Jay Davis: Braves are cream of the crop in area cross country history
Cross country had a two-class system from 1963 to 1968 that was a heyday for our West River schools. This is all on the boys’ side for now. The girls did not start competing in state tournaments until 1976.
Wakpala was the State B champion in 1964 after taking second in state in 1963. Timber Lake was a perennial for three years after that, winning the B in 1965 and 1967, while taking second in 1966. At the A level, Cheyenne-Eagle Butte won its first state title in 1968.
Area teams have won more than a handful of state titles since the three-class system began in 1969.
It all starts with the cream of the crop, the Cheyenne-Eagle Butte Braves. Starting with that 1968 win, the C-EB boys have won seven state A titles. They were champs in 1969, 1975, 1977, 2008, 2010 and 2011. They were also the A runners-up in 2001.
McLaughlin got its one A title in 2006.
Selby, Herreid, Wakpala and McIntosh have all won B titles. Selby won in ’76, Herreid in ’85, Wakpala in ’88 and McIntosh in 2005. Selby was also second in state in ’73, ’77 and ’85 (Herreid and Selby, 1-2 in state that year). Wakpala was second in ’86. Eureka was second in ’04 and Eureka-Bowdle was second to McIntosh in ’05.
Now on to individual state champions and runners-up. George Blackman of Cheyenne Agency was the first area champ during the one-class era in 1951.
During the two-class years, Phillip Bearface of Wakpala won back-to-back titles in 1963 and ’64. Joe Flying Horse and Leland Brown of McIntosh finished 1-2 in 1966.
Hitting the three-class system, Joe Four Bear won the Class A title for Cheyenne-Eagle Butte in 1969 after taking second for Timber Lake in 1968. Staying in Class B now, Brad Russell of Selby took second in state in 1973. Curt Fiedler of Glenham won state in 1976 after taking second in 1975. Les Miller of Selby was runner-up that year. Mark Melcher of Java followed Fiedler by winning back-to-back state titles in ’77 and ’78. Robert Brandner of Herreid took second in state in 1986. There was a cold spell for a while before Kent Kraft was runner-up for McIntosh in 2004. The following year Andrew Hilgemann was runner-up for Eureka-Bowdle. Jeffrey Mettler of Eureka-Bowdle is now making NCAA strides in cross country after winning B high school titles in 2008 and 2009.
Going back to Class A, we’ll start with Myron Uses Arrow of McLaughlin taking second in state in 1982. We started there because we didn’t want him getting lost in ocean of C-EB runners coming up next. We already mentioned Four Bear in ’69. The Braves’ next state champ was Pat Red Dog in ’76. Jeff Turning Heart was the runner-up in ’77 and then won back-to-back state titles in ’78 and ’79. Jason Turning Heart took second in 1983. Willie Butcher was second in 1986. Dayton Chasing Eagle was second in 1992. After winning three state titles at Takini, Kiko Mendoza won state for the Braves in 2008, and then came Dyson Lends His Horse who finished second in 2009 and then won state titles in 2010 and 2011.
I know this is getting long in tooth and long in word, but it would be remiss to leave the ladies for another day.
Team titles have not been as deep as with the boys. The top area team for girls has been Herreid with three state titles. The Yellowjackets won B crowns in 1980, 1981 and 1998 and finished second in 1996. Eureka won two titles in a row in 2002 and 2003. Cheyenne-Eagle Butte made noise in Class with a 2006 title and second in 2007.
Tess Brandner of Herreid was the first area girl to win state, taking the B in 1978 and again in 1979. Melissa Knoepfle of Herreid was runner-up in 1980. Hilary Krein of Eureka-Bowdle won state titles in 2007 and 2009. Lydia Eagle of McIntosh was second to Krein in 2009. Jordan Wohlleber of Cheyenne-Eagle Butte has the only Class title. She won in 2006 and finished second in 2007.
Unless someone runs the race of their life this year, the list is not going to get any longer. But as you can tell by the depth of area’s success, the list will grow longer sometime in the near future.