The morning drizzle made things a little dreary outside, but things were pretty sunny for the Killdeer High School girls cross country team as they did stretching exercises inside the school.
As the season-opening Killdeer Relays approaches on Thursday at the Medicine Hole Golf Course, Shawnee Hansen and her teammates have a confident glow. They are ranked third in the state Class B in the first coach’s poll of the season.
Those are kind words from coaches around the state, and words that are appreciated by the Cowboys. But those are words that reflect the expectations the Cowboys have, from others and from themselves.
“I think we have a really good team,” said Hansen. “We some really good runners and some younger ones who can step up.”
The Cowboys are coming off a season where they placed fifth in the Class B State Track and Field Championships, following a third-place finish in the West Region.
“The girls have been very consistent over the past few years,” said Nathan Horgeshimer, the head cross country coach.
That consistency reflects the reason for the Cowboy’s early season ranking. But that’s on paper and meets aren’t won on paper.
“We all want to be better than we were last year,” said senior Katelynn Lane. “We’re practicing a lot harder this year. Coach has shown us to push ourselves and each other so we can be better.”
The Cowboys have 10 members on the team and will be led by Hansen and Danielle Benz. Both were all-state runners two years but suffered a down season last year, but still placed in the upper part of the pack at state.
As an eighth-grader, Hansen placed 18th at state, and tenth in the regional meet. Last year, she placed 35th at state and 24th at regionals.
“I want to try and get back on the podium again this year,” Hansen said.
But she was quick to point out that it takes team work to be successful.
Corrie Dobitz, a junior who is entering her fifth season on the team, agreed. She added that the unit is cohesive because, “We’re all friends” who want the same success.
“We’ll definitely be encouraging each other, hard, during meets and in practice,” Dobitz said, noting that although it’s an individual sport, “we all think of it as a team sport. We’re all running for the team.”
The Cowboys again have talent and depth, albeit some is young, Horgeshimer said. In addition to Hansen and Benz, Dobitz and Lane will be counted on for some leadership, and there’s “lots of younger ones who have the potential to be good runners,” he said.
The girls will be facing a new twist this year, running a longer distance than before. This year the distances for the races will be 5 kilometers instead of 4, which is in line with what the boys run.w