Right direction: Midgets' XC teams look for continual improvement
In cross country, the beginning of the season is only a stepping stone.
The only part of the season which matters is the final two meets of the season -- West Region and state.
After taking ninth and 11th, respectively, the Dickinson High girls and boys cross country teams are looking to continue their success.
"We just want to keep making our time go down and then peak at WDA and state," Dickinson senior Shannon Stockert said. "We want to try to get our best times of the season at the end of the season."
With a strong nucleuses returning on each team, the No. 1 runners for the boys and girls are both underclassmen. Junior Jackson Binstock leads the boys team, while the girls are led by junior Emily Tyrell.
The Midgets also have a new head coach in Brittany Messer. She was an assistant coach last year and is looking forward to the first meet of the season at 10 a.m. Saturday in Jamestown.
"In the first meet, we are just trying to see where all kids are," Messer said. "I got hired at the end of June, so we didn't start our summer training until July. But, a lot of the kids had been running during the summer."
Assisting Messer this season is Dakota Wolf, who was a standout runner at Dickinson High and University of Mary. The runners are excited to have Wolf returning as an assistant coach.
"She is a really good runner," Dickinson senior Katie Pavlicek said. "We have her to help us and to teach us more."
Dickinson senior Kelli Pavlicek said Wolf knows exactly what the girls are going through on a day-to-day basis.
"She's been in our position too," Kelli Pavlicek said. "She was a Dickinson High runner and we have a lot to learn from her."
Not only are the runners excited to have Wolf as an assistant, but Messer feels a little more at ease.
"When I found that Dakota was going to be my assistant, I was excited because she is coming from an awesome program at Mary," Messer said.
Stockert, Kelli Pavlicek, Katie Pavlicek and Taylor Ihmels are the returning seniors for the girls.
Also returning are juniors Kelsey Gillen, Caitlin Klitzke and freshmen Elizabeth Yoder, while the newcomers are freshmen Chelsea Anderson, Milla George and Heather Hintz.
On the boys side, Dickinson senior Sam Metz, juniors Bronson Lewis, Collin Bren, Kyle Wegner and sophomores Wyatt Kainz, Bradley Klein, Kaleb Dschaak and Jake Kostelecky are all returning with an extra year of varsity experience.
For one newcomer, Collin Schock, this season is about learning the ins and outs of cross country. Schock was on the Dickinson's track and field team last year as a freshman.
"I'm just kind of hoping for the best," said Schock, who qualified for the 800-meter run during the 2012 track and field season. "It has been a learning experience so far and I've learned a lot."
Schock said it has been great to learn from Binstock, who was ranked No. 2 in the state last year. Schock has been happy with the encouragement everyone on the team has shown him in the early parts of the season.
"He's a wonderful guy to run with and he shows you a lot of ropes," Schock said. "He's just a good guy."
For the first time in three years, the boys field isn't going to be dominated by Jake Leingang -- a three-time state cross country champion and current freshman cross country and track and field runner at the University of Oregon.
Yet, Binstock, who ranked right behind Leingang last year, said nothing is really going to change.
"Jake was usually up there quite a ways, so we didn't really notice that he was there," said Binstock, who finished eighth at the state meet. "It was just the same guys competing every race."
The team goals for the boys and girls sides are the same -- improve on their state place from last year.
"We aim for top five, but if we are sixth or seventh, that would be a better finish than last year," Messer said.
Ihmels added: "Our goal is be in the top five in the state. We can achieve that goal if everyone runs to their potential."