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Springs' Kraft returns to state meet expecting a championship

Wessington Springs' Jase Kraft looks to accomplish a goal he set four years ago at the Class B State Cross Country Meet today at Broadland Creek Golf Course in Huron.

"I've wanted to win an individual title ever since my brother Mitch took second (in 2008)," Kraft said. "I ran 740 miles this summer before the season started and I've continued to work hard throughout the season. It's all building up to this race and I'm hungry for the title."

Parker's Duane Jongeling has won the boys' 5,000-meter race the past two years, leaving Kraft in second both times.

However, Kraft won the 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter races in last year's track and field state tournament and Jongeling was the one taking two silvers.

Wessington Springs' coach Becky Bell-Krueger said the two have had a friendly rivalry for a long time.

"They've had long standing battles and know each other's running style," she said. "I think Jase can win; he needs to focus on his own race and sprint for the finish."

Wessington Springs finished third last year in the team standings behind Irene-Wakonda and Parker, which has claimed the team title the past two years, and South Central took fourth place last season.

Other qualifying teams are McCrossan, Philip, White River, Warner, Rapid City Christian, Lyman, Estelline, Dupree, Ipswich, Highmore-Harrold, Freeman Academy, Arlington, De Smet, Dell Rapids St. Mary, Potter County and Great Plains Lutheran.

On the girls' side, the top six teams return to the state tournament and Ipswich, which won the team title last year, is the favorite again this season.

Returning teams from last year's field include, Kadoka Area, Estelline, Lemmon, Gayville-Volin, Freeman, Canistota, Philip, Rapid City Christian, Irene-Wakonda, James Valley Christian, Timber Lake, Chester Area, Lyman and Northwestern.

Mitchell Christian, Potter County and South Central also qualified after missing the state tournament last season.

Freeman's Cailey Roth finished third in last year's race behind second-place finisher Tori Moore, of Ipswich, and Wessington Springs' Mindy Kraft, who claimed the title as a senior.

"(Cailey) has had a good year and I think she's had a good week of practice," Freeman coach Rory Hermsen said. "We're hoping she can make a run for the title. She has to start in the front of the pack and stay there and use her speed at the end and kick it in."

Freeman took sixth place in the state tournament last season, but only has two runners, Roth and Rebecca Eberts, competing in the girls' 4,000-meter race this year despite qualifying as a team. Eberts placed 24th as an eighth-grader last year.

"We have two girls that placed in the top 25 last year and we're pretty happy with that," Hermsen said. "The problem is that our third and fourth girls are hurt, so we just have two girls competing."

The Class B girls' race begins at 1 p.m. and the boys' race begins at 2 p.m. Class B awards will be given out at 3:30 p.m.

Seven runners compete for Mitchell Christian

Mitchell Christian will be represented by its girls' team and two boys' team runners.

The girls' team finished in second place at the Region 2B meet, qualifying it to state for the second time in three years.

Becca Glanzer is the only runner with state meet experience on the girls' team and Devin Blindauer, Ashley Glanzer, Khiree Held and Katie Reynen are all first timers.

Coach Mark Miedema said he hopes Becca Glanzer, who placed 18th as a freshman, and Held can place in the top 25.

"Khiree has proven herself and worked hard this season and this is very attainable for her," Miedema said. "Being her first trip to state, she is nervous and hasn't put any expectations on herself."

For the boys, freshman Issak Pietz qualified for the second straight year as an individual. Pietz took 11th in the Region 2B meet.

Miedema said Pietz can use his experience to compete with some of the best runners in the state.

"He was nervous last year as a young, inexperienced runner, but I think he's worked those jitters out," Miedema said. "He has a lot more confidence going in this year and should do a lot better as far as pace and time."

Along with Pietz, Seventh-grader Kyle Glanzer qualified to the state with a 12th-place finish at the region meet.

"This is going to be a good experience for (Kyle)," Miedema said referring to Glanzer's first state meet appearance. "With the time he puts, he's going to grow and mature with the sport. He's shooting for a good time and can only build from this."

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