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Kraft in search of first XC state title

Jase Kraft has won countless track and field titles, but there is one left on his list.

The Wessington Springs senior is gunning for the boys’ cross country title and has a chance to be crowned champion Saturday at the state meet in Rapid City. The Class B boys’ race begins at 1 p.m. Mountain time at Robbinsdale Park.

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Kraft, who is the lone Spartan runner, finished runner-up the last three years behind Parker’s Duane Jongeling, who is a freshman at South Dakota State University.

Wessington Springs 13-year coach Becky Bell-Krueger has watched Kraft chase the title since his seventh-grade season.

“That’s been his goal since he started,” she said. “He wants to end is high school career with a cross country championship.”

Parker is the favorite as the defending champion on the boys’ side, despite losing Jongeling, as it has four seniors running Saturday. The Pheasants have won the boys’ title the last three years.

The team standings are based on a school’s top four finishers. Freeman Academy is the only area school to qualify for a team score on the boys’ side.

On the girls’ side, Ipswich is the heavy favorite, returning its top three finishers from last year. Last year runner-up and freshmen Macy Heinz looks to claim her first cross country title as last year’s champion, Genevieve Clark, of Gayville-Volin, graduated.

Area teams competing for the title are Burke/South Central, Hanson, Howard and Lyman.

“They are definitely the favorite,” Lyman cross country coach Joel Milton said.

The Lyman girls took third last season and return freshmen Quinn Lulf and sophomore Phoenix Choal. Lulf finished 13th last year and senior Chesney Garnos also competed at state last year but because of an injury was unable to finish.

“Just having those girls that ran for me before is going to help calm some nerves,” Milton said.

Freeman sophomore Rebecca Eberts also returns to the field after finishing 15th last year, while Freeman Academy junior Clara Koemer, who took 18th last season, also joins the field.

There are six races Saturday with the Class B girls kicking off the meet at noon.

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.