Zach Nelson (right) and Kohlton Peterson (left) run for VCSU during the MSUM Twilight Meet. (Spencer Aune/VCSU)
Zach Nelson (right) and Kohlton Peterson (left) run for VCSU during the MSUM Twilight Meet. (Spencer Aune/VCSU)
Cross Country - Sat, Sep. 9, 2017

Valley City State's cross country teams ran a pair of strong races Friday night as they opened the season at the MSUM Dragon Twilight Meet.

The Viking men placed fourth out of eight teams and had three finishers in the Top 25 of the men's 6K race. VCSU's women placed eighth in the women's 4K, but had several strong performances.

"I could not be prouder of the efforts that our kids gave at the season opener against high quality competition," said VCSU head coach Chris Johnson. "They came out with a tremendous sense of drive and passion to not only achieve, but shatter the initial goals that they set for themselves at the beginning of the season. One of those goals was to surprise some people with the talent that we have on both sides and I think we did exactly that, even with a few athletes sitting out due to injury."

Returning All-Conference performer Dennis Gonzalez turned in the top time Friday for the Vikings, crossing the line in 11th place with a time of 19:07.2. Gonzalez shaved more than 35 seconds off his time at the Twilight Meet last season. VCSU newcomer Dylan Olson placed 19th with a time of 19:36.7, and returner Orin Rambow finished 25th in a time of 19:50.3. Rambow cut more than a minute off his time from last season.

Louis Leon took 33rd in a time of 20:00.8, and Martin Mena rounded out the team score by placing 38th in a time of 20:20.7. Valley City State's men were the top finishing NAIA team at the meet, taking fourth behind MSUM, University of Mary and St. Thomas. VCSU finished ahead of Concordia-Moorhead, University of Jamestown and Minot State.

The Viking women placed eighth at the meet, but had a pair of runners finish in the Top 35. Allyssa Weitkum crossed the line in 27th with a time of 15:29.2, and Grace Miller placed 31st in 15:32.7. Weitkum and Miller were the top two NAIA finishers at the meet. Julianne Wilson (61st), Bethany Coghill (71st) and Peyton Halverson (76th) rounded out the Viking team score.

VCSU had 13 men's runners and five women's runners compete at the season opener.

"These men and women are excited with the opener, but unsatisfied because they know there is still much to accomplish," said Johnson "We have to continue to take the next step to make that happen."

Up next: Valley City State will take a week off before heading to the Roy Griak Invitational in St. Paul, Minn., on Sept. 23.