By Nick Beversdorf
Depending on how you look at it, the Merrill Cross Country team either performed well on Saturday with plenty of personal best times or they performed not so well as they came in at the bottom of the meet.
Although many personal bests were set during the meet, Merrill slipped to the bottom of the standings for both boys and girls. The varsity boys placed seventh with a 206 team score and the varsity girls placed seventh with a 183 team score.
Sophomore Dalie Thomas led the varsity girls team, individually placing in 10th overall and first on the team with a time of 20:48.7. In second was Deanta Saunders (22:38.6), third Hunter Zecca (23:33.1), fourth Lily Reimann (23:57.8), fifth Autumn Schenzel (24:18.4), sixth Anne Herdt (24:27.7), seventh Sophie Priebe (24:40.4) and eighth Allie Becker (24:45.8).
For the varsity boys, Sophomore Stephen Koch lead the team in first place and 32nd place overall with a time of 19:00.5. In second was Ethan Hoffman (19:40.9), third Dominic Laufenberg (19:43.5), fourth Andrie Heisinger (19:47.5), fifth Nathan Koch (20:07.7), sixth Jacob Novitch (20:36.1) and seventh Alic Berreth (20:36.7).
“Competing against our conference foes was bittersweet this past Saturday,” commented Coach Hoffman. “Many of our runners ran some personal records (PR) for the season but we sank to the cellar in team standings; both boys and girls tanked to the bottom.
“In the boys varsity race we had a plan to beat a couple of teams that were near our capabilities, but we had a couple of runners who didn’t follow through with our planning and we ended up on the bottom. In the girls varsity run I think we put our best efforts on the course and had some outstanding finishes, but it wasn’t enough to keep up from settling at the bottom with the seven teams. Our conference has always been a tough battle to compete in and has had extremely gifted runners and running programs, so we have always been the underdogs, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t compete.
“The oft quoted statement ‘To be the best you have to beat the best’ is still our mantra so we need the off-season fitness training and running to ensure our competing level with the Valley Conference. Individually, Sophomore Dalie Thomas shined brightly within the mist and wind. Daily as determined to place in the top 10 and receive 2nd team all-conference and she did it with 10 meters to spare!
“Additionally, Senior Deanta Saunders and Sophomore Hunter Zecca stepped it up a notch and finished in pretty good standings for the team effort. On the boys varsity, our most improved runners of the meet were Junior Ethan Halfman and Freshman Dominic Laufenberg. Dominic started out running a sprint, but then settled in and finished close to Ethan in team standings.
“What I’m seeing today is a team worth watching next year; we are in a position to have some energetic, team oriented runners who need to keep building their strength, improve on their endurance, and develop a mind-set for competing. Those ingredients will spell success for next year, but we still have one more big meet this coming week down at Standing Rocks where we will meet many of our adversaries again. But knowing who to beat is our best weapon. Dalie Thomas is ‘smelling’ State ambitions so we need to help her find that path,” concluded Hoffman.