NORMAN — For the Timberwolves, The road to this year’s state cross country meet began before they had even taken off last year’s medals. After finishing third a year ago — the highest finish in Norman North history — the Timberwolves looked at their teammates and realized the run didn’t have to end there.
“We knew that we would all be back again,” senior Abbey Mace said. “And we started working towards this right then.”
Fast forward a year later, and it’s the same group of eight girls that have dominated the cross country season like few have before. The Timberwolves have won every meet going away this season, and are the heavy favorites entering Saturday’s state meet at 10 a.m. at Edmond Santa Fe.
But what is most important to the Timberwolves is not how good they’ve become; it’s how far they’ve gone to get there.
The seed of a title run may have been planted a year ago at the state meet, but it’s the work that’s gone into the dream since then that has made it a realistic one.
After that meet ended and the Timberwolves walked away hungrier than they came in, Norman North, led by seniors Belle Wallace, Sheridan Spellman, Elise Base, and Abbey Mace went to work immediately. Their leadership helped the rest of the team — Madeline Brown, Sydney Warrick, Rachel Chrisman and Isabella Rose — push themselves with the goal of a state championship before their group was broken apart by graduation. Through summer conditioning and an aggressive preseason training regimen, they took the same approach that they now do at every meet: work as a pack.
It’s a term the Timberwolves chose for themselves and one that perfectly describes the way they work. Every single race sees at least half of the squad bunched up near the front, running in unison and tracking down any runner in front of them. Not only do the Timberwolves hope it intimidates other teams, it also allows them to push each other harder than they otherwise could, setting a pace that no other team in the state can come close to matching.
“They do everything as a pack,” said coach Mike Ramsey, who kept this week’s preparation intense to prepare his team for the meet. “As soon as last year ended and they finished in third place, it’s been night and day. From that day on, they have all maintained their focus to do exactly what they’ve done.”
That approach paid off, and it’s allowed the entire squad to challenge one another. Ramsey says before every race he’s not sure who is going to win, even though he’s confident it will be one of his team. At the Class 6A west regional last week, the Timberwolves swept the top three spots and put five into the top 11.
Not that there haven’t been setbacks. Base went out early in the season with mono. The Timberwolves rallied around her, brought up another runner and stayed the course. Cold and wet conditions at the regional meet made running difficult, but they huddled in their pack to stay warm and then ran away with the meet. Now, with just one race left to go, the Timberwolves know the goal they’ve been working toward for a year is in reach, and they know just how they’re going to achieve it.
“It’s our final high school race as a team,” Base said. “Our whole high school career has led to this.”
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