No one's sweating it this week, especially the Mount Gilead girls cross country team.
With temperatures in the 40s and lots of wind and rain, it's hard to break a sweat in the final week of practice. But even if it was 80 and sunny, the Indians would be pretty cool in the lead-up to the state cross country championships today.
"The hay is in the barn," MG coach Dennis West said when asked how the final week of preparation is going. "It's been a pretty good crop."
The Indians earned a repeat trip to Hebron's National Trail Raceway after winning the Pickerington regional for the second-straight season. With most of the work completed, they took it easier than usual this week, trying to save their legs for when they're needed most.
"They understand the nature of the beast, and it is an honor and a privilege to run this week. They pretty much know it's a fun week, so let's see what we can do," West said.
The Indians return six of the seven runners from a year ago. Of course, the one who is missing is four-time All-Ohioan Mikaela Bush.
"We were Mikaela-driven last year," West said. "She is businesslike and she expected and challenged the girls to do this, and they didn't want to let her down."
But with the No. 1 runner graduated, the Indians adopted a different approach. This year's squad features a tight-knit pack.
"They're very team-oriented and goal-oriented. Everybody has accepted their roles," West said.
Senior Rachel Gress has assumed the No. 1 duties, but right behind her are sophomore Bryanna Bolha, freshman Jenna Shipman and sophomore Rachel Bush. The team lost freshman Kelsey Snyder to a stress fracture at midseason, so in her place stepped sophomore Makenzie McKirgan along with junior Taryn Chapman and senior Sophia Friesen.
"We have that pack. We have a four-pack that's interchangeable. If someone has a bad race, someone is there is pick her up. They work pretty well together," West said.
In a competitive field at Pickerington in less than ideal conditions last week, the coach said his team never complained about the elements. Instead, they ran their race. The Indians posted 92 points to edge Garaway's 101, Columbus Academy's 104 and Grandview Heights' 110. Northmor just missed state with a fifth for 138 points.
"They knew on paper it could be done, and they were pretty pumped up when they found out they won. It was very humbling," West said.
The Indians were sixth a year ago at state. Whether they can match or better than mark will be tough, as they come into the race ranked 11th in Ohio in girls Division III.
"They have expectations from the top 10 or the top five, but you don't know, so let's see what you can do," West said of the mindset for today.
Individuals running today include Cardington's Jacob Long, Mapleton's Noah Cook and Fredericktown's Bailey Gannon in boys Division III at 11 a.m.; Lexington's Nick Molnar and Highland's Logan Ebersole in boys Division II at 11:45 a.m.; Crestview's Emily Trent, Northmor's Dani Blum and Fredericktown's Sarah Fowler in girls Division III at 1:30 p.m.; and Ashland's Brooklyn Duewel in girls Division I at 3 p.m. The Lexington girls will race at 2:15 p.m. in Division II.