Mikele Walu and Ofbeka Morke sign letters of intent to run at USF
“These guys I didn’t ever have to worry about them, and I didn’t have to coach them very much, because the inner beast inside of them was always working.”
WORTHINGTON — The southwest Minnesota to University of Sioux Falls runners’ pipeline continued to show its prominence as Worthington High School seniors Mikele Walu and Ofbeka Morke signed letters of intent on Friday to run cross country and track and field for the Cougars next fall.
Walu and Morke are outstanding athletes for the Trojans. They both won races for the cross country team and are key contributors on the track and field team with state aspirations. Between cross country and track and field, Walu and Morke have been on five Big South Conference championship teams.
The two seniors drew praise from Cory Smidt, coach for both cross country and track and field.
“These guys are extremely and highly motivated athletes. They have made everybody around them better, including myself,” said Smidt. “They are not only really good runners, they are also really good kids. These guys I didn’t ever have to worry about them, and I didn’t have to coach them very much, because the inner beast inside of them was always working.”
WHS athletic director Josh Dale had nothing but praise for the two speedy seniors.
“Two unbelievable athletes, but better kids, and that is the biggest piece of it all,” said Dale. “They are going to go there and be successful not only in cross country and track, but in school and in life itself.”
In addition to running track and cross country, Walu was the starting point guard on a talented Trojans boys basketball team. He was a rare sub out for WHS and his defensive ability and strong ball handling skills were an important part of reaching the Section 2AAA championship game.
Walu said familiarity with runners in the USF program was an important part of his decision to sign on for collegiate athletics as a Cougar.
“Knowing people that go there and that the coaching staff talk with them a lot helped me connect,” said Walu. “He (USF coach Doug Petersen) knows my coach very well. I really trust Smidt with a lot of things, and Smidt knows him and says, ‘he’s a good guy.' Meeting him and talking with him … I feel like it is a good thing.”
Morke said his opinion of coach Petersen was a major selling point for him as well. Petersen was a longtime teacher and coach at Adrian High School, and coached the Adrian Dragons girls cross country team to four consecutive Minnesota Class A cross country championships from 2005-2008.
“I really like the coach and I liked how close it was to home. They also have a great team. There are people I know there,” said Morke. “Smidt is a great guy, if he mentions that a coach is a great person, it encourages me to go and have another great coach again.”
Morke said he is most excited about track, and to do indoor track and field in the winter.
Walu and Morke plan on training together over the summer to work on endurance for the longer races that collegiate cross country will bring. High school cross country in Minnesota runs 5Ks in the boys varsity event. At USF, Morke and Walu will run a variety of races that include distances of 8 kilometers and 10 kilometers.
“A lot of summer training. I think I will have to up the mileages by a lot more,” said Walu with a bright smile. “I am excited and nervous, I am not sure how good I will do in the longer races, but I am excited about how good I will do at the same time.”
“I am nervous about that,” Morke said of running longer distances. “Hopefully I can run with Christian (Lietz), but I know for sure I am going to run with Mikele, trying to get my stamina up.”
Walu and Morke are part of a group of WHS runners that can be seen all over town no matter the weather — rain, snow or shine.
“I always have to be careful when I am driving around town — even if it is the morning, or late at night,” said Dale. “These two guys are always putting on miles, daily. It is crazy the amount of work and effort you have put in to put yourself in this place.”
Walu said he is not entirely sure what he will study at college, but is leaning toward studying sports medicine. Morke plans to study computer science.
The two will be roommates their first year at USF.
Smidt also reflected on the impact Walu and Morke have played in his own life and the impact they have given to other athletes in the area.
“I tell you what, you have left huge footprints on my soul,” said Smidt. “And I hope other kids can do the same things that you guys did because hard work does pay off.”