The Dickinson High boys and girls cross country teams had their first practice of 2018 season on Monday, Aug. 13, and the timing couldn't have been better.
The previous week, a sizzling heat wave swooped through North Dakota where the thermometer reached over 100 degrees.
For the Midgets making their initial practice runs, thankfully, the Monday morning conditions were slightly overcast and significantly cooler. But whether the temperatures are up or down, the DHS coaching staff emphasizes to their athletes to drink fluids.
"First and foremost, we're big into hydration, we try to pound that home," DHS head coach Greg Jung said. "They get sick and tired of the coaches saying, 'Make sure that you are hydrating.' I'll send texts to them with just a water bottle on it and stuff like that; they'd get annoyed with me, but I think it's really, really important. It's something that they have to do on a daily basis, even if it's not triple-digit heat and it's 70-degree heat, that hydration piece is really important because of all the miles that they run."
Training during the summer can be a grueling, yet necessary task in hopes for improving from a year ago. For sophomore Brady Yoder, it's all about building a strong base.
"That's just all it is, it's just building a good base for the season so we can peak at the right time around the end of the year and getting ready to be where we want to be at the start of the season as well," Yoder said. "It's building general strength through the summer as well with our mileage and putting ourselves in the best spot to start training for the first day of practice."
Yoder is coming off an eighth-place finish in individual standings at the Class A state meet, completing the 5K in 16 minutes and 27.10 seconds. Not too far behind was junior teammate Aiden Jung, who captured 15th place with a time of 16:42.
The duo highlight the key returners for a boys team that only lost two graduates off the squad that finished eighth at state last season. Seniors Brayden Groll, Garrett Hughes, Kyler Smith and Reece Anderson are joined by sophomores Griffin Obrigewitch and Hunter Gregoire as other returners who figure to be important pieces to a team looking to take another step.
"It's no secret that we have two All-State runners returning in Brady and Aiden. They've been really consistent for us over the last couple of years, but we're all only going to be as good as three-through-ten runners team wise," Greg Jung said. "We've really tried to pound that home last year and we are going to do the same thing this year."
The Lady Midgets did not lose any graduates off of a team that took 14th at state. The top half of the team ran fairly consistent times in the season-ending meet as juniors Aleigha Villars, Delaynee Zubke, sophomore Raghyn Murphy and eighth-grader Mattie Obrigewitch finished in the middle of the pack within 11 positions and 14 seconds of one another.
Pacing the girls team is sophomore Symone Beld, who took 43rd at state in her first full season in cross country.
"Last season, I was going into it not really knowing how to pace myself and how it was going to go because I was used to running the mile. That was the longest distance I ever competed in," Beld said. "So I just went from the first meet and based that on how I should run the season, critiquing myself throughout the year."
Most of Beld's running experience comes from a track and field background, but entering her second season in cross country, she hopes for better results.
"I really want to get in the top 10 in the WDA since I finished 12th last year." Beld said. "I want to finished in the top 25 in state and run under 20 minutes."
Dickinson will feature one of the larger teams in the WDA thanks to an influx of younger runners. That talent is expected to give the rest of the rosters a boost.
"On the boys side, I'm really excited for our freshman boys class. They won the West Region cross country meet as eighth-graders, so I'm really excited to see how they transition from running a 5K in junior high to a 5K in high school," Greg Jung said. "We have a few new girls that are here this year. Macy Leiss is one, she ran track for us. ... She's one that I'm excited to see what she can do. Veronica Pavek is another one, a freshman girl that after seeing her run in the summer a little bit, looks like she might have some tools. Our freshman girls class had a really good season at WDA last year, too."
With a large class of freshman entering the picture, the veterans will play an essential role in bringing the rest of the team up to their level.
"I think a lot of that has to do with team commitment and how much we are all willing to put into the season," Aiden Jung said. "We all have to be on the same page with what we are going to do with workouts and runs to do well in how we preform."