The Elk River boys and girls cross country teams begin their 2021 seasons on Thursday, Sept. 2 against Princeton at 4 p.m. at Fairway Shores Executive Golf Club.
Head coach Mike Niziolek said one of his goals for the season is for the Elks to consistently progress throughout the season.
“We’re going to have a great season,” head coach Mike Niziolek said. “They’re going to be the best they possibly can be. It’s a young squad. Great things will happen as they progress as athletes throughout the season. In the perfect world, everybody will see 5 to 10 percent improvement from their performance today to the end of the season. We focus on the best you can be, improving no matter what level of fitness you may be at coming into the season. It’s always to simply make steps forward throughout the season and throughout their running career.”
Joining Niziolek this season is assistant coach Monique Shabby.
“I hope to bring to the team passion, inspiration, [and] empowerment to these runners,” Shabby said. “The fact that we get to be together as a men’s team and a women’s team adds to the cameraderie more towards the sport itself. It’s fun to support each other and to be one team. We are the Elks together. We cheer everyone on, both males and females. The more the merrier.”
Noteworthy meets: Thursday, Sept. 2 @ Princeton; Thursday, Sept. 9 vs. multiple schools @ Gale Woods-Minnetrista; Monday, Sept. 13 vs. Rogers, Zimmerman and multiple schools @ Fox Hollow; Thursday, Oct. 7 vs. Rogers, Spectrum, Zimmerman and multiple schools @ Prairie Park
Niziolek said the boys team is dominated by young people.
“If we can get young people to invest in the sport, it takes about three years to produce an outstanding athlete. The stage is set with the youth on our team to have an exceptional team in the future. It’s patience, one step at a time and maintaining that yearly progression and that season progression.
Noteworthy meets: Same as the girls team.
Nizolek said the co-ed cross country program can develop lifelong friendships and a passion for running between runners of different genders.
“That’s what makes cross country special,” he said. “There’s lifetime friendships that develop in cross country and their priceless. We want to foster that. We want to be successful, but the first thing is friendships. The first thing is leaving yourself, setting goals and success is always in the eye of the beholder.”