The 2017 season was a landmark year for the North Shore Storm cross-country team.
For the first time ever, the program, a collaboration between Two Harbors and Cook County, sent its girls and boys teams to the state meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
The team has been focusing on 2018 as its season kicked off with a camp on the Gunflint Trail in Cook County.
"Camp is great. It's a great atmosphere, kids are working hard and they love being there," assistant coach Dan Hebl, who oversees Two Harbors runners, said. "One of our goals is to forget about last year and start this year as a new year with a different mix of athletes, and that there is nothing guaranteed. You have to compete like it's a new season because it is. Last year's results don't guarantee anything this year."
The team has many reasons to be excited about the 2018 campaign, with the boys and girls both losing just one runner to graduation. The team will miss the leadership of Jake Paron and Maya McHugh, but with multiple players with experience at the state meet, expectations are high.
For the boys, Noah Smith, Will Surbaugh, Isaac Swanson and Brendan Seipke are the top returning runners. Hebl said the goal for the boys is to get all five scoring runners to finish the 5K race in under 18 minutes - scoring that will make them competitive in any meet.
Girls returning with state experience include Autumn Smith, Cedar Gordon, Claire LaVigne, Isabel Schottenbauer and Kate Walsberg. Hebl said the hope with the girls team is to keep them running close together and pushing each other to improve.
"We are hoping to close the gap between our number one runners and our seven, eight and nine runners," Hebl said. "In cross-country, if you can get a pack mentality and get kids running together more, that's where we get to improve."
The Storm's season begins Aug. 30 at 3 p.m. with a meet at Pincushion Mountain in Grand Marais.