continue to grow through experiences like these.”

Another freshman, Kiersten Portwine, was the Dukes’ second finisher as she came in at 22:29.9, which was good for 20th and earned her a medal at the varsity level.

Junior Chloe Holmes ran in 25th with a time of 22:43.49 and rounding out the York scoring was freshman Emory Conrad, as she was clocked at 23:23.68 and finished in 34th.

“Kiersten Portwine had a great race today. Both Kiersten and Chloe Holmes had the best races of their careers. Kiersten earned her first varsity medal and Chloe was on the medal bubble the entire race,” Rasmussen said. “Emory Conrad had a good race today as well. She moved up over the second half of the race to provide a solid fourth scorer for our team.

“Even though most people view cross country as an individual sport, joining cross country this season has been one of the best team experiences I’ve had,” Portwine said. “I’m so fortunate to have started my high school sports with such a close group.”

The team championship went Seward with 21 points while Hastings was second with 51 and Aurora third with 57.

Northwest took fourth with 58 points and York scored 76 for its fifth place finish.

The Fillmore Central Panthers also competed in the meet, but had just two runners in action.

Freshman Hallie Verhage was clocked at 23:58.76 for 42nd and junior Teneal Barbur was 49th with a time of 25:00.23.

The Fillmore Central Panthers will host their annual invite on Thursday, with Centennial and McCool Junction also in action.

Girls Team Scoring: 1. Seward 25; 2. Hastings 51; 3. Aurora 57; 4. Northwest 58; 5. York 76; 6. St. Cecilia 102; 7. Crete 104.

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