That's been the slogan this season for the Charlotte Latin girls' cross country team, top-ranked in the state heading into Friday's 3A private-school championship in Cary.
Last year, the Hawks won to cap the best season in school history.
This season, with the core of that team returning, expectations were high. So far, they've been met.
“We've tried to teach them that the way we train is designed to cover all situations in a meet,” Latin coach Mike Weiss said. “We have a lot of respect for the other teams. We do not want to take anything for granted. Nobody is going to hand us the trophy just because we showed up.”
Latin had a perfect score – finishing first through fifth – in the Charlotte Independent School Athletic Association meet. Kameron Spence, a sophomore, won in 18 minutes, 36 seconds, followed by Ashley Miess (18:42), Haylee Dawe (18:51), Hillary Dawe (19:58) and Ally Finical (19:59).
“We really have a close-knit group,” Weiss said. “They love running together and training together. During the summer, they ran the right number of miles. So much of how you do depends on what you do in the summer. The girls ran hard miles, and did a lot of work to come into practice in shape.”
Spence and the Dawe sisters (Hillary's a senior; Haylee a sophomore) also benefitted from competing against elite runners in the Down Under Games in Australia last summer. They were part of a team of runners from both Carolinas, and running well also enhanced their confidence, Weiss said.
One senior graduated from last year's title team, which made Latin a firm choice to contend this season. It started the season ranked No.1 among N.C. private schools.
“We decided early on to accept that, and I don't think the girls felt pressure,” Weiss said. “We challenge them to live up to expectations. They have a great ability to focus on what's happening today.”
Weiss' breakdown of the top five Hawks:
Spence: “We had a feeling she'd have a breakout season. An extraordinarily talented kid, with a great work ethic. Her sense of humor keeps us loose. We felt she'd explode in a race, and she did in September when she ran an 18:50.”
Miess: “She wasn't an individual state champion in Arkansas last year, and moved to Charlotte. She battled through some injuries early, but is getting back into form.”
Haylee Dawe: “She's had huge success right from the first meet, when she ran in the 19:30's in the Western N.C. Cross Country Carnival. She finished fourth, but led much of the race. She has helped Kameron (Spence) learn to pace herself in a 5K race.”
Hillary Dawe: “In a lot of ways, Hillary is the heart and soul of the team. She loves to run as much as any athlete I've coached. She set an example during the summer of how to diet, get rest and train. Great student. Great role model.”
Finical: “She used to say her first love was lacrosse, but I think cross country could be gaining. She is an extremely tough competitor who loves a challenge. Your team success is so dependent on your 4-5-6 runners. We gave her the challenge of lifting her game, and she has found another gear.”