The Mille Lacs Raiders girls cross-country team competed in the annual Early Bird Meet staged at Stones Throw Golf Course in Milaca on Aug. 26. The team has a rich history competing in this meet, starting in 2003 when Onamia High began fielding a cross-country team and continuing in 2005 when Onamia and Isle High Schools combined to become the Mille Lacs Raiders.
Only once before has an athlete from Mille Lacs placed in the top five at the Early Bird event, and on Aug. 25, Onamia sophomore Molly Saboo became the second. She joined Mary Catherine Virnig who placed fifth in 2005.
Saboo started the race in the top 10. At the mile mark of the 3.1-mile race, she held her position. “I was a little worried she went out too fast,” said Raiders coach Jeff Walz. At the two-mile mark she still was in the top 10 and had a great split.
“She gutted out the final mile by drawing on the experience she gained running a 26.2-mile marathon earlier this summer,” Walz claimed.
Saboo’s time of 22:09 was impressive but not her personal best.
Only one other Raider, freshman Nevaeh Merrill, ran in the event as a varsity competitor. Both she and Saboo were all-conference last season.
Junior Hailey Remer is the third girl returning to the squad from last season. “Hailey looked really good, cutting two minutes off her 5K from last season, and you can tell she has been working hard getting ready for this year,” Walz said.
The Raiders have not yet been able to field a complete varsity team of at least five runners but are looking closely at their group of seventh-graders who included Arielle Pendegayosh, Rihanna Smith and Isabella Cerrillo.
“These three girls ran in the junior high section of the meet, and each of them place in the top 20 earning ribbons,” Walz said. “We will have to cross our fingers hoping they will stay out for the sport and maybe make varsity this fall.”