SLEEPY EYE - A turnout of more than half of last year's athletes has the St. Mary's cross-country teams gearing up to hit the ground running this season.
Coach Scott DeMaris said his boy's and girl's teams have a total 25 runners, a vast improvement from last year's combined roster of 12.
"Both teams should be improved [from] last year," DeMaris said. "The depth alone will make a big difference and help us to be more competitive within our own team at each meet."
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Mariah Salfer (left) and Emily Schumacher (right) are seniors on the Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s/Sleepy Eye/Cathedral girl’s cross country team this season. Stephen Joyce (back left) and Nick DeMaris are key runners for the boys this season.
The girl's team returns without Kari Schumacher, its star runner from last season who was a three-time conference champion by the time she graduated. The added depth of the girl's team should likely make up for her absence, but some of the runners aren't entirely sure about that.
"We have a lot of good runners, but nobody's Kari," said freshman Mary Joyce. "She's just a great runner and she was pretty much the mama bear of the team. It's going to be really different without her."
Joyce is one of the four returning runners to the girl's team - all of whom ran as eighth graders last season.
Seniors Emily Schumacher, Mary Rosenhammer and Mariah Salfer, as well as junior Sabrina Portner are all first-time runners on the team this year.
"Mr. D had kind of been chasing after me for a while ever since he saw me run at a powderpuff game here for Homecoming," Schumacher said. "I wanted to do something in the fall because I used to play volleyball, but I think cross-country is more fun so far."
Schumacher said she hopes to make an impact on the team even though it will only be for this season.
"I just want to let people see that you can do something in your first year," Schumacher said. "Even you do run just one year, you can go make a difference."
Schumacher and the rest of the upperclassmen will likely be competing with seventh-graders Abigail Hagen and Kira DeMaris for varsity spots.
Friendly competition is not hard to come by with both the girls and the boys practicing together.
"Sometimes coach DeMaris says, 'You guys need to go run with the boys today,' because they run faster and harder than we do, normally," Mary Joyce said.
Juniors Nick DeMaris and Stephen Joyce return to the boy's team as All-Conference runners and will hope to lead the team deep into the season.
In the weeks leading up to the first meet, it can be tough for the runners to push through workouts under the hot sun and the humidity. But Nick DeMaris said there is a trick to beating the blues that come with the not-so-fun preseason runs.
"One thing you've always got to do is in practice you've always got to be having fun even if it's not so much fun," Nick DeMaris said. "Even if it's one of those tough workouts, it's not going to be very fun. You've just got to keep that positive mentality and know that even if you're not enjoying it at the time, it's going to be way more fun when your times just keep going lower and lower and lower."
Even though the sport of cross-country is typically perceived as an individual sport, the team aspect becomes the utmost importance when it comes to getting the best times for the best team scores at a meet. Stephen Joyce said the cohesiveness of the boy's team should translate into overall team success.
"I think our times will be really close together," Stephen Joyce said. "We're helping each other out by pushing ourselves so that we're pushing the other people as well."
St. Mary's first meet for both the boy's and girl's teams will be at St. Peter on Aug. 27. The first race will begin at 4 p.m.