2011 Fall Preview: Woodbury girls cross country team ready to make thier moveWoodbury coach Mark Andrews turns to a young stable of runners that he said should compete with top contenders in both the Suburban East Conference and the section – Roseville and East Ridge.
By: Mike Longaecker, Staff Writer, Woodbury Bulletin
All Mark Andrews needs is for his Royals runners to stay healthy.
“If they stay healthy, I don’t worry about them at all,” said the coach, who enters his 19th season at the helm of the Woodbury cross-country program. “They are an extremely tough team.”
And one that should build on what Andrews considered a rough end to the 2010-11 season, where bad weather hampered section placing.
Now he turns to a young stable of runners that he said should compete with top contenders in both the Suburban East Conference and the section – Roseville and East Ridge.
“We should be competitive with all of them,” Andrews said.
Leading the way will be senior captain Darby Baranick, the only runner left from the 2006 state championship team. Baranick returns this year after spending last year on the sidelines with health issues.
“And, boy, did she overcome that,” Andrews said. “Now she’s running just as tough as ever.”
Baranick, he said, has run the 4K just one second behind the program’s fastest-ever runner, Lauren Bleyl.
“Had she not had health concerns last year, she probably would be the fastest runner I’ve ever had,” Andrews said.
Also looking to make a charge is Lauren Smith, an eighth-grader who runs a sub 5 minute, 30-second mile. Other standout runners include Ainslee Neu, a junior, senior captain Lesley Lance, ninth-grader Divya Melachuri, freshman Julia Voss, sophomore Jen Halvorson and senior Erica Storvick.
“The girls team is incredibly deep,” Andrews said.
Key departures include 2011 graduate Lauren Domski.
Despite the stacked talent, Andrews said a state berth is no gimme. In the SEC, he picked Roseville, White Bear Lake and East Ridge to be the “big guns.”
“East Ridge has a very tough team,” Andrews said.
In sections, the Royals will face Roseville and East Ridge again; the Raptors won sections last year, while Woodbury finished toward the back of the pack.
The Royals will have Sept. 16 circled on the calendar. That’s when they compete in the St. Olaf High School Showcase, featuring many top contenders in the state.