The University of Minnesota Roy Griak Invitational is like the state fair for cross country runners, and this year the Forest Lake girls took home eighth place, fourth-best of all Minnesota teams.
The Griak Invitational, held at Les Bolstad Golf Course in Falcon Heights, hosts cross country races of Division I, II and III colleges around the country, as well as some of the top high school running programs in the nation. The Rangers raced in the high school gold competition, which involved more than 400 girls.
Moving up five spots from a 13th-place team finish last year, the Rangers also showed improvement individually like top finisher Emma Benner. The ninth-grader jumped 38 places from last year and dropped 34 seconds off her time to record a 19:50 in the 5K, clinching the 25th spot .
“Emma had a fantastic spring too, and worked really hard during the summer,” head coach Eric Kaluza said. “Her expectations just keep getting higher, but she’s got this very calm demeanor. She’s just something else.”
Eighth-grader Allison Bartlett moved up nine places last season to place 29th on the day, and Kaluza said he was pleased with her performance considering her age and the size of the meet.
“Sometimes you just forget that at the end of the day, she’s still a 13-year-old kid,” Kaluza said. “Sometimes you lose perspective on that, and this weekend I was proud of her.”
Head coach Eric Kaluza said he was also impressed with eighth-grader Maria Valentin and seventh-grader Caroline Schoessow. Valentin finished 77th and greatly improved from her 21:32 time at the Griak last year to end at 20:27 on Saturday. Schoessow followed two spots and one second later to contribute to the successful Ranger showing. Forest Lake’s fourth runner, Miranda Overland, went down with a foot injury and was unable to finish the race.
Kaluza said the race was a decent showing of his runners’ abilities, but they need to keep pushing ahead as a team.
“We try to keep an even keel, and I’m sure if you ask the girls they’d say we ran OK,” Kaluza said. “We’ll just keep training smart, focusing on preventative care and analysis of muscle tissue to stay healthy.”
The Rangers travel north on Saturday, Oct. 6 for a 10 a.m. start at the Duluth Denfeld Invite. Saturday’s race is the final Forest Lake showing before conference finals at Falcon Ridge Golf Course on Oct. 16.