Bison cross-country is off to the races already.
The Buffalo High School girls team returns all of the squad’s varsity runners after a second-place finish at the state meet last season, and a young boys team brings excitement and a will to run, said coach Sandy Moon.
With just a few practices under her belt, Moon said, it’s difficult to tell which newcomers will contribute, though with 39 runners — 22 girls, 17 boys — it’s going to be a fun season.
For the season opener, Moon said that her goal is the same as it is every year: for everyone to cross the finish line. High school cross-country athletes run a distance of 5 kilometers (3.1 miles), and in middle school, they run just 3 kilometers (1.8 miles).
“We’ve got to get some of these kids who’ve never run a 5K, through a 5K,” she said. “My top-seven runners, of course, I want them to do well, but my goal for my first race is to really look at my kids who have never done this before, celebrate them for finishing and just help them get through that first race, because after they get through that first race, then they know they can do it and, mentally, it’s a lot easier.”
Last year, the girls squad won a conference championship and came within three points of winning the state title, the team’s best finish in program history.
“Of course, when you get close, you go, ‘Oh, if only,’ but we ran really well, and so you can’t look back and go, ‘Oh, we should have run better,’ because we ran the best that we’ve run on a very tough course,” Moon said. “So we just have to put that behind us and look toward next year.”
Moon said that her senior girls — Lexi Rule, Kendall Tietjen, Elizabeth Farris, Gabriella Grabin and Maggie Olsen — will be leaders on and off the course this year. Tietjen and Rule earned all-state honors with their sixth- and tenth-place finishes, respectively, at the state championship last year. Elizabeth Farris and her sister, sophomore Briley Farris, finished that race in 12th and 13th place, respectively.
Other returners are sophomores Sophie Berglund and Kenley Jones, both having successful debut seasons in 2020, and juniors Alaina Gross and Cantrell Rosalez.
“The girls are really excited to start this season,” Moon said. “There wasn’t one senior who ran on that varsity team last year, so looking ahead, we’re really excited to see what we can do.”
The boys team returns seniors Kale Benton and Hamlin Wing and sophomore Brodyn Lambert, Moon said. Junior Ryer Morrison moved in after the cross-country season but had a successful track season, she said. The squad finished third in the conference last year and lost a couple of top-finishing seniors along the way, but seven freshmen bring fresh legs and excitement to the team. Moon said Zach Freise and Kason Kukucka are coming off successful middle school seasons last year and can make a difference.
“Freshmen coming in on the boys side can mix things up,” Moon said.
The Bison will lace up their sneakers and travel to Casper for their first meet, the Beartrap Invitational, on Friday.