Over the past few weeks Mille Lacs cross country coach Jeff Walz has been preparing his younger athletes to make the jump from junior high to varsity. “This truly is a jump, going from two miles to 3.1 miles,” Walz said.
At the Mega Milaca meet on Saturday, Sept. 21, which featured an astounding 150 schools and nearly 3,000 runners, Walz was forced to run his 7th-graders in the 3.1 (5k) race because of poor weather conditions. “I knew they were ready,” Walz said.
The “they” the coach was referring to were Arielle Pendegayosh, Rihanna Smith and Isabella Cerrillo. Adding the three under-classmen to the mix allowed Walz to field a complete varsity team. In that meet, Onamia sophomore Molly Saboo finished 10th among the 250 10th-graders running.
The Raiders then tested this newly completed team at the St. John’s Invitational last week.
“This race is very difficult because of the ruggedness of the course, but our girls managed beautifully,” Walz claimed.
Molly Saboo led the charge as the team ran well. “All the younger athletes look up to Molly and want to be like her,” Walz said. Saboo finished sixth overall in the 13-team meet at Collegeville earning her a prized loaf of “Johnny Bread.” Seventh-grader Arielle Pendegayosh earned a 25th-place finish and place second on the Raiders team.
Freshman Nevaeh Merrill, 7th-grader Rihanna Smith, junior Hailey Remer and 7th-grader Isabella Berrillo followed in order for the Raiders. The team finished a respectable sixth place, one place behind the 2018 Great River Conference champions Hinckley/Finlayson. “After watching how our girls competed at this meet, I am totally excited to see what happens during the rest of the season,” Walz said.