Samuel Smith has one goal in mind this year: He wants himself and his team to win state.

The senior from the Richey-Lambert Fusion high school cross country team got a pretty good start toward that goal August 29, as he took the top spot among all boy runners at the Sidney Invitational.

Smith finished the race with a time of 17:53.89, which gave him first place by 28 seconds; the second-place runner, Ben Archer from Fergus, finished at 18:21.93.

Smith said it felt great to take the top spot and get back to running and racing, but ultimately, he wants his team to win where it matters most: At the state competition.

Richey-Lambert head coach Cesar Mireles said it is great to see Smith take first, but the times are not as important right now as they will be later in the season.

Although Sidney and Fairview competed, The Fusion were the only Richland County team to have five runners finish and to place among the top nine teams in the boy’s standings. The Fusion came in sixth overall.

Richey-Lambert’s other runners finished in twos (sort of). Sophomore Matthew Ellerton finished 27th (second for the Fusion) with a time of 21:11.80. Junior Jacob Smith finished 11 seconds after him, overall finishing 30th.

Senior Nicholas Ellerton finished 46th overall, with a time of 22:41.92, and Ryan Eggert finished 11 seconds behind him (48th overall) to round out the squad.

The Fusion’s lone girls runner, Mataya Veverka, finished at 40:45.03, in-between a couple Fairview runners.

Overall, Mireles said the team looked good, despite the heat and wind not helping their cases.

On the girl’s side, Sidney’s high school team did the best among the Richland County teams, as the Eagles finished eighth, Fairview finished ninth and Richey-Lambert finished outside the top nine (since Veverka is the only runner).

Sidney’s top runner was junior Olivia Schoepp, who finished 30th overall with a time of 28:03.60. After her, in order for Sidney, were senior Serenity Kuntz (36th), senior Jaylen Baxter (57th), senior Claire Frank (59th) and freshman Theresa Wick (65th).

Sidney head coach Justin Collins said what really stood out about Schoepp’s performance was that the invite was her first ever cross country race.

On the boy’s side, for Sidney, the top runner was Hudson Severson, who finished 41st with a time of 22:22.77. Behind him, in order, were sophomore Ben Carlsen (65th), freshman Daniel Stevens (71st) and sophomore Jace Hansen (77th).

Severson was voted captain by his peers, and he did a great job leading the team, Collins said.

Right behind Sidney in the girl’s standings was Fairview, with top runner Shaylee Dean. The senior finished with a time of 29:10.03 in 39th. Behind her, in order, for Fairview were junior Lauren Kjos (55th), senior Scout Hofer (58th), senior Audrey Burman (72nd) and sophomore Shauna Nay (74th).

For Fairview’s boy’s team, sophomore Kenneth Olson placed the highest (43rd) with a time of 22:35.11, and Fairview’s other runner, sophomore Anders Lassey, finished 68th with a time of 25:08.68.

Fairview head coach Bert Olson said everybody on the team looked strong, and he said he wants the team to enjoy each competition of the season.

“Running, for us, is all about having fun, being able to make it a lifelong sport, so for us we’d like to get out and have fun. The competition is just the rewards of the hard practice and the hard work that we put into it,” he said.

Going forward, Olson said the team can improve on building strength and endurance and perfecting their running form, so they do not tire out easily on the course.

Collins said the Eagles did great for their first event with some adversity thrown their way.

He said they did not have a lot of practice time, and the coaching staff was tasked with running the event, which meant the runners did not have the coaches right there to guide them the whole time.

“I’m very proud of the way they handled everything on their own,” Collins said.

Going forward, Collins said the Eagles need to be more aggressive.

“We have to demand more of ourselves to take our running to the next level. We will start to focus on having practice structured in a competitive environment,” he said.

For the boy’s side of the competition, the order of team winners is as follows: Fergus, Custer County, Laurel, Wolf Point, Glasgow, Richey-Lambert, Poplar, Culbertson and Lockwood, with Fairview, Sidney, Circle and Brockton also finishing.

On the girl’s side, here is the order of teams: Laurel, Custer County, Fergus, Glasgow, Culbertson, Dawson County, Poplar, Sidney and Fairview, with Wolf Point, Circle, Richey-Lambert and Brockton finishing as well.

The next event for Sidney is the Glendive Dual on Friday in Glendive, while Fairview and Richey-Lambert will compete at the Poplar Invite on Saturday.

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