WORTHINGTON -- With excellence in the front line, and with plenty of depth, the Worthington High School boys cross country team has every reason to expect more big things this fall.

“I think we’re going for our fourth Big South (Conference) championship in a row,” said head coach Cory Smidt.

The boys and girls teams open regular season competition Thursday in St. Peter.

Leading the WHS boys is junior Mikele Walu, who has qualified two times already for the Minnesota state competition.

Last year, under COVID concerns, the state meet was canceled, but Walu earned his spot. Hard working and great team leader, he won every regular season meet he ran in last season. And he proved he can move out to a big lead and hold it, or make a big kick in the final stretch.

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He’ll be joined on the squad again by Alec Langerud, now a senior, who is another fine athlete who consistently runs with the leaders.

Another senior, Mason Bobb, was a transfer student in 2020 who was ineligible to compete on the varsity team. But he won every JV race he took part in and looks to be another competitor able to run at the front of the pack.

Juniors Filmon Wolday and Ofbeka Morke are two more Trojans to keep an eye on. Juniors Tyler Jaycox and Charlie Brands, and sophomores Ian Barber, Tyler Ahrenstorff and Ethan Mahlberg provide enough depth to keep the team solid.

“There’s a lot of competition (in practice),” said Smidt, who expresses nothing but confidence in his runners. “We’ve got a lot of good kids. They’re going to be very competitive. And they’re like me, they don’t like to lose.”

No predictions yet, though.

“We’re gonna let our legs do the talking,” Smidt said.

The girls team hasn’t achieved the accolades that have come the boys’ way in recent years, but there are several who are capable of good things. Senior Jenna Hoffman is a determined runner and an excellent encourager for others. Junior Karissa Bickett is in her first year of cross country, but she’s coming off a strong track season.

Senior Nicole Wede and freshmen Kenadie Thiner, Morgan Becker and Lauryn Ahlers also possess talent.

“I think they (the girls) can do a lot of improving, ‘cuz a lot of the girls have worked very hard,” Smidt said.

This year, there are three classes instead of two in Minnesota high school cross country. Worthington, which was in the top class last year, is now in the middle class (AA).