Numbers and talent drives Detroit Lakes girls cross country to good season
In past years when Detroit Lakes head girls' cross country coach Jon Freeman had to wrap up the season, he could mention every runner.
That's not the case this year -- and for good reason.
"There's just too many runners to mention," Freeman said. "We had so many great performances by so many girls this season."
The biggest highlight for the Lakers were just the sheer numbers out this year. DL had to use two buses for road trips for the boys' and girls' teams, the first time that has happened for Laker teams.
But not only did the Lakers have strong numbers, they were strong in talent.
DL had 20 percent of their runners finish in the top 20 through the season and won two meets -- the DL Rotary meet and the Bemidji meet.
"We never had a bad meet," Freeman said. "It was just a season which ended way to abruptly."
For the most part, the DL girls were young throughout their lineup, with a sprinkling of upperclass runners.
So it was good timing the Lakers had South Dakota junior transfer Marie Yokan run for the team.
She had good experience through her career, qualifying for the South Dakota state meet and becoming the lead DL runner for three-fourths of the season.
"Marie showed some kids control and she has enough experience to push it to the max and not over do it," Freeman said.
Yokan also provided good motivation to the younger runners, including seventh grader Abby Ullyott, who by the end of the season, was DL's No. 1 runner.
"I wanted to stick with her the entire season and she pushed me to work hard," Ullyott said. "I would try and run right behind her and help push her. The season ended on a good note and I was running harder."
Ullyott was the first DL runner in during the section meet, while junior Brita Johnson was second.
Yokan finished as the third Laker runner in after hitting a wall late in the season.
"Marie was the most consistent runner I've had hitting her marks in practice," Freeman said. "She has the leadership quality every coach wants. But by the end of the season, she was getting tired and it could be one of three things: sleep, diet or psychological."
But Yokan finished with personal best times of her career, as well as the majority of the team did.
With young runners such as Ullyott making her mark as a first-year varsity runner, Freeman wasn't sure what to expect when the season began.
But with young runners such as Berit Ramstad-Skoyles, Annie Holzgrove, Johnson and Ullyott bursting on the scene, the DL coach will know what he has to work with next year and in the coming years.
"We also had first-year runners such as Mackenzie Foltz and Veronica Haverkamp have incredible seasons and Shannon Goetz starting with a 22:00 mark and ending with a 17:50," Freeman said. "And we had Celeste Koppe prove to be one of the hardest workers I've ever coached.
"We just have so many great kids back and so many in the 17 and 18-minute mark. Next year will be more interesting strategic-wise, just because I know what I have to work with."
Freshman Dana Langworthy will also be a valuable contributor after she recovers from a broken foot, which ended her season prematurely.
The area Freeman wants his team to work on one thing, though, and that's confidence.
"We just need them to get more assertive and more confident in themselves," Freeman said. "They think they shouldn't be tooting their own horn, but it's OK to say you're good. We just lacked the belief that we are good."
DL will lose four seniors in Molly Johnson, Tess Jasken, Brittany Thompson and Kelsey Melgaard.
"They may not have shown up on the scorecard, but they were all valuable with their leadership skills," Freeman included.
The Lakers also had a trio of foreign exchange runners in Annika Schuler, Andrea Jonson and Elisa Steffani.
"All I can say it was a great year and I'm hoping for more success for years to come," Freeman concluded.