At the first few practices, Bement girls’ cross country coach Andrew Brown had to pause and make sure he was appreciating the moment while he had it.

At practice, I find myself smiling under my mask,” Brown said, “because it has been so long since I have coached, and it’s good to be back at it.”

Practices have been somewhat different with the regulations, but with the Bulldogs small group, the runners can easily spread out and socially distance while warming up and practicing.

The big change is that the kids come to practice with masks and do a lot of their stretching in them as well,” Brown said.

The girls’ team returns one letter winner in junior Trinity Stroisch. Stroisch earned all-Lincoln Prairie Conference honors as a freshman.

Trinity was all-conference but was plagued with a nagging foot injury during much of the 2019 season,” Brown said. “She also plays girls’ basketball, volleyball, softball, runs track, and is a cheerleader. She is a great athlete and a confident runner.”

Stroisch’s personal best time in 2019 was 22:38.

The girls’ cross country team is benefiting from the recruitment of volleyball players who are participating in the spring instead of the fall.

Two new runners joined the team this season: sophomore Haley Garrett and freshman Caroline Hill.

Haley is new to the sport in 2020,” said Brown. “She is an outstanding athlete. She did not get on the track as a freshman due to COVID-19, but she was a dominant sprinter in middle school track, and possesses a lot of athleticism.”

Hill is also new to cross country.

Hill ran track all through middle school, and is a tough competitor,” Brown said.

Brown and his runners are excited to get the season started but are cautiously optimistic with the state of athletics in the state and country right now.

The kids are finally able to work at something, and to have a goal and some sort of routine,” Brown said. “Most importantly, they get to be around each other (distanced of course) and have some socialization and a sense of normalcy.”

The past couple years, Bement cross country team has hosted the Allerton Park Invite, but with the current pandemic, the schools have moved the meet to Bement on the school campus to keep everyone safe. That meet is scheduled for Sept. 8.

The girls’ team kicks off its season against Sullivan Thursday, Aug. 27 at Sullivan.

The schedule is still a work in progress and is subject to change,” Brown said. “A couple small home meets are in the works for us against Cerro Gordo. We are looking at Sept. 16 and Sept. 30.”

The Lincoln Prairie Conference that was set for Oct. 3 had been cancelled, according the newest posted schedule on the Bement High School website, but then added back to the final schedule. Okaw Valley will host the meet.

Along with the transplanted Allerton Park Invite meet, the Bulldogs are set to host a meet against Cerro Gordo at 4 p.m. Oct. 15.

The regional is scheduled for Oct. 24 with a place to be determined at a later date.