Competition Just Hours Away: Women Compete Saturday at 11 a.m. CT, Men at 12:15 p.m. CT


“Test, test,” said University of Mary Head Cross Country Coach Dennis Newell as he grabbed the intercom microphone at the head of the bus to see if it was working.

“May I have your attention please ladies and gentleman. For all you geography buffs, we are approaching the Fort Randall Dam.“

Little did Newell know at that early point in the morning, on this final leg of the trip to Kearney, NE, for the NCAA Cross Country Central Region Championships, that his admirable attempt at being the team tour guide would come in handy later on.

Unlike the conference championships in Moorhead, MN, where they competed a couple weeks ago on a flat, as-far-as-the-eye-can-see course, this Kearney Country Club poses unique challenges the Marauders teams haven’t seen before. Newell pulled out his collection of papers with the topographic map on it and began to navigate the white line with his index finger as he began to read aloud to himself the course description.

“Steady downhill, rolling, steady uphill, flat, steep downhill followed by a steep downhill,” exclaimed Newell. “Geez, this is a complex course. I’ll bet none of our athletes have looked over this course map, yet.”

Then, as if he just figured out a jigsaw puzzle or Rubik’s Cube, Newell proudly, but quietly pronounces, “That’s where we attack the course,” said Newell, as the girls can be heard in the background at the middle of the bus giggling to themselves about something unrelated to the topic at hand. “That’s how I would do it anyway. They should all be listening up. We just strategized our plan for a successful race.”

Strategy is what was on the mind of Kate Fox, a sophomore from Wing, ND, who suddenly, unannounced, made her way forward towards Newell, grasping onto each seat to balance herself as she tightroped her way to the front of the bus. “Can we talk about the race?”

“You are my top priority right now,” replied Newell with a smile.

“I’d like to be in the top 10,” said Fox, after plopping down in the seat behind Newell. “I feel conference was easy. I should have pushed the middle harder,” responded Fox.

“That’s good because I think you and Kaycie (Stewart) can be seven and eight. My goal would be to have five of you in top 15. If we run like we did at conference we will accomplish that goal. You have to mentally believe this.”

“I do,” replied Fox.

“Then there is no question you will,” said Newell.

“This group has a unique opportunity this week to put five in the top 15. I don’t think we’ve ever done that before,” happily explained Newell. “Challenge yourself to be our three (placed runner). You have to run strong. It’s a change of pace course. It’s a grind. Hold your ground.”

He began showing Fox the course map and then finished tracing the route with his index finger.

“Flat, rolling, steady downhill, flat, finish – win,” Newell said with a chuckle to end his point.

Fox smiled, nodded and said, “And I am going to do it.”

As the bus continued its trek southward through the rolling hills of southeastern South Dakota, Newell, choosing to forgo the microphone this time, turned and announced to all the athletes in the the bus.

“Welcome to Nebraska.”