Meghan Ford and Brady Yoder have been voted No. 1 in the state cross country coaches' poll most of the fall. Saturday they showed why, with gusto.
Ford completely ran away from the field and Yoder won with ease at the Western Dakota Association cross country championships on the McDowell Dam course.
In the 5-K girls race, Ford, a Jamestown sophomore, was clocked in 18:02.92, placing her more than 45 seconds ahead of her closest pursuer, Kayla Ogle of Watford City. Ogle ran an 18:48.21 and Kelby Rinas of Mandan, the defending state Class A champion, placed third in 18:52.46.
"The whole year has been going really well. ... This is my eighth (win)," said Ford, who placed seventh in the state last season.
Yoder, a sophomore at Dickinson High School, ran a comfortable 11 seconds ahead of Bismarck's Sean Korsmo in the boys 5-K race, finishing in 15:45.31, a course record. He said the conditions -- temperatures in the 40s and winds of 15 to 20 mph -- didn't bother him.
"I felt really good," Yoder said. "In a race like this, with an awesome atmosphere it gives me the chills, and especially today with the cold."
The team count favored Century and Williston.
Century posted a 75 to edge Minot for the girls title. The Majettes tallied an 80. Century placed two runners -- Erin Palmer (fifth) and Emily Goldade (sixth) in the top 10 and all five scorers in the top 30. Minot ran in a tighter pack, with its five scorers all finishing from 11th to 22nd.
The Patriot girls returned to the top of the heap after a one-year lapse. They've won five of the last seven WDA meets.
Williston, up and down this season, was up on Saturday. The Coyote boys have been ranked atop the state poll and as low as fifth, but the brought their A game to the WDA race.
Three Coyote harriers placed in the top 10, and their five counters were among the first 21 into the chute. Micade Shumway and Gunnar Alvarado led the Williston charge, placing fourth and fifth, respectively. The conference championship was the Coyotes' first since 2004.
Defending champion Legacy, ranked No. 1 in the state, finished 15 points behind Williston with a 64, putting all five of its counters in the top 20. Carl Reis ran third individually with a 16:07.54.
Ford opened a big lead in the first two kilometers and was running 40 seconds ahead of the pack at the 4-K mark. Still, she said she's had better days.
"I don't feel it was my best race. The wind slowed me down today," she observed. "... I hit the mile mark in 5:40. I was hoping for a 5:30. Most of my races I've gone out at about 5:30 and it's been working pretty well."
Ford said the WDA race was just her second match-up of the season with Rinas, and she was surprised by the result.
"I was kind of expecting to run the majority of the race with her," Ford said.
While she doesn't look upon Saturday's blowout win as definitive, Ford says it at least shows she's on the right track.
"It shows where I am against the other runners in the state. I haven't really been running against Kelby and the Century girls," she noted.
Yoder, an eighth-place finisher at last year's state meet, has won every time out this fall, including a first-place effort in the maroon division of the Roy Griak Invitational in the Twin Cities. He hadn't crossed paths with many WDA runners, though, until Saturday.
"This is the second time I've seen most of these (WDA) guys," he said.
"I'm really competitive, so losing would have been tough," he added. "But I knew it was going to be hard. There were a lot of good runners. ... Last year I took fifth."
Yoder said he took control of the race at about the halfway point.
"I really took over a mile and a half or a mile and three-quarters in. Shawn and I were neck-and-neck and I started to push it a little more," he said.
Saturday's strong showing showed Yoder he's where he should be with the state meet a fortnight away.
"I think I'm in a pretty good spot. I want to feel a little more rested going into the state meet. I can still improve, but I'm right where I want to be," he observed.
The 10-school event drew 182 finishers, 164 of them in the boys division. Rinas and the graduated Evan Sayler of Century were the individual champions in 2017.