Five top-five state finishes in the last five seasons. This is Staples-Motley girls' cross country.
And, from a glance at this year's roster, 2007 does not appear to be the season the perennial running powerhouse will slow down.
The Cardinals return seven runners with state meet experience, including juniors Natasha Wenzel and Naomi Landecker, each of whom have four trips to their credit.
Coach Bruce Fuhrman, in his second season at the helm, said the goal of this year's team is clear.
"They have all seen what it takes to be not just good runners, but great runners," he said. "This is a close-knit group who wants to win it all."
Naomi Landecker is a two-time captain and three-time top-20 state meet finisher. Brainerd Dispatch/File photo
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The state meet may be more than two months away, but preparation for another successful state run has been in full swing for nearly a month.
Continuing a tradition of Cardinals cross country, a two-week captains' camp, in which captains from the boys' and girls' teams lead practice, took place from July 31 until practice officially opened Aug. 13.
Landecker, a two-time captain and three-time top-20 state meet finisher, said the camp serves multiple beneficial purposes.
"It's not all about the running," she said. "It's about getting together as a team, coming together and mentally preparing for the upcoming season."
Fuhrman said the two-week camp is just one of many reasons why the Cardinals, who last won the state championship in 2003, have been able to stay ahead of the competition in recent years.
"The kids are very diligent and accountable. They show up for every practice," he said. "We don't necessarily train harder, just smarter."
The Cardinals have a chance to continue showcasing what that training has done for them on Monday, as their second meet of the season will take place at Wadena-Deer Creek.
Wenzel, a two-time captain and four-time top-20 state finisher, said their preparation will show early on and throughout the 2007 season.
"I've talk to members of other teams and it seems as though they do about half as much running," she said. "We've worked extremely hard this offseason."
Landecker, a member of the 2003 state championship team, said the team is focused on a return to the state tournament.
"I'm excited for this season. We're learning to compete, not just run," she said. "This is a determined group."
TY RUSHMEYER may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5865.
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