Firebirds ready to run ... and run ... and run

Ray Maloney, Sports
Devils Lake’s Owen Alfonso runs ahead a foe during a cross meet during 2009. Alfonso, who went on to earn All-EDC honors last season, returns to lead the Firebirds in 2010. Devils Lake opens the 2010 season Friday at the Jamestown Invitational.

If Devils Lake High School cross country coach Curt Kukert ever decides on a career change, the personable and motivated mentor may consider a vocation as a clergyman.

From atop a pulpit Kukert could easily draw in a congregation much the same way as Joel Osteen does from inside his massive church in Texas.

 Kukert’s current message to his flock just might be: “Run, my friend, and run some more.”

“Things are going great,” said Kukert as his teams ran in the scorching heat that hit the Lake Region last week when the Firebirds joined teams from across the state for the first official day of practice.

Devils Lake opens the season Friday when the Firebirds take part in the ORRiginals Invitational at Jamestown. It will be the first of two straight meets in the Buffalo City where the state championship meet will be held in October.

“I think we have the makings of a more competitive and a more dedicated group,” Kukert said as he welcomed 11 boys and 16 girls to the fold on the first day of practice. He is hoping to add a few more runners once classes begin at Devils Lake High School on Aug. 25.

Senior Owen Alfonso returns for his final season as a Firebird and is expected to be the leader this season of the boys team which placed 15th at state last season.

Alfonso, who earned All-Eastern Dakota Conference honors last season, finished 60th at the state meet as a junior after turning in an 18:01.49. He was the second DLHS?harrier to come through the chute, following Travis Mack, who has since graduated after finishing 17th in his final race in a Devils Lake uniform.

“(Alfonso) had a great summer of workouts and I think he is ready to race hard out of the gate,” Kukert said.

Alfonso, along with Kenny Olson, a state meet participant last season, and Jason Reardon, two other seniors, are going to be counted on to help an otherwise young Firebird team develop as the year progresses.

“We’ve got some good senior leadership,” Kukert added. “We are going to count on them to help show the young people the ropes.”

Kukert also sees good things looming for juniors Tommy Good, Matt Jennings and Gabe Trevino following successful track seasons this past spring.

Athletic Jordan Longie, who played baseball last spring for the Firebirds, is also expected to add some depth to the roster.

“We don’t need 20 runners,” Kukert said, “we have a very solid 11.”

The DLHS girls will also be a young group with Randi Widmer and Taylor Vistad leading the charge as the season opens Friday in Jamestown.

Widmer, a sophomore, finished 71st (17:02.85) at the state meet, while Vistad placed 106th after running a 17:43.15.

Krista Lysne and McKenzie Hartl, a pair of freshman, are also expected to provide the Firebirds with the nucleus for a team that figures to better its 14th place state finish last season.