Archive for Kip Kovar

STATE VOLLEYBALL: Slow starts doom Royals in Class AA quarterfinals

ST. PAUL – The experience of the state tournament is nothing new to the Watertown-Mayer volleyball team. They’ve been here before.

That’s why the Royals were left frustrated as they came out empty handed again in their Class AA quarterfinal matchup against fifth-seeded Concordia Academy Thursday night. Although the Royals beat the Beacons earlier this season, Concordia Academy took advantage of slow starts early by W-M, and handed the Royals a frustrating loss with a 3-0 (25-19, 25-18, 25-12) sweep at the Xcel Energy Center.

“I don’t think they’re hard to overcome,” W-M coach Andrea Raser said about the slow starts. “We’ve done it all season. We just didn’t do it (tonight). It’s disappointing. We step on this stage, we earned our way here, and we go out there and just don’t step up to the plate. It’s frustrating because anyone who has watched us knows that’s not our game.”

In all three sets, the fourth-seeded Royals were forced to play catchup throughout. Even when they made a run to try and get back into it, the Beacons always had the answer.

“It’s super frustrating, especially when certain calls don’t go your way or uncontrollable things happen and you just can’t do anything about it,” junior Paige Thibault said. “You just have to work through it, and that just didn’t go in our favor tonight.”

W-M tried to fight through their struggles, but couldn’t seem to get out of their own way. Just when they showed some life to get back into the match, crucial mistakes kept pushing them back down.

“Honestly, they played a great game, but we gave them the game,” Raser said. “That’s what is frustrating. We didn’t play. It’s hard for me to talk about anything they did when we didn’t do what we needed to do.”

One bright spot for the Royals was the emergence of Ashley Olson. The sophomore middle hitter had five kills, two blocks, and two aces to give W-M a much-needed spark.

“Ashely stepped up,” Raser said. “Out of all the games that we needed her to step up, she came and she did what she needed to do. Unfortunately, the team didn’t back her up in that. You get somebody who’s been working really hard all year to get consistent, it’s frustrating. Imagine what would happen if we all were there tonight.”

For W-M, the message is to move on. What’s done is done, and their season is now on the line, as well. They’ll take on fellow Wright County Conference foe Annandale in the consolation semifinals tomorrow night. For senior Madison Peter, she simply wants her to team come out with more energy.

“I think we need to step up,” Peter said. “We need to get our energy back. We just need to play. Just play ball and be happy when we get a point. We need to celebrate more and just get excited and be proud we’re here.”

W-M defeated Annandale earlier this season, but ultimately, the Royals just need to move on and come out ready to play.

“I think we just need to shake off tonight and go get it tomorrow,” Thibault said. ‘“Just don’t think about anything that just happened. (It’s) a clean slate and new start tomorrow, and go play our game.”

“Just go out there with confidence,” Raser added. “How ironic is that you go and play a conference rival at the state tournament? No matter what, we just need to go out and have fun and play our game. Just not settle for being here. I’m sick of just being here. Let’s do something about it.”

With Thursday night’s loss to Concordia Academy, W-M is now 0-7 in state tournament matches. While it’s certainly frustrating, Raser believes that streak can be snapped simply by showing up ready to play.

“It’s not like there is a curse on is,” Raser said. “We just have to show up and play. Today, we played horrible. Our goal is to win our last game of the season. We’ve got time to do that yet. We’re not hanging our heads. We’re going to go out and keep playing ball.”

PREP VOLLEYBALL: Royals not satisfied with just being back at the state tournament

WATERTOWN – The Watertown-Mayer volleyball team is back at the state tournament for a third-straight year. That’s not where they want the story to end.

Despite going 0-2 in their past two appearances at the Class AA state tournament, the Royals have one simple goal in mind this time around.

“The message is that we don’t settle,” W-M coach Andrea Raser said. “We’re there to play until Saturday. Our goal, we always want to win that last game of the season. No matter what happens on Thursday, we still have two more days of the state tournament. That’s what we’re playing for. We’re playing to go out there and not settle.”

While the past two trips to the state tournament haven’t gone as planned for the Royals, they know this year is different. They have some big-time talent with experience back, as well as some younger talent eager to snap that streak this season.

There’s a sense of change surrounding the Royals this season. For junior Paige Thibault, the bond and chemistry this team has this season is something she hasn’t seen before. It’s something that has helped the Royals all season long.

“The biggest difference between this group (and last year), I think, is truly the bond,” Thibault said. “Our team this year is probably the strongest team that I’ve ever been on in any sport. I’ve never had a bond like I have with this team. That’s something that is just amazing, and I think that has been honestly helped us get to state this year and earn that section title.”

That bond and relationship the Royals have with one another has them as the No. 4 seed in the Class AA state tournament. They’ll face No. 5 Concordia Academy in the Class AA quarterfinals, a team they’ve already beaten earlier this season.

“They have an awesome team all around,” Raser said. “They have a really big hitter in (Kira Fallert), who’s an outside hitter. She had a great game against Academy of Holy Angels when we were watching them on Saturday. We know that we have to take care of business on defense, and also on serve/receive so we can run our offense.”

While W-M knows they’ve already beaten the Beacons once this year, they know that they’ll need to come ready to play and know there will be changes made on both sides.

“We kind of know their tendencies,” Thibault said. “We’re ready to take them on again. We’ve talked a lot about, both teams, have gotten a lot better towards the end of the season since we played them so early on. We’ve talked about changes and what we’re going to do to try and beat them.”

However the Royals do in their first match of the state tournament, the message and goal remains the same. They are here to play until Saturday. Only nine teams in the state get to end their season with a win. The Royals will be looking to be one of them.

“That’s the thing. We know that, win or lose, we’ll play either Stewartville or Annandale,” Raser said. “We have game film on Annandale, and we have nothing on Stewartville. We’re also playing at the same time, so we don’t get that luxury of watching them play. It’s just kind of picking at stats and trying to prepare for either team for whatever way it goes. In reality, this is the third time. The girls are going in and there’s a couple of girls who have been there two times now. This is their third time going. They understand that we’re not going to settle just because we got there. We’re going to keep fighting. You want to play that Saturday game.”

PREP VOLLEYBALL: Watertown-Mayer volleyball – a family affair

WATERTOWN – In this day and age, high school varsity teams often adopt a motto or phrase to surround their team for the season. A lot of teams will used the word family, to create a sense of belonging and cohesiveness with their squads.

While other teams can adopt this this motto, the Watertown-Mayer volleyball team is living it. With three sets of sisters on this year’s varsity team, the Royals are truly a family.

“It’s interesting,” W-M coach Andrea Raser said about having three sets of sisters on the team. “It’s always funny to see. Of course, they know each other so well, and they bring that to the court.”

While having your sister on the court with you can help with some communication during matches on the floor, Raser also sees it as an opportunity for communication between plays that might not happen for other teams.

“It helps the dynamic because you can say something to your sister that maybe somebody else on the court might not say to you,” Raser said. “It keeps us on our toes a little bit. It keeps the girls honest with each other. Teams say they are family. Well, half of our team is family. When you have someone that is out there who you can look at and tell them let’s do this or that, and they’re going to say it straight up, I think that makes our team better because they can do that.”

The Royals lost five seniors from last year’s team who led them to back-to-back state tournament appearances. Even with those five players gone, the Royals are back once again. Their team chemistry is certainly a big reason for their return.

“Us coaches, as the season progressed, saw how tight this group of girls was,” Raser said. “It’s not just exciting to go to the state tournament, but we’re so excited for these girls to continue to play together. They just truly enjoy hanging out with each other and playing together. They play as a team. To see them able to get to do that longer, that’s super exciting.”

Playing with your sister has a lot of positives, and some negatives. There’s time where one will get frustrated, but in the end, things all work out.

“It’s not always a good thing because sometimes we get mad and yell at each other, but it’s all out of love,” junior Paige Thibault said. “In the end, we just play for each other, especially the sisters. We don’t want to be done because there’s lots of sisters that are seniors.”

Paige Thibault, along with freshman libero Kate Thibault, is one of the sets of sisters for the Royals this season. The other two are Kailey and Ashley Olson, and Ella and Lauren Foley. While those six have a certain chemistry with each other, the other members of the team feel part of the family, as well, whether good or bad.

“It’s funny watching all the sisters interact and argue sometimes,” sophomore setter Natalie Ernhart said. “I think it actually brings us all together. All of us are different.”

As a family, the Royals will step onto the court at the Xcel Energy Center Thursday evening for the Class AA state tournament. They’ll do so as they’ve done all season long, knowing their roles and playing for each other.

“I think it will be so much fun,” Ernhart said. “Our team dynamic is crazy good. We’re all super excited. Everyone plays a big role on this team, and everyone knows their role. Everyone feels good about this year, and we’re excited.”

“I’m really proud of my team especially,” Thibault said. “Even though we did lose a lot of players from last year, that doesn’t define this team. This is a completely different team. I think that shows a lot about our program. It’s building up, and I’m really proud of our team this year.”

PREP VOLLEYBALL: Ernhart ready to make her mark at the state tournament

WATERTOWN – Sophomore setter Natalie Ernhart knows what the state tournament is all about. She saw some action during last year’s state tournament run, playing behind senior Nikki McDonald.

This year, Ernhart has taken over the setter position all by herself, and her emergence has the Royals back at the state tournament for a third-straight season despite losing five key seniors from last year’s team.

“Last year, I was younger and I felt more disconnected with the team just because I was so much younger,” Ernhart said. “This year, a lot of the older girls have really led the younger girls. It’s nice to know those girls have our backs, and I feel like everyone has each other’s backs.”

Coming into the state tournament, Ernhart has already recorded 846 assists this season. Now that she’s the full-time setter for the state-bound Royals, she’s developed chemistry with all of her hitters, and it’s been working well for W-M this season.

“I feel a lot closer with them,” Ernhart said. “I’m not in-and-out, and they’re not used to a certain person and then it’s me. They’re used to me. It’s nice because they know my setting style and I know their hitting style. It helps a lot.”

Ernhart has been a huge piece for the Royals’ success in 2019. While there were several players stepping into bigger roles this season, Ernhart and the Royals have believed in themselves all year long, and it’s paid off.

“I think it’s something we knew as coaches they could do once they realized that they’re a different team,” W-M coach Andrea Raser said. “You’re the Royals volleyball team for 2019. They stepped into that role and accepted that. We’re the real deal now. Once they figured that out, they’ve really just continued to shine and play on.”

The Royals are the No. 4 seed in the Class AA state tournament. They’ll take on No. 5 Concordia Academy in the first round, a team they met earlier this season. While the Royals have beaten the Beacons once already this season, Ernhart and her team know how much things can change as the season goes on.

“We played them in a tournament and beat them in three,” Ernhart said. “It was a battle. We’ve watched tape on them and figure out how we can get around some of our obstacles we had against them. We’re all really excited.”

Ernhart will be one of few players who will step on the court with state tournament experience for the Royals this year. While she knows what it is like, she’s already showing her leadership, as she has all season long, by offering some advice to the younger players who will experience the state tournament for the first time.

“To not take it as serious as it needs to be,” Ernhart said her advice was. “It should be fun. It shouldn’t be so serious that you’ll be nervous for it. It should be our game, and it’s for us. Not for the fans. Not for anyone else, but us. It should be our game completely.”

AMATEUR BASEBALL: CRVL hands out awards for 2019 season

PLATO – It was another exciting season in the Crow River Valley League in 2019. The CRVL once again had multiple teams (Cologne and Young America) in the final weekend of the Class C State Tournament.

At the fall CRVL meeting, the league, as a whole, looked back on the season while also announcing the league and team Most Valuable Players and Pitchers of the Year.

Carver’s Andrew Weber was selected as the 2019 CRVL Pitcher of the Year. Weber helped lead the Black Sox to the CRVL South Division title in 2019.

In the regular season, Weber posted an ERA of 2.06 in 56 innings of work. He also led the CRVL in strikeouts with 65, while finishing with a record of 7-1.

Young America’s Matt Mann was named the CRVL Most Valuable Player. He received eight of the 13 votes by the league after putting up another monster season for the Cardinals.

In the regular season, Mann hit .417 for the Cardinals, while also leading them in home runs (4), doubles (7), and RBI (17).

In the entire CRVL, Mann finished in the top-five in every offensive category. His .417 average was good enough for third-best, only behind Plato’s Chris Odegaard and Green Isle’s Aaron Brush. He was tied for fifth in the CRVL in RBI with 17, while also second in home runs, second in runs scored, and third in doubles.

While Weber and Mann brought home the league awards, each team in the CRVL also announced their team MVPs and POYs. Below is a look at each team’s MVPs and POYs.


Spencer Glaeser

(Brownton Bruins)

The Brownton Bruins were one of the best teams in the CRVL in 2019, and Spencer Glaeser was a big reason why. In the leadoff spot, Glaeser hit .266 for the Bruins this year, to go along with three doubles and nine RBI.

While Glaeser was leader at the top of the batting order for Brownton, his biggest impact for the Bruins came in the outfield. Glaeser has historically been one of the top center fielders in the CRVL the past few years, and 2019 was no different.

Kyle Dalton

(Carver Black Sox)

Carver’s Kyle Dalton continued to be one of the most feared hitters in the CRVL once again this season. With his powerful bat in the lineup, along with his ability to play a flawless shortstop, Dalton and the Black Sox won the CRVL South Division title this past season.

At the plate, Dalton had another big year. He finished with a batting average of .411, which was the fifth-highest in the CRVL. He also led the league in triples with three, while leading Carver with 16 RBI.

Kyle Brazil

Cologne Hollanders

Cologne’s Kyle Brazil is a nightmare for pitchers to face in the left-handed batters box. Brazil has as much power as anyone else in the CRVL, and was a big reason for the Hollanders making the state tournament for the first time in 47 years.

For the season, Brazil finished with an average of .413, which ranked him fourth in the CRVL. He was also tied for third in doubles, and led the Hollanders with three home runs and 19 RBI.

Cameron Smrekar

(Green Isle Irish

One of the most impactful newcomers this season in the CRVL was Green Isle’s Cameron Smrekar. In his fist year in the CRVL, all Smrekar did was turn heads.

Smrekar hit .350 for the Irish, to lead them back to the Region 7C Tournament and the Class C state tournament. He also led the Irish in doubles (8) and RBI (21).

Paxton Jordahl

(Glencoe Brewers)

It was a bit of a surprise to see the Glencoe Brewers as the No. 2 seed in the Region 7C Tournament this past season. A big reason for that was the play of Paxton Jordahl.

Jordahl hit .303 on the season for the Brewers while leading the team in home runs.

Jacob Hokanson 

(Hamburg Hawks)

One of the toughest outs to get when facing the Hamburg Hawks is when Jacob Hokanson digs into the batter’s box. Hokanson is no easy out for the Hawks, and he was the leader offensively for Hamburg this season.

For the year, Hokanson had 14 hits, which led him to a .333 average. He not only hit for average, but also drove in 13 runs which tied him for the 13th most in the CRVL.

Peter Kroells

(New Germany Dutchmen)

While the New Germany Dutchmen are a young bunch, veteran Peter Kroells continue to produce. No matter what, Kroells continues to be one of top top hitters for the Dutchmen each and every year.

An average of .280 for Kroells kept him in the lineup on a daily basis, as he was counted on for his leadership all season long with the younger players.

Chris Odegaard 

(Plato Bluejays)

While it certainly was a down year for the Plato Bluejays, all Chris Odegaard did was put up big numbers once again.

Despite not making the Region 7C Tournament, Odegaard led the league in hitting with a .440 average. He also led the league in home runs with five, and was second in runs scored with 21.

Patrick Tschida 

(Watertown Red Devils)

The name Patrick Tschida is a regular on this list. Arguably one of the top players in the CRVL, Tschida once again helped lead his team to the Region 7C tournament.

Tschida had another big season offensively, as he finished with a .319 batting average. He also had 12 RBI, 13 runs scored, and hit two home runs to lead the Red Devils.

Ronnie Olson 

(Waconia Lakers)

It may have been a lost season for the Waconia Lakers after being ruled ineligible, but that didn’t stop Ronnie Olson from having a big season. Despite not being eligible for the playoffs, Olson was one of the top players in the CRVL this season.

Olson finished with 15 runs scored and 10 RBI, which both ranked near the top in the CRVL. He also had six doubles and 15 walks to lead the way for the Lakers.

Nate Tesch

(Winsted Wildcats)

It was a breakout season for Winsted’s Nate Tesch. After a slow start to the season, Tesch came on strong late, helping the Wildcats reach the Region 7C Tournament.

For the season, Tesch hit .395, which was the sixth-highest batting average in the CRVL in 2019. He also had a team-high six doubles to go along with eight RBI and seven runs scored.

Matt Mann

(YA Cardinals)

Mann was the CRVL MVP after his big season. He was at, or near the top in the every statistical category at the plate.


Ryan Grams

(Brownton Bruins)

If there is one guy you don’t want to face in a big game, it’s Brownton’s Ryan Grams. No matter who the Bruins are playing, Grams gives them an immediate chance to win when he’s on the mound.

He finished third in the CRVL in strikeouts with 63 while posting an ERA of 2.44 in 73 innings of work. Grams’ 73 innings pitched was also a league-high as he carried the load for the Brownton pitching staff.

Andrew Weber

(Carver Black Sox)

Weber was the CRVL Pitcher of the Year this season. In big games, Weber was nearly perfect as he led the Black Sox to the division title and a state tournament appearance.

Christian Johnson 

(Cologne Hollanders)

Coming into this season, nobody really knew the name Christian Johnson. That changed quickly as he not only became one of the top pitchers for the Cologne Hollanders, but also in the CRVL.

Johnson’s big season led the Hollanders to the final weekend of the state tournament, which was their first appearance in 47 years.

Johnson had a 2.81 ERA in 32 innings of work, and collected 47 strikeouts while posting a record of 4-0 in the regular season.

Dylan McCormick 

(Green Isle Irish)

Dylan McCormick was a nice addition for the Green Isle Irish who needed to add some depth to their pitching staff. After winning the state title last season with Plato, McCormick joined the Irish and quickly became their ace.

As the season went on, McCormick only got better. He had a clutch performance against his former team in the first league playoff game, and helped the Irish get back to the state tournament.

Cole Petersen 

(Glencoe Brewers)

The one thing the Glencoe Brewers were missing the past few seasons was an ace pitcher. That spot was filled by Cole Petersen.

Petersen’s presence gives Glencoe a legitimate ace pitcher who can step up and take over a game. He nearly had a no-hitter this season, and only got better as the season went on. Petersen was a big reason the Brewers were the No. 2 seed in the Region 7C Tournament, and the CRVL North division champions.

Dawson Hensley

(Hamburg Hawks)

Dawson Hensley was the go-to arm for the Hawks in 2019. With 35 innings pitched, Hensley posted an ERA of 3.34. He’s a guy that could help the Hawks take another step forward in 2020.

Mike McGill

(New Germany Dutchmen)

Every team needs one pitcher they can rely on, and for the New Germany Dutchmen, that’s Mike McGill.

While wins were hard to come by this season for the Dutchmen, McGill kept them in games on the mound. He racked up 32 strikeouts in the regular season in 31 innings pitched.

Chris Odegaard

(Plato Bluejays)

Death, taxes, and Chris Odegaard being one of the top pitchers in the CRVL. That’s all that is guaranteed in life.

Odegaard had another strong season for the Bluejays on the mound, finishing with an ERA of 2.17 in 58 innings of work. He also racked up 50 strikeouts.

Aaron Jensen 

(St. Boni Saints)

The St. Boni Saints surely had their struggles this season, but pitcher Aaron Jensen was a standout player for them.

Jensen finished with an ERA of 5.86 as the workhorse pitcher for the Saints. He threw almost 51 innings while striking out 35.

Patrick Tschida 

(Watertown Red Devils)

One of the toughest left-handed pitchers to face in the CRVL had another big season. Tschida led the Red Devils back to the Region 7C tournament once again.

Tschida was second in the CRVL in strikeouts with 64, while also posting an ERA of 2.34 in 57 innings of work.

Kodey Simon

(Waconia Lakers)

In 2019, there was no better pitcher in the CRVL than Waconia’s Kodey Simon. Each time Simon took the mound, he was dominant for the Lakers.

Simon led the CRVL with an ERA of 0.69 in 39 innings of work. He also racked up 47 strikeouts and finished with five wins.

Shane Khan

(Winsted Wildcats)

The Winsted Wildcats rely a ton on ace pitcher Shane Khan, and he delivered this season. Khan had one of his better seasons for the Wildcats, leading them to the Region 7C tournament.

Khan finished with four wins this season, while posting an ERA of 2.38 in 37 innings of work. He also ranked fifth in strikeouts with 48.

Josh Lenz

(YA Cardinals)

Young America’s Josh Lenz burst onto the scene in 2018 with an unreal performance at the state tournament. 2019 was no different, as the ace for the Cardinals led them on another deep postseason run.

For the season, Lenz finished with an ERA of 1.98 in 36 innings of work while piling up 40 strikeouts.

PREP CROSS COUNTRY: Mallak’s college commitment was a journey in the making

HOWARD LAKE – There have been many highs for Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted senior Gracie Mallak throughout her high school athletic career. There have also been many lows. Through it all, Mallak has came out on top of all of those lows simply by her hard work, her faith, and the dedication she has to the sports she loves.

Mallak has had her sights set on many goals for herself to accomplish during her high school career. She’ll be the first to tell you that she was all about focusing on the destination and not the journey. Life has a funny way of changing your perspective.

“Most people who know me well know that I very much focus on the destination,” Mallak wrote in a reflection piece last spring. “I’ve never really been big on the whole “enjoy the journey” deal because I’ve always felt that the journey didn’t matter as long as I got to my destination. I had always thought that if I controlled everything that I could control, I’d reach the destination. After my section track meet this year, I gained a new perspective. For the first time, it really hit me that maybe it’s not so much about the destination as it is about the journey to get there. Maybe it’s about the moments along the way that remind you why you’re on the journey in the first place.”

Mallak’s journey, ultimately added another high for her this past month. Not only has she helped lead her team back to the state meet once again in cross country, but she also recently committed to run cross country and track and field at South Dakota State University.

“I feel extremely blessed to have the opportunity to continue running in college,” Mallak said. “I’ve had a blast training and competing throughout the years, and I’m so excited to continue doing so in college. I’ve definitely had my ups-and-downs in this sport, but running has brought, and continues to bring me so much joy, so I feel very grateful to continue working toward my goals at the collegiate level.”

While committing to continue to do what she loves at the college level is certainly a high point for Mallak, she knows how important the lows of her career were to get where she’s at today.

Flash back to the section track and field meet last spring, and it was one of the lowest moments of Mallak’s running career. In her sophomore season, Mallak was diagnosed with dysautonomia, a dysfunction of the nerves that regulate non-voluntary body functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and sweating. While it certainly took a tole on her performances and training, Mallak was determined to keep working. She was forced to take some time off, let her body rest, and then come back stronger. While it was one of the toughest things she’s had to overcome, it’s a big reason why she’s where she is today.

“I think that having the setbacks I’ve had throughout my career is the main reason that I’m able to continue my athletic career,” Mallak said. “Throughout the years, cross country has broken my heart more times than I can count, but the struggles that I’ve had have increased my love for the sport even more by reminding me of how blessed I am to have a healthy body that allows me to do what I love.”

Mallak will also let you know that this wasn’t just her. She’s had support from her family, coaches, and teammates throughout her career, which has helped her turn those lows into highs.

“I think the people around me are a reason I’m able to continue cross country in college,” Mallak said. “When I’ve been at my lowest, my family, coaches, and teammates have always been there for me and believed in me. I’ve been extremely blessed throughout the years to have both coaches and athletes that have helped me develop into the runner I am today.”

Whether it would be cross country or track, Mallak’s coaches have been there for her through it all. Whether it’s training, motivation, or just being there to listen, Mallak knows how important they are to her.

“Wade (Moravec) and Ashely (Roemer) have been my cross country and track coaches since freshman year,” Mallak said. “They’ve done a fabulous job of helping me stay healthy and reminding me to enjoy the moment. Andy (Hertwig) has been my head track coach since seventh grade. Throughout the years, he’s definitely found out how to push my buttons and help me run my best when it matters most. He always believes in me and reminds me to trust the work that I’ve put in. He’s helped me believe that I can compete with the some of the best in the state.”

Mallak’s peers have also been a big influence on her throughout her impressive career. While some have been older and some have been younger, they all have been alongside Mallak on her journey.

“Noah Bundrock, Gwen Helgeson, Chase Dieter, Cole Leukema, and Brooke Baumann have been instrumental in my development as a runner,” Mallak said. “Throughout the years, I’ve ran countless miles with each of them as we worked together as training partners. They’ve been by my side for all of the really fun runs, and the really painful ones.”

While Mallak’s college career looms in the future, she’s focusing on what’s right in front of her now – another state meet appearance. This weekend, Mallak will be running at the Class A state meet for a fourth time in her career, and while running is a simple concept to her, the joy it’s brought to her life can never be taken away.

“What I love most about cross country is the simplicity of it and the joy that it brings me,” Mallak said. “It’s really not all that complicated. There’s a start line and a finish line. All you have to do is get from one to the other as fast as you can. I love the joy that it’s given me as I push to new limits and make memories with my team. I love getting to race with my teammates and competitors.”

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Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports