Team depth will be a strength
Last year, the Detroit Lakes girls' cross country team was young and rather inexperienced, as well as being a bit thin depth-wise.
For the 2010 season, though, about the only aspect which is the same is the youth and names coming back.
The experience and depth, on the other hand, will be strengths.
"Basically, we have the same team and still are young," said DL head girls' coach John Freeman. "We are not a cross country running factory, but we do have kids this year ready to make a little more noise.
"This is the best team I've had for quite a while."
The Lakers' top two runners return in senior Marie Yokan and eighth grader Abby Ullyott, who busted onto the varsity scene in her seventh grade year.
The team also returns sophomore Dana Langworthy, who entered 2009 as the No. 3 runner, but lost the season due to foot surgery.
Also returning with plenty of varsity experience are freshman Mackenzie Foltz, sophomore Veronica Haverkamp and seniors Brita Johnson and Shannon Goetz.
Another mainstay has been senior Kiki Schumacher and the surprise of last year, freshman Annie Holzgrove makes her return.
"Annie was the surprise last year I look for every year," Freeman said. "Shannon Goetz was our most improved runner from last year, after running in the 20-minute area her sophomore year and improving to the 17 and 18-minute marks in 2009."
Freeman will also be looking for that precious senior leadership from Johnson, who has shown "a bit of a spark" during the offseason and preseason training.
"Her attitude in practice has absolutely been positive," Freeman said. "In the past, she has been very conservative with her goals, but I see she has that spark this year."
Having an experienced runner like Yokan back, as well as their No. 2 runner in Ullyott, also makes DL top-heavy and deep.
"I'm hoping her youth she showed last year as a seventh grader is taken out of play with her experience," Freeman said. "But she is still an eighth grader and can't expect that much, she still can have those mental errors and she still may run cautious.
"She also knows there's more pressure on her, simply because of her success last year."
Freeman said he wouldn't be surprised seeing three to five different runners leading the way for the team in meets this year.
That's how deep he feels his team is.
"We don't have that top dog and anyone labeled as our No. 1 runner," the DL coach said. "We can afford to have five number one's, though. I have a pool of up to 10 runners to choose from, which is a luxury."
With the type of positive energy created last year, expectations have been raised this season.
There are more hopes of a state team berth, along with more than several aspirations of making state individually.
"We have been in a drought as of late, but honestly, we have 10 girls on any given day, can bust out," Freeman said.
It will be a tough task, though, to make it out of a very challenging Section 8-2A, as it returns the Class 2A state 3,200-meter champion and the state runner-up in the 800 from the spring track season.
The Lakers open the season at Moorhead Monday, Aug. 30, and will 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.