Cross country: Pierce County teams take pride in sectional races
When the Ellsworth Panthers cross-country runners arrived at their high school prior to taking off for the Saturday, Oct. 20, WIAA Division 2 St. Croix Central sectional, they made jokes about the weather conditions they were about to all run a 5k in.
"We all walked into the school and were like, 'Oh, what a perfect day,'" senior Emma Swanson said after her race on Saturday.
The teams who competed on Saturday were forced to run in low 40-degree temperatures with 19 mile-an-hour winds, a day after the temperatures rose to the mid 60's. But the Panthers embraced the weather conditions that "leveled the playing field."
"Coach (Jahnke) came in and said the weather leveled the playing field more, because it determines how tough you really are and what you can get through in a race," Swanson said.
Swanson, who ran her final high school cross-country race on Saturday and has been described as a tough competitor all season long by her head coach Marcia Jahnke, used the weather conditions to her advantage.
"I consider myself to be someone who's mentally strong, so when the conditions aren't the greatest, that's when I thrive," Swanson said. "I think, 'I'm going to get this person because they're worried about things they can't control,' and I take advantage of that."
Swanson finished in 54th place overall with a time of 23 minutes, 18.6 seconds, beating her old personal-best time by 12 seconds.
As a team, the Panther girls finished in 11th place and were led by sophomore CeCe Groh who finished in 32nd place with a time of 22:16.0.
The boys claimed a third-place finish and missed a bid for the WIAA State Cross Country Meet by 32 poings. Osceola won the boys' meet with 42 points, and St. Croix Central became the second and final team to advance to the state meet by scoring 91 points, but there was no disappointment from the Ellsworth boys' team.
"We're proud that the boys took third," Jahnke said. "We knew we were in the top five (teams), and I told the boys ahead of time that they had to stay pretty tight. I wasn't sure where we came in at the end of it, and we were still hoping for a second-place finish, but third out of 14 is something we should be really proud of."
Jahnke said that both of her teams stepped up to the challenge that Saturday's weather conditions presented them.
"Perfect conditions make it perfect for everybody," Jahnke said. "When the conditions are a little bit more challenging, that's the opportunity for the tough kids to rise."
One of aforementioned "tough kids" was junior Charlie Stuhl who came in 11th place with a time of 18:07.1 to lead the Panther boys. The top five individuals not on either Osceola or St. Croix Central's teams also qualified for the state meet. Stuhl was sixth on that list, missing state by one spot.
"He's definitely disappointed, but I just told him and the rest of the boys that this is a great motivator for next year," Jahnke said. "Next year we are not going to be third or sixth. We're going to come back and use that motivator to break through that threshold."
The Panthers return several runners on both teams, but will graduate a strong senior class made up of Kyle Perkins, Swanson, Claire Straub, Grace Groh, Matthew Williams, Jonah Vogel and Cedric Kosnopfal whom Jahnke described as a tough group to say goodbye to.
"They've been great leaders for our young kids, and I know that the younger athletes look up to them," Jahnke said. "We will definitely be different without them, and I can't say enough about them. I knew this was going to be a tough season when it started because it was their last."
Jahnke described Perkins as a silent, hard-working, disciplined leader who will be hard to replace next year. Perkins ran a 5k time of 18:58.3 for a 30th-place finish in his final cross-country race as a Panther.
"We came into this season thinking we had a shot at state, and I felt like that gave us more focus this year," Perkins said when asked about his team's success this season. "We all ran closer together this season, and that helped us a lot, too."
Perkins said the closing of his cross-country career hadn't hit him yet, but when asked to sell the sport of cross-country, he had an answer.
"It's a unique sport because all you need is a pair of shoes, and it's something that you can carry with you throughout your life," Perkins said. "It's good for your health, it's challenging and it allows you to meet some of the best people you'll ever meet."
"It's a totally different sport and people don't always want to do it because it's hard, but it's one of my favorite sports because it shows that you have to have guts," Swanson added. "There's no halftime, there's no breaks and it's just taught me a lot."
Prescott takes step in right direction
Like the Panthers, the Prescott Cardinals will not look back on the 2018 season as a disappointment.
The senior-less Cardinals were burdened by injuries late in the year, but are fortunate to return all of their runners next year after taking what co-head coach Steve Peterson described as a good "first step" this year.
"I hate to use the term rebuilding, but with as inexperienced as we were, we feel really good going into next year knowing that we now have this huge core of people coming back," Peterson said. "We have those leaders now who know what it's like to run in bad weather at a sectional meet. There were growing pains along the way, but overall, coach (Alexis) Lahn and I would both say that we're in a good place."
The Prescott girls finished in 13th place but were missing three of their usual varsity runners. Freshman Amanda Auleciems led the girls' team with a 33rd-place finish and a time of 22:19.7.
Auleciems described her first year of varsity cross-country as a big step up from the middle school level, but said the challenge was worth it in the long run thanks to her teammates.
"Ella Linder was a pacer and always pushed me," Auleciems said. "Megan Gilles would always stay with me for the first mile. When one of us slows down we always try to push each other to run faster."
After her final varsity race of the season, Auleciems had some advice for those at the middle school level debating on whether or not to try varsity cross-country. "If anyone ever has doubts about running 3.14 miles, just try it out and see how it goes because you actually might be really good at it."
The Cardinal boys finished in 12th place and were led by junior Zach Knee who completed his first season of cross-country with a 20th-place finish and a time of 18:33.6. Knee said he originally went out for cross-country to hangout with his friends, but that he's developed a love for running throughout the course of his successful rookie season.
"I went into this just wanting to hang out with my friends, but I ended up doing way better than I thought I would," Knee said. "We're all supportive of each other, and it's pretty much just a team that you can relax with. Before, I ran probably once a week to stay in shape, but I never really thought of joining cross-country. I started to love running once I found out I'm kind of good at it."
Knee's statements attest to Peterson's belief that he saw improved confidence in his runners during the 2018 season, which he believes will be the foundation of Prescott's strong base in the years to come.
GIRLS' TEAM RESULTS:
1. Osceola (56)
2. Hayward (63)
3. Rice Lake (80)
4. St. Croix Central (83)
5. Northwestern (139)
6. Amery (188)
7. Ashland (213)
8. Bloomer (237)
9. Baldwin-Woodville (259)
10. Somerset (283)
11. Ellsworth (285)
12. Barron (303)
13. Prescott (306)
14. Cumberland (406)
15. Spooner (440)
Ellsworth: 1. Groh (SO, 22:16, 32nd place overall) 2. Swanson (SR, 23:19, 54th) 3. Jolene Schultz (SO, 23:53, 62nd) 4. Claire Straub (SR, 24:09, 68th) 5. Sophie Vogel (SO, 24:09, 69th)
Prescott: 1. Amanda Auleciems (FR, 22:20, 33rd) 2. Sami Braunlich (JR, 23:27, 56th) 3. Megan Gilles (JR, 23:57, 63rd) 4. Grace Dickey (FR, 24:42, 76th) 5. Jessie Urman (SO, 25:02, 78th)
BOYS' TEAM RESULTS:
1. Osceola (42)
2. St. Croix Central (91)
3. Ellsworth (123)
4, Rice Lake (124)
5. Bloomer (141)
6. Northwestern (158)
7. Somerset (172)
8. Ashland (229)
9. Amery (243)
10. Hayward (250)
11. Barron (251)
12. Prescott (260)
13. Baldwin-Woodville (319)
14. Cumberland (411)
Ellsworth: 1. Stuhl (JR, 18:07, 11th) 2. Addison Peters (SO, 18:27, 18th) 3. Perkins (SR, 18:58, 30th) 4. Max Mitchell (JR, 19:01, 31st) 5. Wyatt Nelson (FR, 19:06, 33rd)
Prescott: 1. Knee (JR, 18:33, 20th) 2. Eric Korfhage (FR, 19:26, 44th) 3. Tristan Winkler (JR, 19:58, 59th) 4. Luke Hillman (SO, 20:19, 68th) 5. Ethan Tutor (JR, 20:21, 69th)
Spring Valley and EPC finish seasons at Boyceville
The Spring Valley Cardinals and Elmwood/Plum City Wolves completed their 2018 seasons at the WIAA Division 3 Boyceville sectional on Saturday, Oct. 20, where the Spring Valley boys were the highest-placing Pierce County team.
The Cardinals had their sights set on beating the Colfax Vikings whom they've competed closely with throughout the season, but finished two points behind the Vikings for a fifth-place finish.
The Cardinal boys were led by sophomore Matt Thoms who completed the 5k in 18:40 for a 12th-place finish.
The Cardinal girls finished in eighth place and were led by junior Katherine Dieckman who ran a time of 22:37 for an 20th-place finish.
Elmwood/Plum City finished in 14th place on the boys' side and was led by sophomore Austin Bartz who came in at 20:09 for a 59th-place finish.
Kendra Kern and Shanda Trainor were the only two EPC girls to run the sectional 5k on Saturday. Kern led the Wolves with a 25th-place finish and a time of 23:06.8, while Trainor crossed the finish line at 27:02.1 for a 68th-place finish.
GIRLS' TEAM RESULTS:
1. Glenwood City (40)
2. McDonnell Central (63)
3. Colfax (88)
4. Chetek-Weyerhaeuser (111)
5. St. Croix Falls (114)
6. Regis (139)
7. Thorp (146)
8. Spring Valley (180)
Spring Valley: 1. Dieckman (JR, 22:37, 20th) 2. Claire Anderson (FR, 25:00, 36th) 3. Kari Hybben (JR, 25:44, 42nd) 4. Allison Graham (FR, 26:09, 44th) 5. Kaitlin Graham (FR, 26:11, 45th)
Elmwood/Plum City: 1. Kern (JR, 23:06, 25th) 2. Trainor (JR, 27:02, 68th)
BOYS' TEAM RESULTS:
1. McDonnell Central (36)
2. Clear Lake (101)
3. Augusta (104)
4. Colfax (142)
5. Spring Valley (144)
6. St. Croix Falls (156)
7. Boyceville (161)
8. Eau Claire Immanuel Lutheran (182)
9. Fall Creek (198)
10. Glenwood City (252)
11. Regis (291)
12. Cadott (323)
13. Chetek-Weyerhaeuser (373)
14. Elmwood/Plum City (377)
15. Thorp (396)
Spring Valley: 1. Thoms (SO, 18:40, 12th) 2. Cole Pelzel (SR, 19:09, 28th) 3. Charlie Maier (FR, 19:13, 31st) 4. Jon Corriea (JR, 19:25, 35th) 5. Cody Holcomb (SO, 38th, 19:29)
Elmwood/Plum City: 1. Bartz (SO, 20:09, 59th) 2. Cody Erickson (JR, 69th, 20:39), 3. Patrick Tiffany (FR, 21:22, 76th) 4. Zack Hartung (SO, 21:43, 82nd) 5. Josiah Donato (FR, 22:55, 91st)