The Annandale girls country team has a right to brag.
The Cardinals boast two of Class A’s top runners in senior Courtney Alama and sophomore Elizabeth Schlafke. Alama is ranked No. 5 in the latest state poll and Schlafke is No. 9.
Annandale head coach Scott Massmann knows how lucky his team is to have the two standouts. Annandale is ranked No. 2 as a team in the Class A poll.
“It’s very rare to have this. Both girls have been exceptional runners for a while,” Massmann said. “They’re getting the recognition they deserve. Courtney’s been a top 20 runner since she was in eighth grade.”
Added Massmann: “They’ve probably flown under the radar until now. They’re both so hardworking.
“I think they are both among the top 20 runners in the state. It’s exciting for them, but they’re taking the rankings with a grain of salt. They know that they have a target on them now.”
Schlafke took sixth place at the Class A state meet last November with a time of 14 minutes, 46.3 seconds. Alama was 13th with a time of 15:06.8.
Those times helped lead the Cardinals to a second-place finish as a team. Both runners feel they have the team that can compete for a state championship.
“I think it’s possible,” Schlafke said. “We all know what we’re capable of. We have some younger girls who are coming on strong. We’re not all established yet, but Hannah Groth, Marina Chapman and Shanna Grambart all did well last year. We’ve only had two meets so far, so it’s hard to tell who’s all going to contribute.”
Said Alama: “We have the exact same team back and that’s why I think it’s possible. We put in a lot of work this summer and we’ve all been running well. I think it will keep getting better. We’re all pretty close, so that helps.”
The two runners have very different styles. Alama ran a lot this summer, but didn’t keep track of how many miles she ran. Meanwhile, Schlafke can tell you exactly what she ran: 325 miles.
Alama doesn’t hold back when the race starts. She’s always off to a fast start and doesn’t hold anything back.
Schlafke is more deliberate. She’ll start out with the pack and doesn’t pick up speed until the first mile is over.
Despite those differences, the two complement each other pretty well. They’ve become good friends and they ran together about two or three times a week over the summer.
“We weren’t as close when I was younger,” Schlafke said. “We’ve definitely grown into being good friends. We talk a lot and are a lot closer. We kind of had a rivalry at first, but then we started doing races together and developed a good friendship.
“Courtney’s always helped push me to become better. If she gets ahead of me, I’ll always try and catch up. She’ll always push me to go faster in practice.”
Alama admits the two had a rivalry at first, but she’s glad they got to know each other better.
“We just didn’t know each other that well. Now we can text each other and go run in the summer together,” Alama said. “We make each other better and push each other. We’ve formed a bond and gotten a lot closer.”
Massmann thinks the two have a healthy competition going.
“In our first two meets, Courtney beat Elizabeth,” Massmann said. “They’ve been pretty close. Liz logged a few more miles than Courtney during the summer so her legs are a little flatter. I think they’ll be pretty comparable by the end of the year.
“When one beats the other, they don’t feel like they had a good race. That’s good because they’re both pushing each other. They both know they help each other out.”
Schlafke’s best career time was that mark at state last year. Alama’s run a 15:02 before. They hope they can both reach their peak time at the state meet this year.
“I want to make it back to state and get in the top 10 again for sure,” Schlafke said. “Hopefully I can drop my time again.”
Alama just wants to get into the top 10.
“I think I can do that,” she said. “I wanted it last year, but I didn’t get it. I just have to keep working hard. My biggest goal is to break that 15-minute barrier.”
The two are going to miss each other when Alama heads off to college next fall. Alama plans to run in college, but isn’t sure where yet.
“Courtney’s a lot of fun. She’s fun to be around. We’ve had some funny moments together,” Schlafke said. “It’s going to be weird without her next year. We always run together.”
Alama will miss planning out what they’re going to eat the day of a race. The two also talk about the weather before every race just to shoot the breeze.
“Lizzy is just fun to be around,” Alama said. “We’ve had some funny times together. She’s so talkative now. We’re just kind of weird when we’re together.”
Weird, but successful.