Going into her sophomore season, Bryanna Kuhn had a decision to make.
The Rapid City Stevens cross-country runner had a lifelong passion for soccer in addition to her ability as a runner. In her freshman season she was only on the cross-country roster for the fall season, but that itch to be back on the soccer field just wouldn't go away.
She decided that her sophomore season would see her on two rosters for the fall season, and as a junior, it seems like she made the right decision.
Kuhn placed first out of 91 runners Saturday at the Meade Stampede in Longmont, Colorado; propelling the Raiders to a first-place finish in a field of mostly Colorado schools.
She finished in 20 minutes, 2.8 seconds.
On the soccer field Kuhn has helped Stevens to a No. 2 seed in the Class AA state tournament, which starts today, with a 8-2-1 record.
"I wasn’t sure how well I’d do with soccer and cross country. I’ve loved soccer since I was 5 years old, so I figured during high school it would be a good thing for me to do," Kuhn said. "My cross country coach said it would be fine if I did it if I could go to both practices, and if the schedule worked out."
For Stevens cross country coach Jesse Coy, the schedule did work out, and he said it would be okay if one of his best runners tried both sports.
"I would hate to make a kid pick one of the two," Coy said. "When you're in high school, you don’t know what you want to end up doing or what you want to try."
The experiment has worked for Kuhn, who practices with the cross country team Wednesday's and possibly Thursday if it is before an important meet.
"I like soccer because of the people here and the connection between us, but I like cross country too," she said. "(The coaches) work really well between my schedule, and I just have to text them or ask them questions so they can work around what my schedule is."
In Colorado, the formula was simple when it came to racing a field that she hadn't faced before: just look at the times, and go from there.
"My coach kind of told me where I was sitting at and what I needed to do if I wanted to get first," she said. "He just told me the time I had to get in order to beat the other people."
Coy said although Kuhn hasn't been running distance for a very long time, she found a new wave of confidence in Colorado.
He could tell by the way she threw it into high gear, and when she chose to do it.
"Even though she’s a junior, she’s kind of new to distance running still. She’s learning how to race," he said. "She’s kind of always been content to follow a group of familiar girls and kick at the end, she made a move pretty early, she made a move about halfway through the race. She’s never made a move that soon in a race so as she goes her confidence is building."
Although Kuhn does have the state soccer tournament to worry about in the present, the state cross country meet is Oct. 20 in Sioux Falls.
She already has her goals set for that race.
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"I just hope to get a better place than I did last year and P.R. in state, do really well with the team and help get podium with the team," she said, hoping to improve off her sixth place finish last year.
Coy said in a sport that many people think is an individual sport, Kuhn is all about the team. Even though she isn't at practice most days, he can tell there's a bond between her, her teammates and her coaches.
"It helps that we see her all the time at track, she has the connection with the girls," he said. "She’s doing mostly soccer and is able to come out and run 5k races with the best in South Dakota. She’s tough, she has a really good internal clock with racing. She knows her fitness well, and is just a really good racer, and that’s kind of rare of high school kids."
On the soccer field, Stevens faces No. 15 seed Harrisburg at 6 p.m. tonight at Sioux Park.
The bond she has with her teammates on the soccer field equals the bond she has with her Raider soccer teammates, and she's hopeful that the time won't come soon where she only has cross country to focus on.
"It’s been really fun. The seniors have been really good and the connection with the team has just been awesome. We always get along, we never fight, it’s really cool. We’re really good friends," she said. "I think we can win if we just play our game and connect between everybody, get good passes, just calm down."
The Raiders cross country team is next in action at the Best of the West meet, which will be in Rapid City Oct. 11.
Other athletes considered:
Kohl Meisman, Rapid City Central football:
Although Central's offense is known as a run-first offense, Meisman showed off his arm in a 39-38 win over Aberdeen Central Friday.
Meisman went 8-of-17 for 208 yards and four touchdowns in the win.
Micaiah Grace, Custer football:
Grace was strong on the ground as the Wildcats topped Pine Ridge 48-26 Friday.
He ran for 159 yards with two touchdowns on runs of 80 and 21-yards.
Luke Meyer, Rapid City Stevens cross country:
The Raiders boys' and girls' took first at the Mead Stampede in Colorado, and the boys were anchored by Meyer.
He finished second out of a field of 111 runners in 17:13.4 behind Simon Kelati from Greeley Central in Colorado.