Facing their toughest competition of the season, the Marshall boys' and girls' cross country teams got a chance to see how they compare against some of the top teams in their section and in the state at Saturday's Alexandria Invitational.
The Marshall girls' team finished fifth out of 21 programs, while the Tiger boys took 17th in a 22-team-field.
Chanhassen and Chaska, both schools in Marshall's section, finished 1-2 in the girls' race. Chanhassen had 118 points, while Chaska finished with 132. Monticello took third (134), followed by Mounds View (153) and Marshall.
"As far as our team placing, honestly, I was hoping to be closer to the top two or three," said Marie Sample, who coaches the 12th-ranked (Class AA) Tiger girls. "If we had a fourth or fifth runner up a little bit more, that's a difference of 25 to 30 points."
Bemidji sophomore Jenna Truedson won the individual girls' title with a time of 14 minutes, 6.3 seconds over the 4,000-meter course.
Marshall's top finisher was Nichole Sample, who was 19th with a time of 15:34. Claire Boersma was just two seconds and two places back, and was followed by teammates Shyla Hansen (35th, 15:54), Madi Verschaetse (42nd, 16:02) and Rose Andersen (43rd, 16:06).
Marie Sample said the difference between her team and the top three teams was that those top teams have one standout runner that can get a top-five or top-eight finish. She said some of her older runners will need to step up to help the Tigers catch up with Chanhassen and Chaska for the Section AA meet on Oct. 25.
"Hopefully this sinks in and lights a fire under them," Sample said. "Yeah, we're pretty good, but Chanhassen and Chaska are in our section and they finished 1-2. Now we get to see, how hungry are they? How hard do they want to work to get it?"
Stillwater, the top-ranked boys' team in Class AA, had five runners place in the top 11 to run away with the team title with 28 points. St. Cloud Cathedral was second with 111 points. Stillwater senior Wayde Hall won the individual title with a time of 15:30.7.
The Marshall boys, still without injured senior Tanner Bukowski, finished in 17th with 365 points.
Andrew Bell paced the pack for the Tigers with a 14th-place finish (16:37). Rounding out Marshall's top five were Blaine Moran (63rd, 17:27), Mike Larson (78th, 17:38), Wade DeAustin (93rd, 17:55) and Chase VanKeulen (106th, 18:32).
Marshall boys' head coach Mike Jacobs said the Alexandria Invite has developed into an elite meet in the state. He praised Bell for his strong race, but said at this point, the Tiger team isn't able to challenge for a top 10 spot.
"You look at some of these other schools like Stillwater and they've got 100 kids out for cross country and have a team full of seniors and juniors," Jacobs said. "We're still a pretty young team and we don't have the numbers like some of these top schools. We'll be strong one year and then have to build. I think we're going to be a much more powerful team next year."
The Marshall boys' and girls' cross country teams compete in another large field, but with mostly smaller schools, when the Tigers return to action Tuesday at the Adrian Invite.
Girls Team Results: 1. Chanhassen 118; 2. Chaska 132; 3. Monticello 134; 4. Mounds View 153; 5. Marshall 160; 6. Roseville 171; 7. White Bear Lake 188; 8. Alexandria 196; 9. Sartell-Saint Stephen 199; 10. New Prague 253; 11. Stillwater 267; 12. Park Center 306; 13. Bemidji 351; 14. Rocori 359; 15. St. Cloud Cathedral 365; 16. Buffalo 374; 17. Red Wing 453; 18. Cretin-Derham Hall 482; 19. Thief River Falls 521; 20. Staples-Motley 556; 21. St. Cloud Apollo 575.
Marshall Individual Results: 19. Nichole Sample 15:34; 21. Claire Boersma 15:36; 35. Shyla Hansen 15:54; 42. Madi Verschaetse 16:02; 43. Rose Andersen 16:06; 83. Sydney Blomme 16:53; 91. Jenna Christianson 17:01.
Boys Team Results: 1. Stillwater 28; 2. St. Cloud Cathedral 111; 3. Bemidji 136; 4. White Bear Lake 144; 5. Chanhassen 206; 6. Buffalo 220; 7. Mounds View 227; 8. Chaska 237; 9. Sartell-Saint Stephen 250; 10. Alexandria 294; 11. New Prague 297; 12. St. Thomas Academy 308. 13. Cretin-Derham Hall 345; 14. Roseville 335; 15. Red Wing 336; 16. Rocori 357; 17. Marshall 365; 18. Staples-Motley 526; 19. Thief River Falls 557; 20. Park Center 600; 21. Windom 648; 22. St. Cloud Apollo 683.
Marshall Individual Results: 14. Andrew Bell 16:37; 63. Blaine Moran 17:27; 78. Mike Larson 17:38; 93. Wade DeAustin 17:55; 106. Chase VanKeulen 18:32; 120. John Botsford 18:34; 137. Zach Drum 19:44.