St. Paul Highland Parks Molly Moening has been on the Minnesota running scene ever since she broke through as a seventh-grader to win the St. Paul City Conference Championships. Since then she has wowed us with her talents en route to 14 conference titles and 4 sections titles. She has also finished top-ten at state in track and cross country meets 9 times.
Though she is an excellent runner, she is an exceptional Nordic skier who has won two-state titles in the individual pursuit and will go for her third title here shortly. Only Olympic gold medalist Jessie Diggins has won three straight girls state Nordic skiing individual pursuit title's in state history.
We at MileSplit Minnesota recently caught up with Moening to talk about her upcoming trip to the U18 Nordic Nations Cup, her running career, the upcoming track and field season, and what the future holds for her.
***Mollys trip to Norway was canceled due to COVID concerns
You qualified for the U18 Nordic Nations Cup in Norway at the end of the month, how does that feel?
It's really exciting to be able to represent the United States, which has been a goal of mine since I was little. This trip was canceled last year because of COVID so I'm grateful that we have the opportunity this year.
How did you qualify for that?
I raced last week in Heber City, Utah in the U.S. Cross Country Nationals in a freestyle sprint, freestyle 7.5k mass start, and a classic 10k individual start. At the end of the week, our best 2 races were counted and scored, with the top 6 athletes qualifying for the U18 Nordic Nations Cup.
What do you hope to accomplish at the U18 Nordic Nations Cup?
I'm mostly really excited to get some racing experience against international competition. The United States has proved that we are among the best in the world at nordic skiing, so I'm hoping to have solid results to back that up.
How did you first get into nordic skiing?
My family first took me out on nordic skis before I could even walk, I would be dragged behind my dad in a sled as he skied. I have older sisters and cousins who all skied so I was always trying to catch up to them, which started my love for the sport. I was a part of the Minnesota Youth Ski League (MYSL) and would beg my parents to let me do races as soon as I was old enough, and eventually joined my high school team in 7th grade.
You have won back-to-back state nordic championships, will you be able to challenge for a third consecutive title?
That's the goal! There's a lot of pressure as the returning champion, but nothing would mean more to me than being able to add a third title and compete for the win with my team as well. There's a lot of really strong skiers in Minnesota this year and I've been able to race most of them already this season and it won't be easy to get a third title, but I feel confident with the course and my experience!
Which of your state titles is your favorite?
It's hard to pick a favorite because they were all special in different ways. My first year was super exciting because it was a bit more of a surprise and our team won our first State Championship which was memorable. Last year was just exciting to be able to race because we had a lot of COVID restrictions all season and weren't even sure if we would be able to have the state meet. This fall our cross country team won our first state championship in running, it meant a lot to be able to finally earn a state title in cross country as a senior. I might have to pick my first year just because we had a super close team and were all 100% dedicated to each other, so it felt like a dream come true to win both the individual and team titles.
You recently committed to the University of Vermont for Nordic skiing, how did you come to commit there?
The University of Vermont has always appealed to me as one of the best nordic programs in the country and is in an amazing location in Burlington, VT. I wasn't able to visit the campus in person, but after talking to Patrick Weaver, the coach, and a few friends I have on the team, I knew that I would love it there. I'm also interested in environmental science and the University of Vermont has some unique opportunities in that field that look really neat to me. I also wanted to join the racing circuit out East, which has a really strong culture I'm looking forward to!
Was it a tough choice to choose Nordic Skiing over track/XC? Or are you able to do both?
It was a part of my decision, but I ended up deciding to just focus on Nordic. Patrick was open to the idea of me running cross country or track in addition to skiing, but I wanted to be able to just focus on one sport that I can put all my energy into since I've always been a multi-sport athlete.
Were there any other colleges you thought about attending?
Knowing I wanted to Nordic ski limited my options since there aren't many colleges with programs, so I had it narrowed down to the University of Vermont, Northern Michigan University, and Montana State University.
You recently completed your last high school cross country season, how did that feel to put an ending to that chapter of your life?
It felt like the end of an era! Cross country was where I first found success when I started racing in 7th grade, and it was sad to see it be over. This season was really fun with my team and the success we had, especially our first state championship. I
Was there anything you didn't accomplish for your XC career that you wish you had?
This year I was hoping to win an individual state title in XC after placing 2nd last year at the TCRC Showcase(aka the fake state meet) but didn't have it in me on the day to compete with the best.
What was your favorite moment of your high school cross country career?
This whole last season was really special for me, I can't pick a favorite moment. We had a lot of really great moments with my team and it felt amazing to be able to have some more normalcy after a weird COVID year in 2020.
Throwback: Molly Moening's 1st MileSplit Interview
Your last track season starts here soon, what do you hope to accomplish there?
Last year I experimented with some more mid-distance training than I had in the past and it ended up working really well. I ran a huge PR to go sub 5 in the 1600m in 4:53. I want to continue that this season with more open 400m and 800m races. One of my big goals for my senior year was to win a state title in every sport, and we won the team title for XC, so I want to keep that streak for nordic and track, that would be a cool way to finish my high school career.
Other than your own teammates, who are some of your favorite athletes to compete against?
For cross country, Iris Guider and I have had some really exciting races, and it's always fun to go against her because we can push each other pretty hard. Maggie Wagner is another, and I get to see her all year because she's an amazing skier as well!
Tell me one bizarre fact about yourself.
I'm really good at doing the worm!