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AREA NOTEBOOK: Hillsboro-Central Valley girls cross county seek their third straight title

The experience factor isn't always a good thing. Take the Hillsboro-Central Valley girls cross country team. The Burros will be seeking their third straight title Saturday at the North Dakota Class B meet in Valley City. It is an experienced grou...

The experience factor isn't always a good thing.

Take the Hillsboro-Central Valley girls cross country team. The Burros will be seeking their third straight title Saturday at the North Dakota Class B meet in Valley City. It is an experienced group, with several runners who competed on each of the past two championship teams.

While Hillsboro-CV has been ranked first or second in the state coaches' poll all season, "we've been up and down for the last month,'' coach Kirk Zink said.

"It will be different than the last couple of years. Our runners are getting older; that's not necessarily good in girls cross country. We have girls who have run thousands of miles training in their lives. But girls can break down and hit a wall as they get older.''

If that has happened, it hasn't slowed the Burros. They've continued to fill their lineup with quality runners, as the statewide rankings indicate.

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The Burros are led by Annika Rotvold, a fourth-place finisher at state last season who consistently has been in the top four in the weekly state coaches' poll this season. Hillsboro-CV has two other returning top-seven state placers in Gracie Wright (fifth) and Shayla Fossum (seventh). "We could do that again,'' Zink said. "Those three are all running well.''

Tatiana Berge was 21st and Brooklyn Zink 26th at state last season, with Addi Eckart and Bailey Baesler rounding out the Burros' top seven.

"The good thing is our depth,'' Zink said. "We still have seven legitimate scorers, seven girls who could all realistically place in the top 40. Any of those seven could be in the top 20 if they have a good race.''

The northeastern part of the state could do well at the state meet.

Dakota Prairie's Ashley Perez is back as defending state champion. Langdon's Madison Gapp (sixth), Mayville-Portland-C-G's Cailee Peterson (12th) and Hatton-Northwood-Thompson's Mackenzie Holkesvig (20th) all are returning top-20 placers. All of them have been in the top 10 in the coaches' poll multiple times this season.

Balance on area boys teams

Griggs County Central has been in the top five in the weekly Class B boys cross country coaches' poll every week this season. Hillsboro-Central Valley and Grafton each have been in the top five in four of the eight polls.

And yet, individually, Grafton's Josh Thompson is the only runner from those three teams that has been in the top 10 in the state individual poll.

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It's all about balance and depth for the Cougars, Spoilers and Burros.

"We have five guys who usually are within about a minute of each other, from near the front to the middle of the pack,'' Griggs County Central coach Rick Anderson said. "When we're doing that, we're a pretty good team. Hillsboro-Central Valley and Grafton are in about the same boat. We all do it with depth.''

Each team has its leader -- Tim Clifton is a two-time top-20 finisher at state for Griggs CC. Thompson is Grafton's ace and Kyle Kaufman leads the Burros.

In addition to Clifton, who finished 13th at state last season, Nick Pedersen of Hatton-Northwood-Thompson is a returning top-20 placer from the area. Pedersen placed fifth last season.

Spoilers need help

After playing in the last two North Dakota Class AA football championship games, Grafton needs help to reach the playoffs.

Fargo Shanley, Wahpeton and Lisbon have locked up three of the East Region's four playoff berths. Kindred is in fourth place with a 3-3 region record. Grafton, Central Cass and Valley City are tied for fifth with 2-4 records.

Grafton plays at Kindred and Valley City plays at Central Cass in regular season-closing games Friday.

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If Kindred wins, it gets the fourth playoff spot. According to Grafton coach Tom Maus, if Grafton and Central Cass win, Central Cass is playoff bound. If Grafton and Valley City win, the Spoilers advance.

"Both our game and the Valley City-Central Cass game could go either way,'' Maus said.

"We need a little help. It's weird to be 2-4 and even talking playoffs. But we could sneak in there. It's nice to at least still have a chance.''

Upset win for Bears?

Clearbrook-Gonvick, the No. 6 seed in the Minnesota Section 8 nine-man football playoffs, opened the postseason by beating No. 3 seed and defending section champion Goodridge-Grygla 38-14 in the quarterfinal round Tuesday.

Nick Bodensteiner rushed for 153 yards and four touchdowns and Sam Lavin was 6-for-10 passing for 111 yards to lead the Bears' offense. But was it an upset?

"We didn't feel it was an upset," C-G coach Casey Kroulik said. "We only lost to them by one point (during the regular season). I think we're a better team than our 5-4 record.

"We gave away a couple of games early in the year because of turnovers. We've moved a lot of guys around to different positions. We're healthy now. We've found our lineup and we're starting to mesh."

Three of the Bears' four losses could have gone either way -- 21-14 to Waubun, 16-8 to Stephen-Argyle and 37-36 to Goodridge-Grygla. The one team with a convincing win against C-G is Kittson County Central. The Bearcats scored a 33-8 win against C-G. Now Clearbrook-Gonvick is at Kittson County Central in a section semifinal game Saturday.

DeVillers reports on sports. Call him at (701) 780-1128, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1128 or send e-mail to gdevillers@gfherald.com .

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