Hatchets, Bluejays make much of their Marathon chances
The Merrill and Tomahawk cross country teams joined eight other teams in Thursday’s Sawmill Classic in Marathon, and both had to be pleased with the results.
The Hatchet girls ran away with the meet, putting up close to half the score of runner-up Nekoosa, although top runner Bryan Tomek, who was in first place by nearly 200 meters two-thirds of the way through the event, pulled out.
The Bluejay boys missed second place by a mere three points, and the girls placed seventh in a tough field.
“Although we have no seniors in the scoring mix, our girls continue to compete like seasoned veterans,” THS coach John Zuelsdorf said. “The girls improved their times on average from last year’s invite on the same course about 1-½ minutes each, with some close to three minutes of improvement. That just goes to show that all the hard work they have been putting into the sport since last season is paying off.
“Dani went out aggressively with (Natalie) Miller from Three Lakes (top-6 D-3 runner in 2012) and hung right with her ’til the end, coasting to a career-best 4K time in the process. Alex and Emmy ran solid races to earn medals, and Talyn and Claire sealed the deal for us with top 15 placements, each running P.R.’s in the process. We even benefited from our 6th and 7th runners pushing scorers from other teams back and inflating their team scores.”
The THS girls stuck three in the top 10 with Whiting (2nd, 16:13), Zedler (4th, 16:40) and Emmy Larson (9th, 17:14) setting a pace backed up by Talyn Jones (13th, 17:39) and Claire Kuehn (15th, 17:47). Kayla Gass (23rd, 18:33), Kaitlin Gaedtke (34th, 19:07), Alex Bellile (43rd, 19:33) and Riley Swan (50th, 20:02) also competed well.
The boys used a pack of VanStrydonk (14th, 18:22), Austin Kaiser (16th, 18:35) and Jacob McGuire (18th, 18:42) as pacesetters, and Jared Kiander (27th, 19:12), Kyle Klopatek (29th, 19:18) and Dakota Tomek (30th, 19:19) were close at hand. Tyler Wittmann (33rd, 19:36), Jakob Panzer (36th, 19:52), Lucas Tjugum (41st, 20:06) and Erik Zedler (42nd, 20:07) also ran well.
Zuelsdorf noted that the loss of Tomek didn’t affect the team placing due that strong packing.
“Bryan used this race more as a workout and went out fast, coming through the mile in 4:23 and two-mile in 9:53, both extremely aggressive times considering the competition and the challenges the course presented,” he said. “He was leading by nearly 200 yards at 2-miles and shut things down. Our team place was not affected, we would have finished the same with or without him in the scoring.
“Our grouping of our scorers, led by sophomore Troy Van Strydonk was a good one. We placed all five scorers and actually our next six runners in the chute within 57 seconds of each other. That’s the kind of grouping we will continue to strive for as the season progresses.
“We had a lot of seasonal bests and overall career P.R.’s on the day. It’s rare to get nearly ideal conditions for the runners to compete in. Temps were in the mid to upper 60’s at race time, humidity wasn’t bad, no wind, and the shade in the woods was an added bonus.”
The key to Merrill’s success was explained by MHS coach Craig Hoffman.
“Continued improvements on handling racing strategies helped our boys run very competitively,” he said. “We were there to defend our championship win from last year, but Marathon and Nekoosa ran in tight packs and dominated the course from the beginning of the race.
“We came on strong in the end with nice finishes by Reese Beyersdorf, Ethan Schneider, Brett Swan, Jacob Jensen and Andrew Koch. Brett Swan is our ace-in-the-hole. Once he figures out his own abilities, Brett will be a strong runner for our program. It’s a great story unfolding for Brett.”
The Bluejay boys grabbed four of the 10-15 spots with Beyersdorf (10th, 18:02), Schneider (12th, 18:14), Swan (13th, 18:21) and Jensen (15th, 18:33). Koch (20th, 18:58) capped the scoring, and Brady Schmelling (24th, 19:08), Losha Heisinger (32nd, 19:31) and Nathan Koch (38th, 19:55) inflated foes’ scores.
For the girls, Hoffman noted, “Newcomer Lauren Case showed some grit by placing in the top five for our girls, which helped boost our varsity level of running. With expected finishes by Ashley Berton, Morgan Pettit, Christa Schleif, we used this race to determine who was going to be in our top seven for upcoming races.
“Another fine finish was completed Shelby Harris and Caylen McCarthy. They had very strong finishes and showed they can compete with some confidence. Additionally, I liked the competitive spirit of Mickenna Comstock and Sarah Ponzer. We need to rely on these girls to continually improve, which will help us place higher on team finishes.”
Berton (18th, 17:54) led the way, followed by Pettit (27th, 18:45) and Schleif (28th, 18:45), Case (38th, 19:12) and Harris (48th, 19:50). McCarthy (51st, 20:02), Comstock (57th, 20:36), Ponzer (58th, 20:36) and Rachel Romanowski (64th, 21:01) were in the running.
“Our season is well underway, and our injuries thus far are very low, so I’m pleased with our two teams that display true Bluejay spirit as they compete individually and as a team,” Hoffman added. “I’ve always stated that there are no benchwarmers in cross country and that includes coaches and parents and spectators!”
Team scores: Girls–Tomahawk 43, Nekoosa 84, Marathon 85, Wittenberg 130, Stratford 142, Prentice/Rib Lake 145, Merrill 157, Athens 199, Three Lks. 209, Auburndale 231…….Boys–Marathon 28, Nekoosa 67, Merrill 70, Tomahawk 102, Prent./R.L. 150, Stratford 153, Wittenberg 182, Auburndale, Three Lks. inc. Athens inc.