Hosting the WIAA sectional meet can be a real boon to a team, and the Hatchet cross country team found themselves in that enviable position on Saturday.
Unfortunately, for the first time in 24 years it didn’t translate into state berths for any of its teams or individuals this year.
“What an opportunity it was for our athletes to run at home in familiar surroundings on a course that they train on regularly,” THS coach John Zuelsdorf said. “As much as that was the case, as a team we did not use this to our advantage and it showed in the team results. It’s one thing to just ‘like to run at home’ and another to really ‘make it work for you’. We did not truly make it an advantage, especially our girls.
“Our boys knew that Lakeland, barring a miracle, would be the sectional champs. They ran ‘true to form’ and won the event for the second straight year. There were seven or eight teams running for 2nd for the right to advance. For the fifth time this year, we laid out a plan that would allow us to challenge Pines and many of the facets of the plan were met. Troy ran and defeated their #2 runner (for the first time) and some of our mid scorers were where they needed to be.
“What hurt us was we didn’t keep our pack tightly enough together and their #3-#4 runners ran incredible races. Pines ran a great race and we ran good. It took ‘great’ to advance. Even with equaling our PR’s across the board we couldn’t have defeated Pines.”
The THS boys tied for fifth place of 16 teams with 180 points, although they got bumped to 6th in the tiebreaker.
Senior Troy VanStrydonk passed ten runners in the last mile, most down the final stretch, to match his career best 5K effort of 17:11 and narrowly miss the final individual qualifying spot. Alex Johnson (32nd, 17:51), Cayton Scholz (35th, 17:53), Lucas Tjugum (46th, 18:14), Justin Jarvensivu (55th, 18:37), Mason Webster (63rd, 18:50) and Evan Ploeckelman (64th, 18:51) filled out the squad.
Lakeland (43 points) and Northland Pines (108) both advance to state as teams – Pines for the first time ever – along with individuals from Medford and Antigo.
The ladies struggled to a 14th-place finish. Dani Whiting closed out her career in 22nd place (21:15). Kate Krueger (64th, 22:44), Lauren Bauman (66th, 22:46), Susan Waye (72nd, 22:59), Rylie Swan (82nd, 23:18), Sara Kouba (93rd, 23:18) and Maggee Renn (96th, 24:30) completed the varsity.
Freedom (57) defended its sectional title at Tomahawk and Peshtigo (84) also advances to Rapids next weekend.
“We knew our girls were going to be challenged this year with the loss of four senior scorers last season,” Zuelsdorf said. “A lot of this load fell on our seniors Dani, Susan and Sara. Only one young lady was able to PR at sectional and to have a solid showing there we needed each athlete to hit or come close to their PRs.”
Team standings– Boys– Lakeland 43, N. Pines 108, Seymour 130, Medford 154, Freedom 180, Tomahawk 180, Peshtigo 180Oconton Falls 181, Shwano 194, Waupaaca 253, Waupaca 253, Mosinee 273, Wittenberg 334, Marinette 338, New London 339, Antigo 380, Clintonville 411…….Girls– Freedom 57, Peshtigo 84, Lakeland 118, Clintonville 119, Wittenberg 128, Marinette 128, Medford 190, Oconto Falls 241, New London 247, Waupaca 251, Shawano 269, Mosinee 271, Seymour 303, Tomahawk 306, N. Pines 329, Antigo inc.
The boys worked a 100-21 record (82.6%) and the girls ended up with a 73-43 mark (62.9%).
“This was an exciting year for our young varsity boys team as they won their first three invites and gained a lot of confidence early with wins over Chequmegon (a D3 state
qualifier), Ashland, Marathon, Stratford (a D3 state qualifier) and Colfax, posting a 100-win season. By tournament time, all of our varsity scorers had sub-18 minute PR’s for 5K and our pack scoring split was less than the 1-minute mark consistently. They can be proud of their efforts!
“We will miss the leadership of our seniors Troy, Jakob, Kyle, Danny, and Billy. They kept things fun, yet focused and worked hard every day in practice setting strong examples for our underclass athletes.”
“Along with the underclass athletes, we felt that (the girls) adapted well to the full 5K race schedule and the additional distance that went with it in practice. Early on our times for our mid-pack scoring athletes dropped from meet to meet. That improvement was exciting, but we may have hit our peak prior to tournament time.
“Dani had high aspirations this season, but the injury in track and the lack of formidable summer training may have hurt her in the final push. Dani, Susan, and Sara have all been a pleasure to work with these past four years.”