The Manhattan Cross Country Club was 21st of 32 teams in the championship division of the Nike Heartland Regional in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Sunday.
The regional brings together many of the top high school-aged teams and individuals from seven states. The top two boys and girls teams qualify for the Nike National Cross Country championships in early December. Approximately 1,300 high school runners competed in sub-zero temperatures and 20 mph winds that put the wind chill at zero much of the day.
Manhattan posted a boys’ team score of 554. The Demon Cross Country Club of Bismarck, N.D., won with 102, followed by Dowling (Iowa) Catholic at 113. This is the first year that Manhattan has fielded a full boys team in the Nike championship division.
Members of the Manhattan Cross Country Club in the boys’ championship, and their finishes, are Chris Melgares (72nd overall, 16:43); Michael Melgares (168th, 17:25); James Leblow (172nd, 17:25); Isaiah Koppes (228th, 17:51); Nick Bandy (233rd, 17:54); Isaac Blankenau (256th, 18:11) and Cale Benne (290th, 18:42).
Emily VanNatta and Alaina Schroeder became the first two Manhattan girls ever to enter the Nike Heartland Regional Championships.
VanNatta was 212th in the girls’ division (21:39). Schroeder ran in the top 40 during the first half of the race, but was unable to finish due to health reasons.
In the boys’ Open race, Peter Gruenbacher was 247th out of 450 runners, posting a time of 19:28. Sam Morgan finished in 19:47 for 282nd place.
Also Sunday, six Manhattan runners representing the Body First Wellness Center won the team title in the Nike Heartland Regional Community Race. Body First scored 57 points to beat the Laughing Waters Running Club of Minneapolis, Minn., which had 81. The Sioux Falls Striders and the Lewis and Clark Runners of Beresford (SD) tied for third with 85 points.
The Body First team was composed of Pat Melgares, Led Leblow, Nolan Blankenau, Jared Leblow, Cara Melgares and Susan Melgares. There were eight full teams and 532 runners that competed in the community race. All six of the Manhattan runners finished in the top 100 overall.