The Staples-Motley Cardinals girls' cross country team has been standing at the entrance to the Class 1A state meet for the last two years.
This year, the Cardinals earned an invitation and plan on having a good time as they are favored to win Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
The race begins at 2 p.m. and the Cardinals will accept nothing but the top spot.
"I don't think they were as excited about making it as they are about winning it," said Cardinals head coach Gene Mattila. "We're not happy to just go down there. Their goal is to win it.
"We have the philosophy that there is no tomorrow. Things can fall apart fast. We're strictly focusing on what we have to do to win that meet on Saturday."
The Cardinals haven't lost to a Class A team all year. They've beaten every team that's advanced to the state meet, but Mattila sees some team giving the Cardinals a race.
Paynesville Area, Minnehaha Academy, St. Cloud Cathedral and New London-Spicer are four teams Mattila says have a shot, but he said they'll have to take their best shot to beat the Cardinals.
"Those four teams have a legitimate shot, but they're the ones taking the shot, not us," he said. "I think the girls are definitely the best team in the state.
"I would love to run our girls in the Class AA meet. We would probably lose, but it would be interesting to see how they stack up."
The team consists of Hannah Landecker, Brittany Brenny, Liza Milless, Steph Jares, Courtney Robinson, Gina Shaw and Ashlee Jordan.
Jares is the oldest Cardinal and she's only a sophomore. Landecker, Brenny and Milless are all ranked among the state's top 25 individuals.
Making the trip as individuals are Crosby-Ironton's Kim Beaman and Pierz's Jamie Talberg.
Beaman, a freshman, has been on the varsity for three years. This is her first trip to state.
"She is going to learn a lot," said C-I head coach Roger Twigg. "We're hopeful of going in and running a time under 16 minutes.
"She's going to have to come out a little stronger."
Talberg is an eighth-grader. She finished fourth at the Section 5 meet.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.