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Newell

Newell

From one season to the next, some of the names change, but the results do not for the University of Mary women’s cross country team.

Even with big names graduating each year, the Marauders continue to receive recognition nationally and regionally. This year is no different. Heading into today’s season opening meet in Moorhead, the Marauders are the heavy favorite in their conference, region and are ranked No. 5 nationally in NCAA Division II.

Head coach Dennis Newell doesn’t put much stock in any of that, rather he focuses on the process that got them where they are.

“We’re fifth. We could’ve been higher, we could’ve been lower, I honestly don’t particularly care,” he said. “That’s not to say we don’t appreciate it. More so than anything I think it’s the consistency we’ve shown over the last how many years. Maintaining that is what our primary concern is. If we do that, work hard, continue to improve, stay dedicated, the results, I think, will take care of themselves.”

The Marauders have back-to-back national meet runner-up trophies displayed in Newell’s office. A tremendous feat for the program, which has been mostly built on local runners. Newell insists it’s a team effort from top to bottom.

“It’s truly a testament to the university giving us the resources that our scholar athletes need and then those kids understanding the expectations and wanting to be a part of something great,” Newell said. “There are a lot of dedicated people at our university that have a vision of competing at the highest level. When you’re able to have a bunch of people pulling on the same end of the rope, you can get a lot of really great things done.”

The Marauders’ lofty national ranking is the result of past performance and future results.

U-Mary has not one, not two, not three, but four returning All-Americans. Leading the way is senior Ida Narbuvoll, who has been an All-American every year she’s competed and likely will be a national title contender this season.

“She’s highly, highly competitive and stubborn, and I love it,” Newell said of the senior from Norway. “She doesn’t just want to be one of the best, she wants to be the best. She works very hard. She’s very focused, very intelligent. She’s what you look for.”

From there, the Marauders can count on Taylor Hestekin from Scranton, a middle distance runner by trade, but earned D-II All-American honors as a freshman.

Kate Fox of Wing earned All-American honors in 2017, while Bree Erickson accomplished the feat last season.

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There’s plenty of depth.

Bowman’s Lacey Feist nearly earned a top 40 finish and All-American honors last season. Newell is counting on her for even more this fall.

Three freshmen have shown lots of promise, with Kayla Ogle of Watford City, Kiran Green from Brighton, Colo., and Erin Leonard, who initially committed to LSU of the SEC, all turning heads early.

“We’re usually pretty solid 4-5-6, but with this group, it’s more 5-6-7-8,” Newell said. “The depth we have looks really promising.”

The U-Mary men also start today at the MSUM Twilight meet, which starts at 7:45 p.m. with the women’s race followed by the men at 8:15.

The Marauders are picked for a top-half finish in the Northern Sun with seniors Harrison Bentzel and Sam Wilke leading the way.

“We’re talking about the women potentially trophying (nationally) again this season, so to compare them to anybody is pretty unfair,” Newell said. “Our men, you look how they’re done in cross, how they’ve done in indoor and outdoor (track), they’ve done a really nice job.

“I like the direction of our men’s team. I think when you can start with Harry (Bentzel), Wilke and (Jesse) Kaas that’s pretty good.”

The head coach also is high on recent reinforcements brought into the team, notably Alex De La Maza from Spring, Texas, and Moorhead, Minn., native Dawson Strom. Both are freshmen.

“I think we’ll have a solid team,” Newell said. “Figuring out who’s in those 5-6-7 spots might take a little longer, but projecting forward, I think this can be a good group. We’re looking forward to seeing the progress they can make.”

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

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