North Star harriers look to challenge for high honors as new season gets under way

Ray Maloney, Sports
Five harriers return for North Star this season. Pictured from 2009 are, from left to right, Bridger Belzer, Terry Belzer, Lincoln Larson, Brennan Bergdahl and Mark Lybeck. North Star opens the 2010 season Aug. 20 when the Bearcats take part in the Jamestown Invitational.

CANDO, N.D. — As the temperatures Monday reached some of the highest in the Lake Region over the past several months, high school cross country teams hit to the sun-drenched roads and worked up a pretty good sweat along the way.

Monday was the first official day of practice for several area teams, while football and volleyball kick off their preseason workouts Wednesday and Monday, respectively.

A short drive, or long run, if you will, northwest of Devils Lake, North Star is looking to improve on its fifth-place finish at the East Region championship meet last season.

And coach Pat Belzer thinks he has things in place to make a run toward that goal when his team opens the season Aug. 20 at the Jamestown Invitational.

“A lot of the teams that finished ahead of us last year were senior-dominated,” said Belzer, who is beginning his fourth year at the helm of the Bearcat program. “We look to begin with a full team ... and go from there.”

A full team.

That was something Belzer lacked when the 2009 season began. He said the Bearcats started with just four runners, including a foreign exchange student that has since departed the program.

But, with the late addition of a couple of runners, the 2009 campaign was termed successful by Belzer, as evidenced by the top five finish at the region meet.

As the start of practice loomed Belzer did stress some concerns as his team prepared to report for Monday’s first practice.

“It seems every one has had good summer and got some good work in,” Belzer said, with a caveat. “It also seems that every one had some sort of health issue that prevented a smooth summer of training.”

Brennan Bergdahl, who was North Star’s No. 2 runner for much of the 2009 season, is expected to miss the beginning of the season after suffering a back injury. Belzer said Bergdahl, a senior, is scheduled to undergo an MRI later this week which will determine his availability for the first meet in the Buffalo City.

Four other runners return for North Star this season, including Belzer’s son, Bridger, who is expected to be among the top runners in the state this season.

Bridger Belzer, who is beginning his junior year, has placed in the state meet each of the last three years and is looking to improve on his eighth-place finish of a year ago. He has placed 18th (2008) and 58th (2007) and was a qualifier in both distance events at last year’s state track meet.

Joining Belzer as returning standouts are Lincoln Larson, Mark Lybeck and Terry Belzer.

That trio, who are expected to run behind Bridger Belzer and Brennan much of the season, had flashes of brilliance at times last season and each had at least one meet where they finished as the team’s No. 2 runner.

Larson and Lybeck are both juniors, while the younger Belzer is just an eighth grader.

“If we can get a few runners to come out we could have a pretty solid team,” said the North Star coach, who added the health issues are certainly a concern as the preseason kicked off Monday.

“We’re going to change the way we do some things,” he said. “Our goal is to get the guys back in the shape they need to be and we hope we can get some good performances at the end of the year.”