PREP CROSS COUNTRY: Cross country looks a little different this year for Lester Prairie’s Paige Heimerl

LESTER PRAIRIE – Paige Heimerl was one of many senior athletes across the state eagerly waiting for a decision on fall sports this year. While her cross country season will look a little different this season, there’s no doubt she’s just happy to be able to compete.

“After spring sports getting canceled (last year), I felt bad for the graduating seniors and was anxiously awaiting the decision on fall sports for this year,” Heimerl said. “I also feel extremely lucky that we are able to compete this fall, with football and volleyball seasons being postponed until the spring.”

Heimerl has been a member of the cross country team since seventh grade, but this year will be like no other. She knew it would be different going into it, but after the first day of practice, the new normal will take some getting used to.

“The first practice of the season was different from one of any other year and I expected it to be that way,” Heimerl said. “During our team meeting, we talked about our guidelines such as carrying a mask at all times, and distancing ourselves. The first day was a go with the flow kind of day, getting used to the new normal. I never thought that I would ever be running with a mask around my arm, but if that’s what we need to do to keep our team and everyone else safe, I’m all for it.”

Another challenge Heimerl and the Bulldogs will face this year is when they run competitions. Meets are limited to just three teams, which is a big change for LP/HT runners compared to what they are used to.

“I think the biggest challenge for runners this year is getting used to the new normal,” Heimerl said. “Our team is used to bigger meets and more competition, so getting used to smaller meets is going to be a little challenging. I also think that being flexible might be a bit of a challenge because so many of us are used to a schedule that is set in stone. That doesn’t apply to this year. The schedule just goes day-by-day which can be frustrating.”

With everything going on the world, Heimerl is eager for the season to get into full swing. With guidelines set in place, she’s excited and feels safe to compete in her senior season.

“I am unbelievably excited for the upcoming season, especially with it being my senior season,” Heimerl said. “I feel safe competing this season knowing that guidelines are set to protect us and the people around us.”

Heimerl and the Bulldogs will start the 2020 season feeling good about themselves. LP/HT finished strong towards the end of last year and will be looking to carry that over into this unique season.

“My goal for our team this season is to pick up where we left off last year,” Heimerl said. “We were running well at the end of the season last year, and this year I’m confident that we can keep running well. Most importantly, I want us to stay healthy.”

Heimerl and the Bulldogs will run their first race Monday, Aug. 31 at Forest Hills Golf Club.

“While these are not the most ideal conditions, I am extremely thankful and excited for the opportunity to compete this fall,” Heimerl said. “I’m thankful for our coaches and for the positivity and flexibility they teach us every day.”

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