Another state championship seems a lot closer to the Hillsboro-Central Valley girls cross country team than it did a week ago.
The Burros program has won seven consecutive state titles. This season, Rugby was the No. 1 team in every weekly Class B coaches' poll, with Hillsboro-CV second in each of the last seven polls.
In last Saturday's East Region meet, Hillsboro-CV won the title with a score of 74, beating runner-up Rugby by 20 points. The teams meet again Saturday at the Class B state high school meet, which begins at 11 a.m. in Jamestown.
"I've been optimistic about our chances the whole season,'' H-CV coach Kirk Zink said. "But from the standpoint of confidence for the girls, it was a really nice win for us.
"If our top five runners run really well, we have a good chance to win again. Rugby could win, too. We have more top-end talent. They have more quality depth.''
The Burros' are led by Jensyn Zink (fourth at state last season) and two-time defending state champion Reagan Baesler. Jensyn Zink missed almost five weeks this season due to issues with a stress fracture. Baesler has been running all season with a torn ACL she suffered last summer.
“You'd never know it watching Reagan,'' Kirk Zink said. "It's amazing. She's had a terrific year.''
Eighth-grader Ondrea Betner and seventh-grader Mallory Alfson have stepped in as the third and fourth runners, respectively.
The regional was the first meet the Burros won this season. It was the first time their top six runners ran together in a race.
While Baesler is defending champion, Thompson senior Lana Krack has been the No. 1-ranked runner all season by coaches.
Krack finished third at the state cross country meet last season and won the 1,600 and 3,200 at the state track meet last spring. Class B runner has beaten Krack this season.
“We haven’t paid a lot of attention to the polls,’’ Thompson coach Lindsay George said. “What matters is Saturday when you prove your ability. Lana’s been running really well. I don’t see that changing.’’
Other area runners who consistently have been ranked in the top 10 are Langdon-Edmore-Munich's Elise Ramberg and Mayville-Portland-CG's Anna Strand.
New Town won its sixth consecutive Class B boys cross country state title last season, with Hillsboro-CV finishing second. Those teams consistently have been ranked first and second, respectively, in the state poll this season.
"New Town isn't the power they've been the last several years, but they're still clearly the favorite,'' Kirk Zink said. "We have three, maybe four, kids who will contend for all-state. That would win state in a lot of years. But New Town has a dynasty. We'd need some breaks to win it.''
The Burros are led by a returning top-10 state finishers Colton Anderson (sixth) and Chase Fossum (ninth).
Other area runners who consistently have been ranked in the top 10 include Hunter Denault of Pembina County North and Thompson juniors Pierce Cooper and Jacob Hendrickson.