Placing 1-2-8-9-10 at a D-II conference meet would be the pinnacle for a lot of cross country teams.

Not the University of Mary women's juggernaut, however.

The Marauders made minced meat out of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference on Saturday in Moorhead, but coach Dennis Newell is looking for more.

"We're building right now. We didn't pull back. We didn't rest going into the conference meet," said the NSIC Coach of the Year. "We're proud to win a conference championship, but our focus all year has been on regions and nationals."

Still, a look back is warranted.

Led by conference champion Alexis Zies (20:49.5; 6K) and runner-up Jaiden Schuette (21:46.9), the Marauders' total of 30 was a whopping 44 points better than that of second-place Minnesota-Duluth.

Kaycie Stewart (21:38.5), Kate Fox (21:42.9) and Bree Erickson (21:46.9) finished eighth, ninth and 10th, respectively, for U-Mary.

"You wouldn't ever say you expect that type of performance. You always respect the competition and there are some tough teams in our conference," Newell said. "But we do have very high expectations. We have a very talented team, a very close team and they were very passionate about winning that title."

Now, it's full speed ahead to the Central Region Championships in Kearney, Neb., on Nov. 4. Pittsburg State (Kan.) figures to provide stern resistance for the crown.

But with a 1-2 punch like Zeis and Schuette, the Marauders like their chances.

"Lexi's running out of her mind right now, but honestly, we expect that from her," Newell said of the Bismarck High grad. "Her expectations are to win a national championship."

Schuette, meanwhile, continues to climb the ladder.

"She wasn't just No. 2 on our team, she was No. 2 in the conference, and this is in a conference that could produce five or six All-Americans, potentially," Newell said of the Century product. "She's running extremely, extremely well right now and above working hard, genetics and talent, she's just a great kid, so coachable. She's the type of kid you just love to see do well."

There is no resting on previous success for this team. In fact, last season's finish at nationals, disappointing in their view (7th), continues to serve as motivation.

"We thought talent-wise we were the fourth, no lower than the fifth-best team last year, but we just had a bad day and that happens," Newell said. "We maybe gave some things up at the beginning of the season to be more prepared at the end here. I think we're in a good position to finish up strong."

Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or david.selvig@bismarcktribune.com

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