Another year and another state title contender for the Custer girls' cross country team.
The defending Class A champions are still relatively young class-wise, but are still thought of as one of the teams to beat in the South Dakota State Cross Country meet today at the Broadland Creek Golf Course in Huron.
The first race begins at 11 a.m. MDT.
On the Class A boys' side, St. Thomas More and Custer could again challenge.
In Class AA, Rapid City Stevens is looking to make a run with Sioux Falls Lincoln the favorites in both boys' and girls' team races.
"The best part about the state meet are the incredible efforts students give for their teams," Stevens coach Jesse Coy said. "For nearly all schools, the focus is on the team place; where they fit in the rankings and whether or not they get to stand together on the podium. We're no different. We're hoping we can push our teammates on race day and find a spot on the podium."
For Custer, it's another year to see if coach Karen Karim's teams, particularly the girls' squad, can call themselves the best Class A team in the state.
"The kids just need to believe in their training and preparation and get after it," Karim said. "I have a fantastic group of kids. They have pushed each other all season, and they have high hopes for state. The team has been our focus all year, but the individuals need to come through to make it happen."
The girls' Class A team championship should run through defending champions Custer, said STM coach Royce Wuertzer.
"They have a solid team with a small split between their runners, making them a powerhouse," Wuertzer said. "But Hill City, Sioux Falls Christian, Lennox, Tea Area and Chamberlain are all team that will be fighting it out for the podium spots."
Wuertzer said that on the team side in Class A, the top four teams from last year are all back — Custer, Vermillion, St. Thomas More and Sioux Falls Christian, with all of them running really well.
"Sioux Falls Christian has been very solid all season with a great split from 1-5, but St. Thomas More, Custer and Vermillion are all running very similar, and I believe it will come down to the battle of fourth runners," he said.
Wuertzer looks for another outstanding Class A girls' individual race.
"There are several girls that will be in the mix," he said. "Two of my favorites would be Abby Cutler of Hill City and Sara Jones of Lead/Deadwood. They have had some great battles this season and will continue that with Ali Bainbridge from Lennox being in the mix. But there are a group of girls that will all be there with a chance, Mallory Delmont and Kadense Dooley of Custer, Jade Ecoffey of Red Cloud, Ally Hough and Kinsey Evans of Chamberlain."
Wuertzer said he believes the Class A boys individual race will be very competitive as well.
"Individuals like Nick Batchelor of Milbank, Sawyer Clarkson of Belle Fourche, Adam Conseov of Hot Springs, Jace Ostererling of Custer, Dominic Santiago of Chamberlain, Kade Watson, Isaac Ensberg of Sioux Falls Christian and Jarek Glenn of St. Thomas More all have had great seasons and it will be a battle to see who comes out on top," he said.
In AA, Coy and Central coach Thad Caldwell both said that Sioux Falls Lincoln is the favorite for both the boys and girls' team competition.
"In the boys' division it looks like Sioux Falls Lincoln is on pace to repeat as team champions. Aberdeen Central has a strong team as well," Caldwell said. "Lincoln has a very strong girls' team as well and they too look to repeat as state champions."
Central is represented by several runners who are competing in their first state meet. The boys' team will feature two freshmen, one sophomore and three juniors. The girls team, state runners-up last season, will run four freshmen, two sophomores and one junior.
Here's a capsule look at some of the area teams:
Class AA Entries
Rapid City Stevens
Boys: Lucas Steiger, Liam Vidas, Hayden Grosz, Alex Otten, Keaton Fierro, Jeron Martz and Stone Graves
Girls: Bryanna Kuhn, Hailey Uhre, Elise Unkenholz, Allie Salazar, Brionna Holso, Lucia Vidas and Sierra Hopp.
"If we have a hard time walking through the finish chute because we left everything out on the course, then we'll know we had a successful meet," Coy said.
Rapid City Central
Running for the Cobbler boys will be Andrew Borland, Samuel Conroy, Gage Dietterle, Tavin Erbe, Ayden Prudich and Trevor Thomsen
"All of the Central runners look to run their best races of the year. They have worked hard and now hope to see the results of this work pay off," Caldwell said.
For the Central girls, it will be Katelyn Beshara, Makaen DeGeest, Evelynn Gillis, Laura Jensen, Delaney Kost, Gracin Larson and Lilli Molitor.
"The girls are coming off of a state runner-up finish a year ago, but they have battled injury and illness all season," Caldwell said. "We still hope to compete for a podium spot this year."
Boys: Landon Cast, Peyton Cast, Christian Espitia, Jesse Hand, Miles Mitchell, Ben Udall and Nicholas Whitesell.
Girls: Makenzie LeBlanc, Kayla Maquindang, Caley Murphy, Alexis Stolicker and Alissa Wieman.
Boys: Jase Dee, Max Ensor, Cole Hansen, Paul Hourigan, Keenan Urdiales and William Williams.
Girls: Madie Donovan, Maria Eisenbrann, Cassidy Ewing, Jadyn Johnson, Brea Servatty, Josie Tobin, Madison Viergets.
Boys: Nate Andersen, Beck Bruch, Deron Graf, Ray Henderson, Traeton Monahan, Morgan Papenfus and Taylor Tobias.
Girls: Novali Dinkins, Haley Ferguson, Addisyn Jolley, Jessica Matthew, Gracie Sauer and Paige Willnerd.
Class A Entries
St. Thomas More
Boys: Jarek Glenn, Cody Farland, Will Dirks, John Blote, Jacob Rausch and Wilson Miller.
"We took a huge step forward at the Region 5 meet by winning our first ever region title and really ran well as a team," Wuertzer said. "But to continue that momentum each one of our runners will need to do their job and really battle with the Sioux Falls Christian, Custer and Vermillion runners."
Girls: Kaci Cooper, Emily Johnson and Paetyn Carlin.
"I believe that our girls need to be in position early in the race, trusting their fitness and being smart tactically," Wuertzer said. "It looks like the wind will be a factor and you will need to make sure that you are in position when the big moves begin. Kaci Cooper is finishing off her high school cross country career. Kaci knows what it take to place in the top 10 and will be there when it matters."
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Girls: Mallory Delmont, Josie Dvorak, Kadense Dooley, Eva Studt, Ramsey Karim and Sierra Oesterling.
"Our girls have a good chance to repeat as state champions if all goes well," Karim said. "They are in great shape and have definitely done the work to get there. Anything can happen though; that’s why they run the races. They need to be mentally tough."
Boys: Tucker Youngblood, Jace Oesterling, Kaleb Wragge, Preston Drew, Miles Ellman and Gage Grohs.
"The boys have been a little bit more up and down this season," Karim said. "We need everyone have a great race in order to reach a podium spot. Sioux Falls Christian has been the team to beat all season, and St. Thomas More ran really tough last week at regions."
Boys: Sawyer Clarkson, Cole Hockenbary, Ethan Jones, Wyatt Keegan, Nic Lambert and Devin Nowowiejski.
Girls: Ava Allen, Harley Fischer and Allison Hayes.
Boys: Luke Rupert
Girls: Abby Cutler, Rebecca Cutler, Lizzy Escalante, Natalie Hanka, Jazz Hutto and Lilie Ross.
Boys: Adam Conseor
Boys: James Pierce and Pratt Williams.
Girls: Sara Jones.
Rapid City Christian
Boys: Simeon Burn Baum and Ethan Roberts.
Boy: Kobe Gay and Taten Red Owl.
Boys: David Tuttle.
Girls: Chase Baird, Jade Ecoffey, Cheree Ferguson, Victoria Good Buffalo, Jewelia LeBeau and Esparanza Rama.
Class B Entries
Boys: Wakely Burns and Kade Van Dusseldorp.
Girls: Rehgan Larson, Fayth Martin, Grace Pekron, Presley Terkildsen, Quinn Terkildsen.
Boys: Austin Olson.
Girls: Taylee Dartt, Paige Kjerstad, Macee Paulson, Keauna Poor Bear and Alexis Stephen.
Boys: Mick King, Nathaniel Kirby, Tayten Smeenk, Garrett Winkler and Wyatt Winkler.
Girls: Austin Alexander, Lexa Burtzlaff, Rachel Erk, Sarah Kirby and Stacy Mahaffy.
Boys: Matthew Birkeland and Chastin Tollakson.
Girls: Jolie Dugan and Mallory Valburg.
Boys: Jeremiah Taylor.