Ten Marauders are headed for indoor track nationals on Wednesday and none are just along for the ride.
Coach Dennis Newell's team is coming off a near sweep of the NSIC indoor championships at the end of February in Mankato, Minn. Carrying that momentum to Pittsburgh, Kan., for NCAA D-II nationals is next.
"This is a quality group. This isn't a situation where they just slipped in or were on the bubble," Newell said. "With this particular collection of kids, everybody that is going could potentially challenge for an All-American award or even a national championship, if things go really well."
The University of Mary women won the team title at the NSIC indoor meet Feb. 23-24, while the men turned in a stellar runner-up performance.
"Obviously, we were very pleased and proud of what the women were able to accomplish, but I was just as happy with the men's second place and 88 points based on our resources," Newell said. "Both teams acquitted themselves very admirably. When you look at where we're at, especially as it relates to our conference, we feel really good about how we stack up."
For Newell, the seeds of success are sewn early.
"You have indoor and you have outdoor, but in reality it's all track," he said. "We started practice on Aug. 15 for cross country. I really do believe the momentum of one season absolutely can have an effect on the next.
"I think, to a certain degree, we've been able to carry success from cross country to indoor and, we hope, to outdoor when the times comes."
But, first things first and the Marauders have the chance to build even more momentum beginning on Friday at Pitt State.
At the top of the list is senior Lexi Zeis, who continues to build on her epic career at U-Mary. The Bismarck High product is the defending D-II national champion in the 5,000-meter run. She'll also compete in the 3,000. Newell isn't ruling anything out for the 10-time All-American.
"Lexi is competitively passionate about what she's doing," Newell said. "She's never satisfied. You look at what she did at the conference meet. She was already going to run the 3 and 5, but then she volunteered to do the mile to earn more points for the team and she goes out and wins it.
"Jaiden (Schuette) did the same thing. She ends up running in the 3,000 and takes second place. Those are selfless acts that benefit the team. These are the types of things that are possible when you have special human beings leading your team. Fortunately for us, that's what we have with girls like Lexi and Jaiden."
Schuette, a junior and former Century High standout, will run in the Distance Medley Relay where the Marauders are seeded 10th. The top eight earn All-American honors. Joining Schuette are sophomore Bree Erickson and freshmen Taylor Hestekin, from Bowman, N.D., and Abbey Zastrow.
Senior standout Tonie-Ann Pandohie is poised for another big meet. Competing at her sixth nationals, the Kingston, Jamaica native is seeded sixth in the 60-meter hurdles, while the 4x400 relay is fifth. Joining Pandohie for the race are juniors Nicolyn Brown and Julia Hammerschmidt plus sophomore Nelecia Richards.
Everybody but the freshmen -- Hestekin and Zastrow -- have competed at nationals previously.
The Marauder men will be represented by sophomore standout Luxon Glor.
The Winnipeg, Man., product is a definite contender for All-American honors in the 60-meter dash. Glor, the NSIC indoor meet's leading scorer with 26 points, is seeded ninth in the 60.
Newell said they don't worry about anything other than what they can control.
"Our focus is on preparing so that we can perform to the best of our abilities on that day and in that environment," the NSIC coach of the year said. "I think we're in a good position to have success."