When the Dickinson High boys cross country team finished in first place in front of its home fans on Friday, Sept. 21, the victory had added significance on multiple fronts.
Midgets sophomore Brady Yoder crossed the finish line first with a time of 15 minutes, 47.05 seconds. With four additional runners placing well within the top-25, Dickinson captured the Becki Wells Invitational, posting a low score of 55.
A victory from the home team was made much sweeter as a week earlier, Wells was inducted into the Dickinson High School Hall of Fame.
Arguably the program's most decorated athlete, Wells was an All-State performer from 1988-92, winning the state meet in 1991 and 1992. Just days after Wells' accomplishments were celebrated, the Midgets raced to the front of the pack, carrying on Wells' legacy in the event named after her.
"I've been here for 20 years and she was here before my time, but I remember being in school reading about her, hearing how great she was and listening to some of the coaches that are around right now, it's a real honor to be able to do well and honor her name," Midgets cross country head coach Greg Jung said.
Midgets sophomore Hunter Gregoire was among the team's best finishers, taking 10th place with a time of 17:23.90. Gregoire says many of the runners in orange and black that morning competed with a different motivating factor.
Lauren Jorda, a senior member of the volleyball, basketball and tennis teams, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in early September. Immediately after the news became public, Jorda's teammates, fellow classmates, coaches and the rest of the Dickinson community rallied around her. That support continued at the Heart River Golf Course.
"A lot of the upperclassmen are pretty good friends with Lauren and for her to go through something like this, we just wanted to support her as best as we could," Gregoire said. "We did little things like we wrote things on our arms and the start-finish line was painted in teal. On Friday, we did run for Lauren."
On the girls side, the Midgets took home fourth place in the event with a score of 112. With a time of 20:32.73, sophomore Symone Beld was the top Dickinson placer at 13th, followed by senior newcomer Macy Gress, who took 18th.
Setting a personal record by nearly 35 seconds, Gress completed the 5K in 20:54.67 in just her second career race. With most of her running experience coming from track and field, Gress is slowly learning the cross country ropes.
"I ran the course the day before and I was like, 'Ok, I think I can do this.' When we got there, it was a lot harder than I was expecting, but I felt like I ran pretty strong," Gress said. "I'm learning how to run cross country and the hills compared to track, but I really enjoying it; I feel like I'm adapting really quickly to it."
The Dickinson boys and girls cross country teams were off the weekend prior to the Becki Wells Invite. In previous years, the Midgets would travel to Bismarck for a meet during the fourth weekend of the season, but Jung forgoed the trip to give his runners fresher legs during the critical portion of the year.
The next time the Midgets hit the starting grid, they will be in a different state.
On Thursday, Dickinson will head eastbound on Interstate 94 for an eight-hour trip to compete in the Tom Watson Mustang Invitational in Mounds View, Minn. taking place on Friday morning. One day late, the Midgets will race at the Roy Griak Invitational held at the University of Minnesota.
This is the second time Dickinson has made the trip to Minnesota. Jung says the team usually takes out-of-state journeys to Montana or South Dakota, but by traveling far east as opposed to west or south, the trip will serve as an opportunity to see new competition and gel for team-bonding experience.
"We were able to go and we kind of wanted to change the culture of Dickinson High cross country," Jung said. "We want to be a real tight-knit group and we want our kids to enjoy it. I think the first couple years as a head coach, I wasn't sure how much everybody was enjoying the sport of cross country because it's very demanding."