Twilight Meet marks start of first Cross Country season since 2019
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Twilight Meet marks start of first Cross Country season since 2019

The 2021 men’s and women’s USD cross country seasons kicked off Friday, Sept. 3 at the Tenth Annual Augustana Twilight meet at Yankton Trails Park in Sioux Falls.

The competition was the first for the Coyotes in nearly 2 years after the 2020 cross country season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It feels great to be back after 2 years,” junior Merga Gemeda said. “Missing the cross country season last year was kind of like a setback for everyone, so it’s great to be back and racing again.”

In the Twilight meet, athletes race a trail lit by glow sticks and stadium lights in the evening. The event hosts races for both high school and collegiate teams, drawing in a large crowd spread out across the complex each year.

“There were a lot of people, and it was really exciting,” junior Abby Ripperda said. “It was so fun to have all of the USD fans there. It pretty much felt like a home meet.”

The men’s team competed in the 4-mile race at 8:30 p.m. and placed fifth overall. Merga Gemeda led the way for the Coyotes, finishing in second place in a time of 19:34.30. Also scoring for the Coyotes was Charlie Babcock at 18th place clocking a time of 20:18.52, Alec Atwood at 24th place in a time of 20:34.46, Jarek Glenn at 55th place running 21:04.04 and Mason Sindelar at 60th place with a time of 21:09.26.

Ryan Hartman of Augustana finished first with a time of 19:21.30, and South Dakota State University won the men’s meet title.

The South Dakota women’s team started the season strong in the 5000-meter run, capturing their fifth Augustana Twilight meet championship in a row. Standouts for the Coyotes include Abby Ripperda, who finished second, clocking a time of 18:15.90 and Maddie Lavin, who finished in third place with a time of 18:20.39. Three more Coyotes scored for the women’s team. Ella Byers finished 22nd in a time of 18:55.36, Melanie Pankow in 25th with a time of 18:57.00 and McKenna Herrmann in 26th, finishing in 18:57.14.

Leah Hansen of SDSU took first place in the women’s race, crossing the line in 18:15.17.

“I thought we competed very well,” USD head cross country coach Dan Fitzsimmons said. “We didn’t really know what to expect; 14 of our athletes had never put on our uniform for cross country, and for them to go out and finish as high as they did as a team showed how much work they’d put in over the summer and showed their competitiveness.”

The Coyotes will next be traveling to Lincoln, Nebraska to compete in the Woody Greeno Invitational at 10 a.m., Sept. 18.