Facing the toughest competition they've seen all season, the Marshall boys' and girls' cross country teams finished lower in the team standings than they're used to at Thursday's Hutchinson Invite. Still, the Tigers' coaches remained positive about their runners' performances against some top-tier talent.
Coming off a first-place finish at its home invite, the Marshall girls' team placed fifth out of 11 teams in Hutchinson with 116 points. Wayzata (42 points), Willmar (46), Waseca (87) and Coon Rapids (107) were the top four finishers.
The times for the Tiger girls were what head coach Marie Sample was looking for. Seventh-grader Nichole Sample led the way with a time of 15 minutes, 29 seconds to take 16th place. She was closely followed by teammates Rose Andersen (15:35) and Claire Boersma (15:37), who finished in 17th and 19th, respectively. Seniors Madi Verschaetse (15:58) and Shyla Hansen (16:11) rounded out the top five for the Marshall girls.
"It was a very stacked meet," Marie Sample said. "I'm very thankful for it though. The girls set goals of winning conference and going to state. So far we've faced some smaller schools and had some tough competition, but nothing like what we saw today. It was good for our kids to see we have to step it up if we want to reach our goals."
Willmar's Samantha Hanson put in the top time for the girls' race, crossing the line with a time of 14:49.
Marie Sample wanted to make it clear that while she wanted her runners to realize they need to push themselves more, she is still pleased with what they've achieved so far.
"I want to see a little more fire, a little more drive, a little more desire from them," she said. "Not that they're not doing well. They're doing great.
"Where we were last year to where we are now, it's just incredible. But I'm glad this happened to them today. Now they know they need to step it up."
The Marshall boys also finished a couple spots lower than they had hoped. Marshall finished in seventh place out of nine teams with 145 points. Section foe Hutchinson won the meet with a score of 84. Buffalo and Orono tied for second with 88 points, but Buffalo won the tiebreak due to a faster time by its sixth runner. Other teams ahead of Marshall were Waseca (98), Willmar (99) and New Prague (130).
The Tigers were still without one of their top runners, as Tanner Bukowski remains out with a hip flexor injury.
Marshall's top time again came from senior Andrew Bell, who finished sixth overall at 16:41. Hutchinson's Isaiah Barlow was first at 16:01.
"Andrew, he had one heck of a race," Marshall boys' head coach Mike Jacob said. "He didn't shy away from the challenge at all. We went for a solid two-and-a-half miles running with the lead pack. That was probably his strongest effort in terms of chasing people this year."
Marshall's next-fastest runner was Blaine Moran, who was 27th with a time of 17:55. Rounding out the top five for Marshall were Wade DeAustin (18:05), Mike Larson (18:09) and Mike Botsford (18:47).
"Overall, I don't think our times were anything to brag about," Jacobs said. "The guys' times slid back a little bit from our home meet. I was expecting some good times because the conditions were favorable - no wind and it was cool.
"The heat and the wind from Monday could have taken a lot out of them Monday. They're probably a little disappointed their times weren't better because they had really been progressing nicely."
The Marshall cross country team is off until Tuesday when they head to the Canby Golf Course to compete in an invite hosted by Canby/Minneota/Lincon HI.
Boys Team Scores: 1. Hutchnson 84; 2. Buffalo 88*; 3. Orono 88; 4. Waseca 98; 5. Willmar 99; 6. New Prague 130; 7. Marshall 145; 8. Mankato West 165; 9. Mankato East 181.
Marshall Individual Results: 6. Andrew Bell 16:41; 27. Blaine Moran 17:55; 31. Wade DeAustin 18:05; 32. Mike Larson 18:09; 49. John Botsford 18:47; 51. Chase VanKeulen 18:57; 59. Zach Drum 19:57.
Girls Team Scores: 1. Wayzata 42; 2. Willmar 46; 3. Waseca 87; 4. Coon Rapids 107; 5. Marshall 116; 6. Orono 169; 7. New Prauge 183; 8. Buffalo 222; 9. Mankato East 271; 10. Mankato West 274; 11. Hutchinson 306.
Marshall Individual Results: 16. Nichole Sample 15:29; 17. Rose Andersen 15:35; 19. Claire Boersma 15:37; 27. Madi Verschaetse 15:58; 37. Shyla Hansen 16:11; 38. Jenna Christianson 16:17; 49. Sarah Buysse 16:56.
*Buffalo boys won tiebreak with Orono due to time of sixth runner