Going the distance: Distance runners bring depth, experience to VCHS track

When Valley City High School runner Ruth Ihry started with the school’s track and field team, she wasn’t much for distance.
“She used to be a sprinter,” her teammate, Allyson Suhr, said with a friendly, if not slightly accusatory tone. “We converted her.”
Asked why, Ihry thinks for a minute.
“All my friends,” Ihry said.
Now, Ihry has become one of the numerous distance runners on a team that has plenty of depth in the area.
At the girls day of the Hi-Liner Invitational Tuesday at Shelly Ellig Field, the distance runners had little problem doing well in their events and were among the many successes for the Hi-Liners, who won the meet with 203 points.
The boys have their meet Thursday.
In short distance, the Hi-Liners had Molly Willson and Jenna Jacob finish first and second in the 100 meter dash. Bekah Peterson took second place in the 100 meter hurdles.
On the field, April Berntson won the high jump, Mataya Olson and Aislinn Fogarty took first and third in the javelin. Erika Anderson and Fogarty tied for second in the discus. Sarah Schauer and Annie Hart took second and third in the pole vault. Bekah Peterson took third in the triple jump and Abby Brown took third in the long jump.
The distance girls, well, they had their fun.
In the 1,600 meter run, the Hi-Liners placed six runners in the top eight.
Suhr won the race in 5:36.4, and was followed in by Berntson. Barnes County North’s Tess Scott took third and was followed by VC’s Mikaylah Ross. Teammates Barbara Zubrod, Tia Wagar and Jamie Ronning took sixth, seventh and eighth.
Additionally, Natalie Ley took third in the 3,200, Ihry took fourth in the 800, and the 4x800 relay team, made of Ihry, Ross, Berntson and Suhr, won its race with 13 seconds to spare.
On a team that has plenty of talented seniors, the distance runners are a team deep not only with talent, but with age — Suhr and Ley are the only seniors and constantly have younger runners on their heels.
Ihry is a junior, Berntson is a freshman and Ross is in eighth grade.
Yet, even with the age differences, the distance runners, most of whom race cross country together in the fall, have a good chemistry, often laughing and joking with each other on the infield during meets.
It also provides a training system that pushes both the older runners and the younger runners.
Ihry desribes Suhr as the younger runners’ “rabbit to chase after,” and Valley City coach Trevor Bakalar said both seniors have led by example, cheering on teammates and working hard in practice.
“Those two seniors are great for that group of young girls,” he said. “They’re very good role models.”
Plus, Suhr said, the seniors have the added motivation of beating the younger runners behind them.
Whether the depth will pay off later this year remains to be seen, but the goal, no matter who is asked, is the same.
It’s a trip that Suhr and Ley took individually last year, but the distance relay fell just short.
“We barely missed it last year (as a relay team),” Suhr said.
It’s a shortcoming that left a sour taste in the mouths of the girls.
Regardless, Bakalar sees good things as a result of the depth.
“You know, we’ve also got Allyson in there, but to have April and Mikaylah and Ruth, those are three kids that we have returning next year so that’s good.”
BCN takes fourth
Barnes County North took fourth at the meet with 70 points.
SaraLi Peterson led the Bison with a win in the 100 meter hurdles and the long jump. She also took second in the High Jump.
Teammate Lyndsey Erker won the pole vault and Kayla Erker took second in the 300 meter hurdles.