Opening day set a benchmark time for the season for the Chaska cross country team on a challenging St. Olaf College course in Northfield used for the state meet in roughly two months.
Two days later on an optional hills practice on a holiday weekend, members of the team showed up to work on lower those times.
Getting stronger and better one day a time. With donuts.
We have a small, young, focused and determined group. Not sure why numbers are so low – I’m hoping it’s just an odd year. We have a solid group of girls looking to get better and faster. They work hard and are having a lot of fun. Baby steps," Chaska girls coach Kristin Weinzierl said.
Starting five middle school runners among 13 competing athletes, the Chaska girls cross country team had a trio of runners cross the finish line in sub-25 minutes times over 5,000 meters.
Senior Kate Perrill, a mainstay in the Hawks' line-up since her eighth grade season, led the way at 24 minutes, 3.8 seconds.
Varsity newcomer, eighth grader Gabby Bjugan, was second on the team at 24:16.1. Senior Brianna Loosbrock was third for Chaska at 24:40.5.
A pair of eighth graders -- Amanda Siemienas (26:04.5) and Lillie Powell (26:23.4) -- were followed by a pair of seniors in Rebekah Scott (26:24.1) and Emma Snuggerud (26:39.3) to complete the top seven.
Of the 13 runners to compete in the season opener, three were seventh graders, four were eighth graders, two were sophomores, and there were four seniors.
"I was missing a handful of girls on Thursday. That first race is always like the first pancake on the griddle, a little unsettled. From here the girls will get faster each race. I’m looking forward to working with this group of girls. Their grit and determination is contagious," Weinzierl said.
Chaska had 28 boys run in the season opener with Ethan Leonard scoring the program's top finish in 30th place. The junior's time was 17 minutes, 7.8 seconds.
Leonard was the Hawks' No. 3 runner last season, running behind state participants John Starkey and Dylan Schaefer. With their graduation, Leonard is now the leader.
"The young man who is currently out front and leading the way for his teammates is Ethan. At the St. Olaf meet last week he finished 30th out of a huge field of 862 athletes from 39 different teams. His time of 17:07.8 places him in a terrific starting point for the year," Chaska boys coach Nate Foss said.
Eighth grader Nolan Sutter, in his second season on varsity, finished the 5K race just outside the top 100 in 18:26.5.
Seniors Tyler Scherbing (18:56.7), Derek Wendland (19:19.6) and Andrew Grover (19:21.6) continue to make strides within the program as well, running in the third through fifth positions.
Sophomore Dylan Austad (19:44.7) and eighth grader Nathan Bellmont (20:47.8) completed the top-seven for Chaska.
"The season is well underway as we are headed into our fourth week of practice this week. We’ve got about 35 boys on the team this year and it’s a really nice mix of seventh to 12th graders. Many of our top spots from last year are open and up for grabs this year," Foss said. "During practices, we have consistently seen about 10-12 kids working off of each other and pushing each other to try and ultimately grab one of the seven varsity spots that will be available as we head into the championship portion of our season."
The Hawks compete at Gale Woods in Minnetrista on Thursday, Sept. 5 with JV races beginning at 4 p.m. and varsity after 5 p.m.
Skippers senior Max Lauerman ran an opening 2-mile time of nine minutes, 57 seconds, for fifth place at the Rosemount Irish Invitational Aug. 30.
Minnetonka was fourth as a team with a score of 123. Tenth-ranked White Bear Lake (77), No. 2 Eden Prairie (107) and No. 4 St. Paul Highland Park (109) were the top three teams.
The Skippers are ranked No. 6 in the pre-season poll.
Senior Reese Thompson and junior Austin Hunter were 22nd and 23rd in times of 10:22.9 and 10:23.4. Senior Harry Koeppen (10:38.1) and Joshua Koehnen (10:39.5) followed in 35th and 37th places.
In the girls race, Minnetonka was edged by Stillwater by three points, 53-56. The Ponies are ranked No. 4 with the Skippers at No. 13.
Sophomore Kate LeBlanc was top finisher in seventh place for the Skippers at 11 minutes, 54.3 seconds.
Varsity newcomer Ella Graham crossed the finish line in 11:54.7 in eighth place followed by junior Annalise Johnson in ninth place in 11:56.8.
Junior Anna Cherian (12:12.) and eighth grader Elizabeth Weider (12:12.8) were 15th and 17th with senior Isabella Buenting running in the sixth spot for the Skippers in 12:23.5.