The Wadena-Deer Creek cross country running team kicks off the new season with a brand new event to its schedule. The Wolverines will be one of 12 teams competing in the first ever Brave Like Gabe event on Aug. 24 in Perham at Arvig Park.
The event is in honor of Gabriele Anderson Grunewald, who passed away after a battle with cancer. The Perham runner battled cancer four times in the past 10 years.
"As a high school running community, we should be incredibly proud of all that Gabe accomplished in her life," Perham head coach Jeff Morris said. "During that span, she became a world class runner and an advocate for research of rare cancer. She lost her battle with cancer a month ago, but leaves behind a legacy that will never be forgotten."
Grunewald was a state champion runner in the 800 meter run in the final race of her career, finished second in the NCAA 1500 meter run her senior year in college, won a US Indoor Championship in the 3,000 meter race and has the 12th fastest time in the 1,500 meter in US history.
Wadena-DC will be one of 12 teams competing in the event, honoring Grunewald. The Wolverines will be joined by Bemidji, Bagley, Moorhead, Frazee, Pelican Rapids, United North Central, Pequot Lakes, Parkers Prairie, Little Falls and host Perham. Following the conclusion of the awards ceremony, teams are invited to participate in the Brave Like Gabe Dedication Run. The city of Perham will be renaming the bike path in honor of Grunewald.
"It's a pretty cool event and I know there will be a lot of programs that will probably bring out the sentiment of why we run to kick off the year in Perham," Wadena-Deer Creek head coach Michael Brunsberg said. "You look forward to the camaraderie with other programs. It's not uncommon for runners from one school to cheer on others from another school. It's a little unique to the sport and it's very cool."
The Wolverines return several key runners on both the girls and the boys side of things. Ally Pavek, Johanna Brunsberg anchored the second and third spots last year and they are followed by several key runners including senior Eve Collins, along with Emma Bushinger, Emma Ries and Hailey Peterson.
The boys side features a pair of state qualifiers in Bereket Loer and Lucas Hinojos. Loer qualified for the Class A Championships the last two seasons, while Hinojos broke through last year for his first time. Those two anchor a team that's deep with experience and hopes to break through to the Class A Championships as a team. That duo will be joined by an experienced track runner in Nathaniel Bervig. Jayson Young is recovering from an injury, who will be back on the squad. Joshua Tabery returns to the team as well.
The Brave Like Gabe event begins at 9 a.m. at Arvig Park with the junior high girls race. It is followed by the junior high boys race at 9:20 a.m. The varsity girls race is set for 9:45 a.m., while the boys will run at 10:30 a..m. The awards ceremony is set for 11 a.m., followed by the bike path dedication at 11:20 a.m., with a dedication run beginning at 11:30 a.m.