Every week, the Ardmoreite will feature area prep athletes headed into the start of the fall sports season.

Marietta surprised even itself by placing fifth at the Class 3A girls state cross country meet last fall.

Now, it's up to the Indians to maintain the standard. That starts with Abbie Winchester, who placed 10th at state as a freshman. Winchester is one of several returning runners for the Indians, who have their sights set on challenging Plainview for 3A's top spot.

What made everything come together for your team last season?
Winchester: "We got a new coach (Matt Appleman) and it was only a couple of us, but he got more girls involved and we got really excited about it. He helped us get more girls to run and we kept working hard."

Is there an excitement around the program since last fall?
Winchester: "We have some more people out this year, so instead of trying to make a team, we already have a team. We know what it takes and we don't want to just get there, we want to do more than that."

Coming onto the scene as a freshman last year, how pleased were you with your performance in your first varsity season?
Winchester: "I didn't expect for the team or myself to do as well as we did. I wasn't sure what to expect but I was happy with how our team finished and competed."

What is your overall goal and what do you need to do in order to get there?
Winchester: "Individually, I want to be more consistent. I know what I can do, I want to improve my times and remove the bad times that I had last season. I just want to be more consistent. As a team, I think we can be top three, if we all work hard and do what we are capable of."

Follow Carter on Twitter: @wcarterARD

"She means a lot to us. She leads by example and it shows the other girls the way it needs to be done. I think she definitely has a chance to do great things in cross country and track. When she sets a goal and works hard at it, she achieves what she wants to. She carries a 4.0 and is a great student overall. She's just a joy to be around."
— Marietta cross country head coach Matt Appleman