The Lanesboro/Fillmore Central boys and girls cross-country squads are already running this week as they were scheduled to participate in the Stewartville Invitational at Bear Creek Park on Tuesday, Aug. 28.

The boys bring back senior Travis Troendle, junior Nathan Eversole, sophomores Casey Olson, Layton Howerton, Michael Harrison and Treyten Chiglo. Freshman Aaron Eversole and eighth-grader Jared Reinhardt also made the varsity team.

For the gals, there are no upperclassmen to lead the way, but several runners have years of experience since they've competed at the junior high level. Sophomores include Kiera Olson, Elayna Kiehne and Leah Ruen. Freshmen runners are Ashley Miner and Bailey Ruen. Eighth-graders include Emily Snyder, Jamie Ruen and Maddie Smith. There are also three seventh-graders on the varsity team. They are Grace Springer, Mai Gjere and Nora Rein.

Even as a freshman, Olson was a standout cross-country runner last year. She took fifth place at the Stewartville Invite (her first cross-country), then placed fifth in two more races, seventh in another and fourth in two more meets. After a sixth place at section, she ran near the top third of the field at state.

Head coach Ellen Cullen is now in her seventh year at the helm. Husband Joe Cullen is back at assistant coach.

“We're excited for the season to begin,” Joe Cullen said recently. He reported that Olson, Leah and Jamie Ruen and Emily Snyder all lettered last year for the girls, while Troendle, Eversole, Howerton, Chiglo, Harrison and Olson lettered for the lads.

“Travis will have a good senior year, and we have four other guys to make up a good varsity team, so that's enough to get a team score,” Joe noted. Challenges are keeping everyone healthy because depth, especially for the boys, is in short supply.

“We're young, but we have a lot of good distance runners,” Cullen said.

Bear Creek Park has a few hills, but is “pretty flat,” he added. The Stewie Invite is the traditional kick-off for area runners, but can be a tough race. Last year the event was shortened due to excessive heat.