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'Getting better individually': DHS cross country collect wins and personal records at home meet

With Regional meets fast approaching, the Midgets displayed their confidence and abilities in securing the top of the podium in team boys and girls races on Thursday.

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Eli Hansen near the finish line.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press
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DICKINSON — Dickinson High School’s boys and girls cross country programs went into their home meet with composure and confidence, garnering first place in both the boys and girls meet.

The Midgets are setting the stage for a regional top 20 finish and a plethora of personal bests as they set their sights on reaching the state meet at season's end.

Dickinson HS hosted the Becki Wels Invitational at the Heart River Golf Course on Thursday, Sept. 15. While a small meet in terms of participation, the competition was fierce as 13 teams, including four Class A programs competed.

"I was very impressed with how well the teams pushed each other since it was such a small meet,” Dakota Hayes, DHS head coach, said. “I was a little disappointed when I saw how few teams were coming to the Becki Wells meet, but looking back it's exactly what we needed in order to focus on our teammates and focusing on each other getting better individually."

The home teams stood out from the pack, taking first place in their 5,000 meter race. The boys final score was 30 and the girls garnered 33. Coming in second was Mandan’s boys and girls with scores of 45 and 40 respectively.

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DHS boys had three athletes in the top 10 and eight in the top 20. Huge senior contributions came from Eli Hansen and Jace Cofer, the frontrunners of the race. Hansen finished first with a time of 16:49, a personal record.

“We have been doing a little more mileage than I think we did last season so that has put me ahead a little bit,” Hansen said. “It was a smaller meet which took some of the pressure off and that allowed me to open up. Being in the lead the whole race, I have never done that before so that was a new experience and I think it really helped me gain some confidence.”

Cofer also tallied a PR with a 16:55 finish and a silver medal. The placing was particularly special for the senior, who has managed recovering from a spring injury while keeping up with his progress.

“My recovery process began back in the late summer, I started running again and kind of got back into the groove. This is the first time that I've felt really good since then," said Cofer.

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Jace Cofer competing in the 2021 WDA Regional meet in Dickinson.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

The girls top runner would come in a young athlete making waves as a freshman. Ninth grader Leila Gregoire took fourth place with a time of 20:32, also setting a season record. Gregoire has been running varsity since her seventh grade and has been touted for her experienced she carries at her young age.

“I just go out and do it. I don't have a plan going into a race. I just go and have fun,” Gregorie said. “My goal is to PR, that is what it is every year. I am feeling really good. I had a lot of fun with the team and we are really starting to build a culture.”

Her older brother Hunter Gregoire, who is now a sophomore in college, ran with her in high school and continues to be a strong part of her support system.

“I love this sport. I do it because my brothers have done it and it's really fun being all together with my friends,” Leila Gregorie said. “I FaceTime [my brother] before every race and he always tells me, ‘You know what you need to do, just do. You have done this before, just go have fun.’”

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Finishing inside the top 10 behind Gregorie was Hannah Geisel in sixth with a time of 21:12, and Abby Praus in eighth finishing at 21:26. Both athletes also took home a personal record finish.

Coming in 11th was sophomore Arabella Privratsky, who also set a personal record. Dickinson’s girls cross country program is a small group, but are using their team camaraderie to win the mental battle in their races.

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Arabella Privratsky competing in 2021 as a freshman.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

“Last year, coach Hayes did a lot of team bonding. This year... we are much closer as a team,” Privratsky said. “I actually really like cross country. The program here is great. I just wish we had more girls. I am really hoping to have more girls join later on in the future… We like to have team dinners so those are always fun to do.”

The Midget will have one more meet before taking to the field at regionals, the large Border Battles held in Grand Fork will have programs from across North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota and Manitoba, Canada participating.

Team scoring will be done in the traditional way, but will also use the top five runners for each state to determine a state winner.

Regionals are slated for Oct. 8, at the Williston Golf Course in Williston, N.D.

“I am not going to let it stop,” Hansen said. “I had a good time here, I am going to try to PR in the next race...I want to get top 20 at regionals and I am going to try and do it at state too. So I definitely have to work hard.”

Josiah C. Cuellar was born in San Angelo, Texas, a small rural community in the western part of the state known for its farming, ranching and beautiful Concho River. A Texas A&M San Antonio graduate specializing in multi-media reporting, Cuellar is an award winning photographer and reporter whose work focuses on community news and sports.
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