Harlan Community junior Greichaly Kaster (right) and freshman Brecken Van Baale compete at Saturday’s State Cross Country Championships. Van Baale finished 66th and Kaster was 68th out of 138 girls runners in Class 3A. (Photos by Mike Oeffner)HCHS runners Greichaly Kaster (left) and Brecken Van Baale.Cyclone freshman Brecken Van Baale (right) competed in her first state meet Saturday at Fort Dodge.

Van Baale, Kaster run in top half of 3A state meet

HCHS girls hope to qualify team in ‘18

 FORT DODGE -- The Harlan Community tandem of Greichaly Kaster and Brecken Van Baale had two big goals for Saturday’s state cross country meet: stick together and finish strong.
 The Cyclone harriers did just that on a cool, sunny afternoon at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course, both placing in the top half of the Class 3A girls field less than six seconds apart.
 Making her state meet debut as a freshman, Van Baale spent much of the five-kilometer race just a few strides behind Kaster before making a late charge and placing 66th out of 138 total runners with a time of 20:31.9. Kaster, a junior competing at state for the third time, placed 68th in 20:37.7.
 Saturday marked the first time all season that Van Baale - or any Cyclone - finished a meet ahead of Kaster, although the freshman has been steadily decreasing the gap between the runners since late September.
 “I thought we had a good start and a good finish,” said Van Baale. “We stayed together really well... That’s been the idea most of the season. We finally did it.”
 Kaster’s state meet runs have been remarkably consistent during her three-year varsity career. She placed 54th as a freshman in 20:33 and was 64th last year in 20:42. The team’s number one runner the last two-plus seasons said the strategy for Saturday was for her and Van Baale to stick together and push each other.
 “Our big goal was just to not lose each other,” she said. “There are so many people here. It’s easy to get trapped (or) pushed back, but we could see each other the whole time and that was our goal - stick together and finish together.”
 The Cyclone girls team will lose just one senior - Kara Rueschenberg - off the varsity roster, so expectations have already been set high for 2018 with several talented runners set to return.

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