FAIRMONT - The Fairmont Cardinal boys cross country team will look to its upperclassmen for leadership and experience this season.
Seniors Marcus Larson and Payton Schlomann are two of the team's six returning letterwinners looking to do well this season.
Cole Huinker, Harley Luhmann and Christopher Poush are juniors, while Josiah Johnson is the lone returning freshman.
OFF & RUNNING — Members of the Fairmont Cardinal boys cross country team running in the Early Bird Invitational at 9:30 a.m. Friday at Fairmont High School’s practice football field include, front row (l-r): Kaleb Linse, Colin Meadows, Josiah Johnson, Marcus Larson, Payton Schlomann, Harley Luhmann, Riley Higgins, Cole Huinker and Christopher Poush. Middle row: Noah Wolter, Seth Carlmark, Adam Carstensen, Ben Huinker, Jaxson Jurgens, Dayton Pasch, Andrew Moeller, Nathan Olson, Wil Hillmer, Jed Slater, Dylan Mueller and Chris Lebert. Back row: Assistant coach Stew Murfield, Andrew Johnson, assistant coach Mark Determan and head coach Bob Bonk. Not pictured: Darrian Kueker. Photo by Leanna Becker
With a smaller number of athletes going out for the boys team, any of the top runners could claim a varsity spot.
"In some of the first meets of the season, we, as coaches, don't have to predetermine our varsity athletes. That is actually good - that gives anyone a chance to score for us," said Fairmont head cross country coach Bob Bonk.
Johnson topped his teammates during the Cardinals' preseason time trials on Friday at Cedar Creek Park, covering the 4K course in just under 16 minutes with a time of 15:57. Larson finished just behind Johnson in 16:08, while sophomore Kaleb Linse ran a strong time of 16:24 to finish third.
Schlomann and junior Andrew Johnson finished a second apart in 17:08 and 17:09, respectively. Luhmann and Poush rounded out the top seven finishers in the trials in 17:18 and 17:43, respectively, giving their coach an idea for which runners might score for the Cardinals this season.
"The time trials and the Early Bird Invite are good tests for us, to get an idea of where we are in our conditioning. It also gives us a taste for racing again and gets us back into that mode," said Bonk.
Part of the team's training in the early part of the season is its annual Homecoming run, which starts in St. Peter this season. The athletes that choose to run the traditonal relay will run parts of the distance between the neighboring towns, with the cross country team delivering the game ball on Sept. 28 at Mahoney Field in Fairmont.
"It's a tradition we have from the 70's. We used to run it the day before the game, but now we don't want anyone to miss any of the activities that day, so we start earlier," said Bonk.
The team started on the run from St. Peter on Tuesday, but will have its first competition at 9:30 a.m. Friday in the Early Bird Invite at Fairmont High School.
Fairmont's boys and girls cross country teams both have featured winning records for close to 30 years, with the hopes of continuing that trend this year.
Martin County West's boys cross country team reached the state meet last year, and look to be a force this season in Section 2A, along with the Madelia/Truman, with both vying for the state team bid.
Waseca also will be clamoring for the top spot in the South Central Conference and the section behind another strong team.
Some of Fairmont's top boys runners will have to miss Friday's opener, but the Cardinals will be in full force for the first time this season at the Mountain Lake Invite at 4 p.m. next Wednesday.
The Cardinals will host two other meets this year - the Fairmont Invite will be at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 17 at Cedar Creek Park before the I-90 Invite hits the course on Oct. 4.