A friendship grows across the milesAs close as Kailee Kiminski and Anja Maijala’s race finish was last week, it’s not nearly as close as the friendship the pair of high school cross country runners recently created.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
As close as Kailee Kiminski and Anja Maijala’s race finish was last week, it’s not nearly as close as the friendship the pair of high school cross country runners recently created.
Kiminski held off Maijala in the final stretch to win the annual Nemadji Invitational last Thursday in Superior, Wis., as the Esko junior’s 4,000-meter time of 16 minutes, 21.2 seconds was just 1.6 seconds ahead of Maijala, a Cloquet freshman.
“She kind of out-kicked me in the end,” said Maijala.
One thing that likely won’t end soon is their friendship. Maijala, 14, said she first met Kiminski, 17, when the two teamed together as a part of 203-mile Ragnar Relay Series from Winona, Minn., to Minneapolis in August. Two weekends ago, the pair finished 1-2 again in the Minnesota Mile competition in Duluth and has been in close touch ever since.
“We’ve been talking a lot,” Maijala said. “[Kailee] is super-nice. She’s just a good friend to have and a person to look up to.”
Both runners have looked good this season with Maijala placing runner-up to just Kiminski, while Kiminski has won all three of her races while also playing varsity for Esko girls soccer.
In fact, following her Nemadji win, the 5-foot-4 midfielder netted Esko’s lone goal at Hermantown that evening.
“When I got home I did homework,” she said with a laugh.
“To have enough left says a lot about her,” first-year Esko cross country coach Jerimy Hallsten said. “It just amazes me.”
Hallsten, who also runs competitively, admitted he was not only impressed with his own athlete, but also Maijala, as the 6-foot-6 coach watched last week’s race towering over the sideline.
“Both are outstanding runners — Kailee has already proved herself over all the years and for Anja, the sky is the limit,” Hallsten said. “They are each just excellent representatives of their communities and schools, both on and off of the field.”
The Cloquet boys fielded the best team last week, scoring 38 points en route to winning the title. Dylan Marvel, a Cloquet senior, claimed top honors with his 5,000-meter time of 16:54.3, aided by Isaac Boedigheimer, who took third, and Jace Anderson, seventh, within the top 10. The Esko girls took second at 83 points.
“I’m two-for-two, so far,” said Marvel who, like Kiminski, has won all of his races early on. “We’ll see how that holds up.”
One thing that has held up over time, according to Cloquet cross country coach Mike Bushey, is the running lifestyle. As a coach for over a decade, he said making new friends is a must.
“Running is very social,” Bushey said. “That’s what you want kids to do: hang out, train together, become friends.”
Just like Kiminski and Maijala, each a state hopeful.
“I’ll be looking for her,” Maijala said of Class A Kiminski.
“I’ll be cheering her on,” said Kiminski of Maijala, in Class AA. “I love meeting new people. And I’m glad I met Anja.”