Northeast freshman Cenady Soenksen runs at the Jum Hetrick Invite in DeWitt.

There wasn’t a ton of expectation coming into this cross country season for the Northeast girls.

“Our group of girls running varsity this year are all first year varsity runners, two of them are first year cross country runners,” Northeast head coach Trenton Weaver said. “They are a small group of five but have definitely given their all to show they might be small team wise but each one of them working together has put them into the spotlight of others.”

The team has impressed from the beginning to now, picking up points and hardware as the season progresses. Leading the pack is freshman Cenady Soenksen, who regularly is in the top runners at meets .

“As a freshman, getting in the top ten each race makes me feel proud of myself,” Soenksen said. “I’m proud of all my teammates this year.”

With as many freshman as they have (four), there were a lot of question marks for Weaver.

“This year began almost as a rebuild year for girls cross country team wise,” Weaver said. “I knew [they]were going to make some noise this year individually but when [two more] joined them in the box they showed determination to make something happen and give it their all.”

Even the girls had no idea what they were capable of when they started.

“I didn’t [expect it],” Soenksen said. “I did not know how fast all of the seniors would be. Our team placed really high up in the first couple races and that’s when we kind of knew [that we could be good].”

They have a couple of focuses. Since they started seeing success, Soenksen says Rebel coaching staff has helped pick up intensity and conditioning in practice, giving them more power on the courses.

Plus, they’re patient. They don’t jump out of the box immediately and try to lead the pack. Instead they run their race and watch.

“We’re pacing ourselves in the beginning, not going out too fast,” Soenksen said. “So we can pick one off as we go on. We know we can outrun them on the hills because we’ve been training pretty hard.”

The Rebels run districts on Thursday, along with the rest of Iowa. For much of the team this will be their first go at qualifying for the state meet in Fort Dodge on Nov. 2.

That doesn’t mean they’re not aiming for it.

“We want to get more up near the top for the team and we’re looking for state,” Soenksen said. “We just need to push each other and PR each time out.”

Everyone loves an under dog. Nothing could make this already exciting season for Northeast girls’ cross country better than a team state berth.

“[It will prove] we’re strong and we have the courage to push ourselves even when we’re so young,” Soenksen said.

Even if they don’t quite make it there in 2019, it sets the stage for a lot to look forward to in the coming years in Goose Lake.

“The best part of this for me is that they are all hard workers and four of them I will have for three more years,” Weaver said. “Even though they are new to the varsity level they have shown they can run with the best of them and be successful. I like to live in the now and don’t think too much about the future of Rebel girls cross country, but sometimes its hard not to be excited for what may come.”