MARION — They are teammates. They are friends.
And, as such, they are each other’s keepers.
“We definitely motivate each other a lot. We keep each other accountable,” said Chloe Skidmore, one of four key seniors on the Linn-Mar High School girls’ cross country team.
“We can say something, make sure they’re not doing something they shouldn’t be doing, without it being a naggy thing.”
Along with classmates Micah Poellet, Lilly Geelan and Sara Murphy, Skidmore has competed at three state meets. The Lions finished seventh in 2017, slid to 11th in 2018 and climbed all the way to third last fall.
With that senior nucleus, along with sophomore Jordyn Beck, the Lions open this season ranked No. 1 in Class 4A.
“We’re capable of winning state if we stay healthy,” Coach Emily Burmeister said. “But COVID-19 is in the back of our minds all the time.”
So the Lions are taking all precautions in hopes of staying a stride or two ahead of the virus.
“They wear masks during warmups, then take them off during the workouts,” Burmeister said. “At meets, they’ll wear masks to the starting line, and we’ll have them ready for them at the finish line.”
The Lions open their season at the Prairie Invitational on Saturday. They don’t plan to stick around long.
“We’ll get there, run our race and go home,” Burmeister said. “We want as little contact as possible.”
Poellet has been the ace of the crew since they arrived on the high school scene. She won the 4A individual title in 2018, then was fourth last year.
Her main focus is triathlons. It is a growing sport for women at the collegiate level, and Poellet is looking at Arizona State, South Dakota, East Tennessee State and Denver.
“I trained a lot for triathlons throughout the summer, but there weren’t many out there,” Poellet said. “I found a couple in July.”
Poellet is quiet, but “always asking for an extra rep in practice,” Burmeister said.
Skidmore is a two-time top-15 finisher at state; Geelan was 10th as a freshman.
“Chloe is fierce. If you’ve seen her in the weight room, you’d see how strong she is,” Burmeister said. “Lilly organized a food drive. She’s always saying, ‘We can do this. Let’s stay together.’”
Murphy is the younger sister of Daniel and Ryan Murphy, who went on to run at Division-I men’s programs.
“Sarah is everybody’s best friend,” Burmeister said. “She’s so positive. She’s our cheerleader.”
Linn-Mar has enjoyed more than its share of success in girls’ cross country for more than a decade, but the Lions have never won a state title.
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“With everything that’s going on, I hope that we don’t have any setbacks,” Skidmore said. “We know how special this opportunity is. We’re capable of making history for our school.”
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