The Goddard girls cross country team was full of talk — talk that seemed outlandish after the program suffered through injuries and sicknesses that derailed last season.
"We don't want to just qualify, we want to win state," senior Julie Randall said. "We know we may never get this chance again. All of us seniors want this to be our year to win state."
Winning a Class 6A title? There was no validity to the statement in August. But as the season has progressed, Goddard has established itself as one of the Wichita-area teams with a chance.
"I think it was a little surprising," sophomore Megan Ballinger said, 'but we knew we could do it. We talk about it all the time. We want it really bad."
Ballinger has been a steadying force for the Lions, almost a lock every meet to finish in the low 15-minute range. But what has made the team competitive has been the recovery and comeback of two seniors, Randall and Courtney Maddux.
Randall was nearly driven away from running after a nagging injury frustrated her last season.
"It was horrible," Randall said. "I cried after every meet. Every race my times went up."
After a successful track season, Randall has recovered and is a threat to break 16 minutes.
Maddux actually quit the team days before the season began.
"I just didn't know if I wanted to do it anymore," Maddux said. "I didn't know if my heart was in it. But after three days of not practicing, I called coach (Brian Wetta) because I needed to do it because I missed it too much."
Last weekend at the El Dorado Invitational, Maddux shaved more than 30 seconds off her personal best time and ran a 15:44.
"It's just hard to describe what she did for herself and for her team," Wetta said. "That's just a big step for her. It was so unexpected. By me, by the team and even by herself."
Freshman Sarah Irsik has been the team's fourth runner, with Meredith Skidmore, Tiana Hacker and Jeanna Lewis alternating between the fifth score.
Goddard has yet to pick up a marquee win as a team. But Saturday, the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail Division I meet at Lake Afton provides a chance against defending 6A champion Derby.
"If they did it, why can't we?" Ballinger said.