Vermillion's boys cross country team qualified for the state meet en masse with a third-place team finish at the Region 3A meet last week, and two runners from the girls team also qualified individually for the chance to compete for state honors at Huron Saturday.
Senior Alex Card led the Tanager boys as he has all season, placing seventh in 17:13, 30 seconds faster than his personal best. Sophomore Nathan Ford ran what Coach Kelly Fischbach called "the race of his life" and earned 11th place in 17:59, and senior Robert Osterberg was 17th in 18:08, also his best time ever.
Those three would have qualified individually for the state meet no matter what the rest of the team did, but Matt Hirsch, Will Card and Colin Olson also ran strong races, passing several runners down the home stretch to put Vermillion over the top in a tight team point race. The Tanagers escaped the pressure of fourth-place Beresford for the final team qualifying spot by a margin of nine points.
"I told them they needed to go out fast so that we didn't get trapped in the middle of the pack," Fischbach said after the race. "That is exactly what they did. All six of our runners went past me at the 1/2-mile mark in the top 25."
Fischbach said she is excited to see how they place at the state meet.
Hirsch, Will Card and Olson are all sophomores, a pleasing thought as one looks ahead to the next two seasons. Hirsch placed 28th in 18:53, Card 31st in 19:11 and Olson 40th in 19:43.
The boys varsity regional champion was Tea Area senior Brady Ihnen in 16:24. Harrisburg won the team title with 32 points, and Lennox also qualified team-wise with a second-place 59 points, three better than the Tanagers.
On the girls' side VHS sophomore Blair Gilkyson ran a strong race of 15:12.51 to finish in the runner-up spot 13 seconds behind Canton seventh-grader Halie McMains.
"Her time places her in the top five or six statewide," Fischbach said of Gilkyson, "so she is looking to improve on her 13th-place finish at state as an eighth-grader."
Senior Ashley Brunick has had disappointingly close misses when it comes to state qualifying at past regionals, but she came through in her final chance with a 19th-place finish in 15:46.37. "It was good to see her get over the hump and qualify," Fischbach observed. "She has missed out by such small margins in the past, and I am really happy for her."
The rest of the Tanager girls ran nice races, and Fischbach said they all took several seconds off their times from previous weeks on the same Lennox course. "Unfortunately we just weren't quite fast enough to get the entire team qualified," Fischbach said. "We compete in a very tough region. West Central and Canton girls both have excellent shots to win the state title as do the Harrisburg boys."
Sophomore Morgan Hower placed 34th in 16:48.20, seventh-grader Cheyenne Mallory 36th in 16:52.84, freshman Alyssa Soesbe 37th in 17:04.99, and sophomore Jade Fostvedt 54th in 18:08.20.
West Central edged Canton 32-33 for the team title, followed by Elk Point-Jefferson with 71 in third. VHS was sixth with 91 points among the 11 schools.
Fourth- and fifth-place finishes by seniors Kevin Callahan and Lance Burkhart highlighted the JV boys race for Vermillion. They ran respective times of 15:31 and 15:38. Other Tanager runners were: freshman Seth Miller, 14th in 16:07; freshman Joe Swanson, 17th in 16:15; freshman Philip Erikson, 27th in 16:48; sophomore Joe Mazour, 30th in 16:54; seventh-grader Joe Miller, 40th in 17:18; seventh-grader Owen Swallow, 43rd in 17:26, and freshman Kevin Helenurm, 52nd in 17:58.
Senior Jana Bye was Vermillion's best in the JV girls race, placing 18th in 18:32. Other Tanagers were: freshman Ashley Sorensen, 28th in 18:56; seventh-grader Maddie Mockler, 32nd in 18:11; eighth-grader Britney Sweeney, 35th in 19:22; freshman Caitlin Britten, 38th in 19:26; seventh-grader Shelby Glover, 47th in 20:27, and senior McKenzie Huska, 58th in 21:46.