Panthers on the prowl
Rugby High School cross country coach Bill Jansen believes his girls team has the talent to compete for a state title.
But to be in the mix when State Meet is run on Oct. 27 at the Heart River Golf Course, the Panthers will need their best effort of the season.
It will need to be an improved showing from Oct. 20’s East Region Meet in Cooperstown, according to Jansen.
Despite a second-place finish, Jansen termed the performance a slightly below average meet.
“We can’t just be close on Saturday at state,” he said. “We’re going to need a really good race. We’ve got the talent to be up there and close, and maybe on a good day, beat them. But we’re going to need 5-6 girls have their best race of the season.”
The Panthers had a pair of all-region performers in Lauren Chrisenson (9th) and Allison Foster (20th) and three other runners who finished in the 20s.
While Rugby hopes to be challenging defending state champ Hillsboro-Central Valley, Jansen said the race for second is up for grabs as well with teams from the west showing well at their region meet.
“No. 2 is not written in stone,” he said.
With a number of runners at a similar level, sophomore Bailey Nelson said if the Panthers can run in a pack near the front, they have a chance.
“Hopefully we can get 4-5 girls in the top 20,” she said. “We know we can stay together.”
Foster said the team is prepared for weather conditions, whatever they may be, and ready to take a shot at chasing down the favorites.
“We need to try to stick up with those Hillsboro girls,” she said. “We’re not worried about times. You want a good time, but where you place determines who wins.”
On the boys side, Rugby has been a powerhouse over the past few years, but with a young team is hoping for a top 10 finish.
Two of the team’s top runners, Tanner Bernhardt and Kyle Halvorson will be experiencing a day to remember on Oct. 27.
After leaving Rugby early in the morning, the duo will run for the Panthers at state before hopping in a car and driving across the state from Dickinson to Fargo, where they will compete in a football playoff game.
Halvorson was an all-stater last season, but being banged up from a season on the gridiron has slowed his times.
“It’ll be a tough day,” Halvorson said. “I’m definitely not as conditioned as I was last year. I’m definitely shooting for top 50 for sure.”
Halvorson said his parents and Bernhardt’s parents will be carpooling on the drive and he plans on getting a good nap and a good meal on the trip at be prepared for the kickoff against Fargo Shanley at 6:30 p.m.
Jansen said a number of the young runners have performed well at the end of the season, and will need to contribute even if they don’t place in the top 5.
“I’ll be a race where you have to get your kids up there, if you have 5 kids in the top half of the race, you’re doing really well,” he said. “We had such a big change. We lost four real good seniors. This has been a transition year.”
Jansen pointed to Nolan Hovland, a sophomore who finished 34th at the east region meet, as a racer who could surprise.
“You really have to work your hardest at this race,” Hovland said. “We worked hard last year and even though our second runner dropped, we won.”
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