Hicks earns spot on varsity cross country team

Seventh grader, Stella Hicks runs a strider on the track in Pony Stadium on Sept. 23 in preparation for their race the next day. Hicks is running Varsity as a seventh grader on her first year on the team, and is improving quickly and becoming a key contributor.

Photo by Brooke Elfert

Seventh grader, Stella Hicks runs a strider on the track in Pony Stadium on Sept. 23 in preparation for their race the next day. Hicks is running Varsity as a seventh grader on her first year on the team, and is improving quickly and becoming a key contributor.

Brooke Elfert, Business Editor and Copy Editor

Seventh grader Stella Hicks ran away with the competition, earning her spot as 4th runner ,on the girls varsity cross country team during the teams annual time trial the first week of practice at the high school in August.

The girls high school cross country team has a specific qualification pertaining to middle schoolers- in order to run with the high school team as a 7th or 8th grader, the athlete must be in the top 7 fastest girls on the team, therefore earning their spot on varsity. Hicks clearly made this mark with room to spare when she ran the 4th fastest time during the team’s two mile time trial.

“I’m hoping that she continues to improve her running, as well as being a part of the varsity all season long,” head coach Dawn Podolske said as she described her goals for Hicks.

At the first meet of the season, the Irish Invitational in Rosemount, Stillwater faced 20 other teams, and Hicks finished 23rd out of 166 girls racing varsity, and 4th on the team. She ran this 2 mile race in a time of 12:49,  just 5 seconds behind junior Morgan Peterman and 14 seconds in front of sophomore Meredith Christensen.

Christensen and Hicks have quickly learned how to work together this season, “She and I run the same pace, so we’re able to pace off of each other and run together in races,” Christensen said.

Although having middle school kids on the team is not always common, runners scoring 1-2-3 for Stillwater all joined the team in middle school. Juniors Brooke Elfert, Avery Braunshausen and Morgan Peterman are all long time athletes of this team, with Braunshausen being the most recent to ever run varsity as a seventh grader.

Podolske explained what it is like to coach young runners, “In my experience it’s been a very positive thing working with younger kids. With Stella and her build, she should improve as she develops and gets stronger. ”

Pull Quote: With her young talent and speed, there’s nothing stopping her, and head coach, Dawn Podolske believes it. “

I think she could be in the top 30 at the state meet. It just depends on her drive, and of course staying injury free is a big, big, thing.”

— Dawn podolske

With only a 1:45 split between all top 5 runners, they run all of their workouts together, pushing each other to become better with each mile repeat. In particular during the races, Braunshausen, Peterman and Elfert are known to work together to work their way up, and Christensen and Hicks seem to be working together during races in a similar way.

“She’s depending a lot on her teammates that are very experienced runners, and are following their strides,” Podolske said about how Stella works with her team.

Looking ahead, the state cross country meet this year is on Nov. 6 and will be held at St. Olaf. The past 2 years, the girls cross country team has finished 5th at State and hope to do so again, even after graduating some serious talent and depth of the team.

Podolske explained what goals she has for Stella at the State meet, “I think the team will get in the state meet and I think she will be a part of that top 7.” With her young talent and speed, there’s nothing stopping her, and her coach believes it. “I think she could be in the top 30 at the state meet. It just depends on her drive, and of course staying injury free is a big, big, thing.”

With these goals in mind, they must prepare all season long, “The intensity of our hard days are very hard,” Podolske said. The team has practiced skill and technique, as well as a variety of pacing workouts, with hopes that their hard work will propel them to the State Meet Nov. 6.