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Heath Hotzler, Published October 24 2009

Chase is on for West Fargo's Mears

Things have changed dramatically for West Fargo sophomore cross country runner Alissa Mears.

Last year, she didn’t lose a race en route to the North Dakota Class A girls title.

Now she’s heading into the final race of the year as an underdog.

However, Mears is taking it all in stride.

“It’s nerve-racking because last year was a state title and this year you have to try to defend it,” said Mears, who will try for her second straight cross country crown at 1 p.m. today at Bjornson Public Golf Course in Valley City. “I know there is tough competition out there this year, and I’m going to have to work harder and I’m going to be pushed the whole race. But my mindset doesn’t really change.”

Mears has had an up-and-down season.

She says she started well, but was derailed by a lingering sickness midway through the year.

Mears got back on track the last couple weeks, winning the East Region meet by about a second over second-place Tarin Lachowitzer of Fargo South.

Lachowitzer, former champion Laura Roesler of South, West Fargo’s Ellie Grooters and Bismarck’s Shanice Lambert, Taylor Pintar and Alana Fisher could all push for the top spot this year.

But the favorite in the girls race is No. 1-ranked Brecca Wahlund of Minot.

Wahlund won the Western Dakota Association meet by 7 seconds over Lambert.

She dominated the Blue and White Invite in September in Valley City that featured much of the top Class A competition that advanced to state. Wahlund won with a time of 14 minutes, 49 seconds. Fischer was second at 15:09.

Mears, who said she was battling sickness, finished 14th at 15:45.

Wahlund burst onto the scene last year with a victory against Mears in the 3,200-meter run at the state track and field meet.

“I just need to stay with her,” Mears said. “Hopefully, I can have good kick in the end. That’s normally what it comes down to.”

West Fargo coach Joe Bailey said Bismarck is favored to win the boys and girls team titles.

However, the Packers girls and boys could be strong contenders.

“Right now, Bismarck High comes out quite a bit ahead with a lot of depth in the boys division,” Bailey said. “But I think it could be a close race for second with Grand Forks Central, Bismarck Century and us.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562