Panther girls battle for 5th-place finish at state
Expectations for Rugby High School distance running are high for a reason. The Panthers have put up strong results in track and field and cross country for both boys and girls in recent years.
Rugby coach Bill Jansen thought his girls had a chance to be in the top two at last week’s Class B state meet in Valley City, so he was initially disappointed to see the Panther finish fifth overall.
“Some teams ran better than we ran, but our race on the girls side was actually pretty good. It really was,” Jansen said. “We had seven girls’ that were (17 minutes, 15 seconds) or so and under. That’s pretty good. That’s pretty darn good and we had two that were low 16s.”
Eighth-grader Tristan Lunde led the Panthers, finishing 22nd overall in 16:14. Junior Allison Foster was a place and two seconds behind in the 4K (2.48 miles) race. The Panthers top five combined for a score of 201. Hillsboro-Central Valley won with a low score of 94 and Watford City freshman Asha Smith cruised to her first individual state title in 14:36.
Jansen will lose just one girl to graduation in Hannah Christenson, who was the third on the team and 45th overall in 17:00.
“For the most part, the kids who were healthy all year improved,” Jansen said.
Three-time all-state performer Lauren Christenson was recovering from an achilles injury suffered in the spring and will likely pace the Panthers next year, if healthy.
Junior Nolan Hovland led the Rugby boys to 11th place, finishing 20th overall and earning an all-state nod with a time of 17:55 in the 5K (3.1 miles).
“Nolan Hovland had one heck of a race,” Jansen said. “That’s the best race he’s ever had in his life. He had been in the mid-18s before, and it was the first time he ever ran in the 17s, so it was great. Actually, you could see it from the very beginning of the race. He was out in the top 10 right away and he just hung on. He ran faster than he ever had.”
The Panthers’ top runner Tanner Bernhardt missed the meet and the football game with an injury. The junior was an all-state runner as a freshman, but had an injury late in his sophomore season, too.
Jansen was impressed with his team’s ability to follow a 10th-place finish in the region meet with a comparable run including teams from across the state.
New Town crushed the field with a low score of 45 and no other team broke 100. The Panthers scored a 372. Shiloh Christian’s Elliott Stone won in 16:15.
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