The Forest Lake girls cross country team was not afforded the luxury of a preseason.
The team kicked off the year Friday at the loaded Dakota Classic against the likes of powerhouse programs Eagan and Lakeville South. For good measure, the young Ranger squad carried a No. 2 ranking, ahead of both the host Wildcats and the Cougars in the state poll.
When the dust settled, Eagan had defended its home turf and Lakeville South had edged Forest Lake for second place in the eight-team meet. The top three places mirrored the 2012 standings.
Wildcats swept the top three spots, as junior Anna Van Wyk, junior Kelli Praska and senior Raissa Hansen each finished in under 12:00.
Forest Lake scored 78 points, 20 more than Lakeville South and 42 more than Eagan.
Sophomore Emma Benner led the team in seventh place with a time of 12:10. It marked a 20-second improvement from her 2012 time at the meet. Eighth-grader Caroline Schoessow recorded an impressive meet debut, clocking a time of 12:17 to finish eighth.
Ninth-graders Allie Bartlett (13th, 12:34), Maria Valentin (25th, 13:18) and Miranda Overland (27th, 13:29) also contributed to the team score.
“We did admirably at the meet from the top down,” coach Eric Kaluza said. “There are items (to work on) such as relearning how to race, particularly with top-notch competition.”
The team is incorporating a new training system. Two weeks ago, Kaluza predicted it would take a few races for the benefits to show.
The next chance is today, Sept. 5, at the Bluejacket Invite in Cambridge. The Rangers swept all three races in last year’s event at Grandy 9 Golf Course.
Forest Lake fell to eighth in the new rankings. Eagan improved from fourth to second while Lakeville South jumped from sixth to fifth.