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Published September 30 2011

Fargo Davies girls cross country team finds success running as one

Fargo - Fargo Davies High School girls cross country coach Lisa Svaleson envisioned a family atmosphere, a team in which no runner is more important than the next and where everyone is met at the finish line with open arms, hugs and high fives.

The dream was to have a collective group, not a dictatorship. Svaleson wanted athletes who achieved their goals while pushing others to achieve their own. She wanted a laidback vibe with no cliques.

She got it all.

“It’s what I have worked for as a coach for years to develop – a team atmosphere where every lady matters,” Svaleson said. “Every girl from our first to our last finisher has an impact on how our team finishes. They truly believe that.

“That’s why I feel we’ve had so much success.”

The Eagles, who won the North Dakota state cross country title last season in their first year of varsity competition, has pulled even closer together as they continue to march through another successful season.

Davies has finished first in each of its North Dakota meets.

The team earned a second-place finish last weekend at the Roy Griak Invitational, one of the premier high school competitions in the country. Senior Tarin Lachowitzer placed fifth at the event.

The Griak finish bolstered the Eagles’ confidence for the season’s stretch run. However, these girls aren’t letting it go to their heads.

Remember, this is a collective group. It’s not about chest-thumping and accolades. It’s about getting better each week, while helping teammates do the same thing. Everyone is an inspiration.

So while Lachowitzer, who has won the last two Class A state individual championships, puts in work, she marvels at the work ethic of the team’s youngest competitors.

She takes their energy into every meet and uses it for fuel. Lachowitzer’s wins are not hers alone. She shares them with her teammates.

She might still be the top-ranked Class A runner in the state without the motivation, but it’s clearly more fun for her to have it.

“I’ve never seen teams that are as close as we are,” Lachowitzer said. “That is really cool. We are able to push each other in workouts. While we are pushing each other, we are helping ourselves work up.”

Carly Bertsch, ranked seventh in the state, said the team has never openly talked about repeating as state team champions. They don’t have to. Some things on this team go unspoken.

The expectations to run at a high level are there. It’s just not necessary to put it front and center.

At Svaleson’s request, each member of the team has a goal book. Each week, there is a new goal. But long-term goals have been scribbled into the books since the first day of practice.

Weekly goals are for public consumption, long-term goals are as private as each individual wants them to be. Those appear to be some of the few secrets allowed in this family.

“We run for each other,” Bertsch said. “We run for the team. We try and do the best that we all can. That’s how we run.”

Svaleson brims with pride as she discusses her team’s character, focus and energy. She says it’s nice to see the vision become a successful reality.

“We don’t want to have any separation on our team,” Svaleson said. “Everyone is working hard on our team. Only the top five girls can score, but every athlete is having an impact on the scoring because they are working hard every day at practice.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com