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Answered prayers: Sheyenne's Johnson, Williston's Lovgren earn Class A state cross country titles

Johnson, a West Fargo Sheyenne sophomore, bested Williston's Ivan Askim by 10 seconds to earn the Class A championship.

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Aiden Johnson (330) of West Fargo Sheyenne holds onto his narrow lead for a first-place finish over Williston's Ivan Askim (356) during the North Dakota State Class A Boys Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, at Parkhurst Recreational Area at Pipestem Reservoir near Jamestown. John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

JAMESTOWN — The best Aiden Johnson had finished at a Class A Boys Cross Country Meet was 16th place.

That changed drastically Saturday, with the West Fargo Sheyenne sophomore crossing the finish line as a state champion in 15 minutes, 35 seconds, 10 seconds ahead of Williston's Ivan Askim.

"I started the season off a little bit rusty with sickness and all that but I've been working hard," Johnson said. "At EDC I didn't have the best race, I knew I had to recover from that. Today I just competed against these guys and somehow came out on top."

At the East Region Conference championships, Johnson came in second to Red River's Hunter McHenry with a time of 15:56.

"I had a plan I was trying to stick to but after EDC, I kind of lost a lot of confidence," Johnson said. "I wanted to come out a little bit aggressive but stay a little bit relaxed and I succeeded with that. I wanted to use the hill to my advantage so I just stuck with the front guys and made my move on the hill and didn't look back after that."

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McHenry finished in third place out of the 179 runners with a time of 15:48. Williston's Ivan Askim got the state runners-up title, crossing the line at 15:44. Caeden Johnson, the EDC's fourth-place runner at the EDC meet, wound up 10th.

"Hopefully we'll keep the ball rolling," Johnson said. "We lost a lot of seniors last year but we've got some new guys -- we've been improving all year."

The Mustangs wound up eighth in the team race with 223 points. Williston also took the team title with 72 points. Grand Forks Red River, Bismarck High, Bismarck Century and Dickinson were the top-five teams.

"My mom's in tears right now," Johnson said in regards to his finish. "I knew I could compete with these guys but (being state champion) hasn't sunk in yet. Hopefully, we'll keep the ball rolling and keep doing what we are doing and succeed again next year."

As soon as Eleni Lovgren crossed the finish line in the Class A girls race, she was engulfed by her family.

"My sister is a state champion!" rang out amidst the other congratulatory exclamations directed at the 2021 Class A girls' state cross country champion.

"It's crazy," Lovgren said. "I've dreamed about this ever since running my first state race here as a seventh-grader. I thought I could get it my sophomore year and my junior year -- it took until now but it feels so good. All of the work paid off."

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Williston's Eleni Lovgren was the top finisher during the North Dakota State Class A Girls Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, at Parkhurst Recreational Area at Pipestem Reservoir near Jamestown. John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Lovgren, a senior for the Williston High School cross country squad, saw her six years of prayers answered Saturday at Jamestown's Parkhurst Recreation Area. Lovgren broke the tape at 18 minutes, 27 seconds to lead the field of 175 runners. The Coyotes wound up team champions with 68 points, eclipsing the rest of the field by at least 47 points.

Grand Forks Red River came in second with 115 points. Minot (119), Bismarck High (120) and Fargo North (207) rounded out the top-five teams. There were 20 total teams competing. All 175 runners finished the race within a six-minute, 30-second span.

Two weeks ago, Lovgren came in second at the WDA Championships at 18:39, 12 seconds behind WDA champ, Bayla Weigel. Weigel wound up third at the championships with a time of 19:09. Watford City's Jaelyn Ogle got the state runners-up title with a time of 18:44.

"I talked to my dad and talked to my coaches and we all kind of agreed that the best thing was to not go out too strong," Lovgren said of her race mechanics. "Around the corner, I think I was in seventh and by the time we got out of the woods I had worked my way to second. I was planning to make a big surge with about 800 (meters) left."

Lovgren said after the hill, which came at about 2.3 miles into the 3.1-mile course, she continued to work to put a gap between her and her competitors. Without three-time state champion and Jamestown High School alum Meghan Ford in the mix, Lovgren said her prayers were answered at the moment she came down the stretch and crossed the line.

"I am just glad it happened because before the meet I was like, this is what I have worked for my entire life and it's my last attempt at it," Lovgren said. "The best I had finished at state up until this point was fourth, but this year it was my turn and it felt good."

2021 Class A State Cross Country Meet

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Oct. 23 at Parkhurst Recreation Area, Jamestown

Team results

Boys

1. Williston (72); 2. Grand Forks Red River (77); 3. Bismarck High (96); 4. Bismarck Century (166); 5. Dickinson (175); 6. Bismarck Legacy (196); 7. Fargo Davies (196); 8. WF Sheyenne (223); 9. Fargo North (241); 10. Minot (296); 11. West Fargo (298); 12. Grand Forks Central (339); 13. Mandan (356); 14. Jamestown (398); 15. Devils Lake (433); 16. Shanley (466); 17. Fargo South (612); 18. Watford City (686); 19. Valley City (751); 20. WF Horace (851)

Girls

1. Williston (68); 2. Grand Forks Red River (115); 3. Minot (119); 4. Bismarck High (120); 5. Fargo North (207); 6. Fargo Davies (211); 7. West Fargo (252); 8. Bismarck Legacy (256); 9. Grand Forks Central (270); 10. Shanley (301); 11. Bismarck Century (346); 12. WF Sheyenne (354); 13. Mandan (406); 14. Jamestown (441); 15. Valley City (445); 16. Dickinson (484); 17. Watford City (511); 18. Devils Lake (529); 19. Fargo South (586); 20. WF Horace (737).

Individual finishers

Boys

Top 25

1. Aiden Johnson, West Fargo Sheyenne, 15:35; 2. Ivan Askim, Williston, 15:45; 3. Hunter McHenry, Grand Forks Red River, 15:49; 4. Fynn Krenz, Williston, 15:53; 5. Brady Korsmo, Bismarck High, 15:53; 6. Aj Ash, Dickinson, 15:57; 7. Matthew Rongitsch, Grand Forks Red River, 15:58; 8. Ethan Moe, Williston, 16:07; 9. Quinn Roehl, Grand Forks Central, 16:08; 10. Caeden Johnson, WF Sheyenne, 16:12; 11. Caleb Hansen, Dickinson, 16:14; 12. Dameon Zenawick, Grand Forks Red River, 16:18; 13. Griffin House, Bismarck Century, 16:18; 14. Parker Hintz, Bismarck High, 16:26; 15. Brady Goss, Devils Lake, 16:30; 16. Regan Bosch, Fargo Davies, 16:32; 17. Tyler Goss, Devils Lake, 16:32; 18. Hoechst Chase, Bismarck Century, 16:33; 19. Justin Smith, West Fargo, 16:41; 20. Elijah Dafoe, Grand Forks Red River, 16:42; 21. Owen Sondag, Fargo North, 16:45; 22. Gabe Sagvold, Fargo North, 16:50; 23. Jaray Touray, Fargo Davies, 16:55; 24. Noah Cowley, Bismarck High, 16:55; 25. Charlie Hardcastle, Williston, 16:58.

Girls

Top 25

1. Eleni Lovgren, Williston, 18:28; 2. Jaelyn Ogle, Watford City, 18:45; 3. Bayla Weigel, Bismarck High, 19:07; 4. Jocelyn Schiller, Grand Forks Red River, 19:11; 5. Acey Elkins, Mandan, 19:27; 6. Kaelyn Berg, West Fargo, 19:29; 7. Jasmyn Mitchner, Minot, 19:34; 8. Anna Bernhardt, Shanley, 19:38; 9. Sophia Ness, Bismarck High, 19:39; 10. Annika Presteng, Grand Forks Central, 19:45; 11. Maicee Burke, Minot, 19:47; 12. Sierra Watterud, Williston, 19:48; 13. Dru Zander, Williston, 19:49; 14. Lauren Dosch, Grand Forks Red River, 19:52; 15. Cierra Bornemann, Fargo Davies, 19:52; 16. Greta Goven, Valley City, 19:52; 17. Campbell Dorsey, Grand Forks Red River, 19:53; 18. Marenn Larsen, Williston, 19:53; 19. Scout Ulrickson, Minot, 19:54; 20. Layna Hoffer, Jamestown, 20:07; 21. Rita Wise Spirit, Bismarck High, 20:09; 22. Katie Olson, Watford City, 20:09; 23. Reagan Berg, Valley City, 20:14; 24. Cambree Moss, Williston, 20:16; 25. Kinley Steckler, Fargo Davies, 20:17.

Katie Ringer is a sports reporter for the Jamestown Sun. Katie joined the Sun staff in the summer of 2019 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire with a degree in journalism. She can be reached by email at kringer@jamestownsun.com or by phone at 701-952-8460.
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