Abi Waloch has known all season who she needs to beat.
At Saturday's Class B state cross country meet, the Southern McLean freshman gets another shot to outrun Watford City freshman Asha Smith, with the winner likely claiming the title of the state's best runner.
A year ago, Smith and Waloch finished second and third, respectively, at the state meet behind Garrison runner Robyn Essler, who died in March from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. Waloch spent six weeks in the Frappier Acceleration Sports Training Program at the Human Performance Center in Bismarck, eager to improve on that third-place finish. This season, Waloch has won two meets and outran Smith in a handful of races.
"Last year, I really wanted it but I was happy with where I settled at," Waloch said. "This year, (winning's) been a big deal for me. It's just something I've worked the whole season and I really want it."
Waloch said her biggest weakness is a mental one. Smith finished ahead of Waloch in recent meets in Bismarck and Rugby. Smith led Waloch in the West Region meet before dropping out of the race.
"I have been told that I settle when someone passes me," Waloch said. "It's not that I give up, it's that I'm okay with it. It's that when she steps ahead of me I let her take that place. At state I can't let that happen."
Waloch's teammate, senior Keisha Schock, also has lofty expectations for Saturday. Schock, who was suspended for last year's state meet, finished third at regionals behind Waloch and Beulah-Hazen's Kaylene Klein.
Waloch and Schock have finished near the top of several races this year, including a one-two finish at the Mouse River Meet in Velva. The duo is part of just a three-runner team Southern McLean will send to state.
"I would say having Abi there is very helpful for Keisha," Roughriders coach Laura Tweeten said. "We usually send Abi out and then we send Keisha out to be right next to Abi. It helps to have both of those girls out there competing against each other and running together because we don't even have a team."
The meet is scheduled to start at 12:45 p.m. Mountain time in Dickinson.