Parkhurst Recreational Area is the best spot for Meghan Ford's high school cross country career to come to an end.
"The last three years of running have been full of so many milestones and having the state meet here for my last race ever will be pretty awesome," said the two-time defending Class A state cross country champ. "Having that last milestone occur in Jamestown will be very special."
Ford, a senior at Jamestown High School, and the rest of the Blue Jay cross country team will be hosting the 2020 North Dakota Class A State cross country meet Saturday at Parkhurst Recreational Area.
The boys are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. with the girls to follow at 3:45. Fans will be admitted if they present a pre-purchased wristband that was provided by an athlete via a member school. No tickets will be available for purchase at the meet.
JHS activities director Jim Roaldson said race-goers should be conscious of the snow that has accumulated over the last few days and of the colder temperatures. The high temperature for Saturday is predicted to be 25 degrees with lows in the teens.
"I run well in the cold, so I am actually excited for that kind of weather on Saturday," Ford said. "I have run many of my faster races in my career when it's been 45-50 degrees or colder."
Ford has won every race she has competed in this season by at least 20 seconds and said that she is expecting more of the same competition that has been put forth by the Western Dakota Association (WDA).
Six of the top 10 female runners ranked in the latest release of the cross country coaches poll were out of the WDA.
"My game plan for Saturday is more just to adjust to the race as it plays out and how I'm feeling," Ford said. "I think if you set a game plan and have your mind only focused on that outcome, you might set yourself up to be unprepared for any other scenarios that might play out when your plan doesn't go how you expected it to.
"So I'll just be ready to race smart, have a good attitude, stay relaxed, and focus on each part of the race as I'm running it instead of thinking too far ahead."
Jamestown cross country coach Ken Gardner said he hopes his flock of Blue Jays respond well to the colder temps and to the competition. The state meet will be all team's largest meet of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Competitors in the WDA have not seen any Eastern Dakota Conference (EDC) teams race this season and vice versa.
"Having up to 140 runners in a race I think is going to be the biggest motivation," Gardner said. "I am hoping that they handle it well -- it's not something that they've had this year.
"I don't know if this year is something you can practice for. It's going to happen that one time and we've got to be able to handle it."
The Blue Jay boys team finished fifth at the West Region meet and were led by senior Ben Anteau. Anteau paced out a 15 minute, 37-second race.
Ford led the Blue Jay girls team to a sixth-place finish. She said there is a potential for higher Blue Jay finishes this weekend due to the home course advantage.
"We know what the new course looks like," Ford said. "We have ran it many times throughout the season so we will be able to know when to make moves and surge. The teams in the East never had a chance to run on our course so they will just be running it for the first time this weekend."
While the Blue Jays could run the course with their eyes closed, there are some other West Region teams who are more than capable of reaching the finish line first.
Dickinson finished third as a team at the WDA regional meet and were led by defending boys cross country champ, Brady Yoder.
"I am happy with where our boy's team is at right now," DHS head coach Greg Jung said. "Our boy's team is extremely close, a true family. They run for the name on their jersey and their teammates. They have had the mindset all season long to place higher than we did a year ago."
Jung said the Midgets were hoping to be a top-five team at state last year - a goal they met turning in a third-place finish. At this season's regional, Dickinson once again finished third with defending state champs Bismarck Century claiming the top spot and Bismarck High finishing second.
"We have been making steady progress all season and are hopeful we have prepared the runners to compete at their best for this last race," Jung said.
The Midgets aren't the only ones with their eyes on the prize.
Head coach for the Watford City girls team, Sydney Lund, said she thinks her pack of Wolves has the potential to run for the title or at least a top-five team finish. Watford City finished seventh at the 2019 state meet.
"I think we are doing really well as a team," Lund said. "We have been constantly improving over the season and that’s all I can ask for as a coach. I feel we match up really well compared to the larger class A schools which is very impressive for a school our size."
Hayley Ogle and Jaelyn Ogle are Watford's City No. 1 and 2 runners and have finished in the top-three at every meet the team has competed at. The Wolves finished in the third spot at the WDA meet. Lund said her team is grateful for the opportunity to wrap up a complete sports season in a traditional fashion.
"I am just thankful to have ... the seniors to have their final moments as cross country runners," Lund said. "Good luck to all the teams out there."
North Dakota Cross Country Poll
Class A Boys Team: 1. Bismarck Century; 2. Grand Forks Red River; 3. Bismarck High; 4. Dickinson; 5. West Fargo Sheyenne. No other teams receiving votes.
Class A Girls Team: 1. Williston; 2. Bismarck High; 3. Fargo North; 4. Watford City; 5. West Fargo. Other teams receiving votes: Grand Forks Central.
Class A Boys Individuals: 1. Jacob Knodle (WFS); 2. Sean Korsmo (BHS); 3 Brady Yoder (DHS); 4 Ben Anteau (JHS); 5 Mason Kindel (BC); 6 Caleb Yokum (FN); 7 Ethan Moe (WIL); 8 Gavin Haut (JHS); 9 Hunter McHenry (GFRR); 10 Ethan Bender (BC).
Class A Girls Individuals: 1. Meghan Ford (JHS) 2 Jaelyn Ogle (WC) 3 Hayley Ogle (WC) 4 Trinity Jessen (MIN) 5 Eleni Lovgren (WIL) 6 Onnica Stansbury (WFS) 7 Anna Bernhardt (S/OG) 8 Anna Lien (FN) 9 Jadyn Guidinger (LEG) 10 Claire Hynek (GFC).