Five best friends have one shared passion and five different colleges have noticed.
"I think lots of colleges noticed that we had a little bubble of good distance runners and we're interested to see what we all had to offer," Jamestown High School senior Meghan Ford said. "It's really cool we all got to commit to some good running schools for college, even though we all sadly chose different places to continue to do that.
Ford, along with JHS seniors Ben Anteau, Chandlar Rott, Micah Hoke and Gavin Haut, have been the forerunners for the Jamestown High School cross country and track and field distance teams for the last four years. Each member of the group has committed to run competitively in college.
Ford, has committed to Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. The three-time defending North Dakota girls Cross Country champion signed with the NCAA Division I Paladins on November 11 and her training partners soon fell into line behind her.
Rott and Haut will both be making the trek to St. Paul, Minnesota, this coming August. Rott will run for Bethel University and Haut will suit up for the University of St. Thomas. Anteau committed to South Dakota State University and Hoke will be staying in town to run for the University of Jamestown.
"I think our determination is huge," Hoke said of why the five stood out to college scouts. "We have our goals and we all have supported one another and we work our tails off to try to get there. We push one another and you can definitely see that in the times that my teammates are running."
The core distance squad started out with Ford, Anteau and Rott in the sixth grade. Hoke joined the trio in eighth grade. Hoke said at first, he joined simply to do a sport but with the encouragement and discipline demonstrated by the other three, he was soon hooked.
Haut joined the group during his freshman track and field season. The former football player dropped the pads and exchanged them for spikes the following fall for his inaugural cross country season.
"I really wasn’t a runner at all before I began running with them so I owe a huge part of my development as a runner to them," Haut said. "I’ve learned how important hard work is and how much it can pay off. We’ve always been the ones who run on the weekends because we know we’ll need to if we want to reach our goals."
Ford said she thinks that having a consistent group throughout the entirety of middle and high school has helped each athlete train hard and work to keep pace with one another. Ford said if one of the five showed significant improvements over the off-season, the other four were motivated to match the improvements.
"The progress in training is made in the later parts of the run or workout when it hurts the most and you need to decide whether you want to take the easy or the hard route," Ford said. "(These guys) always choose the latter."
The dedication to training has been evident for quite a while but the seniors have dished out some of the best performances in their final year as Blue Jays.
Ford made history last October, becoming the first girl to win three Class A cross country state titles at a 5-kilometer distance. This spring, Ford has won the 1,600-meter run and the 3,200-meter run every time she has competed. Ford most recently ran a PR in the 3,200 -- finishing her eight laps in 10 minutes, 38 seconds.
The senior was also invited to run at the Trials by Miles Kansas City Qualifier where she competed against other elite high school athletes in a one-mile race. Ford finished fifth with a time of 4:56.21. So far this season, Ford has qualified to the 2021 State Track and Field Meet in the one-mile, two-mile and 4x800-meter relay.
"I think training with the guys on my team helps me so much," Ford said. "Running alone is much harder mentally so having them right with me or ahead of me to push me in workouts or races helps me so much.
"I can tell a major difference when I run races by myself compared to workouts with them. Sometimes I honestly get pushed harder in my workouts than my races."
While her four training partners push her limits, Ford does a fair amount of pushing back.
"It’s great having Meghan on the team," Haut said. "She really shows us that great things are possible if you work hard enough. We’ll give her a hard time during some runs but deep down it's probably just because we’re jealous of her accomplishments.
"It doesn’t change much having her in workouts -- except if it’s towards the end and a rep and she’s still ahead of me -- I’ll usually make sure I out kick her."
Having an elite-level high schooler in the training group has helped the other four hit their splits.
Anteau placed fourth in the 1,600-meter run at the Howard Wood Dakota Relays with a time of 4:22.80 and third in the 3,200-meter run at 9:13.97.
Rott has qualified to state in 3,200 for the first time, running a 10:04 at the Twilight Invitational on May 7. The 3,200 relay team comprised of Rott, Haut, Hoke and JHS senior Kade Schumacher, are also close to qualifying for the state meet. The foursome is one second away from the qualifying time of 8:24.24.
"Just by watching this group, you can learn so much," Rott said. "There is a vast array of knowledge and support and that is very rare to see in a high-school team. Where they have helped me most is pushing in practice to become faster and grow my mental strength while running."
Haut added: "It was the best decision of my life to start running and I’m so thankful I was able to do it with these people."