By Wayne Cook

MARSHALL - When Emily VanKeulen was a seventh-grader, she went out for cross country at Marshall High School.

Now, there are three in the family running, as twins Grant and Hailey are participating. They are eighth-graders. Emily is a junior. All three runners are scoring at the varsity level.

“It’s pretty fun running with them,” Emily said. “In my family, there aren’t any runners, I did it for friends. When I was good, they decided to join in too.”

“Yeah, it is fun to run together with Emily,” Hailey said. “Emily did it, and my parents watched her. I liked it. I wanted to go out for a second year to see if I had a better year. It was pretty fun.”

“I didn’t go out because of Emily,” Grant said. “A couple of my friends were there, and I think it was pretty fun last year - so I tried it again.”

His friends, Chad DeAustin and Chris Veldhuisen, are also eighth-graders.

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While Emily has been part of Tigers’ teams that qualified for the state meet, her younger brother and sister are getting their careers launched.

“I try to act like a role model so that she can get better and run up with the top runne. That will help us make it to state again,” Emily said.

Emily is Marshall’s second runner behind Brooke Wyffels this year.

“I’m getting closer to Brooke. That was my goal,” Emily said.

Emily’s personal-best time is 15:08. That’s what she ran at last year’s state meet. This year, her best time is 15:38.

“I’m going for the low 16s,” she said. “I really want to break that. Hopefully, by the next meet, I can break 16 (minutes) again.”

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Hailey missed about half of last season due to an injury.

“I did a couple of meets, but I tore a groin muscle so I had to sit out the rest of the year,” she said. “I don’t think I did enough stretching.”

The injury came at the first meet in Morris, but she tried to stay involved.

“I kept practicing and it just got worse,” Hailey said. “At the Canby meet (the sixth meet of the year), I had to drop out. I couldn’t go any more.”

She’s made an impact this fall.

“It’s good she’s here this year,” Emily said. “We lost a lot of girls and she’s helping to fill those spots. I think she’s learning from her mistakes, and that she will get better.”

“I’m feeling pretty good. I make sure I get stretched out now,” Hailey said.

She wants to improve in her individual placings and run close to Emily.

“She tells me to stay out in front of people so you don’t get caught behind,” Hailey said. “Stuff like that. I try to listen (to her). I’ve been trying to get close to Emily, to be in the top 20 of every race.”

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Grant, meanwhile, is working his way up in the Tigers’ lineup, currently ranking as the fourth and/or fifth runner.

That’s quite a difference from his rookie year last year.

“I ran JV for the last meet,” he said. “Otherwise, I ran junior high. I thought it was pretty fun. The varsity is a lot tougher. The race is so much faster. It’s completely different. In junior high, if you can get somewhere in front, you can get in the top five. Now, I’m normally 20th or so. It’s a big difference.”

Grant is making steady progress.

“I’m trying to break 18 minutes. I was 25 seconds off the last meet,” he said.

“Last year, my best time was at 21 minutes. I’ve knocked off almost three minutes off that time.”

His goal: To finish in the top 10 of a race.

Like his sisters, Grant loves to run.

“I like the people and just doing good,” he said.