Farmington runners Anna Fenske, 8th grader, left and Lauren Peterson, 10th grader, right, during practice warmups. ] GLEN STUBBE * email@example.com Tuesday, October 11, 2016 Team practice at Farmington High School. Practice begins at 3:00 p.m.
Two years ago as an eighth-grader, Lauren Peterson often ran by herself at Farmington girls’ cross-country practices.
Peterson’s talent was evident. She qualified for the state meet her first year on varsity in 2013 and again the next season. But because of a talent gap between Peterson and her teammates, she ran with only her self-motivation pushing her to improve.
Things changed last year when Anna Fenske, a seventh-grader, joined the team. Peterson’s solo workouts quickly transformed into tandem running.
Fenske was every bit of athlete Peterson was. The two were equally fast, conditioned and competitive.
“A lot of times when we get out here to practice, it is those two and then the rest of the team,” Tigers coach Heidi Revels said. “Really, they have each other and that is it. They’ve built a positive and competitive relationship.”
Whether it is at practice or a meet, Revels said, her two passionate runners tend to take turns winning. Not on purpose, but because they are so equally matched that it is nearly impossible for either to build a winning streak on the other.
At the Victoria Lions Invitational on Oct. 4, it was Fenske’s turn to win and the eighth-grader did so in elite fashion. With nine of the state’s top 10 runners state competing in the 5K race, Fenske ran her season-best time of 18 minutes, 13 seconds.
Regardless of who finishes ahead of whom, Fenske knows she wouldn’t be as successful as a runner without her partnership with Peterson on the course and their friendship away from it.
Asked what she has learned from Peterson, Fenske said, “A lot. She teaches me how to race. Whenever I needed help with my form she’d give me advice. She just helps me with everything about running.”
Their friendship is mutually beneficial. Peterson no longer runs alone, and Fenske absorbs her teammate’s vast running knowledge.
But Farmington is not just a two-runner team. Led by Peterson and Fenske, the Tigers qualified for the state meet last season for the first time in over 20 years, finishing in eighth place. Individually, Peterson placed fifth and Fenske sixth. The next three runners for the Tigers placed 40th, 88th and 99th.
Closing the gap between Peterson and Fenske and the rest of the team is a primary focus as Farmington prepares for the Class 2A, Section 1 meet on Oct. 27.
“We try to encourage our teammates as much as we can while running,” Peterson said. “A lot of the times at practice, the other girls will start off with us, and as we pick up the pace we encourage them to stay with us.”
Motivating teammates during practice isn’t the only team-building technique used by Peterson and her fellow captains, Abby Bollig and Kendell Wallenta. They and their teammates spend a lot of time together taking in movies, enjoying bonfires or grabbing post competition meals at Raising Cane’s. After the Lakeville North Applejack Invite earlier this year, Wallenta had the team over to make banana bread.
“This team is good at not having cliques,” Wallenta said. “We are one community team, and we enjoy everyone doing stuff together.”
Regardless of whether Farmington reaches state again, Peterson’s days of running solo at practice and in the offseason are behind her. Whatever the Tigers accomplish in the next few years, Peterson and Fenske will achieve together.
“It is nice to have someone running with you,” Peterson said. “Someone who understands training and how hard this all is.”
Ellis Williams • 612-673-4689