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Panthers prepped for state

By Staff | Oct 25, 2013

Submitted Photo Tanner Bernhardt (left) and Nolan Hovland have been Rugby’s top two runners this season, but Bernhardt may miss the state meet with an injury.

Bill Jansen is confident his Rugby High School girls cross country team can finish in the top five at Saturday’s state meet in Valley City.

But Jansen would like to see his team move into the top three, after finishing runner-up in 2012.

The Panthers are coming off a second-place finish in the East Region meet in Cooperstown, finishing with 111 points, 48 off the pace set by champion Hillsboro-Central Valley.

“I thought on both sides we ran fairly well,” Jansen said of the regional meet. “When you get to a level where you want to win it and you’re in the top 2, you’re always hoping for big, big races. When I got home and looked at the results, our girls ran for the most part, better than they did last year. You love to see improvement. Other than our injured ones, everyone ran better, our region is just tough. We got two all-region and six in the top 30. It’s just a tough region on the girls’ side.”

Hillsboro is expected to battle Shiloh Christian for the top spot, with Rugby and Killdeer battling for third.

Submitted Photo The Rugby girls cross country team is looking for another top three finish at the state meet after placing second in state last season.

“Both regions are tough but I think ours is deeper,” he said. “We need to be up as close to the front as we can and have our pack as close as it can. In cross country, you know who’s out there, you run against them all year. It’s not like football where you don’t know who’s out there.”

The Panthers have battled injuries all season, but Jansen said the girls team is as healthy as it has been all year.

“Those two western schools aren’t as deep as the two eastern schools,” he said. “I think we’re real prepared, we’re healthy as far as sickness is concerned. No one is nursing or sniffling. That’s all good. We’re as healthy as we’ve been.”

The Panthers figure to have a few runners who could challenge for all-state. Allison Foster placed 14th at regionals and teammate Tristin Lunde took 19th.

Emily Salwey (23), Hannah Christenson (27), Bailey Nelson (28) and Lauren Christenson (30) all placed in the top 30.

“We could be in the top 3-4 in girls and not have any all-state runners,” Jansen said. “In a normal year on the girls side, if all of your runners are in the top 40, you’re going to be in the top 5. We’re definitely there, hopefully we can do better. A goal would be to try to crack the top 3.”

On the boys side, Nolan Hovland placed 19th to earn all-region honors. Tanner Bernhardt was one of the region’s top runners before suffering a leg injury midseason.

He’s questionable to compete at state but Jansen feels like a few other runners are capable of running sub-20 minute races.

“Hopefully Nolan will have a good race,” Jansen said. “I’d like to see us get someone in the top 20. I don’t know if Tanner is going to run. He’s been doing some running but he’s pretty sore. I’d like to see Noah (Kraft) and Brady (Fossum) and Johnny (Mueller) in the 19s.”

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