CLINTON — There was no easing into the cross country season.
Last week’s hot weather forced Clinton to cancel a scheduled quadrangular meet for area teams at Emma Young Park. That made Tuesday’s Schoolhouse Open the debut, bringing more than 300 runners to the course at the Ericksen Center.
For at least four local runners, though, it was quite a satisfying beginning.
Northeast’s Eli Kaczinski and Clinton’s Noah Buikema earned runner-up finishes in the two boys divisions, while Clinton’s Kim Kaster took seventh and Prince of Peace’s Jackie Kokjohn placed 11th in the varsity girls field headed by a talented squad from Davenport Assumption that claimed the top five spots.
“I was hoping for a little faster, around 16:30,” said Kaczinski, who ran the 5,000-meter course in 16 minutes, 50.55 seconds, “but I’ve been fighting a cold, so I’m happy with the results.
“It’s good for this time of year. It’s about 15 seconds faster than last year at this time, but this is not the time for PRs.”
Hunter Bielenberg (19th in 19:05.90) also finished in the top 20 for the Rebels, while Jacob Jankowski of Prince of Peace (27th, 19:46.70) and Logan Peterson of Camanche (30th, 19:48.81) were in the top 30.
Hunter Genco paced Clinton with a 34th-place finish, but the headlines for the River Kings came in the boys freshman-sophomore race.
Buikema took second in that 4,000-meter event, and teammates Michael Peters (third, 14:44.72), Jace Houzenga (fifth, 15:22.84) and Jonathan Facio (sixth, 15:32.50) weren’t far behind. No team scores were kept.
“That makes you feel great,” Buikema said of the team finish. “I feel excited. You never know what can happen in the future. It shocked us all, I think.”
Buikema surprised himself with his finish.
“I did better than I thought I would,” he admitted. “I wanted to run 15:00, 6, 6 and 3 even splits.”