Ellsworth competed in two races again last week, but this time they proved that they were up for the challenge.
The Panthers cross country runners raced at Spring Valley on Thursday, Sept. 28 and at New Richmond's Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 30. After her team's performances, head coach Marcie Jahnke said, "The athletes are starting to reveal to us the level of performance that we hoped to see this season."
At Spring Valley, over half of the Panthers team ran season-best times. Freshman Roy Roberts was Ellsworth's top finisher on the boys side. Roberts ran a 5k time of 19:33.6, which earned him a 10th-place finish.
Kyle Perkins, junior at Ellsworth, came in at 19:57.1 (15th place) right in front of teammate Addison Peters, who ran a time of 20:04.3 (16th place). Matthew Williams finished in 21st place, while Avery Girdeen placed 27th to complete the boys varsity five.
All of the top five Ellsworth girls placed within the top-20 of the meet.
Once again, Julia VanWatermeulen led the girls team with a 5k time of 22:12.8. She came in second overall on the girls' side behind Elmwood's Kassye Todd, who finished with a time of 20:55.5.
Freshman Sophie Vogel was the next runner to come in for Ellsworth on the girls team. She ran a time of 23:16.5 (seventh), followed by senior Rachel Mancuso who came in 10 seconds after Vogel with a time of 23:26.9 (eighth). CeCe Groh placed 15th and Claire Straub came in 17th place.
"They did an excellent job working the hills and it paid off," Jahnke said of her team after the Spring Valley meet.
At New Richmond, 20 of the 24 Ellsworth runners who competed ran their personal best times of the season.
Roberts finished as the top Ellsworth finisher for the boys team again, placing 31st with a time of 18:45.53, shaving off over 48 seconds of his time at Spring Valley.
Perkins ran a time of 19:09.41 for a 39th-place finish. Peters came in 51st, Williams 52nd, Cedric Kosnopfal 56th and Girdeen 58th.
The boys team came in last of the nine teams at New Richmond with a team score of 229. Osceola was the top team with a total score of 53 points. Menomonie's Matt Kieffer won the meet with a time of 17:13.50.
VanWatermeulen led the girls side with a 32nd-place finish. She came in at 22:10.81, two seconds faster than her time at Spring Valley.
Vogel came in not too far behind VanWatermeulen at 36th with a time of 22:21.06. Vogel, Mancuso (40th) and Groh (42nd) used the power of the pack again to finish the invitational race. Freya Nelson was the fifth runner for the girls varsity team coming in 46th place.
Ellsworth girls finished seventh of nine teams with a score of 196. Hudson High School finished in first with a team score of 27, and their very own Rachel Ball won the girls 5k with a time of 18:44.52.
"We had an exceptionally hard week of training, so I was very pleased to see how they performed at these two meets," Jahnke said. "After our performances in the last few weeks revealed that we weren't where we had hoped to be right now, Coach Kowalchyk and I warned the team the level of intensity in practice was going to have to change if we wanted to reach the goals we had set for ourselves."
Based on the number of season-best times the Panthers produced last week, it appears the extra effort in practice is paying off for their team. Jahnke and her team hope to ride their current momentum into the least two weeks of the regular season and into sectionals.
The Panthers will head to the Gerald Holte Invite on Saturday, Oct. 7 for their next meet.
The Prescott Cardinals also raced at New Richmond on Saturday, Sept. 30. The Cardinals also responded well to the high level of competition at Saturday's invitational.
"It was good to run in a very competitive race like that," co-head coach Steve Peterson said. "Seeing larger schools and most of the top teams in the conference is a good way to prepare for the conference meet in two weeks. It gives us a good idea of what we have to work on and where we stand."
Prescott was led by senior Cody Hauenstein who came in seventh overall with an impressive time of 17:48.78.
Dylan Rieken came in next for the Prescott boys at 20th with a time of 18:15.22. The bottom three varsity runners came in in a pack; Tristan Winkler 45th, Ben Barksdale 47th and Blaise Schnorr 49th.
"I was pleased to see Cody back on track after being out the past two weeks," Peterson said. "Several of our other varsity boys ran their best times of the season—partially due to the flat course—but we will be working on getting out a bit faster so they can compete closer to the leaders and try to maintain that pace."
The Cardinal boys finished sixth out of the nine teams that competed with a team score of 168.
The girls team also responded well to racing against some of the toughest teams in the region on Saturday.
Leading the way for the Panthers were seniors Kjerstin Carlson and Mari Sommer who ran within a second of each other. Carlson finished in 29th place with a time of 21:59.86, and Sommer came in at 22:00.68 to claim the 30th spot in the race.
Kira Penk came in next for Prescott at 39th, while Hayley Hillman came in 41st behind her, and Ella Linder finished in 53rd to complete the girls top five varsity runners.
"I was really impressed with Kjerstin Carlson," Peterson said. "She started off strong, but struggled a little after the first mile, as she did last week at Durand. This time, however, she came back strong to lead the team."
Like the boys team, the girls will continue to work on attacking the first part of their races to be at their peak performance level for the rest of the season.
"We know we have a really competitive conference," Peterson said. "We could run well and still struggle to be in the top part, so we have our work cut out for us. Coach Lahn and I think our kids will respond well to the challenge."
The Cardinals will have another chance to test their skills at their own invitational on Thursday, Oct. 12 at 4:15 p.m.