With a good core of returning runners to build around, the DeForest girls cross country team is expecting to make big strides during the 2020 season.

“Team strengths are that we return the bulk of our varsity runners and have some first-year runners who could be in the mix by the end of our season,” Norski coach Chris Smith said. “Leadership will definitely be in our favor this year. If we have to identify a weakness it would likely be the time gap between our No. 1 runner and No 5, 6, and 7. We’ll have to condense that difference if we are to score well in big meets.”

Last season, DeForest placed fifth at the Badger North Conference Meet with 116 team points.

Waunakee claimed the conference title with 54 points, followed by Mount Horeb (61), Beaver Dam (61), Baraboo (97), DeForest, Reedsburg (153), Sauk Prairie (176) and Portage (214).

The Lady Norskies then placed eighth at the WIAA Madison West Sectional.

“Our team goals this year are to create a team atmosphere within the restrictions we are now facing,” Smith said. “We are learning to reinvent what a cohesive unit looks like in this situation. Continuous improvement is a staple for one of our team goals. Just be better every day. Our conference performance last year was not what we aimed for, but we redeemed ourselves a bit with our sectional meet performance.”

The 2020 season will have a different look due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be limitations to how many teams can compete in events, plus the Badger Conference has canceled all events and championships this fall.

“Obviously, there are many changes to our normal routine that have been affected by the pandemic,” Smith said. “We stay distanced apart during warm-ups and this is usually a time where we are very close in proximity to one another. The uncertainty of not knowing if we will be able to continue for the entire season and if there will be any season ending culminating tournament event makes it difficult to plan and goal set.”

The Norskies welcome back their top runner from last season, sophomore Logan Peters. As a freshman, she was second at the conference meet and 12th at the sectional.

“Logan earned first-team all-conference last year and missed being a state qualifier by one place at sectionals,” Smith said. “She is a strong athlete who has the tools to be a state-caliber runner.”

Junior Jocelyn Pickhardt is back after placing 18th at last year’s conference meet. She will serve as captain with senior Maddie Martin, who was 55th at the conference meet a year ago.

“Jocelyn is a natural leader who is self-motivated,” Smith said.

Smith is also expecting big things from junior Lydia Bauer and senior Carleen Snow. Bauer placed 33rd at conference, while Snow was 40th.

“Lydia has put in a lot of miles this summer to improve her racing,” Smith “Carleen Snow works hard to stay in great fitness. I’m looking forward to her senior season.”

With no conference meet to prepare for this season, the Norskies will look for motivation elsewhere.

“We are going to stay focused on feeling blessed that right now we get to have a team and do our sport,” Smith said. “That is a lot more than what most folks can do right now. We talk about building your character and to do your best even without the guarantee of a postseason tournament. How far can we go with the time we are given? Be better and beat your best, that is the standard.”

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