The terrain is hilly and challenging. The trails are grass while the roads are gravel.
Ideal conditions — soft on the legs as well as cooler temperatures — for preseason workouts for Rosemount’s cross-country teams. It just doesn’t happen to be near the South Suburban Conference school.
Coach Chris Harder and his squads recently completed their 14th year making the trek to Deep Portage in Hackensack in northern Minnesota. He took his teams to the southeastern part of the state his first three years at the helm of the Irish.
“The challenging terrain at Deep Portage makes our wooded trails at the high school seem small,” Harder said. “The kids work hard, play hard and most of all have fun. Camp and what we do at camp is one of our many traditions for Irish cross-country.”
Junior Ryan Brumm just completed his third camp in Hackensack.
“It’s a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of hard work, too,” Brumm said. “It never gets old because it’s a lot of fun.”
Harder puts his boys’ and girls’ teams through a primary workout in the morning and a secondary workout in the afternoon. Then it’s back to camp for some fun and games.
“Besides training benefits, we hope to accomplish some team-building and bonding,” Harder said. “It’s an opportunity for veterans and newcomers to meet and get to know each other.”
Runners canoe one day and compete in partner tournaments in Bocce, around-the-world basketball, ladder golf and, most recently, cup-stacking during the three-day excursion.
“It brings out the competitiveness in all the kids,” junior Alex Berhe said. “It’s a really enjoyable time.”
Harder’s boys’ squad finished in fifth place in the Class 2A state meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield last year. It was Rosemount’s fifth top-five finish in the past seven years.
“We had one returning varsity member last year in Trevor Capra,” Harder said. “Last season showed we can develop with consistent hard work and follow the leadership by example of Capra.”
Brumm added: “We did surprisingly well. We did a lot better than anybody expected, even our coaches.”
That’s why expectations are higher for the Irish in 2013. Five of the team’s seven runners from last year’s state meet are back.
“Our top five are ahead fitness-wise of where we were a year ago,” Harder said.
Just as importantly is the depth Harder is stockpiling in the boys’ program.
“Depth is very important as we try to develop strong lower-level teams to contend in the various meets and compete for varsity spots while developing for future opportunities,” Harder said. “Preparing and learning to compete is a skill that can be used in many walks of life. Every person in our program can contribute in some way to our success.”