It’s the biggest race of the year, and the University of Mary women’s cross country team leaves tomorrow for it. The NCAA DII National Championship is in Pittsburgh, Penn.
The Marauders head to nationals as the top team in the Central Region. U-Mary won that event earlier this month. The meet in Pittsburgh will be a first for Dennis Newell’s team, and even though it’s on Saturday, the coach has been making plans for a long time.
"It's been something we've been working on all year, you know we've been making calls to other coaches that have seen the course, I know the race director really well, he's out at Slippery Rock University out there, good friend of mine, so we've drawn up maps, got maps drawn up for us by other coaches that have faxed them over to us. I've got a detailed topographic map, where we'll know the inclines and the declines, the corners, the curves, we've actually mocked up our own course up here in Bismarck to mimic the 2K loop that we'll be running in Pittsburgh, so we try to look at those things and be as detailed as we can when we train."
Jaiden Schuette is the Marauders leader. She’s the conference and region individual champion, but college cross country is far from an individual event.
Newell says, "Ida came back after, what we thought was a career ending injury, and now she's back to herself. We've got a transfer from Indiana that turned out to be a huge asset to us, Taylor Hestikan had never ran cross for us before, first cross season she's running lights out. We've got a freshman, Star Costa, Kate was battling injuries for a year and a half, she's back, Bree has really stepped up, Lacey Feist out of Bowman, ND, a small town, so just the complexities and all the things that have made this team special. And then like you said, the leadership of Jaiden, but them bringing out the best of each one of her teammates has just been, is a really special team, really neat group."
The Marauders are ranked 4th in the national coaches poll, and they’re the highest ranked team that is no training at elevation in Colorado.