Leingang, Demons dominate for titles
Through the snow, wind and mid-20 degree temperatures, the Bismarck High boys and girls cross country teams stayed hot.
The Demons swept the individual and team championships, including senior Jake Leingang's third straight individual title during the Class A state cross country meet on Saturday at Heart River Golf Course in Dickinson.
"He's very special and very deserving," Bismarck co-head coach Darrell Anderson said. "He runs extremely hard. He's matured a lot as a runner. We're obviously better for having him, but the state is also better for having him."
Leingang said it's special winning the individual championship three years in a row. But, to him, helping win the team title the last three years has been even better. It was Bismarck's eighth straight team title.
"It's nice getting three state championships just as long as we get three team titles," Leingang said with a smile. "If you put those two together, there's nothing better than that."
It wasn't until after Leingang's freshman year that he could see the possibilities running could bring for him. Leingang, who is a top college prospect, won the Class A boys senior athlete of the year.
"I started out not knowing anything about running and I didn't really know what to expect," Leingang said. "I was just kind of in it, because I had a nothing else to do."
The Bismarck senior's performance in his final high school cross country meet was remarkable. Leingang ran a time of 15 minutes, 9.27 seconds, nearly a minute faster than Fargo Shanley runner-up Sebastian Startz (16:03.8).
To put it into perspective, in the four races in the day including the Class B boys and girls, the Class A boys race was the only one to have two pace-setting 4-wheelers -- one for Leingang, the other for everyone else.
Once Leingang crossed the finish line, he didn't have to wait long to see his teammates. Matt Gotta (16:07.93), Brandon Berg (16:11.82) and Lane Kashur (16:16.34) finished fifth, sixth, seventh, respectively. Preston Lerew rounded out the Demons top five scores in 24th (17:00.25).
"I thought we performed really well," said Anderson, who won Class A boys coach of the year award with Dave Zittleman. "I thought all 10 ran really well."
Fargo Davies came in second with 102 points and five runners in the top 31. Brandon Scheel led the team with a third-place finish (16:05.39).
"We exceeded expectations," Davies boys head coach Jason Holland said. "We've got a bunch of elder classmen that really ran an intelligent race."
Holland said it was a perfect ending to the high school careers of Davies' six seniors.
"This race was bittersweet for me, because those senior leaders have been around for so long," Holland said. "They've been showing these younger guys all season what it takes to build a legacy to build a tradition."
For Dickinson, Jackson Binstock, who came into the race ranked second in the state, finished in eighth (16:20.6). The Midgets placed 11th as a team with 338 points.
"I was pretty proud of it," Binstock said. "I was ranked second in the state, but I didn't pay too much attention to that. I knew I could get up there."
On the girls side, Brittany Brownotter, who has been Bismarck's standout junior leader, broke away from the pack in the final 800 meters to win her first individual championship (14:47.8). What made the win sweeter for Brownotter was her teammate and fellow junior Alexis Zeis coming in behind her at runner-up (14:52.6).
"It's definitely special," Brownotter said. "To go 1-2 at state, I couldn't have asked for anything better than that."
Bismarck lost by a single point to Bismarck Century in the West Region meet and Brownotter said that left a chip on their shoulder. In turn, the Demons also had Morgan Pierce and Grace Gannon round out the top 10 in ninth and 10th, respectively.
"They knew the team title was going to be really close," Anderson said. "Everybody had a responsibility. The girls couldn't have run a better race. They absolutely ran extremely well."
The Demons also beat out two-time defending state champion Davies.
Lisa Svaleson, the Davies head girls coach, said it was a tough race, but the weather conditions were perfect for running.
"They were bunched together through about the 2-mile mark, it was just one tight pack," Svaleson said. "They didn't break until about 800 to go."
Kelli Pavlicek led the Midgets in in 28th place (15:58.85). She said pack running helped her team immensely. Dickinson finished in ninth place.
"It was one of the races this year were I felt really good," Pavlicek said. "All I was thinking about while running is trying to move our pack up, so we could have a good finish and good ending to the season."
Dickinson head coach James Mousseau said it was a rough meet, but overall he was pleased with his team's performance of the team.
"It was tough day," Mousseau said. "We had a lot of bright spots -- there was a lot of PRs on both the boys and girls. We are going to walk away with some motivation."
Anderson said it was a good ending to the North Dakota season for the Demons, but they aren't done yet.
Bismarck will attend the Nike Heartland Regional on Nov. 10 in Sioux Falls, S.D., and the Foot Locker Midwest Regional on Nov. 24 in Kenosha, Wis.
"We're not done yet," Anderson said. "We're still focused on a team in two weeks from now. This is a very important day for us."