History Made as Prairie’s Cross Country Season Crosses the Finish Line


Photo by Cody Barton

Jake Sauter sprints past the competition at the Westside Classic District Meet.

As the 2022 season comes to a wrap, Prairie’s cross country team has shown what resilience looks like, and what Prairie Athletics stands for; making history. With the boys team making their appearance at state for the first time, and the girls team sending one of their runners to state; both teams saw great success this fall.

Although the season started with the new school year in August, the hard work for these runners started long before that. Through intense workouts made by the coaches, diligent lifting, and 6-day-a-week practices, these runners demonstrated how ready they were for the season to start. 

The cross-country team saw new faces this year, but in return had smaller numbers than past seasons. “Girls team-wise, it was a smaller, younger team,” Zoe Jensen, the sophomore runner, stated. Jensen had an impressive season, making the all-league second team for the second year in a row. Alongside Jensen, there were two other Prairie girls runners who were selected for an all-league team. Seniors Annie Anderson and Allie Jensen made the all-league first team.

This season was referred to as a “rebuilding season” by Prairie’s standout runner, Annie Anderson. They knew that they had a young team with a lot of potential, and this was the year to get the team bonded and prepared for future seasons. As the season went on, the girls team earned second in the league at the district competition, which was “pretty big for a team that only had a couple of returners,” said Anderson.

Though there were impressive individual accomplishments and all-league nominations, the girls team fell short of making it to state, with Annie Anderson being the only runner to advance. The first-team all-league runner placed 116th out of almost 200 runners at the State competition, which consisted of a 5,000-meter race.

Next year, the girls team is looking for a comeback. There are talented runners on the team, but Zoe Jensen believes that in order to see more success, they need more experienced runners, which will soon be the younger athletes that are new to the team. The small team numbers have proven to be a hardship for the girls, but “If we all are willing to put in the effort, we could be very successful” she states. 

The boys team was also more than successful and secured a spot to state. This is the first time in all 44 years of Prairie Athletic history that a whole boys cross country team has qualified for state. They had a core group of leaders who led by setting a high standard. First-team all-league awards were given to Logan Bigelow, Ethan Pederson, and Ayden Walker. Jacob Sautter and Kenneth Pederson were awarded second-team all-league.

Going into the season, the Prairie boys knew that this year was going to be their big chance of making it to state.  The team knew they were in good standings at the beginning of the season. Ethan Pederson, the first-team award winner, says that’s because “everyone was returning from last year, so we were prepared.” To capitalize on their big moment, the coaches had a plan in mind. The first team runner claims their coaches “took out all the meets that we didn’t really need to run.” This kept the focus on training for the bigger, more important meets like districts. 

The Westside Classic District Championships was their big moment to show what they had been working for. Pederson recalls that “There was this moment where we were waiting for the score to reload on Coach Barton’s phone. When all the numbers finally went up, we had this big hug and celebration.” They knew their countless hours of training and hard work had finally paid off big, and what better way to end the season than by making history?

To most spectators, it seems that cross country is an individual sport, but both Pederson and Anderson highlighted the importance of team unity in cross country. Pederson says the team “ran for each other,” which he says was a big part of their success and motivation. Anderson refers to the teams, girls and boys, as “very close friends all around.”

Although both teams would have preferred to make it to state this year, there is hope for the years to come with Prairie’s cross-country program success. As new teams gain more experience, and old ones reach higher levels, both Prairie teams are ready for next season and hope to make team state qualifications a yearly tradition.