Norman North girls cross country coach Mike Ramsey knows the challenge is coming.
With the state meet set for Saturday at Edmond Santa Fe, Ramsey hopes his team can keep running away from the competition like it has done throughout the season.
But state can be different, and Ramsey has reminded his team that maintaining the focus that has gotten them to this point will be the characteristic that can bring them a title.
The Timberwolves are loaded with talent. The team's top four runners — Belle Wallace, Isabella Rose, Abbey Mace and Sheridan Spelman — all have the capability of winning Saturday's race. They swept the top three spots at the 6A west regionals last Saturday.
“I don't think they flip a coin or do rock-paper-scissors to decide who's gonna win,” Ramsey joked. “Whichever one feels best that day wins.
“They're gonna come across the mile marker about the same, and at that point, the race is on between them.”
At regionals, their top five all finished 11th or better and the 24 team points was good for a 45-point victory. But the Timberwolves are guarding against overconfidence, especially after last year's third-place state finish.
“We're confident, but not too confident,” Mace said. “At state, there are always teams that bust out. So we're also cautious, knowing that what happened last year could happen again this year.”
With so many strong runners, practice is interesting for Norman North as well. A typical workout often turns into a fun, but valuable competition.
“We push each other,” Spelman said. “We're always trying to keep up with each other at practice.
“And at the meets, when I look to my left and to my right, and I have a girl on my team right next to me, it pushes me to go even harder, and we all want to do our best for each other.”
In Saturday's boys race, Norman North's Ben Barrett hopes to be in the mix for the title as well, following his regional championship last week.
“Mentally, Ben has always been mature, but I think his body is beginning to mature,” Ramsey said. “He has prepared more this year than he ever has. The focus he's had this year has been phenomenal.”
Last year, Barrett took 13th at state, but he was the only runner at the 6A west regional to break 16 minutes last week (15:53), so hopes are high for Saturday.
“State is in the back of your mind all year,” he said. “This week, you've got to think about it, but not overthink it and just make sure you're ready for it.”