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Cross-Country: Mollgaard makes her move

Red Wing's Ariana Mollgaard finished second for the Wingers in the Dewey Minneart Invitational with a time of 20 minutes, 4.25 seconds last Thursday in Hastings. Joe Brown / RiverTown Multimedia

Numbers don't lie. And after crossing the finish line at the St. Olaf Showcase, the numbers proved Ariana Mollgaard's work was paying off.

Last year, Mollgaard was a part of the Red Wing girls' cross-country varsity squad, but usually finished in the sixth or seventh spot, which didn't contribute to the team score. Fast-forward a year, and Mollgaard has accelerated herself into one of the top two runners for the 11th-ranked (Class 2A) Wingers.

"I had set some goals and I worked harder this season compared to other seasons," said Mollgaard, whose two goals were to be second or higher on the team and to stay under 20 minutes per race. "I set some and I wanted to achieve them."

The St. Olaf Showcase, which takes place at the same venue as state, was the perfect barometer for Mollgaard's progress. At last year's state meet, Mollgaard finished in 153rd place in 21 minutes, 22.5 seconds.

At the Showcase, the second meet of the 2017 season, Mollgaard placed 23rd in 19:50.0.

"She demolished (her old time)," said Red Wing head cross-country coach Jesse Nelson.

"I was excited to compare the results and see how different they were and how much I actually achieved during the summer," Mollgaard said. "It wasn't necessarily super surprising; I knew I would be somewhere in the area. But I was excited to see it in a race and have the actual official time."

Nelson knew this kind of time was in Mollgaard. It was all a matter of her having the confidence to pull it off.

"Toward the end of June, I'm like, 'Ari's getting after it,'" Nelson said. "We always knew it was in her, but the kids have to decide on their own that that's what they want to do, and that's what clicked for her.

"She decided she wants to be a good runner. And she's going to compete and do her best. Once that clicked for her, she's really helped her team."

Now that Mollgaard has made the push to the front of the Wingers' pack, she knows her improvement is far from over.

"It's a little pressure," Mollgaard said, "but how hard you work and seeing your goals are met and your times are achieved, it makes you want to work even harder."