Cross country: Spartans get wet, wild at Hayward

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Getting an early look at the sectional cross-country course turned into a wet and wild experience for the Somerset cross-country team Oct. 3.

The Spartans traveled to Hatchery Creek County Park near Hayward and found a course that had areas that were underwater and others that were turned into a mud bog. The Spartans made the best of it. They went to learn the course, which is where the WIAA Division 2 sectional meet will be held Friday, Oct. 20.

"It was a really good learning experience," said Somerset coach Abby Christensen, who hadn't seen this course before either. "We ran into a lot of unknowns you don't usually have."

Most of the unknowns were caused by the weather. The Hayward area had more than 3 inches of rain the day before the meet, leaving course better suited for a mud bogging expedition. With the course underwater in areas and muddy in most others, the Spartans weren't able to learn about the footing. But they were able to learn about the terrain, where the hills, sharp corners and other challenges along the course will be.

Christensen instructed the Spartans to run smartly and not worry about times on the beaten course. The Spartan boys placed 10th among 16 teams and the placed 13th in their half of the meet. Because the course was so damp and footing so treacherous, most of the Spartans' times were two minutes or more above the times they posted in their previous meet at New Richmond.

What surprised Christensen was how much the Spartans enjoyed the less than pristine running conditions. The girls on the team painted their faces with mud and the Spartans joined several other teams to have a dance-off at the finish line.

"One of the girls said 'this is why we run cross-country.' Mentally, it set us (up) really good for the sectional meet," Christensen said.

There were efforts that gave reasons for optimism for the upcoming meets. Christensen said Kristen Vensland continues to emerge as a lead runner for the girls team. For the boys, Thor Sanders returned, showing what the boys varsity lineup should be at full strength for this week's Middle Border Conference meet.

With the recent injury to senior Anya Swanson, the girls team has been instructed to focus on their individual racing for the conference meet, Christensen said. She said the boys team is gunning for fourth place in the MBC final results.

"It's a lofty goal but it would be awesome to see them do it," Christensen said.