Jaiden Schuette

University of Mary senior Jaiden Schuette standout leads the pack into the field during the NSIC Preview cross country meet in Aberdeen, S.D., on Oct. 20. Schuette won the race by 22 seconds. Schuette has placed first, second and first in her three races this season for the Marauders, who are ranked No. 4 in NCAA Division II.

There were big shoes to fill at the top of the University of Mary women’s cross country lineup this season.

No need to worry, however. Jaiden Schuette has filled them quite nicely.

Ranked No. 4 nationally, head coach Dennis Newell’s Marauders are undefeated in three outings this season and Schuette has led the pack each time.

With 12-time All-American Lexi Zeis graduated, Schuette has stepped into the No. 1 spot for the Marauders.

“I mean, losing Lexi definitely was not ideal because she did so many great things for this program,” Schuette said. “I tried to work really hard over the summer. If that meant my position on the team was 1 or 10 I just wanted to be ready to do whatever I could to help the team.”

Schuette is as nice and humble as they come, but based on her 17th-place finish at nationals last season, she understood eyes would be on her to raise her game.

Newell said there was no better person to assume the No. 1 position.

“Jaiden has done everything we’ve asked of her on and off the field,” Newell said. “She’s extremely coachable. She’s an incredibly hard worker. She’s a great teammate and she’s a terrific human being. I mean, how much time do you got? I could go on and on.”

Schuette has ran three times this season and has been the Northern Sun’s runner of the week three times. Her finishes are first, second and first. The Marauders are entering the money portion of their schedule with the NSIC championships coming up on Saturday in Aberdeen, S.D., followed by the region championships in Joplin, Mo., (Nov. 17) and nationals (Dec. 1) in Pittsburgh.

Schuette, a senior, said cross country success starts in the sweltering heat.

“Coach Newell gave me a really good summer training plan and I think it all goes back to that,” she said. “I was able build up a strong base and then it’s just a matter of going from there.”

With Schuette leading the way, the Marauders are once again rounding into peak form. In their last meet on Oct. 20, U-Mary runners placed 1st (Schuette), 2nd (Ida Narbuvoll), 3rd (Emily Roberts) 4th (Taylor Hestekin), 5th (Bree Erickson), 6th (Starlynn Costa), 7th (Lacey Feist), 8th (Kate Fox) and 9th (Sydney Wendt) to totally dominate the NSIC Preview.

“Coach Newell has a way of bringing out our best,” Schuette said. “It all starts with the family-culture we have at the University of Mary. Our workouts aren’t fun, they’re hard, but we all know we have great support from our teammates and friends. It truly is a family. I’ve never been a part of a closer group.”

Schuette was a multi-sport athlete at Century and was a team captain in basketball and cross country. She credited her high school coaches, Julie Stavn and Nick Walker for her early success, leading to a college opportunity.

“I’m so happy coach Newell took a chance on me and gave me a chance to run D-II,” she said.

Schuette, a senior, is a two-time All-American. She’s also a nursing student committed to academic success.

“When you look for people to be ready for their moment, or in this case, we needed a No. 1 or an alpha, whatever you want to call it, Jaiden was ready and she has met the moment,” Newell said. “She’s continued to work hard, continued to improve and it’s cliché to say, but she’s done it the right way.”

Schuette and Zeis talk frequently via text message. Zeis continues to train in Colorado in pursuit of a professional running career with Schuette keeping close tabs, and vice versa.

“I looked up to Lexi even in high school when we were running against each other,” Schuette said. “She helped build the program into what it is now. It’s great to be able to ask her questions and still have the relationship we do.”

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