Cross country perfection? Almost for the University of Mary women on Saturday in Aberdeen, S.D.
In a completely dominating performance, the Marauders finished with a team score of 16 at the Northern Sun championships, just one place short of a perfect score (15).
Ranked fourth in NCAA Division II, nobody was surprised to the see the Marauders top the field. But this?
"It was a pretty special day," U-Mary head coach Dennis Newell said. "We went there to win a race and we thought we'd have a big fight on our hands. As it turned out, with how we performed, it wasn't as competitive as we would have initially expected and that's not to take anything away from our competitors."
As a point of fact, the Marauders' performance was nothing short of historic. Their score of 16, paced by NSIC champion Jaiden Schuette, was the best team score in the modern era of the NSIC, dating back to 1997.
How lopsided was it Saturday in Aberdeen? Second-place Augustana's final tally was 54.
"With a 1,000 (meters) left in the race you're looking around and we have five of the first six, seven of the first 17, so I start yelling to our girls to look around and understand what's happening," Newell said. "This is not something that happens every day so you want them to enjoy it, but at the same time what's going on also can motivate them, maybe give them a little more energy to have an even stronger finish, theoretically."
Schuette continued her stellar senior season with her third win in four races, crossing in an NSIC championship time of 21:10.90.
Schuette led a pack of Marauders to the line as Ida Narbuvoll (21:17.2), NSIC Newcomer of the Year Emily Roberts (21:20.3) and Taylor Hestekin (21:30.9) made it a 1-2-3-4 U-Mary finish.
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"They're all still improving. That, really, is the most encouraging thing," said Newell, who was named coach of the year for the third straight season. "All of the girls have responded so well to the training."
Kate Fox, an All-American last season, continued to make huge strides after battling injuries the last eight months, with a sixth-place finish of 21:36.6.
Bree Erickson (21:39.9) followed right behind Fox.
Lacey Feist Young (22:03.2) came in 15th to give the Marauders seven all-NSIC runners. Starlynn Costa (22:17.1), missed by just once place.
Derek Myers led the Marauder men to a sixth-place finish.
The senior from Gillette, Wyo., placed 17th in a time of 24:53.80 to earn all-conference honors for the third time in his career.
Augustana (53 points) won the men's team title. MSU-Moorhead (97) was second.
Up next is the NCAA Central regionals on Nov. 17 in Joplin, Mo.