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Panthers prove coaches’ cross country poll correct

By Staff | Aug 29, 2020

Panther Brooklyn Bartsch eyes the finish line at the Hillsboro/Central Valley Early Bird Invitational Aug. 22. Bartsch finished fifth overall in the race. Sue Sitter/PCT

A pre-season coaches’ poll put Rugby High’s girls in first place among Class B cross country teams in North Dakota last week, and the Panthers proved the coaches right in Hillsboro Aug. 22.

The Panthers finished in first place, far ahead of 14 other teams participating in the Hillsboro/Central Valley Early Bird Invitational at Goose River Golf Course on the muggy August day. The Panther varsity boys finished ahead of most of the pack as well, placing sixth overall.

“I think I did pretty good,” said Rugby’s top finisher Brooklyn Bartsch, whose 20:50 time in the varsity 5,000-meter event earned her fifth place. “It was really hard because it’s super hot out today, but I think the race was good,” the Rugby High freshman said.

Junior Quinn Neppl said she saw room for improvement in her 11th place time of 21:57. Neppl attends Maddock High School and participates with Rugby High as a co-op athlete. “I don’t know if it was the heat, or if I’m just not as prepared as I thought I was,” Neppl said. “It’s our first meet (of the season), so, hopefully, I can shake off the rust, because I wasn’t happy with my results.”

“But,” she added, “I can only go up.”

Ella Jacobson, a Rugby High freshman who finished 15 hundredths of a second later, said, “I think we all did good for our first race, but we could improve.”

Amelia Shepard, who finished 25 hundredths of a second after Jacobson said, “I came in 14th. That was four places better than last year.”

Rugby High Sophomore Austin Dibble was the first Panther to finish the varsity boys’ 5,000-meter race. “I was glad how it went,” the fourth-place finisher said. “I was hoping for a better time, but the heat just makes it hard to do something like that.”

“I’m excited for what the season brings,” Austin added. “I put in a lot of work this summer, so I’m hoping to do well.”

Austin and his brother, Robert Dibble, said staying hydrated was key to their race.

“Before the race, I brought a water bottle. I just focused on being hydrated,” Austin said. “I think it made a difference.”

Robert Dibble, a senior at Rugby High, said, “I think I downed about half a gallon of water before the race.”

“The race was less than fun with the heat, but it was a good first race and I feel like everyone did good today,” Robert added.

Assistant coach Jennifer Bartsch, mom of Brooklyn Bartsch, agreed with the Panther runners.

“They did great today,” she said.

“It was great for the kids to finally get to compete,” said Panther coach Bill Jansen. “The girls ran well and showed that we have some depth on the team, seven runners in the top 21, which could be very important by the end of the year.”

“The boys, as a team, had a decent race and I think have a better picture of what they are up against this season,” Jansen added. “Brooklyn Bartsch and Austin Dibble both had very nice races finishing in the top 5 in their divisions.”

The Panthers next traveled to Velva for the Velva Invitational Aug. 27. Results of that race will appear in next week’s Tribune.

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