For Brian Miller, it was a perfect ending to his season and his high school cross-country career.
He won the state Class B individual cross country championship Saturday running on a course he had never seen before.
“I made my move in the last thousand meters,” he said Saturday evening as he packed up his gear at Bowman County High School and prepared to go home.
“I made a dominant move. I kind of died towards the finish line, but Noah Rolfe was shoulder to shoulder with me and I just decided I wasn’t going to lose to him,” the senior said about his big win.
“It was the first time I’ve probably beaten him in my career,” Miller said.
The course challenged Miller and his teammates to go out fast and it paid off for both. “We knew that there was about three sharp turns coming up and as a team we really focused on getting to those turns so we wouldn’t get stomped. Those turns were sharp and there were like 300 kids. Honestly, you had to get out.
“I got out first for about the first 400 meters or so, then I slowed down because I knew those boys were coming,” Miller said, referring to his regional nemeses Rolfe of Stanley, Ian Busche of Beulah-Haven and Patrick Wrigley of Shiloh Christian.
“They usually get out in the first mile and cruise....they cook. I stayed on their tails, then I like passed them when I got to the second half of the race,” Miller said.
“Those guys have led almost every race. The second group was composed of like about 20 people. That first group was the top four at state.”
As far as the team, the Bulldogs packed three others among the first 12 to finish the race, led by sophomore Caleb Sarsland (seventh, 17:05.2), followed by eighth grader Taylor Wanner (11th, 17:13.1) and sophomore Austin Wanner (12th, 17:18.2).
Seventh grader Jonah Njos closed out the Bulldog scoring as the fifth runner, coming in 25th with a time of 18:04.3 for the five-kilometer course. Jaxsen Hansey was 38th (18:24.6) while freshman Karsen Kulseth came in 41st (18:35.2) as the team’s seventh and final finisher.
The pack of Bulldogs dominated the race, allowing the team to win with a total of 56 points, while Hillsboro/Central Valley followed with 93 points and Griggs County/Central placed third with 125 points.
Weather conditions beautiful
The senior added that he was surprised by the weather when they arrived in Cooperstown. “We thought it was going to be worse. We thought there was going to be four inches of snow to nine inches of snow and the wind was going to be like 20 miles an hour.”
Instead, there was just patches of snow on the surface. “It was honestly, beautiful. It made your hands cold standing around but it was beautiful – and flat.”
The hardest part of the course was the sharp turns, he said. “It was like about 200 meters and a sharp turn...about 25 meters and a sharp turn and about another 25 meters and sharp turn. After that, it kind of lengthened out. Right there in the beginning you had to be first or kind of last. You didn’t want to get stuck in that area cause everyone was like crashing down into a funnel.
“The footing was good. The ground being cold didn’t affect our spikes at all,” he said.
There is a big difference between the Bulldogs’ home course at Sweetwater Creek. “Bowman isn’t hilly, but there is a steep incline and a steep decline. You have to strategize whether you are going to build up the hill or kind of let loose and go down the hill,” the senior said. “On a flat course like state, you have just got to go.
“On the eastern side of the state they (the courses) are typically flatter.
“You can catch some people on some hills,” he added, with a sad wistful tone to his voice.
Looking back, Miller said the race proved one thing. “I think we had the strongest team at state.”
The race proved that.
“The depth of the team really helped. We were really disappointed when the state turned down having 10 runners. We were really disappointed as a team because of COVID, but also missed opportunities for our fellow runners. We knew we were one of the deepest teams. A lot of the teams don’t even have 10 runners,” he said.
Miller added that he hopes to be running track again in the spring after missing out his junior season when the schools were shutdown and spring sports were suspended. “I probably be running my usual events – the two mile, one mile, the 4x800 or the 800 meters.”