Rachel Olson, "Chargers Cross Country 1972-Present." In The Midst Of, Cokato Historical Society (October, 2020) vol. 40 no. 4.
1989 D-C Harriers—two first place trophies. Back: Kevin Carlin and Scott Sunblad. Standing: David Wilde, Shawn Weber, N Ylitalo, Kevin Roberts, Shane Weber, D.Lundeen. Seated: Char Reinke, Kevin Borg, Melinda Yerka. Front: Karl Hillstrom, Jamie Jorgenson and Adam Kleiwer.
The first Cross Country (CC) program at D-C started during the fall of 1972, the same year that the Dassel and Cokato High Schools consolidated. The first team consisted of Scott Haglund, Kevin Wiley, Lee Bobrowske, Bruce Isaacson, Boyd Sorenson, Tim Reed, John Russell, George Dorr, and was coached by George Keith.
Originally, the CC program consisted mainly of athletes looking to stay in shape for their other sports. This included Bruce Isaacson who joined to stay in shape for basketball. Isaacson, a 1974 D-C grad, was on the CC team for both his junior and senior year of high school when the team was first formed. Isaacson remembers coach Keith being a pretty laidback coach. One of his favorite memories was “riding in the back of coach Keith’s truck to get to some of the meets.” It is not known the exact reason as to why the CC program ended in 1976; one possibility is that there was not enough participation in the sport.
Then in 1987, Mike Lhotka brought back the CC program to D-C. He coached the CC team from 1987 to 2008. Lhotka stated that “to start the CC program in 1987, we recruited athletes from other sports that were in their off-season like track and basketball.” Unlike the first team in 1972, this team included both boys and girls, however, Lhotka had more difficulty starting the girls CC program. Lhotka believes that this could have been because the girl’s fall swimming program conflicted with CC. This meant that for the first couple of years D-C did not have a full girl’s team. Justine Anderson, Char Reinke, and Melinda Yerka were the first girls to run for D-C.
Without a full team, the girls competed individually. During Lhotka’s time as coach, he had multiple girls place as All Conference Athletes at the Wright County Championship meet; this included Char Reinke, Rochelle Barberg, Jennah Nelson and Ericka Norgren.
In 1997, D-C had their first two runners make it to state—Jake Yurek and Chris Yerka. Caitlin Keskey was the first D-C girl CC runner to make it to state in 2009.
Today, the current coaches are Brian Bessingpas (Varsity), Erica Lindquist (JV), and Randy Johnson (Junior High). With the pandemic happening, the 2020 cross country season looked a bit different this year. According to Bessingpas, only three teams are allowed at a meet this year, a change from the previous average of five or six teams per meet. There can also be no more than 25 runners per race. This year the State Meet is cancelled and Sections will be the final meet for all runners.