MAXWELL - Awesome depth did the job for Ballard, and Collins-Maxwell found out it could hang with top teams during the boys’ race at the first-annual Spartan Early Bird Invitational cross country meet Aug. 24 at the Center Grove Orchard near Maxwell.


The Ballard boys had 25 place in the top 40 in a race that included both varsity and junior varsity runners. The Bombers scored 44 points to beat out Baxter’s score of 53 for first.


“I am so proud of the boys,” Ballard head cross country coach Scott Barth said. “It’s been a few years since we last won a meet. These guys have been working exceptionally hard and had great attitudes.”


Baxter had three of the top four individual runners at the meet. But the Bombers were simply too strong in numbers, putting all seven of their varsity runners in the top 15.


“The boys’ depth is great this season,” Barth said. I am cautiously optimistic that with good physical and mental training, we could surprise some teams.”


Erik Ledet ran a strong opening meet as the lead runner for Ballard. He completed the rugged 5-kilometer course in 18 minutes, 49.9 seconds to place fifth overall.


“It was little bit tough on the hills — some sore legs from training — but it was pretty good,” Ledet said. “I finished in the 18s, close to 19 (minutes) — it works for the first (meet) of the season.”


Chase Winterboer and Jace Beall also placed in the top 10 for Ballard. Winterboer took seventh in 19:05.6 and Beall came in ninth at 19:22.9.


Seth Wohlgemuth was 11th in 19:34.9 and Carter Thomson took 12th in 19:36.7 as the other scored runners for Ballard. Ryan Ledet came in 14th at 20:01.5 and James Gute was 15th in 20:18.6 to round out the varsity competition for Ballard at the meet.


Collins-Maxwell didn’t finish far behind Ballard and its former teammates in Baxter. The Spartans scored 69 points to beat out GMG by five points for third out of five teams in the first-ever meet hosted by the school.


“Everything went extremely smooth and I was very pleased with the incredible support from our community,” Collins-Maxwell head cross country coach Jerry Meinerts said. “Spartan Nation has arrived and we aren’t going anywhere but up!”


Meinerts was happy with the third-place showing.


“One of our goals tonight was to focus more on their place, rather than their pace,” Collins-Maxwell head cross country coach Jerry Meinerts said. “I wanted to get our top two guys up there in the top 10 and we did that. Our next two guys — Noah Rhodes and Jacob Pierick — ran extremely well and almost finished with medals.”


Carter Fricke was the first Collins-Maxwell runner to cross the finish line. He completed the course in 19:01.5 to place sixth.


“It was not the time I wanted — I wanted to go a little faster — but I knew this course was a little difficult,” Fricke said. “There are a lot of hills in the two-mile stretch, so I knew I was going to have to push myself. I didn’t push myself as hard as I could’ve.”


Fricke said he enjoyed helping start a new tradition with the beginning of Collins-Maxwell cross country. He also said it was fun trying to keep up with old running mates Ian Thomson, Logan Berg and Josh Bruntz from Baxter.


“Racing against your teammates when it’s two different teams is a lot more fun,” Fricke said. “I knew it was going to be tough because we know how each other runs and what each other’s strong (points) are. I knew Ian and Logan like to get out hot, so I tried to stick up with them for a little bit, and Josh was up there too because I heard he had been doing a lot of summer training this year.”


“Ian and Logan started to get away so I tried to stay with Josh for as long as I could, but I lost him on the hills because that’s not my best foothold. It’s a lot of fun — at the beginning of the race we were talking to each other, just small smack talk back and forth to each other.”


Thomson won the boys’ individual title in 17:35.4. Berg came in third at 18:22.3 and Bruntz took fourth with an 18:37.7 showing.


Max Van Maanen was the other Spartan to place in the top 10. He came in right at 10th with a time of 19:30.6.


Noah Rhoades and Jacob Pierick were the third and fourth Collins-Maxwell runners. Rhoades took 16th in 20:20.0 and Pierick ended up 18th at 20:35.6.


Carter Davis was the final runner to earn points for Collins-Maxwell as he clocked in at 21:51.4 to end up 35th.


Carter Merryman and Addison Swaab also turned in varsity times for the Spartans. Merryman ran a 48th-place time of 24:36.5 and Swaab came in 49th at 24:42.0.


Final boys’ team scores: 1. Ballard 44, 2. Baxter 53, 3. Collins-Maxwell 69, 4. GMG 74, 5. Colfax-Mingo 118.


Individual boys’ results (Ballard and Collins-Maxwell) - 5-kilometer: 5. Erik Ledet (B), 18:49.9; 6. Carter Fricke (CM), 19:01.5; 7. Chase Winterboer (B), 19:05.6; 9. Jace Beall (B), 19:22.9; 10. Max Van Maanen (CM), 19:30.6; 11. Seth Wohlgemuth (B), 19:34.9; 12. Carter Thompson (B), 19:36.7; 14. Ryan Ledet (B), 20:01.5; 15. James Gute (B), 20:18.6; 16. Noah Rhoades (CM), 20:20.0; 18. Jacob Pierick (CM), 20:35.6; 35. Carter Davis (CM), 21:51.4; 48. Carter Merryman (CM), 24:36.5; 49. Addison Swaab (CM), 24:42.0.