When Mya Rodriguez and Sarah Steinhilber first met in fifth grade, they didn't exactly hit it off.
"I think she thought I talked too much," Steinhilber said.
The two went 1-2 in Boone Grove's elementary school race that fall and became cross country teammates the following year. That was the beginning of a friendship that's grown away from the sport as the pair have emerged as the Wolves' top runners in the post-Jordan Chester era.
"We have great running chemistry," Rodriguez said. "Our workouts are similar, so we're always partnered up. We're always happy for one another. We're not just a team. We're all pretty close."
The connection is well-timed, considering they've had to jointly assume the tall task of carrying on the torch left by Chester, the school's greatest runner.
"I'm such a better runner because of her," Steinhilber said. "She kept us committed, focused."
"We're such a small school, we feel we have to keep it up," Rodriguez said. "Jordan prepared us for that. She set us on our ways. We know we have to help the team now."
Actually, it almost didn't happen for Rodriguez, who hedged on coming out for the team as a freshman. Steinhilber, the Porter County Conference runner-up in eighth grade, said she threatened to not talk to Rodriguez if she didn't run.
"In middle school, I was one of the lower runners," Rodriguez said. "(Sarah) said, 'You have to try it.' The team adopted me. Now I don't know what it would be like without it."
With Rodriguez's progress, she and Steinhilber have become 1 and 1A for the Wolves. Rodriguez typically places higher in invites and Steinhilber in PCC meets.
"I'm trying to figure that one out," Boone coach Trish Kloth said. "It's something I really pushed into those two, without Jordan, you're on your own. They had to step it up a lot more, only being sophomores, but I knew they could handle it.
"They've really come along. (Getting to the regional) last season helped build their success so far. Instead of thinking, conference, sectionals, OK, we're done, they've seen further down the road. That's what we're looking toward."
Rodriguez has more natural speed than Steinhilber, giving her an edge with a stronger finishing kick, but the two have similar race approaches, pushing the pace early.
"We're always running together," Steinhilber said. "If one's a little behind, the other's up with her at the end. The first couple PCC meets, I knew she was behind me, which made me go a little faster. Now when one goes, both go."
It'll be no different Tuesday, when the pair try to keep the PCC meet title with Boone.
"We're hoping to pull together and do it again," Steinhilber said.