Marissa Lobert heads into Wednesday's City High School Cross-Country Championships as the favourite in the senior girls division.
And it's no surprise because the 16-year-old Superior Heights student already finished first in two mini-meets that were held in recent weeks on the same course that will be used during the city meet.
She was also first at the trail trot sponsored by the Soo Finnish Nordic Ski Club this season.
It is Lobert's first year at the senior level, where the course is a little longer and more hilly than the junior course. Lobert says the different course is an advantage for her because she prefers a longer race, and the Superior Heights team welcomes the inclines during training.
"We try to go as fast as we can up the hills. We don't try and slow down on the hills. And then we keep a pretty steady, fast pace," Lobert says. "I'm probably better at a 5 km than a 4 km."
Lobert is happy with how she fared so far this year. She is no stranger to finishing at the head of the pack. She was tops in junior at last year's meet and second in the midget division in Grade 9.
"I'll definitely try my best. It would be nice to win (this year.)"
Superior Heights coach Lorri Purnis says Lobert trains hard and "always goes above and beyond" her expectations.
"She's a true competitor to the core," Purnis says. "She always blows me away with what she's capable of in a race, and that's just because her competitive head is so amazing."
Purnis says Lobert is the runner to beat in senior girls this year.
"I would be very surprised if she did not win."
This will be the first city meet Lobert attends without her sister, Lynnea, who graduated from Superior Heights last June and is now away at university.
Lynnea was also a top cross-country standout at city meets. She was first at the midget, junior and senior levels, but failed to repeat last year as senior champ in Grade 12 and had to settle for second place at the city-wide competition.
Marissa and Lynnea have been very close over the years. They sometimes trained together and often ran together on weekends or at family runs.
"I do miss my sister," Marrisa says.
Her brother, Carter, who is in Grade 9, also runs cross country. But lacing up with Carter is "not quite the same" as hitting the trails with Lynnea, she says.
In order to qualify for the city meet, runners must compete in at least one mini-meet prior to championships.
About 120 students are expected to participate Wednesday. Not all schools enter full teams, which consists of four runners in each of three divisions, in both the girls and boys categories.
Races at the annual fall event begin at Kinsmen Park at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
The Northern Ontario Secondary Schools Association (NOSSA) championships will be held at Hiawatha's Kinsmen Park on Friday, Oct. 28.
About 450 students from the Sault, the North Shore, Sudbury and North Bay are expected at the event.