The West Central Area cross country programs epitomize the importance of self motivation this season with both the boys and girls teams determined as ever to accomplish big things -- whatever that might look like.

Postseasons are still up in the air as of Sept. 13, but the WCA girls are using each meet as an opportunity to see how their times are improving across the board. The Knights won their lone home meet of the season on Sept. 11 at the Tipsinah Mounds Golf Course by totaling 26 points, 12 lower than second-place United North Central. Breckenridge-Wahpeton was third in the triangular with 60 points.

Taylor Bennett finished third on Friday in a time of 20:50.6. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)
Taylor Bennett finished third on Friday in a time of 20:50.6. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

“Our ultimate hope is state if that happens,” WCA junior Lexi Bright said after winning the varsity 5-K meet in a time of 19:27.4. “With all that’s going on, we’re unsure if we’ll have that, so we just have to treat every meet like it’s our last.”

Runners have the ability to focus on bettering their individual times from meet to meet and use that as motivation. Friday’s conditions were not great, with wind and rain challenging both the boys and girls runners during the varsity race. The Knights put that aside and finished with three top-five finishes around two from United North Central in the girls’ race.

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“We’re a super self-motivated group,” Bright said. “A lot of determined people who are always trying to do our best and beat our times. We’re even competitive with each other. That helps. We have a team here where we all want to be the best we can be. There’s 12 girls who could be on the (varsity) team, and you just never know. It switches meet to meet, so that’s nice.”

Bright is the leader of a talented young nucleus that looks to have many good years in front of it. She won her second straight meet and finished more than 26 seconds faster than Anjalie Aho of UNC on Friday.

“I really haven’t seen her look tired yet in a race,” WCA head coach John Van Kempen said of Bright. “If you look at her mile splits, she’s right on every time. She doesn’t slow down, and she runs at a really good pace. She just looks a lot stronger this year than I’ve ever seen her, and this is her fifth year.”

West Central Area's Macee Grosz races to the finish line in a time of 21:45.4 to finish fifth overall on Friday. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)
West Central Area's Macee Grosz races to the finish line in a time of 21:45.4 to finish fifth overall on Friday. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

Taylor Bennett, a freshman, was the Knights’ second finisher as she took third overall in 20:50.6. Eighth-grader Macee Grosz was fifth in 21:45.5, while freshmen Terina Blasyck (22:15.2) and Alexa Blume (22:49.1) rounded out the team scoring in eighth and ninth place, respectively.

“Taylor is good. Our third girl Macee, this is her first varsity race,” Van Kempen said. “She was kind of scared, but there’s that strength in numbers when you can kind of run with your teammates. That helped her out a lot. We had a couple girls in our JV race who were 22:30. The Foslien sisters, they’re new to the sport. They’re volleyball players, but I expect them to see some varsity action coming up.”

Terina Blasyck raced to a time of 22:15.2 at the Knights' home meet on Friday. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)
Terina Blasyck raced to a time of 22:15.2 at the Knights' home meet on Friday. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

Brynn Fernholz finished 11th on Friday, and Chloe LaRue was the Knights’ seventh runner on varsity with a 13th-place finish. Junior Halle Foslien (22:28.3) and eighth-grader Mya Foslien (22:28.5) also ran good times in taking first and second in the junior varsity race.

Van Kempen likes the depth and competition within his own team for the girls program right now. It’s a group that is pushing each other to be better each meet, with the hopes that they will have an opportunity at some kind of postseason in a few weeks.

WCA's Alexa Blume finished the varsity race on Friday in a time of 22:49.1. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)
WCA's Alexa Blume finished the varsity race on Friday in a time of 22:49.1. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

“I tell the girls that if this was a normal year and we were going to our normal meets with 10 or 12 teams, we’re pretty good,” Van Kempen said. “It’s hard to tell when there’s three teams. You get second and you don’t feel good, but we compete against some pretty good competition.”