Tomahawk’s Tomek blazes top-10 state cross finish
Tomahawk junior Bryan Tomek took his third shot at conquering the WIAA State Cross Country Meet course on Saturday, and came as close as he has in his career.
Tomek had qualified for the event by placing fifth in the WIAA Waupaca Sectional the previous week–one of eight in the state in D2, giving him a rough 40th-place projection. But he bumped up that solid performance all the way to a ninth-place ranking on the difficult Ridges course. He was clocked in 16:15.12.
“What an exciting weekend for Bryan to have the opportunity to experience,” THS coach John Zuelsdorf said. “From the banquet on Friday night through the race on Saturday, everything that he was exposed to was motivational and part of a ‘one-of-a-kind’ experience.”
Tomek blasted out of the start, ranking third at the one-mile mark after running a blistering 4:57 segment.
“He made the most of his third trip to state and got out of trouble early in the large field, avoiding any chance this year of having something unfortunate happen in the crowded field,” Zuelsdorf said. “He worked hard to position himself near the front for the first half of the race. He has gained a lot of confidence in his abilities this year racing near or at the front of all invites and it showed in his performance.”
The pace was too fast for him to hold for the entire race, so Tomek backed off to a 5:28 second mile, with the crowded pack in his rear-view mirror. He had slipped slightly to 12th place at that point, but turned it up at that point to secure his ninth place.
“What really impressed us is how he was able to focus on the pack that passed him near the halfway point of the race, and how he was able to relax and reel them back in by the end,” Zuelsdorf said. “Only those athletes that have run on the Rapids’ course know what kind of accomplishment it is to run that kind of time on that tough of a course.
“He ran the 5th fastest final 1800 meters down the stretch to finish 9th overall. His time of 16:15 was the second fastest time ever run by a Hatchet at state in Rapids.
“It took a lot of heart and guts down the last 800 meters to lay out that kind of performance. As a staff we are very pleased with his effort at State. He will return next year as one of the individual favorites.”
Five runners, including the top three, that finished in the top eight will graduate this school year.
“Bryan also avenged last week’s 5th place finish at Sectionals, by placing in front of those four athletes and was the 4th underclass athlete in the chute as the other top finishers were seniors,” Zuelsdorf said.
The WIAA held a banquet attended by 350 the night before this year’s races, bringing in important past runners, including THS alum Suzie Houston-Steel, the first female state champion (in 1975), and her coach Gordy Erickson, who mentored four teams to titles.
SPASH alumnus Chris Solinsky, a three-time WIAA boys champ and now a world-class distance runner, headlined the special guests. The organizers also played a video from Point’s Suzy Favor-Hamilton, four-time champion and decorated international racer.
Tomek will compete in the Nike Pre-National qualifier on November 11 at Yankton Trail Park, in Sioux Falls, S. Dak.
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