One year from now, the St. Cloud Christian girls cross country team will find out what practice is like without McKenzie Holt there to look out for the younger runners.
Holt will be graduated by then and likely running at the collegiate level, instead of wearing the Warriors uniform like she has for the past four years.
But that point in the future is still a distance away.
Holt is a senior with one last opportunity to further St. Cloud Christian’s cross country program, be an effective captain and win a state championship.
“Just knowing this is my last year, I think it will motivate me to put it all out there to try my hardest and help the other girls on the team to make sure the team stays strong,” Holt said.
Added St. Cloud Christian coach Matt Swanson: “As a senior, I’m looking for (Holt) to be more vocal.
“She’s always been encouraging to other runners but I’d like her to take a more front-and-center role.”
Swanson said Holt often finishes practice runs far ahead of her teammates but normally jogs back out to the pack to support the other runners.
Holt has been on varsity since eighth grade when St. Cloud Christian became a varsity cross country program in 2009.
Her footprint is already stamped into the program’s short history with two straight top-four finishes in the Class A State Cross Country Meet.
There’s still more to accomplish in her last fall as a Warrior.
“We’re going to go out there and do the best we can,” Swanson said.
“(Holt’s) determination, relentlessness and attitude says ‘state champ’ and that’s what we’re going to shoot for.”
Holt finished the 2012 Class A meet in 14:29.8, 25 seconds behind two-time state champion, Clare Flanagan of Blake.
Holt won’t have to deal with Flanagan this season since Blake has moved up to Class 2A, so Cannon Falls senior Emi Trost figures to be Holt’s top competition for the title.
Trost was 13 seconds faster than Holt in the state meet last November and was runner-up the past two seasons.
“I’d never be disappointed if I didn’t win state because there might just be some girls who are more naturally talented than me,” Holt said.
“(A state title) seems a little more possible without Clare in Class A, but Trost is going to be just as fast.”
Holt has put herself through a demanding competition schedule over the summer — Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, four half marathons, a 10-mile race, three 10Ks and a handful of 5Ks — to prepare herself for her senior season.
Holt will go down as the Warriors’ first cross country star, but it’s not her plan to collect as many wins and accolades as she can and then bolt when her high school career wraps up.
The future of St. Cloud Christian Cross Country is equally important.
“It’s going to be different not coming back next year to run,” Holt said.
“The team has grown to the point where cross country has become a really popular sport at our school.
“It will be exciting to see. I’ll always want to come back and watch meets and go to as many practices as they’ll let me.”