In its long history, the team had never made it to the state meet in consecutive years.
All that changed last year, and now the Lady Blue Devils are expected, for a third straight season, to run in Carrollton in November.
Not only are they expected to be there, but they’re expected to contend. Six of Marietta’s top runners are back, with most having run together for at least three years.
And at the end of their freshman campaign in 2011, the current crop of seniors were disappointed with a fifth-place finish in the Region 4AAAAA meet — one spot short of earning a place in the state meet.
The Lady Blue Devils refused to come up short the following year and was able to secure a ticket to Carrollton in 2012. They finished 15th overall that year, which ended up being a learning experience.
When Marietta returned to Carrollton last fall as the county champion and runner-up in Region 4AAAAAA, it left the state championship with a third-place finish behind Peachtree Ridge and Brookwood.
“I’d be real happy if we can get back to the podium,” Marietta coach Jack Coleman said. “If we can get higher than (third), it would be great. They have set their goals, and I will support them as best as I can as a coach.”
Coleman has realistic expectations with his top three runners coming back.
Senior Mary Jeanne Assinzo joined the team as a sophomore and emerged as the Lady Blue Devils’ top runner last year, capping the season with a second-place finish at the state meet, in a time of 19 minutes, 13.48 seconds. She also won the region meet in 18:51.67.
Assinzo, senior Rebecca Dow and junior Kayla Dawson are expecting to drop time this season, and the threesome has shown they have the speed and endurance to help the Lady Blue Devils exceed their 2013 performances and possibly win the school’s first state title in cross country.
Behind Assinzo, Dow was ninth at state in 19:41.40, with Dawson 18th (19:54.77).
Senior Juanita Londono is another returning runner and should contribute, as should junior Halle Wrentz and senior Reagan Durham.
All the summer training Marietta’s runners endured is expecting to pay dividends. They met three days a week to run together at the Kennesaw Mountain battlefield, while also logging extra miles on their own.
Harrison, which bested Marietta in the Region 4AAAAAA meet last season, also returns a nucleus of solid runners, led by juniors Emily Duvaris, Andie Whitfield and Jennifer Tull, and sophomore Maddie Rountree.
The Lady Hoyas are looking to improve upon their eighth-place showing at the state meet last season, as is Walton, which settled for fourth after finishing second in 2012 and winning consecutive state titles in 2010 and ’11.
The Lady Raiders won Region 5AAAAAA and finished second in the county last season, behind the times of Avery Bussjager, who beat Assinzo for the state title with a time of 19:04.20.
Bussjager is back for her senior year and will be joined by seniors Katie Sanders, Christie Sanders, Caitlyn McSwigan and Hannah Sharpe, and sophomore Vivian Bridges.
Pope will find out how well it fares in Class AAAAAA after finishing 10th in the Class AAAAA meet last season. The Lady Greyhounds, who return two juniors in county champion Ashley Kehoe and Brittany Powell, will be joining Walton in Region 5AAAAAA.