Meghan Ford was in her happy place Saturday afternoon: on a trail system, in front of everyone else.
The two-time defending Class A girls state cross country champion ran her way to a third consecutive West Regional title at McDowell Dam in Bismarck. Ford broke the tape at 17 minutes, 40 seconds - nine seconds faster than her time at the WDA meet last season.
"It was great to see Meghan win her third consecutive WDA title," JHS head coach Ken Gardner said.
While it was not surprising that Ford led the pack, the Jamestown High School senior did not have time to let off on the gas. Ford won her title by 20 seconds, the shortest gap since she competed at the Nike Heartland Regional in November of 2019.
Jaelyn Ogle, a sophomore from Watford City, was nipping at Ford's heels during the 5,000 meters. Ogle finished in 18 minutes flat, 39 seconds ahead of Watford City senior Hayley Ogle who has repeatedly earned the No. 2 spot behind Ford in previous races.
"Jaelyn has been doing well the last couple of weeks and I was curious to see how she would run today," Ford said. "I don't think I ran super smart the first mile considering how I felt, but I was able to make a gap between us after the 2k. I just tried to take every half mile at a time today and not focus too much on the next part of the race until I got to it."
While Ford was busy flying past the competition, the senior Blue Jay's younger counterparts were making some strides of their own.
"I'm really proud of how our girls' team raced, they all fought for each other and every point," Ford said. "We were only 11 points away from fifth so we are hoping to catch that team and beat as many other teams we can at state."
The JHS girls team ended up sixth out of nine West Region teams with 138 points. Williston won the meet with 59 points. Bismarck High finished second and the Ogle duo helped Watford City round out the top three.
"We had the potential for a higher team finish than sixth but the future holds some promise," Gardner said. "Seventh-grader Brooklyn Nygaard earned her first All-WDA spot and eighth-grader Julia Skari missed All-WDA by only two places."
Nygaard cracked into the top-20 runners, crossing the finish line at 20:44, while Skari strode to a 22nd-place finish. Skari paced out a 20:58 run. Maddy Orr, Bernadette Belzer and Jera Truax all finished their 3.1 miles before the clock hit 23 minutes. The team, comprised of nine girls all between grades 7 and 12 averaged a 20:49 minute race pace.
The Blue Jay boys were busy pacing out a competitive race of their own.
Senior Ben Anteau finished third out of 75 competing athletes helping the Jays to a repeat of their 2019 fifth-place team finish. Bismarck Century topped the leaderboard with 46 points, 30 points ahead of the second-place Demons.
"I just trusted in my training and in our team and looked forward to seeing what we could do," Anteau said of the plan headed into WDA.
"One of the major factors that has helped me this season is having a longer period of time to build up a base of miles due to the cancelation of track season, along with having a consistent group of guys to run with throughout the summer and season."
Anteau posted a personal 5k best of 15:37, two seconds behind 2019 state champion Brady Yoder of Dickinson. Sean Korsmo of Bismarck High earned the West Region title, crossing the finish line at 15:26.
Yoder claimed the 2019 Class A state cross country title with a time of 15:21 while Korsmo was crowned 2018 state champion.
"It was very fun to get to race against such a full field of good athletes after a season of limited teams in each race," Anteau said. "I had my goal set for 15:30, which I came seven seconds short of, but it was still a solid PR, and I'm happy with how I raced."
Anteau was not alone in the top 10.
Gavin Haut averaged a 5:18-minute mile to finish at 16:06, good enough for the No. 6 spot. Chandlar Rott broke 17 minutes by two seconds to sneak into the top 20 racers. The Blue Jay boys averaged a 16:45 across the three miles.
The Blue Jays are slated to host the state cross country meet on Oct. 24 at Parkhurst Recreational Area.
"I'm really excited that the state meet is on the home course again," Ford said. "It'll be nice to have that advantage and it will be bittersweet to run it in my last high school cross country race."
West Region Cross Country Meet
At Bismarck's McDowell Dam
1. Bismarck Century 46; 2. Bismarck 76; 3. Dickinson 78; 4. Williston 82; 5. Jamestown 87; 6. Bismarck Legacy 123; 7. Minot 243; 8. Watford City 328; 9. Mandan 348.
Top 10 individuals
1. Sean Korsmo, BHS, 15:26; 2. Brady Yoder, DHS, 15:35; 3. Ben Anteau, JHS, 15:37; 4. Mason Kindel, BC, 15:58; 5. Ethan Moe, WIL, 16:05; 6. Gavin Haut, JHS, 16:06; 7. Ethan Bender, BC, 16:10; 8. Jacob Ersland, BC, 16:14; 9. Griffin House, BC, 16:21; 10. Hunter Gregoire, DHS, 16:22.
Blue Jay results
3. Anteau 15:37; 6. Haut 16:06; 19. Rott 16:58; 27. Cullen Flieth 17:22; 32. Kade Schumacher 17:44; 43. Micah Hoke 18:22; 51. Sam Anteau 18:57; 55. Caleb Fabian 19:06; 60. Ethan Igl 19:20; 63. Micah Stoudt 19:34.
1. Williston 59; 2. Bismarck 60; 3. Watford City 115; 4. Minot 116; 5. Legacy 127; 6. Jamestown 138; 7. Century 166; 8. Mandan 234; 9. Dickinson 259.
Top 10 individuals
1. Meghan Ford, JHS, 17:40; 2. Jaelyn Ogle, WC, 18:00; 3. Hayley Ogle, WC, 18:39; 4. Trinity Jessen, MIN., 18:54; 5. Eleni Lovgren, WIL, 18:57; 6. Jadyn Guidinger, LEG, 19:21; 7. Dru Zander, WIL, 19:27; 8. Acey Elkins, MAN, 19:35; 9. Jilee Golus, BHS, 19:38; 10. Taya Fettig, BHS, 19:42.
Blue Jay results
1. Ford 17:40; 20. Nygaard 20:44; 22. Skari 20:58; 46. Orr 22:15; 49. Belzer 22:27; 56. Truax 22:45; 62. Madison Rick 23:09; 63. Ellie Krueger 23:10; 70. Jetta Peterson 23:45.