The sun broke free of the clouds as Nick Scheller ascended the hill at Gale Woods Farm.
One time around the loop, the front pack was tight. The second time around the Chanhassen senior broke free.
Scheller pulled away, winning the Bauman Rovn Invitational in Minnetrista in a time of 15 minutes, 42.7 seconds on Sept. 5.
Not a bad way to start the season.
"Honestly, it was about staying with the guys who had raced already this year. For us, the first time out, it's a rust buster, you never know what's going to happen. Working with the guys who have already run, it was really nice to sit in with them. If you feel good, you feel good and you go," Scheller said.
After a track season of heartbreak, Scheller missing the state meet in both the 1,600 and 3,200 meters -- injury playing a role in this -- his final cross country season is a sort of redemption.
"I wanted to start good. Didn't want to put too much pressure on myself. After the track season I did a lot over the summer, didn't overdo it, but at a point where it can be a good season," said Scheller, who said it's not about the start, but rather the finish, peaking for the post-season.
Scheller, the top finishing returnee from the 2018 state meet, is ranked No. 1 out of the gates. Polls are polls to the senior.
"It really doesn't mean anything. People can be anywhere. It is a little nerve wracking knowing everyone is looking at you. You have to flush it away, get on out there, have a race you normally run, and not really have that in the back of your mind," Scheller said.
Chanhassen, as a team, was seventh with 215 points. Eden Prairie had three of the top-four runners to win the team competition with a score of 61.
Chanhassen senior Zach Long, the early leader of the race, ended up running in eighth place, a solid time of 16:32.5 to start the season.
The Storm had a trio of top-100 finishers in Ben Scheller (17:34.4, 43rd place), Justin Roemer (18:31.5, 76th) and Tyr Christianson (18:54.4, 97th place).
"It's about doing what we've been doing all season. Harder workouts, longer workouts. Really focusing on the strength aspect and the speed aspect so at the end of the race we still have it at the finish," Scheller said.
Chanhassen had a pair of top-20 finishes in the girls 5,000-meter race.
Meghan Pierson, absent from the track season with an injury, was right where she left off last fall, placing eighth in 19:34.30.
Isabella Roemer, coming off a successful track season, translated that into cross country, finishing 18th in 20:05.7.
Marissa Long (21:29.7), Rachel Gallagher (22:04.3) and Madeline Hauck (23:24.8) completed the team score for the Storm with 190 points.
Chanhassen competes in the Metro Invite at Round Lake Park in Eden Prairie on Saturday, Sept. 14. JV races begin at 9:30 a.m. with varsity races at 10:40 and 11:10 a.m.
Oliver Paleen of St. Paul Highland Park, ranked No. 2 in the state, gives Scheller another challenge to start the season.