Huge Smiley Invite provides big challenge for Jays and Hatchets
The Bluejay and Hatchet cross country teams jumped into Saturday’s Smiley Invite-one of Wisconsin’s biggest high school running events this side of the state meet-and finished with mixed results.
The young Tomahawk girls ran fourth in the 30-team combined D2-3 race and third in the D2 event, while the boys ranked 11th and seventh. The Merrill boys placed 7th of 12 in the D1 Small division, and 19th of 26 in the overall D1, while the girls ranked 10th of 10 and 24th of 24.
“We look forward to competing at the Smiley every year,” THS coach John Zuelsdorf said. “Going into the meet, we did a mid-season taper to see how the athletes would respond to the mileage reduction and rest. For our younger athletes it seemed to work, as many PR’d, but our veterans didn’t respond as we had expected.
“In each of the four races, we improved over our team results from last year. We nearly came away with team awards in both the varsity girls and JV boys races, that’s not too bad considering there are over 30 teams competing in each of the races. Additionally, Smiley has taken a new look in the past two years, with more ranked teams traveling from all over the state to compete there. In the boys race alone, the addition of Shorewood, Little Chute, Boscobel, Kiel, and Madison Edgewood has raised the level of competition in D2/D3 to another level. It’s a good mid-season test for our athletes and a chance to see how they measure up against the best, both individually and as a team.”
Leading the way for the Hatchet girls were Dani Whiting (9th in D2/3 combined, 16:19), Alex Zedler (22nd, 16:50), Emmy Larson (52nd, 17:37), Talyn Jones (69th, 17:52), Claire Kuehn (70th, 17:54) and Kayla Gass (88th, 18:16). Maggee Renn won the JV race in a PR 17:40.
The THS boys were paced by Bryan Tomek (8th, 16:43), Jacob McGuire (73rd, 18:51), Austin Kaiser (74th, 18:52), Troy VanStrydonk (77th, 18:53), Kyle Klopatek (102nd, 19:29), Tyler Wittmann (112th, 19:41) and Dakota Tomek (134th, 20:06).
The Bluejay boys counted on Reese Beyersdorf (21st, 18:04), Ethan Schneider (27th, 18:12), Jacob Jensen (34th, 18:28), Andrew Koch (44th, 19:00) and Brett Swan (48th, 19:04), and Brady Schmelling (54th, 19:08) and Drake Hirte (68th, 20:11) competed.
“The annual Smiley Cross Invitational is a good barometer of where our team is during the mid-season and it’s a wake-up call when we compare ourselves to our Valley foes,” commented MHS coach Craig Hoffman. “The air was chilly, there were partly cloudy skies and the competition was very stiff, and that’s a good analogy of how we ran on Saturday.
“Our overall times were ‘partly cloudy’ and some were down right chilly. We will need to compete at a much high level if we want to be in the top third of our conference this year. And yet, when the clouds parted, there were some nice time improvements for some of our runners.”
“The varsity boys team’s placing provided some valuable information on how we will compete in the conference and sectional races late in the season. There were no surprise finishes or outstanding performances, but this race did result in helping us size up our current strength and abilities. I’m pleased with their work ethic during practice and if we can convert some of that into a competitive race this coming Saturday, then I’ll be satisfied for the week. Our quest right now is to convert some of the finishing paces back into the middle of the race where it’s needed. Our home meet is this Saturday, and historically, Merrill runners run one of their personal bests during the season right in their own back yard.”
The MHS girls were paced by Shelby Harris (45th, 18:30), Christa Schleif (47th, 18:38), Bailey Mogenson (52nd, 18:46), Ashley Berton (54th, 18:58) and Morgan Pettit (57th, 19:05) and backed up by Lauren Case (60th, 19:31), Mickenna Comstock (63rd, 20:01) and Sarah Ponozer (66th, 20:46).
“Our girls did not compete to their ability, but sophomore Shelby Harris and freshman Bailey Mogensen popped two refreshing finishes for the Bluejays,” Hoffman noted. “Overall, the girls didn’t compete up to their own expectations, which will provide a bit of redemption this coming Saturday.”
The SPASH boys ran away with the D1 race, scoring 41 to runner-up Kimberly’s 105. Eagan, Minn., won the girls race 63-87 over Sun Prairie, while Point was 3rd with 92.
Little Chute (157) bested Phillips (174), Kiel (182) and Tomahawk (220) in the D2/3 combined girls race. Shorewood (53) undercut Little Chute (108) and Chequamegon (109) in the boys race.