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Alderson isn't satisfied

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Sophomore distance runner makes the move to Southeast of Saline

  • Sophomore distance runner Jentrie Alderson has big goals for her first year with the Southeast of Saline cross country team. (Photo by Huey Counts)
    Sophomore distance runner Jentrie Alderson has big goals for her first year with the Southeast of Saline cross country team. (Photo by Huey Counts)

Jentrie Alderson isn’t satisfied and she wants to do better.

Nothing new there.

But the fact she’ll try to do better for Southeast of Saline is new and probably elicited some concern from opposing runners in the North Central Activities Association, as well those of Class 3A cross country teams as a whole.

“She’s just a go-getter,” said long-time Southeast coach Wade Caselman of his new sophomore runner. “She hasn’t backed down from any of the workouts, she just attacks them.”

Two falls ago, Alderson was tromping over middle school competition as an eighth grader at Salina-Sacred Heart Middle School before deciding to go the public school route and enrolling at Salina South for her freshman season.

Coming off a Class 5A state track meet where she twice climbed the medals podium after grabbing sixth in both the 3,200-meter run (personal best 11 minutes, 40.70 seconds) and 1,600 (5:23.69), Alderson was all in on summer conditioning with the Salina Burn Track and Field Club, determined on improving on what she called a “so-so” freshman cross country season.

The move into big-class varsity competition last fall did not go nearly as smoothly as she had hoped. She had the talent physically to run with the lead pack, but mentally it was, at times, a different story. The rookie jitters ate at her.

“It was very difficult for me, having people running around me because I wasn’t used to it,” she said, “and I’d have people coming up on me and I’d find myself behind so many people and I knew I wasn’t supposed to be back there. But I was and it got to me mentally.”

A lackadaisical performance (34th place in 22:30) at the Bob Schmoekel Invitational in Junction City in late September led to her coaches questioning her focus. That was a wake-up call.

“After that, I told myself I just cannot be a baby,” Alderson said. “We had the Salina Central meet which wasn’t exactly what I wanted (11th in 21:20) but I felt like I was going in the right direction.”

She was on an upturn, clocking a 21:00.91 to finish 10th in the AVCTL Division I Championships. But she developed bronchitis and struggled at regionals, placing 21st. South, expected to easily advance to the state meet as a team, fell short.

“I was really looking forward to qualifying for state,” Alderson said. “And when we didn’t qualify I was really upset, I felt like I let the team down.”

Midway through the summer her family moved into the Southeast school district, meaning the young runner would be competing for her third school in three seasons. Several members of her summer group are Southeast runners, so that’s made the transition easier.

“At first, I did not want to change schools at all,” said Alderson, who greatly wanted to help get this year’s South cross country team into the state meet. “I went to one of Southeast’s summer workouts, not really knowing at that time if I’d be going there, I just wanted to see what they were about.

“Everybody was telling me amazing things about their program. After running at that practice, I decided I’d go.”

If there was any doubt Alderson would immediately become Southeast’s No. 1 runner, she squashed those doubts with the 12:30 she turned in at their two-mile time trial, which was more than a minute faster than the runner-up.

“In my 17 years as the head coach we’ve never had anybody of this caliber move into the school district and join our program,” Caselman said. “We’re very excited. She’s going to add some much needed depth and experience to our girls team.”

She won’t be the only newcomer on this year’s team, which opens action on Thursday at the Abilene Invitational. Caselman says freshmen Savannah Sutton, Ashley Prochazcka and Avery Caselman, his niece, will likely fit into the top seven along with returning sophomores Mallorie Pearson and Alaina Yiankopulos.

“And we have some seniors who are going to have to work hard for one of those top seven spots,” he added.

Alderson has examined Southeast’s cross country and track distance records and has made it a goal to break all of them before she graduates, sooner rather than later.

“From what I’ve seen so far she has a very good and positive work ethic and wants to be successful,” said Caselman, a four-time state qualifier for Southeast in the mid-80’s. “I want to help her try to reach the goals she’s set for herself. I think she’ll do fine.”