The Kimball/White Lake cross country team was undoubtedly the most well-rounded team leaving the Region 3B meet. The Wildkats had three runners finish in the top five on the girls side and three runners finish in the top seven on the boys side, securing two first-place finishes as a team.

Last year at state, Kimball/White Lake was led by Sidney McCord, who finished 12th in 21 minutes and one second. On the girls side this year, eighth-grader Autumn Baker now leads the Wildkats into the state meet as she broke the school 5K record, originally held by McCord, in 20 minutes and seven seconds on Sept. 7 in Scotland. She later surpassed her own record-breaking time twice as she ran a 19:42.19 in Highmore on Oct. 2 and set her personal record of 19:19.59 at the Ethan/Parkston meet on Oct. 7.

Christine Gaulke and Taya Chelmo finished in the top seven of the region meet and bring experience to this deep Wildkats group. They’ve both been running since seventh grade and this is their fourth year running at the state meet. Lily Baker, Autumn's sister, is a seventh-grader who got moved up from junior varsity mid-way through the season. She finished fourth at the region meet, nearly 40 seconds behind Autumn for third-place.

On the boys side, freshman Park Sinclair and senior Drew Ekstrum have led the Wildkats this season, both finishing in the top seven of the region meet. Sinclair has finished in the top five at seven different meets this season and finished in the top three, three times. Dawson and Porter Miller, twin boys born in Mitchell, also finished in the top-20 at the Region 3B meet. McCord has expectations for each of her runners at the state meet, but understands on any given day, it could be someone else's day.

“We do have high expectations and we know we’re capable of anything, but we can’t discount anything that any other team can bring in as well,” McCord said. “We have expectations on both sides, but we know we want to go in and do the absolute best that we can do, we’re right where we want to be and we’ll just go out and see where it takes us.”

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Koerner leads the way for Freeman Academy/Marion

The Freeman Academy/Marion girls team did not qualify at state last year, but Jada Koerner, daughter of coach Suzanne Koerner, placed third individually with a time of 20:09.06. This year will look exactly the same for Koerner, but she’s made some adjustments heading into this year’s state meet. She’s trained all season running against teammates Tim Epp and Finley McConniel, pushing her to new heights. She’s won the last five meets she’s raced in and finished in the top three of seven different meets. Last year Koerner finished in the top three six times and finished first once.

With FAM having one lone girls runner and a boys team missing Titus Roesler, who led Freeman Academy/Marion and finished fourth at the state meet, Koerner said the goal is to be a placing team and they have some teams on their radar they understand they’ll have to look out for.

“Expectations depend on the year and they kind of just come together at the end. They have some small goals and that’s to be a placing team,” Koerner said. “They have a couple of teams that they want to beat and we’ll see how it plays out.”

Last year at the state meet, The Freeman Academy/Marion cross country boys team finished second behind first-place Bison and edged third-place Northwestern by one point. The boys have placed in the top six at the state meet each of the last nine years, including four runner-up finishes.

Thomas, Sinclair stand-out for Gregory

Emma Thomas, who finished in 10th at the state meet last year, finished second at the region meet and beat her last year region meet time by nearly 10 seconds. She’s finished first in two meets and has finished in second-place in four meets. Thomas has finished in the top three of every meet this season she’s raced in except one.

Luke Sinclair placed 36th in the state meet last season, but has made all the steps needed to have a better finish this year. Sinclair has finished first in three separate meets so far and finished in third-place twice. He set his personal record time of 17:34.00 less than a month ago at the GPC XC Championship in Burke and first year head coach Lonnie Klundt said Sinclair has gotten stronger and more mature, only raising the level of expectations Klundt has for the junior runner.

“Considering where he’s at time wise and having a PR that’s 14th in the state, we would like to see him place in the top 10,” Klundt said. “That’s going to be difficult and that’s a challenge, but he’s up for it. It’s just a matter of him going out and doing it. He’s really become a lot stronger this year. Another year of maturing a little more, he’s become a stronger runner.”