EVART – Grace Hamilton and Mara VanOrder have been delivering a strong one-two punch for Evart’s girls cross country team this season.

Hamilton a, junior, had one of her stronger races of the season Saturday, Oct, 6, at the Pine River Invitational. She was fourth in 21:37.4.

She has been Evart’s top runner throughout the season.

“I was happy, I finished a lot better here than I did last year,” Hamilton said. “It’s been a really great season. It’s good to see all of our team improving. We’ve been working hard.”

Her best time has been 21:05. She has already beaten her best clocking from a year ago, 21:09.

“I would love to break 20 minutes at state,” Hamilton said. “We’ll have to keep pushing hard at practice and push past whatever comes our way with the weather and how we’re feeling. I ran a lot this summer with my friends and by myself. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in.”

Hamilton said the middle part of the race is her strongest.

“I’m good at keeping up my pace,” she said. “I’m good at the endurance part. I need to work at getting out fast and having a stronger finish, especially the sprint at the end.

“Things are going very well. All the team is working together well and getting a lot done. I want to see the team finished the best we can at regionals and all get our best times there like we did last year.”

VanOrder is in her freshman season.

“I raced pretty good, I wanted to get in the top 10 but I got 11th,” she said after the Pine River Invitational. “I had a goal to pass two girls in front of me which I did at the end. Conditions were a little tough. It was cold and misty. Once you got out there and warmed up, your muscles were really loose.”

VanOrder said colder weather is preferable for runners.

“I feel like you perform better when you body doesn’t have to fight so hard to keep you cool,” she said. “My season has gone pretty good. I’ve got ninth in the (Highland) conference right now, so top 10. I’m looking forward to regionals and hopefully everyone getting PRs and pushing on toward state, if we can.”

Her best time so far is 22:37 and she’s looking for a 21:30 before the season ends.

“I feel like I need to stay strong in the middle of my race and pass more people,” she said. “I want to work on getting better in the middle of the race and my endurance.”

VanOrder has been happy with the team’s performance.

“Everyone is improving. Our team is pushing each other in practices to get practices,” she said.

VanOrder ran seventh-grade cross country.

“I really enjoy my team, it’s so much fun,” she said, adding that the sport will also get her ready for the winter basketball season.