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Jamestown's Larson has the talent and work ethic

Jamestown cross country coach Russ Schmeichel said his team has a credo this fall - "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." It's printed on the back of the team T-shirts. Blue Jays junior Sam Larson has both parts of the saying co...

Jamestown cross country coach Russ Schmeichel said his team has a credo this fall - "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."

It's printed on the back of the team T-shirts.

Blue Jays junior Sam Larson has both parts of the saying covered - good talent and good work ethic.

"He is what we call a blue chipper," said Schmeichel, who has been coaching at Jamestown since 1974. "He has everything. He has that second gear. We haven't had too many people that talented to have that second gear."

Larson hasn't lost to a North Dakota runner this season entering the state meet, scheduled Saturday at Bismarck's Tom O'Leary Golf Course.

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Ranked No. 1, Larson is a favorite to win the Class A boys race. He could become the fourth Jamestown runner to win an individual state championship. Jeff Dick won in 1982 and 1983, Justin Schweitzer won in 1996 and Cory Wiley won in 1997.

"I never thought I would be one of the top runners," said Larson, who placed second at state last year and is the two-time defending East Region champion.

He didn't start out on top.

Schmeichel recalled when Larson first came out for cross country in seventh grade and "was finishing almost dead last" at the start of the season.

Larson didn't stay there.

"By the end of the season, he moved up to the middle of the pack," Schmeichel said.

Larson continued to show improvement as an eighth-grader before Schmeichel said he "really blossomed" as a freshman.

That year Larson placed 10th at the state meet, the first time Schmeichel said he has had a freshman place in the boys' top 10 at state.

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"Every year it was gradual, thinking this is something that I would like to do," Larson said of his humble beginnings. "You don't always have to be the best to like something."

Behind Larson, Schmeichel said the Blue Jays have a chance to push for their first boys team title since 1997.

Larson leads a youthful Jamestown top five, which is rounded out by freshmen Justin and Jordan Slusser, sophomore Aaron Motauk and eighth-grader Colin Hillius.

"It's the youngest team I've ever coached in the top five," Schmeichel said.

"It's just so weird being the older one," Larson said. "The last few years I have been the younger one with the older guys around me."

While Larson is the individual favorite, Bismarck is the team to beat because of its quality depth.

The Demons placed seven runners in the top 10 in winning the West Region championship.

Bismarck is ranked No. 10 in the Nike Team National Heartland Region ratings. The region includes Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

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"They are definitely strong," Larson said. "I'm thinking we can give them a run for their money. We'll see what we can do."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513

Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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