Suds, Tomek still on the run
The way Rachel Sudbury and Bryan Tomek blasted their way into the state meet-with respective championship and runner-up finishes in Saturday’s 17-team WIAA Freedom Sectional-you would have to think the teams would be walking on air.
But cross is a team sport, too, and the girls narrowly missed a shot at team state, a mere eight points separating the Hatchets from a state berth.
The uncommonly-stacked field featured four state-ranked teams, with two on the outside looking in after Saturday. Tomahawk used a superlative performance to easily box out higher-ranked Clintonville (#5), but Notre Dame of Green Bay (#10) undercut #16 THS 91-99 for second place. Freedom (#4) won the meet with 54.
“As our girls crossed the line we knew that we were in the thick of things to advance,” THS coach John Zuelsdorf said. “All of our girls were hitting their time and place goals as they were finishing and it was very exciting watching them come into the chute. Freedom’s last two scoring runners got in prior to ours, but we knew that we had beaten Clintonville and were close with Notre Dame for the last spot. To find out moments later that we came up just a few points short was tough.”
“Our inability to advance wasn’t for lack of effort, determination or focus. These girls had been waiting for this opportunity since last year at Freedom and they took full advantage of it. Every girl ran either a career best time or seasonal best time and our overall scoring time was the best performance since we were on the state podium as a team in 2006. Once the girls realize how well they actually ran they will reflect and be proud of their efforts.”
Sudbury broke her sister Sarah’s school record by three seconds with the win in 14:53.
“To see Rachel make an impact move just before the two-mile and create a gap between her and (Delaney) Fitzpatrick of Lakeland was something that she’s been working on in recent head-to-head races,” Zuelsdorf said. “It worked out this time and with the win put Rachel into an elite crowd as a three-time sectional individual champion (also 2008, 2009). It will be exciting to see her finish her senior cross country campaign at the state meet in Rapids this weekend. She’s looking forward to a solid race this year after struggling a bit last year.”
Sudbury has qualified for state all four years, with a best finish of 7th (in 15:24) in 2009. Fitzpatrick was second in 15:09.
She was backed up by PR performances from junior Stephanie Welke (13th, 15:51) seniors Rachael Miller (17th, 15:59) and Amanda Koshak (36th, 16:42) and freshman Audrey Dichsen (50th, 17:08), as well as season bests from senior Kelsey Renn (32nd, 16:36) and sophomore Jessie Harmon (45th, 17:01).
“Since these senior girls arrived on the scene they have positively impacted our program in numerous ways,” Zuelsdorf said. “They have left a legacy that spans far beyond their athletic success into areas of character traits and positive athletic role models as a lifestyle. Our underclass athletes have BIG shoes to fill in those areas, but the groundwork has been laid and from what we’ve observed this year they have responded.”
The sophomore Tomek used a strong kick to turn in the fourth-best 5K time in THS history, a 16:22, guaranteeing one of the individual state spots that go to the top five runners not on qualifying teams. He was the only non-senior in the top seven.
“Bryan ran a smart race, always staying in contact with the leaders, but never expending energy leading the pack,” Zuelsdorf said. “He stayed relaxed throughout holding position between 6th-8th place, but with 800 meters to go began to set himself up nicely for the finish kick. He left no doubt as to advancing individually as he put the hammer down in the last 200 meters, passing four runners to the finish. If the race would have been 50 meters longer he may have caught (Sean Wagner) from Seymour (16:18).
“Bryan also is anxious to return to Rapids and improve upon his showing from last year. He’s stronger, faster and has more race experience this year.”
The boys ranked sixth in the meet, edging out Wittenberg 173-174. Registering career-best times were seniors Connor Ahrens (28th, 17:31) and Zach Bruesewitz (64th, 18:52), and juniors Ryan Kuehn (30th, 17:37), Vic Ierulli (76th, 19:11) and Ben Bartz (80th, 19:23). Senior Dylan Dahl (62nd, 18:48) also competed.
“We’ve been working on getting out of the gate quicker and maintaining pace and many of our boys did,” Zuelsdorf said. “When we were going over the stats a few were commenting on the fact that during their race they had ran their fastest open mile and/or two mile splits during their 5K distance. That type of effort is phenomenal.
“Much like the girls, six out of seven boys ran career best times. It’s a great feeling for those athletes to have those kind of results in their last race of the season.”
Team scores-Girls-Freedom 54, Notre Dame 91, Tomahawk 99, Clintonville 112, Wittenberg 144, Peshtigo, 178, Colby 185, Lakeland 203, Seymour 241, Mosinee 275, N. Pines 305, Fox Valley Luth. 306, Weyauwega 320, Oconto Falls 329, Waupaca 370, Marinette inc., Medford inc……..Boys-Oconto Falls 66, Freedom 75, ND 111, Lakeland 137, Seymour 149, Tomahawk 173, Wittenberg 174, Medford 229, Colby 247, Waupaca 254, FVL 300, Weyauwega 303, Mosinee 330, Peshtigo 335, Marinette 355, N. Pines inc., Clintonville inc.