The Ranger girls’ cross country squad placed second out of 25 teams Saturday at the Swain Invitational in Duluth.
Forest Lake finished with 158 points, only losing to Totino-Grace, who had 123 points.
Eighth-grader Allison Bartlett was Forest Lake’s top finisher at sixth place out of the division field of 174 (race field of 353) and a time of 15:29. She moved up from eighth place last year and a time of 15:46.
Ninth-grader Emma Benner came in just one place behind and two seconds later at 15:31, a leap from her 22nd-place finish and time of 16:24 last year on the Enger Park Golf Course.
“Al was very relaxed.” head coach Eric Kaluza said. “And I have nothing but positive credit for Emma, she has such a great amount of positive energy and continues to be a contender for a top-place title.”
Bartlett and Benner have been a one-two punch for Forest Lake all year and both are fierce competitors. Kaluza said it can be difficult when the sport is both a team and individual competition.
“It’s tough. They all work together in practice and they run together,” Kaluza said. “They both want to be up there at the top, but with those two it’s always come down to ‘how are we going to help each other?’”
Eighth-grader Maria Valentin and seventh-grader Caroline Schoessow finished at the three-four spots for Forest Lake with Valentin placing 33rd with a time of 16:32 and Schoessow coming in two places and five second later. Valentin also improved from last year at the Swain Invitational, where she placed 52nd with a time of 17:16.
“Maria and Caroline have much more running experience now,” Kaluza said. “They are good at following the lead and are very quick to respond.”
Kaluza also said that Valentin is one of those runners that you want on the course late in the race, especially with conference finals coming up.
“If there’s a gap to close, you want Maria attacking,” Kaluza said. “I just know I’ll see her blasting away and knocking past the other girls on the course.”
Forest Lake runners, seventh-grader Mikayla Niederkorn and eighth-grader Abbie Asperheim, rounded out the lineup with an 81st-and 98th-place finish, respectively.
Although the Rangers took first at the Swain Invitational last year, Kaluza said he is not disappointed as first-place Totino-Grace raced very well.
Kaluza predicts he will have a healthy lineup for conference finals at Falcon Ridge Golf Course in Stacy next Tuesday, Oct. 16. The 3:30 p.m. race will be the first time the Ranger team will run full-strength since the Lakeville Applejack Invite in mid-September.