Harris ensures state return by top-five overall finish
The Merrill cross country teams pulled out the stops in Saturday’s WIAA Stevens Point Sectional at Standing Rocks Park, and it paid off when senior Sydney Harris earned her second consecutive trip to the state meet.
It will be held at The Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids, with her race at 2:20 p.m.
The girls ended up 7th out of 12 teams with 209 points, while the boys were 8th with 179.
“Sectional running this weekend couldn’t have been better,” Merrill coach Craig Hoffman said. “Our boys and girls teams ran their hearts out helping boost one state qualifier to the state cross country meet.
“Senior Sydney Harris ran with sheer determination to repeat qualifying her way to state. She ran an unbelievable race on Saturday. She never left the top five running pack and kept her pace throughout the race. I worried that she couldn’t hold her place throughout the race, but Sydney had an inner-strength that kept her right on top.
“Spectators told me that she was a whisker away from placing third overall. I’m so proud of her, and the rest of the team. They deserved a good race and they all ran well.
“Senior Svetlana Heisinger ran a strong race and finished second for the Bluejays. Senior Kendra Andreska ran her best race of the year and left a personal record on the course. Kendra looked strong at the start and finished strong. I’m really proud of the way she finished her senior competition.” The four remaining finishers–sophomores Kate Williams and Christa Schleif, junior Ashley Berton and freshman Morgan Pettit–will return next year as veteran sectional runners.”
Harris assured her state spot given to the top five individuals, not on a qualifying team, by running fifth overall in 15:30.6, 1.2 seconds out of third. Heisinger (44th, 17:23), Andreska (49th, 17:36), Williams (55th, 17:53) and Schleif (56th, 17:53) capped the scoring, and Berton (60th, 18:11) and Pettit (52nd, 18:13) were close behind.
“As we prepare Sydney for her run at the State Meet next Saturday we will concentrate on her pacing and what she needs to do during the last 600 meters,” Hoffman said. “We want to keep loose through the week, but mental toughness is the biggest challenge that Sydney will face this Saturday.”
Garrett Schmelling narrowly missed qualifying for state when he ran 17th in 17:11. Winner SPASH put 7 in the top 12 and runner-up Wausau East had two more in the top 8, but Schmelling ended up the 6th individual from a non-qualifying team.
“Senior Garrett Schmelling was so close to qualifying for state we could all taste the sweetness of it all, but it was dashed with 300 meters remaining,” Hoffman said. “Garrett held on as long as he possibly could, but we had a couple of other individual qualifiers that weren’t even on anybody’s radar who came through with very fast finishes and knocked Garrett out of contention to run at state. That’s not totally unexpected at a meet like this, but it sure hurts when we’re not going and they are.
“Garrett ran a very smart race, and tried to hold on, he did everything throughout the year that we could’ve asked for. He trained hard, helped others improve, encouraged everybody, and always ran his very best. I’m very proud of his accomplishments this past year.”
Schmelling was backed up by Jacob Jensen (31st, 17:53), Reese Beyersdorf (37th, 18:06), Ethan Schneider (43rd, 18:18) and Andrew Koch (52nd, 18:42). Closely trailing were Andrew Seaman (53rd, 18:43) and Dylan Schielke (57th, 19:04).
“Our other boy runners ran fairly well and did their best against some pretty good competition,” Hoffman noted. “I’ve been deeply impressed with sophomore Jacob Jensen’s intensity during the races and all he has to do is ‘pop’ a good race and he’ll know what he can actually do in getting his time down to where we would like it.
“Juniors Reese Byersdorf and Ethan Schneider continue to improve their times but need to mentally toughen up to show us what they really have. Junior Andrew Koch steadily improves and will be a decisive place finisher for us next year. Seniors Andrew Seaman and Dylan Schielke finish their careers with the satisfaction knowing they have contributed to a pretty successful cross country 2012 season.”
Team standings– Girls– SPASH 42, Wausau W. 73, Wausau E. 92, D.C.E. 96, Marshfield 120, Shawano 202, Merrill 209, New London 214, Rhinelander 256, Antigo 257, Tomah 291, Wis. Rapids 333.......Boys–SPASH 21, Wausau E. 62, Wausu W. 122, D.C.E. 133, Marshfield 139, Wis. Rapids 169, Shawano 171, Merrill 179, New London 269, Rhinelander 272, Tomah 302, Antigo inc.
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