Bismarck's girls and Legacy's boys lived up to the billing at the West Region cross country meet on Saturday in Williston.
Ranked as the top teams for the majority of the season, the Demons and Sabers showed superior depth en route to conference crowns.
For coach Scott Reichenberger's juggernaut Demons, who won their eighth region title in the last 13 years, depth was the difference. Led by runner-up finisher Matti Fairbairn-Shirley, BHS had nine of the top 29 placers in the meet.
"It was a great team performance, not just by the top five runners, but I'm extremely proud of the entire team," Reichenberger said. "Everybody was running with reason and purpose and you'll take that pretty much anytime in a conference meet."
Mandan sophomore standout Kelby Rinas continued her stellar season with a dominant winning time of 18 minutes, 22.16 seconds. But from there, the Demon's depth overwhelmed everybody.
Callie Clausnitzer (8th), Reece Vorachek (10th), Morgan Wald (13th) and Jilee Golus (20th) all earned all-West Region honors with top 20 finishes. Angeline Gannon (21st) just missed.
"It's a real credit to our girls. We preach to them that even if they're not in the top five, somebody might have a tough day and somebody else might need to step up and on Saturday we had a lot of girls really step up," Reichenberger said. "I thought for the most part everybody ran how they were capable of running, but I still think there's more in them and I'm glad the season's not over. We have a couple more weeks to get better."
The state meet will be held Saturday, Oct. 28 in Valley City.
Legacy's Lindsey Werner (18:49.79) took third overall on Saturday.
Century, which finished third team-wise, was led by Emily Goldade (6th) and Erin Palmer (7th). Complete results of the meet ran in Sunday's edition of The Tribune.
Reichenberger's Demons have won three of the last five state titles and appear poised to make a serious run at the program's 11th championship, which would break a tie with Jamestown for the most.
"We have a really good group of kids and they've improved each and every week," the BHS coach said. "We're looking forward to seeing how much more progress we can make over the next couple of weeks."
While conference crowns are nearly old hat at Bismarck High, Legacy's boys title on Saturday was the first for the Sabers. But they earned it.
Coach Andrew Reichenberger-Walz's team had five of the top 20 times and three in the first nine led by junior Carl Reis, who posted a season-best finish.
Reis (16:18.84) trailed only meet champion Evan Sayler (15:54.18) of Century and Bismarck's Morgan Fairbairn (16:13.18).
"Carl had been the third runner on our team in every meet this season," Reichenberger-Walz said. "That was a big run for him."
Isaiah Germolus crossed directly behind Reis at the finish line. Jack Markle was ninth overall.
The Sabers got another surprise from junior Grant Gader, who had not cracked the top five all season for Legacy, but ended up 13th overall out of 156 finishers.
"Grant's shown a lot of improvement in the last year," Reichenberger-Walz said.
Braden Will also earned all-region honors with his 20th-place finish.
Reichenberger-Walz said expectations have been high from the start this season for his team and they have not disappointed.
"I wasn't too surprised. I knew we could do it," he said. "With the kids we have and the commitment they've shown, we knew they were capable of some pretty special things."
Their success has been about more than just logging miles.
"What's interesting, I think, is a lot of it comes from how good the kids get along and the relationships they have," Reichenberger-Walz said. "There is competition, and you need to have that, but it's a very close-knit team and they pull for each other. That's pretty rewarding when you see that as a coach."
Before the state meet in Valley City, Bismarck, Century, Legacy, Mandan and Shiloh Christian will congregate at McDowell Dam on Wednesday for the yearly Fall Classic.
"It's a 3K, so it's a little faster. We plan to run everybody," Reichenberger-Walz said. "There are a lot of great teams in our city. It's a good tune-up for state."