HIBBING — It’s that time of year where the Hibbing High School boys and girls cross country teams would be getting ready for the Iron Range Conference Meet.
Not this year.
In 2021, the Bluejackets are getting prepared for the Lake Superior Conference Meet, which gets under way at 4 p.m. at the Grand View Golf Course.
Joining Hibbing in the meet are Superior, Proctor, Marshall, Hermantown, Duluth Denfeld, Grand Rapids and Cloquet.
“I’m not going to say this is more challenging because we’re coming off seasons watching Ava Hill, G/N-K, with Geno (Uhrbom) and Rock Ridge has a heck of a team. I’m not disrespecting the IRC tradition,” Hibbing coach James Plese said. “This is just as challenging for us in this new conference.”
It’s a whole-new experience for Plese and his teams.
“This is a different feeling,” Hibbing coach James Plese said. “It’s going to be an adjustment. I like ending the year with the conference meet, then sections. This is different because Superior is a Wisconsin school, and they do their sections a week earlier than us.
“It’s a brand-new course. We’re going in blind to the course. They have to compete, regardless. It’s a lot different, but it’s been a season of adjustments, coming off the COVID season, trying some different training methods or adjusting to every-changing lineups they have presented us.”
On the girls side, Hibbing is the defending IRC champions, so now, they can add another title to their résumé.
“We’re coming off a multiple-conference championship run,” Plese said. “In the LSC, Proctor has the edge right now. We have to show up and be hungry. At the end of the day, we want to do well in the conference, but we do have another meet and sections to worry about as well.”
Like Plese said, if the Bluejackets want to win the conference title, they will have to get past the Rails.
“We’re heads up with them for one, two there, and I give the edge to Proctor,” Plese said. “We have to show up and be ready to compete. Their top-two girls are significantly ahead of us.
“Even if our pack finishes next before their No. 3, first and second are tough. Our first girl equals their first two girls. That’s a difficult proposition to have.”
Trying to do that will be Avery Kukowski, Mileena Sladek, Abigail Theien, Jocelyn Strukel, Giannan Figueroa, Jorie Anderson and Reese Aune.
“There’s one junior and mainly sophomores there,” Plese said. “They have to be ready to run. Audra (Murden) has been presenting herself well in these last couple of races, and pushing those girls for a spot.
“We have a solid eight girls right there. Hopefully, it’s a PR course and PR day, but we have to go after Proctor and compete.”
On the boys side, there’s a youth movement going on with ninth- and 10th-graders, led by Lucas Arnhold, Taite Murden, Finn Eskeli, Christian Massich, Oliver Stevens and Silas Langner.
Senior Ethan Roy will round out the top seven, with Jeremiah Wentland and Zach Rusich pushing for spots.
“There’s a lot of moving parts here,” Plese said. “We have some kids peaking. We have a wide variety of performances being put forth. Did we try hard enough? Did we push enough?
“We have a week-and-a-half left, so it’s time to figure this out.”