HIBBING — Under normal circumstances, the Hibbing High School boys and girls cross country teams have one meet in town — the Hibbing Rotary Meet.
But these aren’t normal times, and that has worked out to the Bluejackets’ favor.
Hibbing will get to host two meets in town this season, with the first being conducted today, beginning at 1 p.m., at the Hibbing Municipal Golf Course.
The girls varsity race will start off the competition, followed by the boys varsity race at 1:30 p.m. After those first two pods, the junior-varsity meet will run.
It’s an unofficial, official Hibbing Rotary Meet, which will have two pods for both the boys and girls.
The Bluejackets will be in the first pod, running against Mesabi East and Eveleth-Gilbert, then pod two will start at 3 p.m., with Deer River, Mountain Iron-Buhl and Chisholm.
The Hibbing boys are coming off a fifth-place finish at the Titan Invitational, so Hibbing coach James Plese is hoping they can build off of that race.
“We’re looking for some continued improvement, and a return to health for a couple of our guys,” Plese said. “Last week, we were missing two of our older runners, so two of our top three runners were out with various ailments.”
The Bluejackets’ top runner was David Platt, who seems to be rebounding back into shape after missing last season with injuries.
“We’re hoping that he does well,” Plese said. “With the field we have coming in this week, it’s not quite as star-studded as the past one, so we’re hoping he places well. We have a couple of guys that will push the pace on him, and so does Mesabi East.
“We don’t have Geno (Uhrbom) or Cameron (Stocke) level runners, which we’ve seen in the last two invites. Maybe David could push for an individual title here.”
Zach Rusich and Bryson Larrabee were the two Hibbing runners nursing injuries, but Plese expects them back for this meet.
“They should be healthy, so they can continue to have that budding, back-and-forth rivalry there,” Plese said.
Ethan Roy has been steady for the Bluejackets, then there’s some eighth- and ninth-graders fitting into the mix.
Lucas Arnold and Carson Brown have both done well, but according to Plese, Arnold has responded a little better than Brown, but they push each other nicely.
Taite Murdan, Justin Walker, Oliver Stevens and Ethan Aune will round out the lineup.
“We have a couple extras in there, so we’re still trying to figure out where everyone will shake out here,” Plese said. “We have good competition, so it’s a matter of putting some races together and seeing who’s going to respond, and who’s going to push.
“Being a smaller meet, maybe we see a little bit more out of them.”
The Golden Bears and Giants should be ample enough competition to push the Hibbing runners.
“Team-wise, we ran a solid race last time out,” Plese said. “Six of the top seven broke 20 (minutes), and that was a big deal last year at sections. Hopefully. We keep improving.”
On the girls side, the Bluejackets won the Titan Invite, which was their second victory in a row.
“They want to continue what’s been a solid run for them,” Plese said. “They’ve won the last two tries, but I hope the sting of Duluth East is in their head. We will go there again next week.
“We got perfect scored in Duluth, but we’ve been dominant as a team these last two invites. There’s a difference between running on the Range and running against all Class AA opponents. We have to keep pushing our pack. We have to keep pushing our individuals.”
Plese is hoping to see one of his runners push to beat Lydia Skelton of Mesabi East, who won the Titan Invite last week.
“That’s what is in our minds, we want to attack and shorten the gap between Aune Boben, Jocelyn Strukel and Reese Aune as our top runners. We want those three to be the leaders.”
After that, Jorie Anderson, Gianna Figueroa, Miriam Milani, Addison Hess, Audra Murden and Charleigh Hartl have to drag that pack closer to the front of the race.
“It has been a little more spread out than in year’s past,” Plese said. “They have to tighten that pack up. Those back girls need to catch up to the group in front of them. The girls have been strong. We’ve gotten some nice compliments on them
“We’re hoping to continue some impressive performances that they’ve been able to put together.”