SHERBURN - For the first time since Stannetta Svoboda started the Martin County West High School cross country program, the Maverick girls team will compete in the Class A state meet at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
The No. 10-ranked Mavericks claimed a spot in the state competition by capturing second place to No. 1-rated Waseca at the Section 2A Meet last Thursday at the Riverside Town & Country Club golf course near Blue Earth.
"We knew we'd be close to making it to the state meet, looking at the other scores and times. But we weren't sure," said Svoboda.
STATE-BOUND RUNNERS — Members of the Martin County West Maverick girls cross country team competing at the Class A state meet at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield include, front row (l-r): Morgan Larson, Brooke Anderson and Jessica Borg. Back row: Rachel Viesselman, Emily Bettin, Noel Bjerken, Anna Carlson, Sara Carlson and Whitney Smith. Fairmont’s Katiana Fischer and Blue Earth Area’s Taylor Grandgenett (insets) also will compete in the state meet. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
After garnering their first team berth, the reality was still hard to grasp for some of the Martin County West athletes.
"A lot of the girls said that it didn't really sink in for them until (last) Saturday. Thursday and Friday are just such a rush of emotion and everyone's congratulating them, it wasn't until we were doing our workout (last) Saturday that they really appreciated it," said Svoboda.
Whitney Smith and Morgan Larson finished third and sixth overall, respectively, at the section meet, and will lead the Maverick girls into the state competition.
"We have had good girls cross country team many of the years that I've been here, but just missed qualifying for state by one or two points," said Svoboda. "We've had girl individual runners make it before, but this is exciting to have both teams going for the first time."
As with the boys, the Maverick girls would have qualified three individuals had the team not advanced to state, with Smith and Larson - along with Brooke Anderson - each finishing in the top 15.
Joining the Maverick girls team will be Blue Earth Area's Taylor Grandgenett and Fairmont's Katiana Fischer, who will both be competing in their first state cross country state meet.
Grandgenett and Fischer captured the final two individual spots from the Section 2A Meet, finishing 14th and 15th in 15:42 and 15:43, respectively.
The Blake School junior Clare Flanagan will look to defend her 2011 Class A state individual championship in the 4,000-meter race against Cannon Falls junior Emi Trost and Esko senior Marisa Shady. Trost pocketed runner-up state accolades a year ago, while Shady earned the bronze medal after winning the 2010 Class A state crown.
Section 2 individual champion Emily Mantor, a junior from United South Central, also will contend for top state honors on Saturday. The No. 3-ranked Mantor covered the 4K course at Riverside Town & Country Club in an incredible winning time of 14:40.
The Martin County West girls team will face tough competition at state against the likes sectional rival and top-ranked Waseca, in addition to No. 2 Esko, No. 3 The Blake School, No. 4 Dover-Eyota, 2011 Class A state runner-up and No. 5-ranked Annandale, No. 6 Rochester Lourdes, No. 7 Minnehaha Academy, No. 8 Holdingford, No. 9 Perham, No. 11 Canby/Minneota/Lincoln HI and No. 12 Adrian. Unranked Albany, International Falls, Spectrum/Legacy and Warroad round out the 16-team girls state field.
With the new experience for the Maverick girls, comes new challenges.
"We know there were a few ranked teams who didn't make it in the meet, so it'll be interesting to see how we stack up against the teams there," said Svoboda. "With such a high level of competition, the race and course will be fast, so we are hoping for some personal-best times."
The girls do not have much time left to let the reality sink in as the Class A state girls meet hits the St. Olaf College course in Northfield at 11 a.m. Saturday.