MARIETTA — The pressure of the state cross country meet is slowly building for the Marietta Indians.
On Saturday, both boys and girls teams will compete at Gordon Cooper Vo-Tech in Shawnee at the Class 3A state meet.
Marietta's top-ranked girls team will run at noon, and the state-ranked boys run at 12:45 p.m.
"The pressure, they're feeling it a little bit more than they have all year," Marietta coach Matt Appleman said. "But our expectations all year have been to win it. We've run and trained all year with the goal of winning state."
The course will be known territory for the Indians.
"We're really familiar with the course," Appleman said. "We ran it twice last year and twice this year. It's a good fair course. Not too hard and not too easy either."
Jaime Alexander won the Velma-Alma regional on Saturday with a 12:35.56. As one of the top runners in Class 3A, Alexander often sets the pace at meets.
"Sometimes I try to set the pace," Alexander said. "But if someone goes out ahead, I stay with their pace. Then if they slow down, I go."
The course in Shawnee features a hill, but the Indians didn't seem concerned about the elevation change.
"It's nothing we haven't handled before, we've done bigger hills," sophomore Abbie Winchester said.
Winchester finished fourth at the regional meet and admitted that higher expectations have been tough to live up to.
"It's a lot more pressure, instead of coming from behind and winning to being expected to win," Winchester said. "There is pressure knowing you're supposed to win."
Despite the lofty ranking, Appleman said his team will need its best effort to bring home the state crown.
"Tahlequah Sequoyah is ranked No. 2 in the state, and Marlow is No. 3," Appleman said. "I think it will be one of those three teams that win it on Saturday.
"We're going to have to run well. We can't show up and not run our best and win it. The girls know that and I know that. If we run our best, we have a chance to be up there and win it."
The Marietta boys are ranked No. 14 in Class 3A with a state title a longshot heading into Saturday.
"The boys' expectations are a little different," Appleman said. "We want to be in the top 10. We're not as advanced as we are on the girls side. We have some junior high boys coming up that we're excited about. Next year, our goals will start changing and get closer to what the girls are. We're happy to get to state."
The Indians' top runner on the boys side is sophomore Zac Neely, who finished sixth at the regional meet. Neely said the team is prepared for state.
"I feel like with the workouts that we've done, I don't think anyone is more prepared than us," Neely said. "With (coach Appleman) pushing us every single day, it gets us to where we felt like we couldn't be before."
Jesus Fernandez finished 16th in the region, and Appleman said he and Neely are out to beat their personal records.