The Minot High cross country teams return to the course this morning to start a new season. Here is an overview of both squads.
Lance Gehring has learned many lessons over his years of coaching cross country. After serving as an assistant coach at Minot High for 10 years, he now enters his second year as head coach.
Seven seniors, five juniors and a healthy dose of underclassmen will run for Minot this year. When the senior Magi were in seventh grade, Gehring recognized the group’s potential.
“They knew they had a chance this year when they were all middle schoolers together,” he said. “They are going to get some help from some underclassmen this year. To really see their work come together in one final hurrah, they’re trying to put their mark on that.”
Last year, the Magi finished eighth at the state meet held in Valley City. Then-junior William Walker-Rozo earned 18th, posting a time of 16:34.6.
Walker-Rozo was the team’s only runner to secure All-State honors last season.
“It’s going to be special because we have a really good team this year,” he said. “Last year, we had a few decent people. Now, we have a really solid team to make it really fun at state.”
Minot also placed two current seniors in last season’s top 50 state spots. Austin Geyer nabbed the 47th position (17:18.1) and Noah Jacobs finished 50th (17:20.4).
Kaiden Meyer, Joey Anderson, Griffin Schaeffer and Troy McManus also represent the senior class.
Gehring said he has learned how to manage his runners as athletes as young men. Jacobs paid respect to his longtime coach.
“I’ve been with Coach Gehring for six years now,” he said. “It’s cool to see how he has grown as a coach and how I have grown as a runner.”
The top five teams place at state. Both Walker-Rozo and Jacobs have high hopes for their senior campaigns.
“We are placing at state this year,” Jacobs said. “That’s happening. That’s all I have to say.”
Majettes head coach Carla Wahlund is tasked with guiding a team that finished in third place at last year’s state meet.
“That was just awesome,” Wahlund said. “There are so many strong distance runners in North Dakota, so it was a blessing to come out third and run as well as they did. We hope to continue to keep working hard and see where it takes us.”
Nine seniors will take the courses for the Majettes, who earned this year’s No. 1 selection in the Class A Preseason Media Poll. One of those seniors is Allie Wahlund, who finished 16th (19:29.6) at state last year.
Allie and Abbie Wahlund are Carla’s twin daughters. Abbie took 35th at state with a time of 20:24.4. Another current senior, Abby Hoffarth, finished right behind her teammate Allie at No. 17 (19:31.3).
“We are all really determined,” Allie said. “We all know what we want, so I feel like that helps in the end. We are all working hard together.”
Lizzy Folk, Ella Francis, Emma Compere, Sara Cooper, Abigail Richardson and Jenna Sufka round out the senior group.
The head coach said plenty of the eight sophomores and six juniors who are ready to step up. One of those juniors is Brooke Keller, who secured the 47th position (20:40.5) at state as a sophomore.
“It’s just one big family,” Keller said. “We are really close together. We push each other hard and we work together well.”
Keller said teamwork is a big part of representing the Majettes.
“We cheer on each other,” she said. “It also boosts your positivity when you are spreading positivity to others. It helps them as well.”
As she enters her fifth year as head coach, Carla continues to remind her team of an important lesson.
“We always want to shine with our character and make sure people are proud of us,” she said. “Whether we race well or not, to leave a lasting impression through character.”
Both teams will begin their seasons at the Heen/Ihmels Invite at 10:30 a.m. this morning in Williston.
Jimmy Lafakis covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JJLII30.