Cross country coaches always like to talk about having their top runners finish as a pack, but Marshall girls' head coach Marie Sample isn't just talking about it.
Competing at a 12-team meet in Buffalo Thursday, the Marshall girls took second place behind Monticello (ranked No. 4 in Class AA), finishing with 55 points to the Magic's 42. The time between Marshall's first- and fifth-place runners - just 12 seconds.
That's a tight pack.
Seventh-grader Nichole Sample led the way for Marshall, finishing eighth with a time of 15 minutes, 44 seconds. Once spot and two seconds behind her was eighth-grader Claire Boersma. The next three Tigers were Shyla Hansen (11th, 15:51), Rose Andersen (13th, 15:54) and Madi Verschaetse (14th, 15:56).
"It's crazy," Marie Sample said of her team's tight finish. "It's awesome. The girls are so happy."
Running on the course where their section meet will take place, the Tigers were hoping to get a look at section foe Shakopee, but the Sabers didn't have their top varsity runners compete. Sample said Monticello is comparable to Shakopee and provided the Tigers with a good benchmark they could measure themselves against.
Buffalo Heights Golf Course was a hilly test for Marshall, and Sample said her runners passed with flying colors.
"There were two big loops. The first loop they climbed the hills really nice, and then the second loop they just gobbled them up," Sample said. "We've been trying to run hills at Camden on the weeekends and they're getting so strong. I've been working them really hard.
"We weren't very rested for this meet, the girls had sore legs on the starting line, but they had no problems with the hills."
Noelle Olson of Big Lake was the fastest runner in the girls' race, finishing with a time of 14:24.
The Marshall boys' team took fifth out of 14 squads in Buffalo. The host team took top honors with 65 points, followed by Orono (75 points), Hutchinson (79), Mound-Westonka (110) and Marshall (139).
Junior Andrew Bell against paced the Tiger runners, finishing seventh overall with his time of 16:30. Rounding out the top five for Marshall were Blaine Moran (17th, 17:24), Wade DeAustin (24th, 17:32), Mike Larson (33rd, 17:51) and Chase VanKeulen (57. 18:42).
Marshall boys' coach Mike Jacobs said he had never had a team run at Buffalo and didn't know what to expect from the course.
"It's as hilly as any course we've ever run," he said. "Before the race I wanted to see them chip their first mile down five to 10 seconds, so then we get here and a half mile in they go flying down this huge hill so everyone had their (personal records) for the first mile split."
The Tigers continue to compete without senior Tanner Bukowski, who is out with a hip flexor injury. In his absence, Jacobs said the other runners have been making strides to pick up the slack.
"We've had some hard practices and we've been having kids starting to run at a more aggressive pace, starting to chase people down a bit more," Jacobs said. "The good news is we still have five weeks until sections and hopefully they can continue to build and we can hopefully get Tanner back."
The Marshall cross country teams continue their schedule next Tuesday with a meet in Montevideo.
Girls Team Results: 1. Monticello 42; 2. Marshall 55; 3. Big Lake 76; 4. Orono 95; 5. Buffalo 114; 6. Waconia 198; 7. Hutchinson 202; 8. Becker 220; 9. Shakopee 250; 10. Mankato East 250; 11. Cambridge-Isanti 290; 12. Delano 301.
Marshall Individual Results: 8. Nichole Sample 15:44; 9. Claire Boersma 15:46; 11. Shyla Hansen 15:51; 13. Rose Andersen 15:54; 14. Madi Verschaetse 15:56; 23. Sydney Blomme 16:34; 29. Jenna Christianson 16:51.
Boys Team Results: 1. Buffalo 65; 2. Orono 75; 3. Hutchinson 79; 4. Mound-Westonka 110; 5. Marshall 139; 6. Shakopee 148; 7. Delano 218; 8. Waconia 247; 9. Big Lake 254; 10. Cambridge-Isanti 270; 11. Mankato East 283; 12. Becker 324; 13. St. Michael-Albertville 342; 14. Zimmerman 368.
Marshall Individual Results: 7. Andrew Bell 16:30; 17. Blaine Moran 17:24; 24. Wade DeAustin 17:32; 33. Mike Larson 17:51; 57. Chase VanKeulen 18:42; 76. John Botsford 19:12; 87. Zach Drum 19:38.