Over the past four years, Rugby High School has enjoyed success in cross country. With the girls winning state in 2010 and finishing runner-up in 2012, the Panthers are a proven powerhouse in the area.
“We’ve had a good group of kids,” RHS coach Bill Jansen said. “We’ve had some talent. And success in the past helps too. The kids just want to a part of something great.”
The Panthers, individually, have thrived in recent years. Rising senior Tanner Bernhardt was an all-state runner in 2011 and classmate Nolan Hovland earned his honor last year. Rising freshman Tristin Lunde finished one spot out of an all-state finish last year, as the best finisher of the girls team. To qualify as all-state, runners need to place in the top 20 at the state meet.
Jansen thinks both teams will be right up in the action with other top teams in the state, like Hillsboro, Shiloh Christian and Killdeer.
“Since the girls were (fifth) last year, I’d expect we’ll be there with everyone else,” Jansen said. “They’ll be the team to watch.”
Many involved with the program have high expectations this year.
“My goal this year is to be all-region and all-state,” rising senior Allie Foster said.
“I hope to do pretty well this year,” rising senior Bailey Nelson said. “I trained pretty well this summer so I should do better than last year.”
Said Hovland: “I’m hoping to do at least better than last year. I qualified for an all-state, so I’m only looking to finish higher.”
Most programs run, run, run and have individuals reaching as high as 50 to 60 miles in a week. Jansen believes in a different approach for his teams.
“We’re what you call a low-milage program,” he said. “During the school year, we try to run five miles a day, sometimes less on days before meets.”
When you add it up, it comes to about 25 miles per week including meets. Jansen says he tries to focus more on times than distance.
“I don’t have any set times, but the kids know what a good time is, and I get them there,” he said.
He said that, usually, a good time is between 16 to 17 minutes for 3.1 miles and 15 to 16 minutes for 2.5 miles. The fastest Class B time for boys last year was Shiloh Chirstian’s Elliot Stone at 16:15. The girl’s fastest time was Watford City’s Asha Smith at 14:36.
This year, Rugby isn’t hosting a meet due to a scheduling conflict with another town’s meet. Jansen laments the loss but said it’s only temporary. He plans on bringing the meet back next year. Jansen said he looks forward to the state meet the most simply because it is a culmination of the entire year and one can see how far the runners have come.
“State’s just a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s the end of the year and it’s nice to see how much the runners have progressed.”
Rugby runs in Jamestown to open the season on Aug. 22.
North Star Bearcats
Coach: Jamie Halverson (2nd year)
North Star is a program with low team expectations. Not even big enough to qualify as a full team, the program only had three girls and two boys last year.
But even though it’s a small team, the individuals who come out for it can still do it on their own. Rising sophomore Peyton Halverson finished 33rd in the region and rising eighth grader Mary Belzer finished 43rd.
“I have hopes that we’ll do well this year,” Halverson said. “We’ve had some success in the past but most of it was before me.”
Halverson said that her total team consists of three eighth graders, a sophomore, and a senior.
“We’re a young team,” Halverson said. “We’ve just got something to prove. That’s all.”
The Bearcats run their first meet on August 25 in Hillsboro.
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