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Potter County favored to win B girls title

Potter County’s Jadyn Ahlemeier (811), Emma Schlachter (814) and Dannika Kaup (812) run ahead of Frederick Area’s Morgan Sumption (671) during the Class B race at the South Dakota State Cross Country Meet last season at Yankton Trail Park in Sioux Falls. The Battlers are favored to win the Class B girls' team title today in Huron. Photo by John Davis taken 1023/2021

As the Potter County girls zero in on a possible state cross country championship, Battlers coach Jessica Larson has been preaching five simple words to her squad: relax, run and have fun.

Potter County, runner-up a year ago, is the favorite to the win the Class B girls’ division at the State Cross Country Meet today at Broadland Creek Golf Course in Huron.

“Right now, my thing is relax, run and have fun,” Larson said. “Now is the time where we’re going to see the nerves come out.”

Larson’s young crew, which features, a sophomore, three freshmen and a seventh-grader, has had a stellar season so far. The Battlers placed all five of their runners among the top seven on the way to winning the Region 4B meet.

The girls pack it up so tight, that Larson has had to find ways for each individual runner to improve.

“They run side by side in practice almost every day,” Larson said. “As a coach you’re trying to get them to make themselves better. It’s hard to coach around that. I have to separate them.”

Of course, the coach also understands and appreciates team chemistry and how well the girls get along.

“We do a lot of team bonding. A lot. I think the girls really feed off of that. Over the summer, we run once  a week. This last summer we went to the Hills and ran. That’s huge for us,” Larson said. “These girls are all really close knit. They’re all really good friends with each other and that’s big. My whole team, it’s more like a family. There’s nobody individualized.”

The leader of the pack is Dannika Kaup, however, she usually has plenty of company near the top in teammates Emma Schlachter, Jadyn Ahlemeier, Rayel Persoon and Paige Ahlemeier.

Some of the girls also play volleyball for Potter County.

“I like to see the dual-sport athletes just because they’re stronger,” Larson said. “I can make them stronger also, but they’re putting in two pretty good practices a day vs. one cross country runner putting in one practice.”

Frederick also has many multi-sport athletes on its teams, which swept the Region 1B titles last week.

Four of the five boys also play football, while several of the girls are on the volleyball squad.

“They’re just a super bunch of kids, all of them the boys and the gals,” said Titans coach Janelle Barondeau. “They give their best no matter what they’re doing.”

The boys are led by John Bretsch who has developed a race strategy that has worked for him.

“John kind of changed up his racing style a little bit middle of the season and started not going out quite as fast,” Barondeau said. “He’s been running the middle and ends stronger, and that’s worked out well for him.”

Frederick’s John Bretsch runs for the finish line at the Lake Region Conference cross country meet Wednesday at Split Rock Country Club in Ipswich. Photo by John Davis taken 10/5/2022

Milo Sumption is also one of the team’s top runners. Other team members are Winston Clark, Stephen Achen and Noah Kippley.

“Those guys are just competitors,” Barondeau said. “They like to compete.”

The Frederick girls are cut from the same cloth, starting with team leader Morgan Sumption, who was runner-up at the region and eighth at state a year ago.

“Morgan Sumption has been kind of our leader all year. She’s just always so steady. She’s just strong and steady,” Barondeau said. “She likes to go out conservative and then she runs the middle and end strong. That works well for her.”

Sofia Losure is the team’s second runner and is known for her strong finish.

“She has improved just leaps and bounds over last year. Kind of similar stuff, likes to go out a little conservative and then just run that middle strong and put herself in position,” Barondeau said. “She’s got a pretty good kick. She’s a sprinter.”

Other team members are Laura Sumption, Katie Bretsch and Jill Ellwein.

Barondeau said the teams are running stronger than they were last year and she is hoping they can cap the season on a high note.

“We’re going to ask them to do their best,” Barondeau said. “We’ve just been proud of how they’ve been running all year and hopefully we can finish strong.”

Barondeau said that the Philip boys and the Potter County girls are clear favorites to win team titles in Class B. Defending B champs Miller boys and Kimball-White Lake girls both moved up to Class A this year.

Potter County’s Nicholas Schlachter will be in the hunt for an individual title.

“That’s his goal. He’s like within seconds of those (top) boys,” Larson said. “He has a goal set and on the right mindset this week.”

Schlachter was fifth last year and three of the top four runners moved up to Class A.

Northwestern also has a pair of runners who figure to be near the front of the pack in their respective races. Lincoln Woodring, and defending state champ Ella Boekelheide are both coming off of region titles.

“They are incredibly talented runners,” Barondeau said, “and very consistent.”

Defending State A girls’ champ Ellie Maddox of Sioux Falls Christian is back in the field. Ali Bainbridge of Sioux Falls Lincoln, runner-up a year ago, is the top returning AA girls’ runner.

Defending B champ Lane Krautschun transferred from Bison to Belle Fourche where he joined returning State A champion Sawyer Clarkson.

Simeon Birnbaum of Rapid City Stevens is back to defend his AA boys’ title. This past spring, Birnbaun became the first runner in South Dakota history to clock a sub four-minute mile.

Aberdeen Central’s Josh Martin (11) trails Spearfish’s Keenan Urdiales (222) and Rapid City Stevens’ Simeon Birnbaum (147) as they compete in the Class AA boys race at the South Dakota State Cross Country Meet last season at Yankton Trail Park in Sioux Falls. Photo by John Davis taken 10/23/2021

“It’s such a treat,” Barondeau said of getting to watch one the premier runners in state history. “It’s an absolute privilege to get to watch him run.”

The schedule has the Class A girls race at noon, the AA girls at 12:30 p.m., and the B girls at 1 p.m. The Class A boys race will be at 1:30 p.m., the AA boys at 2 p.m., and the B boys at 2:30 p.m.

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