Cruising toward top
The Rugby High School cross country teams doubled up with first-place marks in the Grafton Invitational at Fair Oaks Golf Course on Sept. 4.
It was the first of two straight team win for the boys, who won the Griggs County Central Invitational in Cooperstown on Sept. 6. The second win came without top runner Tanner Bernhardt, who also plays football. Bernhardt was the individual champion in Grafton, The boys posed three top-20 finishes at Griggs County, led by senior Nolan Hovland in seventh place overall in 18:55.
“The boys look tough,” RHS coach Bill Jansen said. “We ran without Tanner on Saturday and won the meet. That bodes pretty well.”
Hovland’s top time on the team marked an improvement of 19 seconds from his previous race two days earlier. Seniors Brady Fossum and Noah Kraft finished a second apart in Griggs County with Fossum steps ahead at 19:50. The same order finished behind Bernhardt earlier in the week, making for a consistent showing from Jansen’s four seniors.
“Nolan’s been under the weather, but he’s been running decent,” Jansen said, “so I anticipate when he get well he’ll be right up with Tanner.”
The team is still looking for a young runner to emerge in the sixth position, but the Panthers are encouraged by the strong early season of the four seniors and sophomore John Mueller.
“Hopefully, Tanner stays healthy,” Kraft said. “We’ve got four seniors and we’re all doing pretty good. As long as we keep working hard in practice we can be top five at state.”
Kraft said he feels stronger this year and is focusing on better starts to races. RHS won with a team low of 59 at Griggs County with Four Winds second (91). The Panthers had the low of 111 in Grafton followed by the hosts at 135.
On the girls’ side, RHS is led by senior Allison Foster and freshman Tristin Lunde. Foster took fourth overall in 16:42 for the 4K (2.58 miles) at Griggs County. Lunde was 10 seconds off in seventh. Two days ealier, it was Lunde leading the Panthers with a 16:53 (13th) and Foster running 17:20 (16th).
“Friday’s workout was hard, so a lot of the girls felt lethargic Saturday,” Jansen said. “(Foster and Lunde) are really pretty close. We have two pretty good ones at the top.”
Jansen said senior Jessica Blessum is nursing a foot injury and will be limited to races and lots of rest in between.
“Some younger girls have to figure out how to run competitive at 4,000 meters,” Jansen said.
Senior Bailey Nelson and sophomore Karin Selland have routinely been in the top four this season. Both girls ran under 19 minutes in Grafton with times of 18:07 and 18:30, respectively.
For Lunde, the goal is quite a bit faster.
“I want to get to 16 (minutes) and below,” Lunde said. “I want to work harder in practice and I need to work on the middle part of the race to keep my pace.”
The girls won at Grafton with a low of 50 followed by the hosts at 78. The Panthers took fifth at Griggs County with 177. Hillsboro-Central Valley won at 99.
Both teams ran Friday in Carrington.
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