Some races are more about the learning done along the way than the final results.
That was the case for the Somerset cross-country team Sept. 12 at the Rice Lake Invitational.
The Spartan boys placed 19th among 25 teams in the varsity race, but found that they have the potential to be a much more competitive team for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, the Spartan girls ran without their top two runners and found they still need to bring their best energy level to every race.
Somerset's boys have a fine top-four pack in Seth Erickson, Ben Schmitt, Tyler Hantsbarger and Thor Sanders. Zach Maitrejean ran for the first time since transitioning over from the football team. Spartan coach Abby Christensen made the decision to have Maitrejean run his first time in the junior varsity race so there'd be less pressure. Maitrejean's time of 19:53 put him right in the middle of the varsity lead pack. With his addition, the Spartan boys have a top-quality pack of five runners for the first time in a number of years.
With sophomore Alex DeGeest and freshman Eric Forsberg, the Spartans can now field a top-seven runners who can compete with most of the teams in the area.
Erickson and Hantsbarger led the Spartans at Rice Lake. Erickson finished in 19:47 and Hantsbarger in 19:52. Sanders ran his fastest time, just missing getting under the 20-minute mark with a 20:01 finish. Schmitt finished in 20:08.
Christensen said the boys are happy about the new addition and the chance to be more competitive.
"Our core is very team oriented," she said.
The Spartan girls ran without their two leaders, Anya Swanson and Brycen Chladek. Chladek was sick. Swanson, who likely would have been competing for another race championship, was held out as a preventative measure as she's dealing with shin splint issues.
"We wanted to be proactive and smart," Christensen said, saying the Middle Border Conference and Division 2 sectional races are the main concern for Swanson.
Sophomores Kristen Vensland and Liv Hoff were the top finishers in the race for the Somerset girls. Christensen said she was impressed by Kaylee Erickson in the varsity race and Rachel Germain and Talyn Orf in the JV race.
"Kaylee's form looks so much better," Christensen said, adding that Germain and Orf both improved their times by two minutes off their previous races.
The Spartans now have a break in their schedule. They won't compete again until Saturday, Sept. 30, when they compete at the New Richmond Invitational.