Minot High School boys cross country coach Aaron Klingbeil isn't worried about competing with the elite programs, as long as the team takes home some hardware at season's end.
The Magicians want to improve their team speed and have a stronger showing at the state meet. Minot placed ninth last year in the 18-team field.
"Winning state is off limits for all but the elite so we know that's not an issue," Klingbeil said. "Top five is always a goal. If you can sneak in top five you get hardware and are considered placing. It's going to be tough this year, but we really think we can place. It's just going to have to come together for us."
Bismarck High, one of the "elites," has dominated boys cross country, winning state the past seven years. BHS also produced the top individual performer each of the past five years.
"They're incredible," Klingbeil said. "They do a good job."
The Magicians have not won the state meet since 1974. If Minot wants to finish in the top five at the state meet, it will have to find a way to jump ahead of Fargo Davies or Williston. The Magicians finished 17 points behind fifth-place Williston last year. Senior Dylan Weber had the strongest individual performance for Minot, finishing 30th with a time of 17 minutes, 7.5 seconds. Bismarck's Jake Leingang won the individual event as a junior in 14:59.8.
The Magicians lost seven seniors from last year, but return core members of the team including senior Erik Anderson, junior Andrew Beach and Weber.
"Everyone just needs to stick together as a team and work together as a team," Anderson said. "Cross country is an individual sport, so teamwork is tough, but if you want to be good at this sport you have to work together and think about positioning."
Weber, one of four seniors, has been with the program for six years and said that the conditioning level of the team is noticeable.
"I've seen overall team improvements from last year," he said. "Everyone's gotten a lot faster because they have been doing things in the summer. They've been lifting, they've been running and they aren't coming into practice with soft legs. I've seen significant time drops already in time trials."
The Magicians begin the season at 4 p.m. Friday as they host the Minot Rabbit Run at the Maysa Arena Grounds.