The Ethan/Parkston cross country team brought its season to a new high at the Region 3A meet last week.

That was led by the team’s girls squad, which has senior stalwart Lindsey Roth and three seventh-graders that lifted the co-op to a team title, edging out consistently strong programs in Lennox and Vermillion.

“We knew it would be close, within one or two points or would have to go to the tiebreaker,” Ethan/Parkston coach Jared Digmann said. “We’ve known all year what our potential is and we've had five really solid runners all year and at regions, we really had six runners do a great job and get us that team title.

The girls team includes Roth, junior Taryn Lentsch, sophomore Leah Klock and seventh-graders Morgan Maxwell, Sadie Mueller and Berkley Ziebart. Digmann said the team has benefited greatly from Roth, a varsity runner for six years who was 24th at the state meet in 2020, the coach said, particularly with handing down leadership and knowledge to the team’s younger runners.

“She knows what it takes to be competitive, what it takes to prepare, what it takes to recover,” Digmann said. “You sometimes see the juniors and seniors taper off as they get older and she’s just as consistent as ever because she knows what it takes and she knows that team aspect of the sport.”

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Ethan/Parkston also boasts a strong runner on the boys side in Evan Bartelt, who was third at the region meet and was 15th last year at state. Bartlet said he knows he’s capable of running with the top runners in the region and is focused on putting a smart race together.

“It’s something I’ve been building toward and putting the effort into and I know I’ve got it in me,” said Bartelt, who said he’s hopeful for a cold race day on Saturday for the Class A state meet.

From left, Ethan/Parkston's Evan Bartelt, Beresford's Cameron Wells, Lennox's Sam Swanson, Beresford's Andrew Atwood and Elk Point-Jefferson's Joe Cross lead a pack of runners early in the Region 3A boys cross country meet Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021 in Beresford. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)
From left, Ethan/Parkston's Evan Bartelt, Beresford's Cameron Wells, Lennox's Sam Swanson, Beresford's Andrew Atwood and Elk Point-Jefferson's Joe Cross lead a pack of runners early in the Region 3A boys cross country meet Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021 in Beresford. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

Digmann has stressed to the team the importance of treating the state meet at Yankton Trail Park in Sioux Falls like any other meet on a course they know well.

The team is also whole again with Digmann back with the team. Digmann, who has the rank of sergeant first class, served with the South Dakota National Guard on a deployment to Africa from August 2020 to July 1. That meant being away from his family at home and away from his team of runners, as well.

“You’re just not there to be a part of that team unity, seeing that group grow and come together,” said Digmann, who is a 19-year veteran with the National Guard. “It was hard for my family at home.”

The team frequently FaceTimed or Zoomed with Digmann from overseas, while the deployed coach would watch live scoring through Dakota Timing and try to follow results “in the middle of the night.” Assistant coaches Eric Aisenbrey and Alex Whitesell filled in while Digmann was away.

“It’s like a second family, and it’s hard to not be there and coaching them and rooting them on,” he said. “There’s some seniors last year who I wasn’t able to be there for and for a lot of our current runners, I missed a year of seeing them grow and improve as well.”

Chamberlain sophomore Kinsey Evans runs stride-for-stride with Mobridge-Pollock's Heidi Olson during the Region 4A cross country meet on Oct. 14, 2021 at the Chamberlain Country Club. (Landon Dierks / Republic)
Chamberlain sophomore Kinsey Evans runs stride-for-stride with Mobridge-Pollock's Heidi Olson during the Region 4A cross country meet on Oct. 14, 2021 at the Chamberlain Country Club. (Landon Dierks / Republic)

Chamberlain to field strong teams and individual contenders in both races

Both Chamberlain cross country teams finished top of Region 4A on Oct. 14 in Oacoma, and both could also be in the hunt for team honors if they’re able to muster a similar effort to that of the region meet, where five boys finished in the top 20 and six girls crossed the line in 12th or better.

The Cubs’ top individuals — Dom Santiago and Kinsey Evans — expect to be among the first few athletes to cross the finish line in the boys and girls races, respectively.

Santiago ran a time of 16 minutes, 12.18 seconds at the region meet and finished more than a half-minute ahead of second place in the boys race. Evans was runner-up for the girls with a time of 18:57.38, as she crossed nearly 20 seconds ahead of third-place finisher and teammate Kylah Biggins (19:15.62).

“I’m looking to push with the front of the pack,” said Santiago, a senior and three-time Region 4A individual champion. “I’ve set a goal of top three this year and I really believe that’s achievable.”

Evans, a sophomore, is aiming for a more modest top 10 finish, but aims to stick with the leaders as long as possible, as well.

“We’ve faced a lot of top teams this year, so it should be a good, competitive race,” said coach Holly Evans. “We just have to go run our best and let the finishes take care of themselves.”

Winner boys look to improve on region performance

The Winner boys team had a strong region meet, as Kade Watson (16:46.09) was the individual runner-up in the boys Region 4A race and three more Warriors finished in the top 15. Overall, the team took second place in the region, finishing eight points back of Chamberlain.

However, coach Jayd Schuyler was adamant his team can improve ahead of the state meet.

“Our goal is top six at state, so that’s where we’d like to end up,” Schuyler said. “There are a lot of good teams out there, so we would be an outside team to place. We’re just looking forward to seeing where we can improve (from the region meet).”

Most specifically, Schuyler said that illness had a significant impact on Joseph Laprath (18:31.97), normally the Warriors’ second-best runner behind Watson, and expects a much better race out of a healthy Laprath in the state meet.

SCW girls to enjoy ‘surprise’ experience

When final results were tallied at the Region 4A meet, jubilation quickly spread through the Sanborn Central/Woonsocket camp as the girls qualified for the Class A meet with a third-place finish in the team standings.

SCW coach Shelley Schlicht described the occasion as “a proud moment” and “a very pleasant surprise.”

Three Blackhawks — Hannah Terkildsen (21:29.15, 10th place), Liz Boschee (23:34.00, 18th) and Trinity Boschee (23:37.12, 20th) — finished in a position that would have qualified them for the state meet individually, meaning SCW has a solid group looking to have a good showing in its final race of the season.

“We’re going to have some fun, try to set personal records and display our best,” Schlicht said.

Individual qualifiers have opportunity for strong showings

While their full teams did not qualify for the state finals, several area athletes finished toward the top of Region 4A and will be looking for repeat performances with strong races on Saturday.

On the boys side, Sanborn Central/Woonsocket runners Jeff Boschee (third) and Braxton Gentles (ninth) were among the top half of individual qualifiers from Oacoma.

In the girls region race, Mount Vernon Plankinton’s Suri Schmidt crossed in fourth place overall.