Rhianna Rinke is only in eighth grade, but already she’s posted better times as a part of the North Branch girls cross-country team than runners with years more experience.
It has been quite a year for Rinke.
In only her second season on the cross-country team, Rinke took third place at the Section 7AA Championships and earned the opportunity to run in the State High School Cross-Country Championships.
“I was going to do volleyball (in seventh grade) with all my friends,” Rinke said. “But my dad (Nathan Rinke) did cross-country when he was in junior high and high school.”
Rinke’s father prompted her to give his former sport a shot.
“He told me, ‘Hey you should do cross-country,’” she said. “So I was like, ‘OK, I’ll give it try.’ He ran with me over the summer and I just fell in love with the sport.”
Rinke’s mother also has experience with running.
“My mom (Teresa Hastings) was in track, so running was in the family,” Rinke said.
She added, “I also had a very great mentor, Megan Zimmerman, from last year, who helped me all through the season.”
Rinke’s exploits on the cross-country team have motivated her brother, Daemon, to lace up his running shoes.
Daemon, a sixth grader, recently told his older sister he hopes to join her on the team next year.
For Rinke, training is an all-year activity.
She runs five to six days a week spring through fall, and four to five days during the winter, accumulating about a hundred miles a month.
She plans to go out for track this spring to compete in the one and two mile, and maybe the 800-meter or be a part of the 4×800-meter relay team.
Rinke noted the success she’s enjoyed on the cross-country team this year has been quite an experience.
“It’s really fun,” Rinke said, adding that she’s learned a lot about the sport from her older teammates. “Everyone’s always congratulating you. We’re a great, big family. We always motivate each other. If someone’s race is going on, everyone’s like, ‘OK … let’s go cheer for them.’ We all really pull together.”
Rinke said North Branch cross-country head coach Anna Geary and assistant coach Nick Brouwer have not only been great advisers to her, but have gone out of their way to make the Vikings a close team.
“They put in extra hard time and work,” Rinke said. “She (Coach Geary) makes booklets. We had a “minute to win it practice” one day, so she had to buy all these extra supplies. We go on a camping trip – that was a ton of fun. We camp two nights. We also go swimming, go on runs and do all sorts of stuff.”
Rinke still has four years left to be a part of the cross-country team, and the same number of opportunities to make the state meet.
Last Saturday, Rinke finished 88th out of 174 competitors in the Class AA Girls State Cross-Country Championships. Quite a feat considering there are only two class divisions in cross-country.
She ran against the best from the biggest schools in the state.
“She had a tough race, but still managed to run the 4K in 15:27,” Geary said. “She had the amazing opportunity of racing against the state’s best.”
Rinke has good memories of what will hopefully be the first of many trips to the state meet.
“The state meet was awesome,” Rinke said. “I had a great time, even though I didn’t have my best race time. It was such a great learning experience, and I will apply what I’ve learned for track in the spring. I am very gracious to have had such great coaches, teammates, teachers, friends and family members cheering me on throughout the whole season.”