Running rampant

The North West Region will have a pair of track candidates vying for multiple state championships next weekend. Both were on display Saturday at Duane Carlson Stadium.

Watford City sophomore Asha Smith, who owns the top state-qualifying times in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs, picked up another pair of first-place finishes at the North West Region meet. Claiming 20 points for her team in those events, Smith contributed to a decisive effort from the Wolves, who ran away the meet, finishing almost 150 points ahead of second-place Stanley-Powers Lake.

The Watford City boys team was also victorious, finishing tallying over 50 points more than second-place Des Lacs-Burlington-Lewis & Clark.

Smith finished the mile in 5 minutes, 0.71 seconds – nearly 13 seconds faster than her previous qualifying time. She also improved her time in the two-mile, clocking in at 11:20.75.

She did not run the 800, but owns a state-best time in that event (2:19.04) as well. The sophomore Smith is in position to add more titles to her resume.

“We always expect her to compete for all three, and you never know, maybe a fourth one with our mile relay team,” said Watford City coach Greg Brown, who was named North West Region girls coach of the year Saturday. “She might be sitting pretty well, and with as fast as she’s recovering right now, she could very well challenge for all three.”

Smith was also a member of Watford City’s winning 1,600 relay team, which clocked in more than 31/2 seconds under the state qualifying time on Saturday.

But Smith isn’t the only Class B athlete such lofty championship aspirations.

Parshall senior Alexis Woods, a North Dakota State signee and three-time state champion in the 400, won three events Saturday – 100, 200 and 400 – boosting her team to an eighth-place finish with 36 points.

Woods was primarily a distance runner in the past, but her focus has switched to the shorter distances in recent years.

“She has both speed and endurance, but she loves the sprints,” Parshall coach Connie Blatherwick said. “We’re still testing the waters with the 100 and 200, but the 400 has always been there for her.”

Already with the state’s best qualifying time in the 400 (58.08), Woods shot up to second in the state’s 100-meter standings Saturday with a time of 12.38, good for a 0.26-second personal improvement.

She’s been a state qualifer for the last five years, something she expects will help her next weekend.

“I think it comes down to how long I’ve been competing,” said Woods, a second-place finisher in the 400 as a seventh grader. “That gives me a lot of experience, and that’s what really helps.”

Woods’ best state-meet finishes for the 100 and 200 are seventh and ninth, respectively.

But Parshall won’t be challenging for a team championship next weekend. That distinction belongs to Watford City.

Third-place finishers at the state meet last season, the Wolves racked up a meet-high eight event titles Saturday.

Watford City has dominated the regional meets it’s competed in this season, but for the Wolves to capture a state title, they’ll need to be nearly flawless, according to Brown.

“We’re almost gonna have to go perfect,” he said. “It’s gonna be the little things. Everybody is gonna have to step up just a little bit more at state, try to go in and battle for every spot.”

The Watford City boys team was led by a trio of winning efforts from junior Brenden Leaming, who, like Woods, placed first in the 100, 200 and 400. His were three of five first-place finishes for the Wolves on Saturday.

New Town continued its dominance in distance events with another good showing. The Eagles took the top-two spots in each of the 800, 1,600 and 3,200, boosting them to a top-three finish.

New Town’s Brian Anderson was named boys coach of the year.

Joe Mellenbruch covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.