Hutchinson cross-country star Isabelle Schmitz didn’t mince words about her goals following her third straight win last week in the Tigers’ home invitational at Lake Marion Park.

“This whole season I have a bigger goal. It’s not just making it to state, and even at track (last spring) I just wanted to medal. This year I’m going for the championship,” she said. “This early in the season, I haven’t laid down a fantastic time yet, and I’m really looking forward to that at a fast course to lay down a fast time and show the other girls I’m not someone who’s just a little seventh grader anymore. … I’m ready to compete at the top level and hopefully bring home a blue medal.”

With the addition of a third class to cross-country this year, Schmitz’ goal has never been more attainable. Even in past years with two classes, Schmitz was ranked among the best in the state. In the latest Class AA poll this year, however, she is No. 2 behind only Natasha Sortland of Zumbrota-Mazeppa.

Going into last week’s home race, Schmitz was ranked No. 5 and looking forward to competition from Waseca’s Ella Dufault, who was ranked No. 6 at the time. Despite warm, windy weather making for difficult racing conditions, Schmitz won the race by more than a minute. Even so, it was the closest competition she’s had yet this year.

“The first two races, there was almost none. I won by about two and four minutes, so it was a huge gap,” Schmitz said. “This race, that gap was a lot smaller. Ella Dufault was my biggest competition going into the race, and it definitely gave me a different mindset. I was a little more competitive, I had more of a racing mindset, and when I started she stuck right with me for the first little bit. That turned on my adrenaline and I really started going.”

As a team the Tigers finished ninth out of 11 squads, including highly ranked teams such as No. 3 Marshall and No. 6 Mankato East, which finished first and second, respectively.

After Schmitz, Morgan Dean had the next best finish for the Tigers in 28th place, and the Madison Wester in 50th place.

In the boys competition, Hutch finished last as a team and was led by Mason Getz, who took 16th place. Like everyone that day, he said dealing with the wind and heat made racing a bit tougher than usual.

“I know the top two guys usually go in the 16:00s, and 17:20 was the winning time,” he said. “So everyone added a lot (of time).”

After Getz, Cameron Wagner was second for the Tigers, finishing 36th, and Tyson Farley came in next at 38th place. Buffalo, which is ranked No. 11 in Class AAA, won the meet, followed by Mankato East, which is ranked No. 7 in Class AA.

While both the girls and boys teams continue to build up the competitive level of their programs, what doesn’t seem to need much coaching is the team’s support of one another.

“There’s nobody in the tent anymore,” Getz said, “they’re all out on the course cheering everyone on, and the cheering really gets people going.”

“It’s always a great time to spend with the team and bond,” Schmitz said. “At track it’s a little different because it’s such a large team and everyone is running different events. This, it’s a lot tighter and we’re a great group of friends.”