by Dennis Dalman
Moriah Novacinski, an all-star athlete who grew up in St. Joseph, is now among seven females inducted into the Apollo High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
And it’s no wonder. She has a long string of achievements in not just one sport but in four of them: volleyball, basketball, cross country, track-and-field.
Novacinski is a 2010 graduate from Apollo. As a member of the school’s track-and-field team, she broke the school record for running a mile in 5 minutes 9 seconds – a record that still stands.
The list of her other achievements is long and remarkable:
She received All-Conference titles in 2008 and 2009 for her excellence on the cross-country team. She competed in the cross-country state tournament in 2009.
She was member of the varsity volleyball team from 2007-2009. She earned multiple accolades that include all-conference honors in 2009 (and Academic All-State award that same year). She was also a St. Cloud State University prep athlete.
Novacinski was the first female junior since the 1980s to qualify for state competition in the cross-country category.
Besides her strenuous involvement in athletics, she also excelled in academics, was a member of an orchestral quartet, took several advanced-placement courses and was a member of the student council and a member of lots of clubs.
She was a Triple A winner for “Academics-Athletics-Activities” for Region 8AA and attended the state event for Triple A honorees.
Her record of excellence did not stop after her graduation from Apollo High School – far from it. During her four years at St. Olaf College, she participated in cross country and track-and-field (indoor and outdoor) for all four years and was captain of both of those teams in her junior and senior years. She was conference champion in multiple events, including the indoor 1,000-meter race and distance medley relay.
She was a member of many relay teams when they won conference honors. In her junior year, the team placed eighth in the nationals, one of the highest in the school’s history.
Novacinski is among the Top 10 Best of all indoor track times at St. Olaf.
“I feel very honored to be selected for the Apollo Hall of Fame,” Novacinski said during an interview with the Newsleaders.
She was quick to thank others for making her success possible – family, friends, supporters and coaches.
She is especially grateful for Tim Bengtson, the Apollo cross-country coach who knew a winner when he saw one.
“He would see me in track-and-field races in the summer and practically badgered me to go out for cross country,” she recalled.
She at first resisted a temptation to begin cross country because as a freshman she was more than busy with her other sports. Finally, she decided to join cross country in her sophomore year.
“That decision changed my life,” she said, adding that without Bengtson’s persistent encouragement, she likely would not have joined.
Bob Domek, her track-and-field coach, was also encouraging, believing strongly Novacinski would set a school record for the mile and sure enough she did.
“He always advocated for me and would even come to St. Olaf to watch me run races when I was a student there.”
Volleyball coach Scott Heinen was also a pillar of support during her years on the team.
Athletic and academic talents seem to be part of the Novacinski family’s genetic make-up. Moriah’s father, Grant, was a coach at Apollo before she was even born. Then he became a long-time third-grade teacher in Sauk Rapids. Since his retirement, he has been substitute-teaching in many schools in the area.
“Dad is now a full-time grandpa and a part-time sub,” said Moriah, referring to her young twin boys.
Moriah’s mother, Cheryl, taught first grade at Kennedy Elementary School for 36 years and recently retired. Cheryl’s two children, Moriah and Ethan, were two of her students. Technically retired, Cheryl has been working with new teachers to help them adjust to their jobs.
Brother Ethan recently graduated from St. John’s University, where he also played basketball. When he was a student in Apollo High School, he was the all-time lead scorer for boys’ basketball and holds that school’s record for the 300-meter hurdle race. Ethan is now a physician assistant.
Like her brother, Moriah is also a physician assistant and has been for six years. A Minneapolis resident, she now works at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park.
Moriah and her wife, Andrea, have two twin boys, Arlo and Bergen, now 10 months old. Andrea is a high school social-studies teacher in Minneapolis.
Novacinski still loves to run whenever she can find the time. She has competed in several marathons, including the Chicago Marathon and the Boston Marathon.
“I ran the Boston in 2018,” she recalled. “It was rotten weather. 33 degrees, very windy and so freezing cold.”
Despite the cruddy weather, Novacinski finished the race with a good enough time to qualify for another year.
“My work and my children take a lot of time and energy,” she said. “We (Andrea and the twins) love to go hiking, spending time outdoors, and I still read a lot. Learning is still a passion for me.”