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GGF NOTEBOOK: Riders, Knights eye repeat cross country titles

The lure of Japan could hinder Grand Forks Red River's bid to repeat as conference champion in boys cross country. Dalton Byrne, one of the Roughriders' top three runners, will miss the Eastern Dakota Conference Championships, to be held Saturday...

The lure of Japan could hinder Grand Forks Red River's bid to repeat as conference champion in boys cross country.

Dalton Byrne, one of the Roughriders' top three runners, will miss the Eastern Dakota Conference Championships, to be held Saturday at noon in Valley City. The junior left this week for two weeks in Japan participating in a student foreign exchange program.

"I didn't give him a hard time about the timing of this,'' Red River coach Richard Dafoe said. "But I wanted to. Winning back-to-back will be tough without him.

"We'll have him back for the state meet. But this will hurt us (in the conference meet). He's been one of our top three in just about every meet.''

The Roughriders were the top-ranked EDC team in last week's state high school coaches' poll, their third-place ranking making the Riders the only EDC team in the top five. Dafoe looks at Fargo Davies and Fargo North as top challengers in the EDC meet.

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"With Dalton, I think we had a pretty good chance of repeating,'' Dafoe said. "Without him it will be tougher.''

Ben Hutchison has been the Riders' top runner. Hutchison was third in last week's state poll. But top-ranked Hunter Lucas of Davies is the big favorite. "Something strange would have to happen for Lucas to not win,'' Dafoe said. "Ben should be up there in the running for second.''

Cole Stenseth has been Red River's other top runner. Grand Forks Central also figures to have a top-10 challenger in Richie Osborn.

Knights eye 4-peat

Grand Forks Central, ranked first in the Class A girls cross country coaches' poll, will attempt to win its fourth straight EDC title Saturday. But Davies is third in the state poll and Knights coach Sean Allan looks for a close race.

"We were maybe a little bit more of a clear-cut favorite the last few years,'' Allan said. "I think Davies is underrated.''

Central senior Karly Ackley, the state's top-ranked runner, is three-time defending conference champion. Ackley and top 10-ranked teammates Rachel Torrey and Alexis Roehl, give Central a big three.

The difference in this season's Knights team and those of the past is depth.

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"Our top three are outstanding,'' Allan said. "They should all be in the top four at the conference meet. And that's been our strength, getting several girls in the top five. The difference this year is the way our other runners have gotten stronger. We're nine deep with good runners.''

EGF sister act

Sisters Jenna and Emma Dietrich didn't play a doubles match together this season for the East Grand Forks Senior High girls tennis team until last week. All they did in that first time as doubles partners was win the No. 1 doubles division at the Northwest Quad.

The sisters finished third in the Minnesota Section 8A doubles tournament last season. Senior High coach Kyle Hanson said they'll be the Green Wave's top contenders for a high place at the Section 8A meet, which begins next Tuesday in Fargo.

"Singles in the section is going to be very tough,'' Hanson said. "In doubles, Jenna and Emma have the potential to beat anybody in the section if they're playing well.

"They have to stay positive. Their game is good enough to do well. But it will be a tough field in doubles, too.''

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