21 August 2012

Boys Cross Country: Ahead of schedule

Junior Dan Block takes a break after an opening day workout
At the close of the 2011 season, first-year coach Lisa Lippold tried to impress upon her team the importance of literally hitting the 2012 campaign running.

In other words, off-season training was a must.

The Tigers got the message and after the opening week of fall practice, Lippold said her team seems to be a step or two ahead of the game.

"All of the runners came in with base mileage which was huge,"" she said. "We are three to four weeks ahead of where we were at this time last season."

Only three varsity runners return from last year's squad that finished a disappointing seventh in the Missota Conference race before rallying for a ninth place showing at the Section 1AA Championships: seniors Adam Wallenta and Tyler Lerbakken and junior Dan Block.

Block earned all-conference honorable mention last year and Lerbakkken qualified for the state track meet in the 4x400 relay last spring. Wallenta had a promising junior season cut short by injury but according to Lippold has been running at 100 percent in early practices.

There are no shortage of candidates for the other varsity positions but based on early workouts, juniors Clayton Webb and Sean Dougherty, sophomore Justin Hyytinen and freshman Alex Hart look to be some of the strongest candidates.

Track standout Justin Hyytinen joined the team this fall (photo by Jim Lindquist)
Hyytinen, in his first year out for cross country, placed fifth in the 3200-meter run at the conference track meet last spring.

"We'll know more after our first scrimmage (with Northfield) on Friday," Lippold said.

Lippold said one of the advantages her team should have is balance which will allow the runners to run in a pack and cut down the time gap between finishers that developed last fall. The ex-Tiger also likes what she has seen relative to her team's drive and attitude.

"We do have a lot of younger runners that will have to assume important roles for us," she said, "but they all want to move up in the pack."

Lippold said her goals are to move up as a team in both the conference and section standings. She tabbed Chaska and Red Wing as the front-runners in the Missota Conference chase with the Lakeville schools, Owatonna and Rochester Mayo all expected to field strong teams in Section 1AA.

"We are working on building confidence in our runners," she said. "I still think some of them don't believe they can run with the lead pack even though we as coaches think they can. I'm really looking forward to seeing what this team can do."

The Tigers will get their first test Friday, Aug. 31. when they travel to Eagan for the annual Dakota County Championships.