Consistency will be a virtue for the Detroit Lakes boys' cross country team, with seven solid runners returning for the 2010 season.
After winning the Mid-State Conference championship last year, the Lakers return the majority of their 2009 team -- sans their top runner in Leif Johnson, who graduated.
"We want to see improvement from last year and these guys have a load of potential," said DL head boys' coach Bill Kvebak. "They don't have to take a backseat to anybody this year. Now, we just need to have them believe they are this good."
One "mental hurdle" leaped last year was winning the conference championship.
It will be a goal to defend it, no doubt, but higher aspirations have been set for 2010.
Although the Lakers have seven who run close to each other timewise, senior Dylan Ramstad-Skoyles is certainly looking to be a contender as the top runner.
The Laker senior ran second to Johnson for most of the season in 2009, but after a strong track season last spring, his mentality and goals are loftier.
"Dylan has been running varsity since his freshman year and he has been working his tail off this summer," Kvebak said. "This is his chance to be 'the guy,' but I know the rest of the guys want to run up with him."
There won't just be heavy competition at the meets, but during practices as well.
Junior Wes Bakken will be running up in the lead pack, along with five others who will be pushing each other.
Junior Jason Stallman was a consistent performer last season and ran well in the team's time trials last week, and sophomore Brandon Olson is in the mix as well.
Sophomore Mike Okeson was the surprise of the season after his first season in cross country, where he finished 11th in the Mid-State meet, just one spot out of being All-Conference.
"That should be a good incentive for Mike," said Kvebak about the near miss of earning All-Conference honors.
Junior Travis King had a good track season as well, setting himself up well for cross country, while Wes Bakken's twin brother Patrick will be in contention after qualifying for the section meet in the two-mile run last spring.
Others who will have potential of seeing varsity action include seniors Ryan Berg and Clem Foltz, sophomore Ian Fritz and junior Jordan Thielen.
"We have a lot of young guys and first-time runners," Kvebak said.
Another goal will be to run their way into the top five in the tough Section 8-2A meet, after finishing sixth last year.
"The section just keeps getting tougher and tougher," Kvebak said. "Leif ran a 16:45 last year and didn't qualify. But the key to the season will be for all 35 runners to band together and be unified as a team.
"They need to get together for a common goal and if all 35 runners improve through the season, the team goals will take care of themselves."
The Lakers will open the season at Moorhead on Monday, Aug. 30, and host their DL Rotary Invite Thursday, Sept. 9, at the Lakeview Golf Course at the Detroit Country Club.
The 2010 Detroit Lakes girls' cross country schedule:
30 at Moorhead
9 DL Invite at DCC
16 at Little Falls
25 at Milaca
30 at Fergus Falls
7 at Perham
14 at Pequot Lakes
19 at Bemidji
28 Section meet at Fergus Falls Pebble Lake Golf Course
6 State Tournament at St. Olaf College.