Clayton Foster has arrived and he brought backup.
The Pequot Lakes senior is Class 1A's top-ranked cross country runner who happens to run for the top-ranked team.
But it's not about rankings for Foster, at least not until after Nov. 1 and the state meet.
"It definitely has put some pressure on us," said Foster. "I've told the guys that we need to stay strong. Just because we're ranked No. 1 doesn't mean we're the best. We still have to work hard so when we do get to the big race we can be as ready as we can be."
There won't be any sneaking up on people like at last year's state meet when the Patriots roared to a third-place finish and Foster finished fifth individually in 16:23.0.
In that race Foster and Ryan Tholen of Tracy-Milroy-Balaton were the only juniors surrounded by seniors among the top 11 runners.
"I'm really thinking about what I have to do because I want to run my fastest and win the individual title," said Foster. "The harder I push myself the more it's going to push my teammates and that will make us all better as a team."
Foster's teammates showed they are legitimate Tuesday at the Grand Rapids Invite. With Kellen Braren out of the lineup, Jacob Headlee ran his personal-best time and Silas Lydeen, Adison Runberg and Jonas Dale all shaved time to lead Pequot to a 20-point win.
School: Pequot Lakes
Sport: Cross country
Key stat: Won the Eveleth-Gilbert and Grand Rapids invites
Foster defended his individual title with a season-best time of 16:36.
"He's as motivated as ever," said Patriots coach Jon Dale. "One cool thing before the race Tuesday, Clayton talked to all of them about sickness and injuries and all of that stuff. He said if a kid goes down everyone needs to try that much harder. Kellen was out and Jacob ran an unbelievable race. The other kids improved and Clayton ran his best time. From a coaching standpoint that's great to see."
On a hilly Eveleth-Gilbert track Sept. 11, Foster won at 17:10. Pequot won by 60 points over the host team. He was hoping to be in the high 16s at the beginning of the year. He has shaved time from all three of his races. He started with a 17:21, dropped to 17:10 and then 16:36.
"I'm hoping to run a sub-16 and win state," said Foster. "Each year it's a little different. As I've gotten older my pace has changed, but I'll probably run state similar to last year. I always start off in the slower pace and play catch up. That's worked for me. Hopefully I'll be fast enough."
Foster is looking forward to running next year as he has peaked the interest of college coaches. For now the basketball and track and field athlete is hoping for double gold at St. Olaf College in November.
"He's going to be hard to replace," said Dale. "We'll make the best of this year while we still have him. He makes my job a lot easier."
Other notable performances:
Football: Glen Abbott, Pine River-Backus, rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley.
Matt Michaelson, Pequot Lakes, rushed for 161 yards and a touchdown against East Grand Forks.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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