Outlegging Viktoria Koskenoja is the mountain Marnie Smith hasn't quite been able to climb. But Smith, a Grade 11 student at Sir James Dunn, is still in there plugging.
Having finished second to Koskenoja, one of Sault Ste. Marie's premier runners, three times in major events in her brief cross-country career, Smith would no doubt love to edge her White Pines Collegiate rival at Wednesday's annual city meet at Hiawatha Trails.
But she knows that won't be easy. And so, at the very least, Smith is aiming to close the gap between them.
Wednesday's event begins at 12:30 p.m., with the Midget Girls' three-kilometre race.
The Junior Girls' (4K) event, which features Koskenoja and Smith, is scheduled to start at 1 p.m.
The duo finished 1-2 in junior in last year's city and Northern Ontario Secondary Schools Association (NOSSA) meets and at the NOSSA championships as midgets the previous year.
"I know that she's (Koskenoja) really good, so I'll try my best and see what happens," said the 16-year-old Smith. "She trains really hard. She puts a lot of dedication into the sport she loves and it pays off."
"She (Smith) is a hard worker, a team person and a quiet leader," said SJD head coach Randa Coulter. "She realizes Viktoria is outstanding, but I know she'll go out and run her hardest."
Knowing of Koskenoja's strong work ethic has spurred Smith to increase her own training schedule. Citing the mental aspect of the sport, Smith has also tried to improve her approach in that regard.
Ironically, the two have trained together, along with other runners, during the summer months, and Smith considers Koskenoja a friend.
"But there's still that little competition between us," she said.
Wednesday's action also includes the following races: Midget Boys' (5K) at 1:30 p.m., Senior Girls' (5K) at 2 p.m., Junior Boys' (6K) at 2:30 p.m. and Senior Boys' (7K) at 3 p.m.
Sir James Dunn is the defending co-ed and boys' aggregate champion while White Pines comes in as the defending girls' aggregate champ.