By Nick Beversdorf
Merrill cross country traveled to Stevens Point on Saturday to compete in the WIAA Sectionals. Personal bests abound, they nonetheless fell short of qualifying for state. The boys placed last with a team position of 12 and the girls performed slightly better, placing 11th out of 12.
For the boys, Stephen Koch led the team in first place with a finishing time of 18:46.2. He placed 63rd overall. Andrei Heisenger placed second on the Merrill team with a time of 18:57.4. In third was Dominic Laufenberg (18:57.7), fourth Ethan Halfman (19:06.7), fifth Nathan Koch (19:43.1), sixth Alik Berreth (20:00.6) and seventh Jacob Novitch (20:11.5).
For the girls, Dalie Thomas led the team in first place and 31st overall with a time of 21:06.7. Behind her in second was Deanta Saunders with a time of 22:36.2, in third was Hunter Zecca (23:00.1), fourth Lily Reimann (23:22.6), fifth Autumn Schenzel (23:39.2) and sixth Anne Herdt (24:07.3).
“Our season ended prematurely because we didn’t have any one of our runners make it to the State Cross Country meet next week in Wisconsin Rapids, but we win some personal records during Sectionals this past Saturday,” commented Coach Hoffman. “Six of our boys lowered their personal best runs of the season peaking at the right time but it wasn’t enough to keep us from placing as a team. The boys now know that it is critical to train in the off-season to keep their prospects brighter for next year.
“We will lose five senior boys this year: Andrei Heisinger, Dallas Kaufman, Nathan Koch, Trevor Stadler and Austyn Stoerzer. Each contributed to the team in some special way, but we have eager underclassman to fill their shoes. Our most competitive runner this season was Sophomore Stephen Koch. Stephen is like a buzz saw, his endurance and speed will serve him well in the next couple of years. Freshman Dominic Laufenberg ran a tremendous race at Sectionals. I think he finally ‘got it’ on the idea of competing in the race. So, we’ll take our lumps this year, but next year is certainly looking bright for the boys.
“Our girls’ efforts at Sectionals proved much the same in team results, but the girls ran solid runs to place them a wee bit better than the boys,” adds Hoffman. “Sophomore Dalie Thomas mounted an excellent effort in finding a way to the State Meet, but she fell short of her goal. Dalie ran a pretty good race two-thirds of the way, but lost steam the last 800 meters. No doubt she ran really, really well, but just fell short of her goal.
“Senior Deanta Saunders ran her last race with a flurry of a finish and we were proud of her efforts these past two years. Additionally, Sophomore Hunter Zecca zoomed in with a really strong effort and finished well. All of our girls improved over the season and they were part of a great cross country team. They may not have been conference champs, or state participants, but they were my favorites!
“We also will lose seniors: Sarah Gessler, Brianna Grosskurth, Chelsey LaMonica, Deanta Saunders and Allie Turenne. This group of girls captivated the true Bluejay spirit and will be sorely missed. They worked hard, ran hard, and laughed hard! I will truly, truly miss them.”