Marissa Lobert and Amelia Marrato are close.
Best friends since Grade 1, the two Sir James Dunn runners train together, hang out together and Saturday, finished a race within a stride of each other.
In the midget girls 3- kilometre event, Lobert wound up 29th and Marrato 30th -- the top Sault Ste. Marie finishes -- at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) Cross- Country Championships in Woodbridge, Ont.
In a race with 222 entries, Lobert's time was 13:31.48, less than half a second ahead of Marrato's 13:31.74.
The winning time of 12:03.94 was posted by Jaimie Phelan of St. Mary's high school in Kitchener.
"Amelia was ahead of me for most of the race," said the 14-year-old Lobert, who finished second to Marrato in the city championships. "I don't think I was ahead of her until the last step."
"We push each other," said Marrato, 14, who wound up in fifth place at the Northern Ontario Secondary Schools Association (NOSSA) meet, two spots behind Lobert. "It's a friendly rivalry."
Neither of the Grade 9 students knew what to expect at their first provincial championship.
And both, while somewhat surprised, were also proud of their showings.
"I just tried to pick them off person-by-person," Lobert said of the sea of opponents she faced. "I tried to move up one spot at a time."
"I tried to stay strong the whole race," added Marrato, who also employed a one-person-at-a- time strategy to move up. "It was awesome and I'm happy with how I did.
Korah's Nick Burns secured the next best local finish, a 45th out of 242 runners in the midget boys 5k. Burns finished in 19:56.04, more than 1:41 off the winning pace.
Jack Carlyle (25:59.27) of Korah topped local runners in the senior boys 7k finishing 58th out of 242.
The next best local was St. Basil's Annie Reader (17:13.35). She placed 63rd in a field of 240 in the junior girls 3.8k.
Daniel Turco (24: 46.89) of St. Mary's was 71st out of 242 entries in the junior boys 6k.
SJD's Carly Wetzl (23:52.28), who finished 133rd out of 236 runners, was the top Sault runner in the senior girls 5k.
Meantime, with an 18th-place performance, the Korah senior boys recorded the top team finish among Sault schools.
The St. Mary's junior boys were next with a 26th overall.