Jace Anderson led the Killdeer boys cross country team in the North Dakota State High School Cross County Championships on Saturday in Jamestown. The seventh-grader placed 38th in the race. (Photo by Jarann Johnson)
JAMESTOWN – Killdeer cross coutry head coach Nathan Horgeshimer didn’t come home from the state meet with any trophies or all-staters but was still pleased with how his team competed.
The boys were 22nd in the field 49. The girls, meanwhile, placed 12th out of 47.
“I think we had a good day overall. You never have a perfect day with every single kid running a good race and that was the same thing for us this week. We had one or two kids that were a little bit off and that happens. I thought we ran well,” Horgeshimer said.
Horgeshimer admitted that a quick look at the girls’ finish might not appear strong to race fans because of Killdeer’s success in recent years but said the season progression view shows tremendous growth.
“Our girls have kind of set the bar high for themselves the last three or four years here. We weren’t quite up to that this season but you look where we started at in August and just moving into September and regionals – we’ve improved tremendously as much as anybody around. With where we’ve gone from the beginning of the year to the end of the year,” Horgeshimer said.
Sophomore Shawnee Hansen was the Cowboys top runner, placing 52nd with a time of 21 minutes, 48 seconds. Freshman Jaylynn Hicks was close behind (21:53, 58th) and Hannah Benz was next (22:09, 64th).
“Our top three girls – Shawnee, Jaylynn and Hannah ran outstanding races. Shawnee started out well and held her position. Hannah and Jaylynn got themselves in a little bit of trouble at the first mile and had to work through a pretty thick crowd but once they got out of it they worked really well,” Horgeshimer said.
Killdeer’s fourth runner was Danielle Benz (23:37, 100th) and the team closed with Bailey Smith (25:02, 147th), Corrie Dobitz (25:47,166th) and Tyra Dahlen (25:57, 170th).
Overall Horgeshimer said his squad had a learning year with the distance being increased from a 4K to a 5K (lengthened by about half a mile) but is excited because his team will only lose one senior from this year’s team in Katelynn Lane. Lane didn’t run at the meet because she was taking the ACT.
The boys finished better than half of the teams at the state meet but were missing two critical pieces that could have boosted their finish even higher. The boys team was without senior Colby Dukart and junior Dakota Bowen.
“The hard part with the boys was we were running short-handed. Our No. 2 and No. 3 runners were both unable to run at state for various reasons and that hurts. I don’t think it matters, if you’re the top two or three teams – if you take their top three or four team’s runners off all the sudden they are not nearly as good as they were before,” Horgeshimer said.
Even though Killdeer wasn’t at full strength the team still had a good showing. Seventh-grader Jace Andersen continued to show promise and potential, leading the team with a 38th overall finish out of 265 runners (18:16).
“Jace led the way – like he did at regionals and had an outstanding race. I don’t think you can ask for more from a little seventh-grader. He stuck his nose in there. He started a little ways back and he ate up a lot of guys throughout the race and looked good at the end. It was fun to see him run that well,” Horgeshimer said.
Two of Killdeer’s top-five runners at the meet had a busy weekend. Stephen Westarp and Garrett Calkins both were competing in regional robotics, which was being held Fargo around the same time as state cross country meet. The coaching staff and parents melded both schedules together so the boys could participate in both.
Calkins finished in 20:59 and Westarp’s final time was 18:56. Killdeer also got solid days out Orion Bowen (20:21) and eighth-grader Nathan Sadowsky did well running a 22:35.
“Steven had another good solid race. He was pretty consistent with where he ran at regionals. Orion and Garrett ran by far their best races of the year. Those guys looked strong and they had a nice finish to their year. We had a little eighth-grader that we brought along and Nathan got in for his first 5k of his life and did a nice job as well,” Horgeshimer said.
Overall Killdeer did well at state. There wasn’t any hardware to come home with but Horgeshimer suggested there could be some at future state meets.
“We didn’t come home with any hardware like we have in recent years but really there are a lot of exciting things to build on,” Horgeshimer said.