It was another banner day for Lexi Zeis and the University of Mary women's cross country team on Saturday.
Led by the latest dominating performance from Zeis, the Marauder women blew away the field at the Central Region Championships in Kearney, Neb. For Zeis, the win finished off a region three-peat, while it was the second straight for the team.
The Marauders' team total of 61 routed runner-up Pittsburgh State (102), which entered the race ranked No. 7 in NCAA Division II.
"Today went as we had hoped," said Zeis, who trumpeted the team's performance before her own. "We knew we were capable of beating Pittsburg State. That was our goal. I wouldn't say it was a great performance by our team, but it was definitely good."
Individually, Zeis (20:53.5) ran away from the field by nearly 20 seconds.
"It's pretty awesome to be able to come through and win it," the BHS product said. "It was a pretty tough course. There were some steep hills, not just steep going up, but steep coming down, so you had to watch your footing."
With Zeis leading the way, the Marauders had three runners in the first seven, four in the top 19, five in the first 29 and all seven of their entrants were among the top 50 finishers. Nobody else came close to any of that.
Despite the stellar showing, U-Mary head coach Dennis Newell thinks his team is capable of much more.
"That's what's so exciting. We did not run great today. Honestly, we were a little flat," Newell said. "Now, I'm still extremely proud of the girls and how they did. To beat the No. 7 team in the nation like that, obviously, they ran really well, but I just know we can do better."
The national meet will be held on Nov. 18 in Evansville, Ind.
Kate Fox turned in a stellar sixth-place finish (21:34.3), edging out teammate Jaiden Schuette (21:36.8) by a couple ticks. Schuette crossed seventh.
"Kate Fox stepped up incredibly today," Newell said. "This was the Kate Fox we've been waiting for this season. She has this kind of talent."
Bree Erickson also drew high marks from Newell for her 19th-place finish, earning her all-region honors.
"Don't get me wrong, there were many, many positives today for sure," Newell said. "I just know we can run better."
Zeis said the countdown to nationals is on.
"We have high expectations as a team. What we did today is a good confidence booster, but we're not satisfied by any means," she said. "We're going to prepare the best we can and hopefully be at our best in a couple of weeks."
The U-Mary men's team turned in a solid outing on Saturday.
The Marauders earned 11th place in the 27-team field, led by an all-region effort from Derek Myers. The junior from Gillette, Wyo., crossed 17th in a time of 32:20.6.
"I was really happy for Derek," Newell said. "The men's field is stacked. There's no question about that."
Newell was pleased with his team's performance.
"Our goal was eighth, so we missed out on that, but I felt like our guys ran to the best of their potential," Newell said. "We still nearly beat two-thirds of the field. We still want to be better. We just have to find a way, but at the end of the day I thought they gave a great effort."