The Mitchell High School cross country team will close out the 2021 season Saturday at the Class AA state meet, which will be contested at Yankton Trail Park in Sioux Falls.

The team, coached by Katie Buschbach, will be on the course with the Class AA girls race at 1 p.m., followed by the Class AA boys at 2:30 p.m.

The seven Kernel girls that will compete in Sioux Falls includes junior Kennedy Olsen, sophomores Adelyn Prunty and Lindsay Andersen, eighth-graders Alexis Daley, Aspen Evers and Mya Vogel and seventh-grader Talli Peschong.

Defending state champion Alea Hardie, of Sioux Falls O’Gorman, is among the expected contenders for the Class AA individual title, along with Sioux Falls Lincoln’s Ali Bainbridge, who has Class AA’s best time this season, 17 minutes and 42 seconds at the Watertown Invitational on Sept. 30. Hardie’s best time was 17:42.6 in the highly competitive Heartland Preview on Sept. 11.

O’Gorman was the 2020 Class AA team champions, with Lincoln in second place, with both teams expected to be in contention for the team title this year, along with Brandon Valley and Rapid City Stevens.

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Mitchell’s seven runners at the Class AA boys meet will include senior Carter Moller, sophomores Nate McCormick and Elijah Schroeder, freshmen Max Hart and Brock Russell, eighth-grader Brennan Penne and seventh-grader Owen Raml.

In the boys race, Rapid City Stevens’ Simeon Birnbaum has the class’ top time at 15 minutes, 34 seconds set on the course at Yankton Trail Park at the Heartland Preview meet on Sept. 11. Aberdeen Central’s Josh Martin, who won the Eastern South Dakota Conference title on Oct. 9 in Brandon, is the Class AA defending individual champion and has the third-best time in the class entering the meet.

On the team front, Rapid City Stevens, Sioux Falls Lincoln, Aberdeen Central and Harrisburg will be among the top contenders. Lincoln has won seven of the last nine team titles, while the non-Sioux Falls schools will look to break up a big-city blockade of the Class AA team titles that dates back to Yankton’s last win in 2009.