The Bemidji High cross country team was honored Wednesday night at its annual Awards Night at the Hampton Inn.
Featured guests were the 45 members of the boys and girls varsity and JV units that competed this fall.
The boys posted two meet victories and finished second once while the girls were runners-up twice and third once in their best finishes.
Each started only one senior on their section tournament teams, leaving high hopes for a more productive season in 2010.
Ryan Aylesworth, completing his second season as head coach, served as emcee for the night.
He was aided by assistant Dennis Bartz who stepped down last year after guiding the team for 28 years.
Aylesworth cited the pre-season running camp on Gull Lake as forming the basis for bonding the new unit. He praised the fall as "an awesome year with a great group of runners who possessed a great attitude."
The hoys ran well as a group all year but never developed the take charge runners of graduated Erik Truedson or Zac Oelrich who led the team in 2008.
The girls unit lacked numbers but did find six quality performers including three who could run with the top of the crop around the area.
He encouraged all of his returning runners to compete in winter and spring sports emphasizing that they should strive to put in miles during the summer to prepare themselves for a winning campaign.
With most starters returning, he said the potential is there for a banner year. But the potential must be supported by hard work and dedication to achieve results.
Bartz, who will retire from teaching next month, reviewed his long career which began at Princeton High and continued through BSU before coming to the Bemidji High program. He began coaching the sport as a volunteer girls coach with a single runner, Sue Bonovich.
He praised this year's large senior class for its leadership through the season.
Certificates of participation were presented to all of the group.
Singled out for special awards, voted on by their peers, were:
Most Improved Runners: Eli Rassler and LeAnne Oakes
Lumberjack Awards: Jake Fisher and Betsy Richards
Most Valuable Runners: Andy Berube and Kim Truedson.
Aylesworth presented Bartz with an award and special gifts honoring his many years of service to the sport.
Special praise went to this year's five captains, Richards and Chelsea Johnson for the girls and Fisher, Dylan Jones and Corey Huber for the boys.
They, in turn, introduced the 2010 captains, Truedson and Bailey Drewes for the girls and Alex Schoneberger, John Buckanaga, Jake Urban and Berube for the boy s.
The captains then extended their farewells urging their younger teammates to train hard during the off season to improve their skills.
Fisher put it most pointedly when he urged his teammates to "get out of their comfort zone. Don't be satisfied to be good, strive be to be better. Pushing yourself will involve pain and discomfort. But that is the price you must pay to be among the tops."
The captains presented gifts of appreciation to the coaches from their squad members.
The 14 seniors were then given a final round of appreciation and presented bookmarks to commemorate the season. All runners received picture collages of the entire squad.
Earning their 2009 cross country letters were:
SENIORS: Chelsea Johnson, Betsy Richards, Miranda Ricci, Kristina Lengerhuis, Jake Fisher, Corey Huber, Justin Byers, Bryce Blankenfeld, Pete Humeniuk, Dylan Jones, Josh Kane, Dan Kilday and ,Alex Cole
JUNIORS: John Buckanaga, Alex Schoneberger, Trent Buckanaga, Eric Johannsen, Andy Berube, Jake Urban and Bailey Drewes
SOPHOMORES Alex Lyren, Hana Felix, Kim Truedson, Devin Danielson, Scott Hulsebus, Dan Clemenson and Tanner Asper
FRESHMEN: Amber Solheim and LeAnne Oakes
7TH GRADE: Jenna Truedson.
The cross country banquet was the fourth of seven fall banquets, Yet to be announced are the volleyball, football and cross country affairs, the latter two teams still competing.