From the moment they began thinking about the 2003 high school track and field season, the St. Basil Saints' junior girls' 4x100-metre relay team talked about their potential and the great things they could accomplish.
First, there was this business of trying to break the City High School track and field record in the relay and then there was this quest to repeat as Northern Ontario Secondary Schools Association junior girls champs.
After that, the team pondered the possibility of making it into the finals at the prestigious Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations meet, something they still feel is within reach.
So far, the junior girls team is 0-1 but that hasn't dampened their spirits or squashed their determination. When they hit the track in their hometown for the annual NOSSA meet on Friday, they still believe they can capture gold and they still believe they can compete against the best junior girls 4x100-metre relay teams the province has to offer.
Now, they just have to go out and prove it.
"We had a lot of pressure on us last week (at the city meet) because everyone expected us to break the record," said Dayna Duggan, who runs the third leg of the relay. "It was kind of frustrating that we didn't do it because last year at NOSSA and OFSAA, we ran the kind of times that would have been good enough to break the city record."
The Saints won gold at the city meet in a time of 52.7 seconds but that was slower than the 52.2 seconds they ran a season ago. The city record is 52.1 seconds and it was set in 1991 by the St. Mary's team of Carly Pezzutto, Stacey Shiels, Melissa Brescacin and Lisa Naccarato.
At last year's NOSSA, Duggan, Kaitlyn DeBoer, Maggie Gareau and Tara Paluzzi combined for a time of 52 seconds flat. They followed that up with an impressive ninth-place finish at OFSAA that saw them run 51.44 seconds.
Now the expectations are higher. Unlike the busy, one-day schedule at the city meet, the girls will have more rest between events.
"We were kind of disappointed at the city meet and we know we can do better," said DeBoer, who runs the first leg of the relay. "It'll be different at NOSSA. Our events are spread out more so we won't be as tired. Believe me, it's hard doing a bunch of events in one day, one after another.
"At the end of the day, you're dead tired and I know I was home sleeping by 7 p.m."
While the Saints are favoured to win the 4x100, Gareau says it won't come without stiff competition. She said Sudbury's LoEllen Park Secondary School has its complete team back from last season and has the potential to win gold.
"We definitely want to come first but it'll be tough," Gareau said. "LoEllen's a really quick team."
Gareau, who runs in the No. 3 spot, said it's one thing to have four of the fastest runners on one relay team and another thing to execute the race with flawless precision.
"You can take the four fastest runners in the city or in Canada but if they can't get the handoff right, you're done."
The race is of particular importance to Gareau and DeBoer, both of whom skipped a grade in elementary school and won't be back for track next year. That's why Paluzzi feels this may represent their best chance for success.
"Two of the girls aren't coming back so it would be really nice to top the performance we had last year," she said. "We'd love to win NOSSA again and do better at OFSAA but it's not going to be easy."
Other female athletes expected to fare well at NOSSA include, in senior girls, Sarah Hayman from White Pines, Gina Aceti from St. Basil and Amanda Evans from White Pines; in junior girls, Janine Olthuis and Marnie Smith, both from Sir James Dunn; and, in midget girls, Kristen Johnson and Alex Ambeault from Sir James Dunn.