Bluejacket girls harriers must battle section's best teams

HIBBING — The odds of the Hibbing High School girls cross country team placing either first or second at the Section 7AA Cross Country Meet would be around 50-percent.

After all, the Bluejackets have to battle teams like Andover, Forest Lake, Elk and Duluth East, schools that have dominated the section over the past few seasons.

Even though the odds are stacked against Hibbing, that doesn’t mean the Bluejackets won’t give it their best shot as they compete at the Section 7AA meet today at the Princeton Golf Course.

The Hibbing girls will run with the Greyhounds, Hermantown and Grand Rapids beginning at 3:05 p.m.

Hibbing coach James Plese didn’t have a problem figuring out his girls team.

Aune Boben, Jocelyn Strukel, Jorie Anderson, Reese Aune, Gianna Figueroa, Charleigh Hartl and Audra Murden will be the seven runners competing.

“It’s been consistent, but we did have a battle for the seventh spot,” Plese said. “The girls came into the year with the hopes of competing for a state spot. That’s not on the table right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t rank near that position and hope.”

Realistically, it won’t be easy to unseat Andover or Forest Lake at the top of the pack.

“I wanted to be up front with them and transparent,” Plese said. “Forest Lake and

Andover, we’re not racing against them, but their top times are averaging around 19:40. That’s a little faster than what we’ve got going.

“We can still shoot for that number two because you never know what that last race will bring.”

Being paired with Duluth East will give the Bluejackets all the competition they need.

“In the two races we’ve seen them, they’ve shown us a thing or two,” Plese said. “We have to be ready to compete. If our goal is to get to state, Duluth East would be a huge hurdle for us.

“That has to happen. They all want to PR, so we gave them times to shoot for. We all have to be under 22:00, with some of our faster girls being in the low 20s. We have to keep our pack together. We’d like to be the third-place team or top five.”

With such a young team, placing in the top four would be beneficial for the Bluejackets because next season, cross country goes to three classes. That means East, Andover and Forest Lake would be moved to Class 3A.

“To be in the middle of that group, maybe that could light a fire and the reality of it is we should be lining up for a state run,” Plese said. “Our entire girls team comes back, so we’re not ending anything this year.

“Our pack should stay within 45 seconds to one minute of each other, like we have been. Being paired with Duluth East will be perfect for those girls. That’s where we have to aspire to get.”

Boben, Anderson, Strukel and Aune have set the pace, but now it’s time for Hartl, Figueroa and Murden have to pick up the pace.

“We’ll see what happens,” Plese said. “It’s going to be a cool day, but it’s going to be cold for everyone. We have to race. They ran well in the conference meet, and we’d like to build off of that and do well.”

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