By J1 Reporter Elleiana Green
Overwhelmed with uncertainty and fear, freshman Stella Miner joined Marian’s Cross Country team midway through the summer looking for an opportunity to make friends 1,400 miles away from her home in Princeton, New Jersey. Little did Miner know at the time, joining the team was just the beginning of her journey to set Nebraska’s State Cross Country record.
Growing up in New Jersey, Miner ran track for her grade school, “I ran mainly the mile and 800s. I was always pretty good at it, but I would have never expected running to turn into something as big as it has.” Miner’s father, Jason, participated in high school track for his small town in Illinois. “I ran track and held a couple of county records, but I never ran any event as long as Stella’s. I found the most success with the half mile,” he said.
After moving to Nebraska in the midst of the pandemic with her family, Miner feared the difficulty of meeting other classmates in hybrid scheduling and wanted to stay in shape for the swim season so she decided to give cross country a try. “Seeing my daughter succeed while establishing connections with teammates has made the move from New Jersey for work well worth it for our family,” Miner’s father said. Establishing a bond with the other freshman and some upperclassmen on the team, Stella had found her home, now all she needed to do was find her pace.
“Transitioning from running at most 1600m to running a 5k was difficult at first,” Miner said. “It was hard for me to find my groove, and I was so tempted to run with others, but as the season progressed, I have learned the proper way to run a 5k.” Coming in halfway through the summer, Stella ran for enjoyment, but within her first races, Miner proved herself a natural.
In her first 5k, the Westside 6-team meet, she ran a 19:15 comfortably, but she knew she could run it even faster with more training. Throughout the season, Miner attended practices five times a week and was guided by Marian’s Head Cross Country Coach, Mr. Roger Wright. Wright, who had no idea who Miner was until midway through the summer when he received word of a hopeful incoming freshman looking for a way to stay in shape and get involved, saw potential in her from the start.
“At the first lake run she attended over the summer,” Wright said, “Stella kept up with the top runners on the team, so I knew she was going to be a decent runner. It wasn’t until the first meet that I knew she was going to be able to compete at the level she does. After that meet, we got to work.”
Practices consisted of a mix of a lot of different workouts. The coaches wanted to make sure the girls had a strong base work with a lot of mileage, while also working on their speed to ensure runners that even when they’re tired, they have their speed to rely on when they really need it. Coach Wright worked tirelessly with her throughout the season to shave off her time to enable her to compete at State level.
“If someone told me three months ago that Cross Country was going to turn into what it has, I would’ve laughed at them, but with training I have pushed myself both mentally and physically to be the runner I am today,” Miner said.
Knowing she had potential to push herself even farther to bring down her 19 minute time, Stella went to work during every training session, and the results of her meets mirrored the work she put in. Within weeks, Stella had already brought her time down to a 19:01 at the Charlie Thorell Invite on September 3. This same pattern continued throughout the season with Miner beating her personal record at every meet. Creating a buzz in the Marian community, Stella set her sights on the biggest goal yet, State.
The State Cross Country meet was held on Friday, Oct. 23. Teams from all over the state gathered in Kearney, Nebraska with their eyes set on taking home the State title. Miner, in her first year of running, didn’t know what to expect, but she and her coaches knew that all of the work they put in throughout the season would pay off.
“The state meet along with everything else was different this season, with our current world right now, adjusting to the new COVID precautions was difficult, but Stella didn’t let that stop her,” Wright said. Starting off the race maintaining about the same pace as the other runners, Stella began what would be her fastest race yet.
“Throughout the season,” Wright said, “Miner would run pretty evenly with her competition until the last bit of the race, where she would break ahead and win. The same was true for state.” Finding the speed she had trained so hard for over the season in the last 400 meters, Miner broke through and beat Lincoln Southwest junior Brianna Rinn by 4 seconds, topping off her freshman season with an incredible 18:10. Miner ran the fastest 5k time Coach Wright had ever coached and the fastest time the Class A girl’s State Cross Country meet had ever seen.
“Stella proved herself a humble runner that pushes herself to do her best no matter the stakes,” Wright said, “I believe that as long as she is able to stay injury free and keep the good attitude, she will be a good runner all the way through. It has been an honor to be her coach this season and I am excited to keep working hard with her throughout the rest of her Cross Country career at Marian.”
Being just a freshman at Marian, Stella Miner proved herself not just the best runner in Class A, but the best runner in the state of Nebraska. Over the past week, Miner has been nominated for countless awards including Channel 6 WOWT News’ Athlete of the Week. Miner’s efforts along with the rest of her teammates proved successful when the team placed fifth overall at the State Meet.
Moving forward this year, Miner said she hopes to make Marian’s swim team and compete at the state level. Unsure of what her future in sports at Marian holds, she hopes to take every opportunity given to her. There is no question that Miner will continue to break records and pave the way for other Marian girls to do the same.