The Eastern Dakota Conference champion West Fargo cross country team went to the North Dakota state meet with lofty expectations, but knew stiff competition awaited them.
On Saturday, Oct. 24, the competition didn't disappoint as the Packers girls team finished third while the boys slipped to ninth place.
Fargo South's Tarin Lachowitzer finished first for the girls with a time of 14:53.55. Winning for the boys was Bismarck High's Christian Brownotter, who ran a 15:38.64.
The West Fargo girls were paced by Alissa Mears, who was attempting to defend her state title, but instead finished 14th with a time of 15:23.50.
"It's hard to come back and repeat as a state champion," said Joe Bailey, Packer cross country coach. "Lachowitzer was right up there with Mears all season at other meets. We knew she would be tough to beat."
A little more than a second behind Mears was teammate Jessica Rosenau who finished in 15th place. West Fargo's Mears, Rosenau and Christine Baltezore, who placed 18th, each earned All-State honors.
The Packers boys team, which placed ninth, saw two of its top runners go down during the race, severely hurting its chances at finishing higher in the field.
Bailey said Jamison Gehrig and Spencer Uetz - ranked No. 4 and No. 5 in the state, respectively - both collapsed before finishing the race.
Gehrig had a temperature and passed out about halfway through the race as he and Uetz were running in the 4th and 5th positions, Bailey said.
"He just dropped and didn't really remember what happened," Bailey said. "Uetz collapsed with about 100 yards to go." Bailey believes Uetz may have been ill, too.
"They would have been first-team All-Staters if they could have finished the race," Bailey said.
Nate Peterson finished 21st for the Packers, missing All-State honors by one position. Williston's Chris Chamberlin finished 20th, edging Peterson by only 1/4 of a second.
And though his team didn't finish exactly where he had hoped, Bailey is optimistic about their chances next season.
"We had a pack of runners (at state) who finished just back of where we had hoped," he said. "We're looking at most of them coming back next season, which will put us even closer to Bismarck."
The Packers are losing some talented runners, such as Gehrig and Ellie Grooters, but West Fargo may prove to be an even stronger force in the years to come.
Swimmers still solid
The West Fargo girls swimming and diving team appears in solid form after another stellar meet Oct. 20, trouncing visiting Wahpeton 139-43.
Which begs the question: What happened in Minot the week before?
"(The meet organizers) only scored the pentathlon in Minot," said Marsha Dahl, West Fargo girls swimming and diving coach. "They accumulated everyone's time and then ranked them No. 1 through 20. We only had two girls that scored in the pentathlon and no divers made the top 20. If they would have considered everyone's time, we would have done better, but oh well."
West Fargo placed second as a team in the Minot Mini Invite on Oct. 16, but finished second-to-last during the Pentathlon on Oct. 17, an uncharacteristically low placing for a team that all season has been one of the strongest forces in the Eastern Dakota Conference.
The Packers were looking forward to the Minot meet as a way to gauge the strength of teams they might face in the state tournament. Though they got a good look at teams like Williston, Minot and Bismarck Century, Dahl said the end result was misleading.
"That's no real depiction of what's going to happen at state," she said. "We've fared far better in bigger meets."
Though the Huskies had a relatively small squad of swimmers on Tuesday compared to West Fargo, they did bring their share of talent. Kelsey Richels dominated the spring, grabbing first place in both the 200 freestyle (1:59.51) and 100 freestyle (55.90). Wahpeton also got second-place finishes from Carissa Bucholz, who swam a 1:18.97 in the 100 breaststroke and finished less than a second off West Fargo leader Ashley Kranda in the 50 free.
"Because they've got a small team, we kind of lightened up our lineup," Dahl said. "We had a really good meet. Our team was due to swim well."
Dahl said she was proud of her team's hard work.
"This is the time where kids get frustrated because they're adding time," she said. "Girls are getting tired or getting sick. But we had a lot of kids who dropped time and felt good. I was really happy for them."
The Packers again showed their versatility by placing several players high in every event. Swimmers who have been in the spotlight all season, such as Danica Dutt and Amy Doll, didn't disappoint against the Huskies, but other swimmers stepped up their game, too. Julissa Johnson took first place in the 100 backstroke with a 1:10.51 while Hannah James snagged first with a 1:10.15 in the 100 butterfly.
Looking ahead, Dahl said she still has some analyzing to do before the postseason begins.
"We're going to see what we're capable of doing," she said. "We have to find our depth and get our best lineup forward."
West Fargo has one more regular-season meet before the East Region tournament Nov. 7 at Fargo North. The Packers will hit the road on Halloween for the Jamestown Invitational, which starts at 11 a.m.
Volleyball falters against Riders
The West Fargo volleyball team has been clipping along this season, but hit a road bump Tuesday, Oct. 20, in Grand Forks. It took five sets of back-and-forth play, but the Packers finally fell to Red River 27-25, 17-25, 25-17, 23-25, 15-11.
West Fargo, which fell to 7-4 in the Eastern Dakota Conference and 17-12 overall, was hoping to start a winning streak after recently beating Devils Lake and Grand Forks Central in straight sets.
The Packers put up a good fight against EDC powerhouse Red River, getting solid play from several girls. Five-foot-11 junior Carissa Becher was a force on both offense and defense, nailing a dozen kills and two aces while also amassing 16 digs. Proving their offensive versatility were Katelyn Holland (11 kills, 3 aces), Courtney Voeller (10 kills, 2 aces) and Jill Gustafson (4 kills, 2 aces and 30 assists).
The Roughriders - who at 10-1 are only a half game behind East Region leaders Fargo Shanley - were led by freshman Hadley Steffen, chalking up 12 kills and three service aces. Annika Strand and 6-foot-2 senior Emily Evers had 11 kills apiece.
Next up for the Packers is an away game Nov. 3, to face the Deacons (11-1 EDC, 25-4 overall). West Fargo has played Fargo Shanley twice this season and lost both times, which means now is as good a time as ever to turn the tables.