Here's Why Florance Uwajeneza Is My Role Model


I'm Molly Moening, an 8th grader from Saint Paul Highland ParkI have been running cross country and track for the last two years. I have competed against many girls, but one of my most inspiring competitors is Florance Uwajeneza, a senior from St. Paul Como Park.

We are in the same conference and sections and have run many races against each other. Florance is a conference champion in cross country and all conference in track. We have been running together for two years now, but I have know her since she started making a name for herself in our conference, as she ran against my sisters. In the past two years, I have gotten to know her, and come to realize how cool of a person she is.

She is a fierce competitor, but is always there with her arms open after a race. I don't know if she realizes it, but I've come to look up to her a lot, and she has left a great impact on me with her great sportsmanship and character. When I get older, I hope that I can act to the younger girls like she did to me.

In 2013, her family moved to the U.S. from a refugee camp in Rwanda (her story was documented in an incredible Flosports article). Florance had a tough season managing injuries last fall and was only able to run a handful of races, but one of her races was the Maroon race at the Roy Griak Invitational (which she won).  

She was unable to race at Sections, missing out on her final chance to qualify for for State in cross country. This spring, she had one more shot to qualify for a State Meet in track, but that task was even more challenging - while Sections for cross country takes eight individuals, track only takes two.

In her first race this spring at True Team Sections she ran the 3200, a race that she never used to run. She said that she had been going to a masseuse as much as possible, trying to stay healthy and keep any more injuries away.  She ran a a very respectable 12:09, and placed 5th.

I figured it would be her last 3200 of her season, and high school career. Sure enough, at Conference, she was instead running the 1600m and 800m. She placed 3rd in the 1600 in 5:25, a 17-second personal record, and in the 800 a few hours later, she stayed in a tight pack and placed 4th.

I don't know if she realizes it, but I've come to look up to her a lot, and she has left a great impact on me with her great sportsmanship and character. When I get older, I hope that I can act to the younger girls like she did to me.

The next week was the Sections. Like Conference, she was in the 1600, but I was surprised to see her also signed up for the 3200. That race was originally supposed to be Tuesday night, but after a long lightning delay, it was postponed to Wednesday afternoon. And then it was postponed again on Wednesday after more lightning to an unknown future time and date.

When running events finally did take place on Thursday, Florance ran the 1600m. She was in a pack of five girls with me going into the last lap, but despite running a PR time of 5:20, she missed out on a state qualifying spot by four seconds. By then they had finally decided on a make-up time for the 3200 of Friday morning, 16 hours after the 1600.  Depending on how it went, it could be her last race of her high school career, or her first time qualifying for a State Meet.