Gael junior Lursen captures NCC boys title
GOLDFIELD — Since he was a freshman, St. Edmond’s Aaron Lursen had his sights set on the top.
Lursen wrote the script to perfection here on Tuesday, joining the North Central Conference cross country champions of the past.
The Gael junior’s dreams came to fruition on Tuesday as he claimed the North Central Conference individual crown, shaving 20 seconds off his personal record with a time of 17:08.
When he was a rookie varsity runner two years ago, Lursen just finished outside of the NCC Top-10. He competed against some of the best runners in central Iowa, though, and knew he wanted to reach that elite level.
“I’ve always dreamed about being conference champion,” Lursen said. “Watching people like Quinton Orr (of Humboldt, the 2020 winner) dominate gave me motivation to try to do the same.”
Lursen hadn’t been able to solve the riddle of Algona’s Ryan Stundahl during the regular season, and he was nearly 15 seconds back in their last meeting, After the best race of his career at Oak Ridge Golf Course yesterday evening, Lursen topped Stundahl by 11 seconds.
“Before the meet I talked to Aaron about running with Stundahl. He said, ‘that’s my plan,’ and I knew that he was ready,” Szalat said. “I got a call from Cody Solverson (Tuesday) morning saying our first champ was 20 years ago and we got to celebrate together.
“Aaron passed Stundahl with about a half-mile to go and he just executed our plan perfectly. It was a really good race. He’s setting himself up well for districts.”
Lursen became the first Gael boy to win an individual title since Harrison Mayer (2015) and the fifth overall.
“Going into the race, I knew I would have a chance — but I also knew that I would have to run a pretty huge PR,” Lursen said. “Last meet at Lakeside (the Fort Dodge Invitational last Thursday), I ran 17:29 which became my new PR, until (Tuesday) when I ran 17:08. I am extremely happy with my performance, as it was almost 20 seconds faster than I have ever ran.
“I would for sure say that this was the best I have ever felt running.”
With districts on the horizon, Lursen is ready for the home stretch.
“I am still hungry for more,” Lursen said. “I’m hoping to go sub-17 next week at the state qualifier. Again winning (the NCC championship) has been one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. It checked off one of my biggest goals for my running career.”
Clear Lake claimed the team championship, placing all five runners in the Top-10 and accumulating only 31 team points. Humboldt (74) was second.
After the Gaels (81) in third, Algona (91), Hampton-Dumont (133), Webster City (146), Iowa Falls-Alden/AGWSR (162) and Clarion-Goldfield-Dows (214) were next in line.
The Gaels had all five counters placed in the Top-25. Freshman Liam Shannon (18:17) was 13th, followed by junior Ronnie Orres (18:53) in 19th. Senior Drew Szalat (19:12) was 23rd and classmate Hayden Mayer (19:15) took 25th.
Sophomores Thomas Cosgrove (26th in 19:16) Sam Mericle (39th in 19:59) were the non counters for the Gaels.
“We had beaten Humboldt and Algona earlier this year. Humboldt has a great one-two punch and they really ran well,” Szalat said. “Five of our seven guys had PRs, so you can’t really ask for more than that. They all stepped up their game, but so did Humboldt.”
Stundahl, who has finished at the top of most of this year’s competitions, was second in 17:19. Teammate Jace Mortensen (18:08) grabbed 10th.
Humboldt’s junior/senior pair of Trevor Jacobson (17:32) and Jackson Chambers (17:54) were fourth and seventh, respectively.
The Wildcats pushed all five runners into the Top-5. Seniors Carter Hatcher (18:55), Jordan Coon (18:57) and freshman Angel Burns (19:08) were 20th, 21st and 22nd.
The Webster City duo of seniors Cole Reiling (18:16) and Jose Ramirez (18:29) were 12th and 15th for the Lynx.
Algona’s Zach Duckert (19:15) was 24th, while Isaac WIlson (19:26) and Dylan Alt (19:28) were 27th and 28th for the Bulldogs.
The Gaels are back in action next Thursday when they travel to Holstein for a Class 1A district meet.