EVANSVILLE, IN—A typical business trip? No fancy attire. No briefcase. No first class treatment. Just seven ladies with round trip tickets, Marauders bags and new, logo-clad blue and white tops ready to board a flight destined for an important meeting: The 2017 NCAA Cross Country Championships.

“Now boarding flight 5873 for Evansville, Indiana,” stated the airline hostess at the gate.

But they weren’t boarding the plane alone.

Coincidentally, three of the top five ranked teams in the country gathered at terminal B31 in the Dallas airport: Adams State, Cal Baptist University and University of Mary, ready to share the same plane. Perhaps a foreshadow of what’s to come at podium time when awards are handed out and names are announced representing their schools.

What a difference that would make for the Marauders. The best finish ever for a Mary cross country team was fifth, six years ago today, in 2011, and last year they came up short in seventh place. At nationals only the top four finishers stand on the podium with hardware.

A conference championship. A region championship. And now the potential for a top four finish at the national championships awaits them. With those accomplishments alone this season, some would say these seven ladies will not only etch themselves into the school’s history books as the greatest cross country team of all time, but also the best team ever at the University of Mary during the NCAA era.

What’s just as exciting? If you ask them, or their head coach, each would say, they have yet to run the perfect race this year, together, as a team.

“As the season has progressed and moved forward, so has the fitness and confidence with these women,” added Head Cross Country Coach Dennis Newell, and conference (NSIC) and region Coach of the Year. “Each week our physical capabilities on the cross country course  become more fine tuned. With  that, workouts become impressively more accomplished and race results become closer to the final goal.  And most importantly, the women have a significant increase in their confidence. As this group achieves more and more, their bond becomes tighter and more important, as they see the strength of the group propels all of the processes that are necessary to accomplish their overall goal on Saturday.  Although we have ran well, we have not run perfect, and we are still capable of finding our best race.”

And they have but one race left, and it just so happens to be the biggest race of their lives: the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Evansville, IN, this Saturday, November 18, at 8:30 a.m., CT.

With every team comes a mixture of classes represented: Lexi Zeis (Bismarck, ND), Kaycie Stewart (Corvallis, MT), and Rebekkah Bond (Malone, NY), are the seniors; Jaiden Schuette (Bismarck, ND) a junior; Bre Erickson (Cambridge, MN), and Kate Fox (Wing, ND), are sophomores; and Sydney Wendt (Gillette, WY), the lone freshman.

So, Saturday’s NCAA championships in Evansville, will be the last cross country meet these seven ladies will race together—as a team. An ending that would be so much better with a forth place or better outcome.

So, no. This is not the typical business trip for these seven ladies, who so proudly represent their small university that many here in Indiana have never heard of.

That’s why they’d like nothing more than to be able to care of business once and for all.

WATCH PARTY NOTE:

The University of Mary track & field and cross country program is inviting all race fans to a Watch Party for the 5th ranked Marauders competing at the 2017 NCAA Division II Women’s Cross Country Championships on Saturday, November 18.

The Watch Party begins at 8 a.m. at Heskett Hall in the Clairmont Center on the University of Mary campus. The free public event also includes breakfast, while food lasts.

Due to pending inclement weather, the start of the women’s national championship race has been moved up to 8:30 a.m. in Evansville, IN, and is being streamed live by FloTrack.

If you cannot make the Watch Party, the championship event is available online through FloTrack.org.