Mears wins state cross country title
It wasn't some racer's instinct that told Packer freshman Alissa Mears that she had only a slim lead at the state cross country meet last Saturday.
It was her mother. Julie Mears yelled to Alissa with about 800 meters to go in the race that runners were only a few seconds behind her, but like so many times before this year, Alissa fought off her competition and won the race. It was her 11th victory in 11 races this year - the completion of a perfect season.
Alissa is West Fargo High School's first-ever cross country state champion. Her title helped pace the Packers to a distant second place at state behind Bismarck.
"The end was crazy, because you're going in there, and there are just tons of people and the chute is huge," said Alissa. "Once I crossed the finish line, I got that feeling that it's state and I realized everything I've done the whole year."
Mears, who took fourth at state last season, wasn't the only Packer to improve on her finish. Sophomore Britny Bucholz was another - vaulting from 20th place all the way to eighth, to be the Packer's No. 2 runner. Her performance earned her a spot on the all-state first team along with Alissa.
"This year I was just more steady and running in the 15-minute range," said Bucholz. "That was something that really helped me this year."
A pair of West Fargo eighth-graders, Jessica Rosenau and Christine Baltezore, finished within two seconds of one another in 19th and 20th place to take the third and fourth spots for the Packers at state. Junior Hillary Olheiser rounded out Packer scoring in 33rd place and ran a personal best.
Rosenau ran for the middle school team until a few weeks ago.
"We were watching her all year and saying, 'Wow, she's really good,' and they were talking about moving her up," said Alissa. "She's fit right in with us, and she's done really good."
The Packer girls weren't the only team to win a team trophy at the state tournament; the Packer boys took fourth place. Both teams won the EDC meet earlier this month.
"At the beginning of the season we had a goal to come home with a state meet trophy in both boys and girls divisions," said Packer coach Joe Bailey. "A lot of hard work and dedication paid off. Many of the runners put in summer miles and came in prepared for the season and a busy meet schedule."
West Fargo juniors Jamison Gehrig and Spencer Uetz finished less than four seconds apart in 13th and 14th place, respectively, finishing as the top Packer runners. Other Packers who figured into scoring included sophomore Josh Hanson (35th place), sophomore Nate Peterson (40th) and junior Scott Salter (51st). The top 20 places in both divisions earn all-state recognition.
"Everyone came through for us, and I'd say it was a great finish to a great year," said Gehrig. "We haven't placed as a team at the state meet in a really long time, so it was a great accomplishment."
The future is looking good for Packer cross country teams. Both the boys and girls have the opportunity to return all of their post season scorers next season.
"This season was certainly a compliment to the kids that are out there running, and they're definitely hardworking, talented athletes," said Bailey.