By Kim Staudinger
Success has been a common word for the Havre girls cross country team the past few years and the girls hope to use the element of surprise this weekend to continue that tradition.
"We are going to have a surprise element working for us," head coach Kim Ray said. "Big Fork is worried about Miles City, so they aren't really thinking about us. Big Fork's coach thinks they have it hands down won for them."
Ray also quoted a comment made to a state newspaper by the Big Fork coach, which she hopes her team uses as motivation.
"We can win state," she said. "The team we need to worry about is Miles City."
Ray said the coach is basing her statement on seeing the girls at the Mountain West Meet in Missoula, earlier this season.
"It's a bold statement. I am kind of really hoping that works in our favor," Ray said about the coach's comment. "Our runners have gotten better since Mountain West."
Junior runner Katie Siebrasse also feels concerned with Big Fork, but knows their runners won't be thinking about Havre's runners.
"It kind of does give us motivation," Siebrasse said. "We have a really good chance at state and (Big Fork) won't even be concerned with us."
In order for the Ponies to have a chance at taking the state title, Ray feels her team needs to have her top three runners in the top 15 and also have them finish under 19 minutes. The next two runners, she said, need to run under 21 minutes with her sixth and seventh runner in under times of 21:30.
"The big difference will come with the fourth and fifth runners," she said. "They need to push themselves to the limit and need to be physically exhausted at the end of the race. The sixth and seventh runners need to be in front of (Big Fork's) fifth runner. They need to headhunt and key off of them."
One thing the girls have struggled with throughout the season is breaking up other teams' packs of runners. Ray hopes the girls noticed last Saturday at the divisional meet just how successful they were when they ran in packs and how it affects the final meet standings for other teams.
"We need our people to break up other people's packs," she said. "Onr of our top three runners needs to break up Big Fork's first and second runners either by coming in front of or between them. The other runners need to come in right behind their second runner.
"For placing purposes, that will be great for us, if we can do that."
Siebrasse, a first-year cross country runner, knows her place on the team, yet hopes to possibly surprise a few people at the finish line.
"I need to stay with Jenna (Baltrusch) and Alicia (Rundquist) the whole race," she said, noting she has to be in front of Big Fork's top runners to help break up the packs. "I definitely want to get in the top 15. It would be awesome to get a medal at state."
For once all the teams are on the same course, facing the same conditions and the same tough competition. So, how do the runners deal with that?
"I know there will be lots of competition down there," Siebrasse said. "You just have to remember everyone's going to be just as tired as we are when we run."
The Ponies, who have a chance to repeat as state champions tomorrow, have taken focus away from repeating. Instead, Havre is choosing to focus on doing the little things and hopes that everything else simply falls into place at the end.
"You always try to get first," Ray said. "But, sometimes you can get so focused on repeating that you forget what you need to do. They just need to go and worry about what they need to do at state."
The Ponies take a different look into the state meet this year, after losing half of the varsity team to graduation last year.
"They had lots of good runners last year," Siebrasse said. "We want to prove to everybody we can be just as good as last year even though we lost all those seniors."
The runners taking to the course for Havre tomorrow are Maureen Porter, Nikki Dibblee, Jenna Baltrusch, Siebrasse, Shannon Newth, Alicia Rundquist and Hailey Schnittgen. Alternates for the race are Emily Kostelecky and Gwen Courtney.
"They have all the training and all the tools," Ray said. "But, it's up to them."
The following is the race schedule for the State Cross Country Meet.
10:55 a.m. Class B boys
11:30 a.m. Class C boys
12:05 p.m. Class B girls
12:35 p.m. Class C girls
1:05 p.m. Class A boys
1:40 p.m. Class AA boys
2:15 p.m. Class A girls
2:45 p.m. Class AA girls