Every summer, Valley City High School cross country coach Brian Englehard encourages the runners on his team to keep in shape over the summer using both the weight room and, of course, running.
This summer was no different, except for one little thing — the milage he recommended got bumped up a little further than the norm.
It's a change that the runners see as a good thing.
"You can see an improvement, a big improvement," said Ruth Ihry, a senior on the girls team.
"In lots of people," sophomore April Berntson adds.
In total, eight members of the teams — including girls Berntson, Ihry, Jamie Ronning, Jessica Ronning, Mikaylah Ross, Barbara Zubrod, and boys Nathan Johnson and Casey Englehard — fully completed the summer workout regime.
"This is the best we've done," Brian Englehard said. "I increased the miles for both the boys and the girls and they came through and did it. That was really pleasing to see."
This season the Hi-Liners hope to compete well in the Eastern Dakota Conference, despite facing teams with significantly larger participation numbers.
The teams started their seasons last week at the Jamestown Orriginals Cross Country meet, racing at the junior varsity level, and will be among the teams competing in the high school division at the Valley City State Invitational.
The varsity girls race is scheduled for 2:40 p.m. with the varsity boys running at 3 p.m. The college races start at 4 p.m.
Both the boys and the girls graduated some high-performing seniors. The girls lost Allyson Suhr and Natalie Ley, who signed with Jamestown College in March. The boys lost Nick Lee and Andrew Kawasaki.
That said, the girls return the core group mentioned above, which includes Berntson, who was All-State last year after taking 18th place at the state meet.
Brian Englehard said she, Ihry and Jamie Ronning have already showed improvement from last year, and all three hope to do well this season.
The small boys team will be led by Englehard and Johnson.
In both cases, Brian Englehard said the teams lack the depth needed to be atop the EDC. He expects the girls to make a push for the middle of the pack.
"It'll be tough in the EDC," he said. "You have the best teams in the state right there."
Though competition will be strong Friday, it won't be until next week that the Hi-Liners see the opposition from Fargo North, Fargo South, Shanley, Fargo Davies and West Fargo, all of whom draw much larger numbers to their programs.
Though coach Englehard said competing with the big schools will continue to be tough, he expects his runners to continue growing throughout the season and said he's glad to be coaching them.
"I wouldn't trade any of them," he said. "They're a fun bunch and hopefully those summer miles will pay off, just so we can individually get better and better and move up in the EDC."