The youth movement of Burnsville's girls' Nordic ski team is over. The Blaze is now a veteran group, and coach Chris Harvey expects it to make its next move.
"I didn't know anything about them except that they were a good group of younger girls," said Harvey, who took over as the program's coach three years ago. "They were all eighth- and ninth-graders. It was just a blast being around them."
That young group, led by Vivian Hett, finished sixth in the state meet a year ago.
"We might have had some individual results that were disappointing, but we would've had to ski a great race just to make it in the top five," Harvey said. "We didn't have a bad day, but at the same time, we didn't have an exceptional day."
Hett, now a junior, was the only Burnsville skier to finish in the top 75. She wound up eighth with an overall time of 35 minutes, 2.4 seconds. The state meet consists of a 5K freestyle and 5K classical race.
"I wanted to improve on my state finish from the previous year," said Hett, who took 11th as a freshman. "I wanted to be in the top 10, and medal."
The biggest change from a year ago for Hett and her teammates has been Harvey's weightlifting program. They lift two or three times a week at 6:15 a.m. for 45 minutes. They have toned it down now that they are closing in on "championship season," according to Harvey.
"I needed to get stronger and have been working on that," Hett said. "Lifting has helped me a lot this year, but it takes more than one season to build up your strength."
Sophomore Jordan Horner has noticed quite a bit of difference in her performances, as well, thanks to the weightlifting program.
"My upper-body strength was nothing," Horner said. "I couldn't keep up with people last year that I thought I should be beating. It was frustrating."
Horner finished 76th in the state meet a year ago after winding up 70th as an eighth-grader. She was also plagued by a seasonlong cold in 2012.
"It really took a toll on me last year," Horner said. "This year, I haven't been sick at all. This has been my best season ever."
Burnsville's other top skiers are junior Krista Bain, junior Tori Felton and sophomore Jane Koch.
"In the past, the best teams in the state have had more competition within their team," Harvey said. "Our girls have started to push themselves within our team."
The Blaze hopes the intra-team battling pays off over the next couple of weeks.
"We learned last year that, to compete against the best people in the state, you really have to step up your game," Horner said. "We realize now that you have to work harder if you want to reach your goals."