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PELLA — An almost entirely new lineup was pressed into action Saturday for the Central College men’s cross country team, with some predictable damage to the team score in an American Rivers triangular on its home course.

Nebraska Wesleyan University put five runners in the top 10 to win with 34 points while the University of Dubuque followed with 44, nudging Central’s makeshift lineup into third with 48.

Central was missing seven of its usual top eight runners due to health protocols. They’re all expected to be back in time for the American Rivers Championships on the same Central College Cross Country Course Saturday, Nov. 7.

Freshman Noah Jorgenson (Sidney), Central’s No. 4 runner in the team’s most recent action Oct. 10 at Wartburg College, took over the team’s top spot Saturday, finishing fifth in 27:08.7 on the 8,000-meter Central course. Easton Sabala (junior, Wheatland, Mo., Hermitage HS) was seventh (27:58.5), Jack Orengo (sophomore, Naperville, Ill., Neuqua Valley HS) was 11th (28:35.1), Jacob Sanders (sophomore, Nevada) was 12th in 28:39.6, well under his previous career best of 29:37, Logan Berg (freshman, Baxter) was 13th, also in a career best at 28:40, Jackson Edens (freshman, Tipton) was 14th (28:40.9) and Marcus DeVries (sophomore, Kalispell, Mont., Glacier HS) was 17th (28:55.6).

“I thought Noah (Jorgenson had a good race,” coach Joe Dunham said.  “It wasn’t a great race but a very good effort. I thought Easton (Sabala) really stepped up. Jack Orengo really competed well and I was proud of the way he ran his last mile. And Logan Berg ran fantastic. That was a 3-second PR for him. So I thought we had a lot of really good performances.”

But being thrust into varsity spots was challenging.

“There was more pressure on those guys to perform today,” Dunham said. “I thought they did a great job and they competed hard. It’s tough to lose seven of our guys that are normally racing up front but we’re excited to see what we can do in two weeks.

The Nov. 7 American Rivers meet starts with the women’s race at 2 p.m. and the men racing at 2:45 p.m. The Dutch were fourth a year ago, five points back of third-place Loras College and two ahead of Nebraska Wesleyan. Wartburg College scored a lopsided win ahead of Luther College a year ago and is the favorite, Dunham said.

“There’s so much parity in the league,” he said. “It’s going to be an absolute dogfight between second and seventh places with Luther, Central, Simpson, Loras and Nebraska Wesleyan. There are a lot of good teams.”

Not having a full squad in practice next week creates additional preparation hurdles, particularly for the absent runners.

“Even though they can train and they can do the workouts, it does take a toll because they’re not with their teammates and they’re not being pushed,” Dunham said. “It’s definitely a disadvantage. They’re going to have to be really disciplined and focused for the next two weeks.”

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