Hectic week tests cross country runners
Two meets in a week, run in weather that bordered on sweltering, proved to be a test for the area cross country teams last week.
Ellsworth ran last Tuesday at the Rice Lake Invitational, then finished its week by running at the Osceola Invite on Saturday. Prescott ran in its home invitational last Tuesday before competing at Osceola on Saturday.
For the Ellsworth runners, the week showed them that there is still lots of work to be done to reach the goals they've set for the season. The Panther girls placed 15th and the boys placed 18th at the Rice Lake Invitational, one of the largest races in western Wisconsin in September. Ellsworth's girls were led by Julia VanWatermeulen, who placed 53rd. Rachel Mancuso was 63rd, Claire Straub 69th, Sophie Vogel 78th and CeCe Groh 92nd.
Charlie Stuhl was Ellsworth's top finisher in the boys race, placing 67th. Kyle Perkins ranked 82nd, Nick Erickson 89th, Roy Roberts 92nd and Matthew Williams 108th to complete the varsity five.
"We did not perform where I had hoped," said Ellsworth coach Marcie Jahnke. "I do think that the warmer weather caused us to struggle a bit considering the fall has been cooler than normal."
The Rice Lake meet was the first chance the Panthers had to run against Osceola this season. Osceola appears to be one of the favorites in the upcoming Middle Border Conference meet. Several of the top teams Ellsworth will face at the sectional level also ran at Rice Lake.
"We've got a lot of work in front of us," Jahnke said. "While I feel comfortable with our base mileage, our intensity during practice needs to better match what we want to be doing in meets. We are a young team and I really don't think we are running to our abilities yet."
Both Ellsworth teams captured fifth place in the Osceola Invite on Saturday, where Osceola took second place in both meets. VanWatermeulen placed 16th in the girls race to be Ellsworth's top finisher. The rest of the varsity girls formed a nice pack, with Straub 24th, Mancuso 25th, Vogel 26th and Groh 28th.
Stuhl placed 19th to be Ellsworth's top finisher in the boys race. Just like the girls team, the rest of the top five Panthers worked in a pack. Perkins was 31st, Roberts 32nd, Erickson 34th and Williams 35th. Sixth and seventh runners Addison Peters and Jonah Vogel weren't far behind them.
Ellsworth returns to action this Thursday at the Durand Invitational. The Panthers face another big race this Saturday when they compete at the Roy Griak Invitational at the University of Minnesota. Jahnke said the willingness to work and take on challenges gives her hope the team can reach its season goals.
"We aren't where we need to be, but we are making steps to get there each time we run. I'm proud of how hard they are working and how willing they are to do what they need to do to be more successful," Jahnke said.
The Cardinals saw Osceola, New Richmond and St. Croix Central this week. Those are the three teams they'll have to hurdle to get to the top of the Middle Border Conference. In last Tuesday's home meet, the Cards finished in third place among eight teams in both halves of the meet, with New Richmond and St. Croix Central finishing in first and second both times.
At Saturday's meet in Osceola, the Prescott girls placed fourth and the boys were seventh, though the boys didn't have lead runner Cody Hauenstein, who pulled out with a cramp two miles into the race. Osceola took second place in both halves of Saturday's meet.
Prescott coach Steve Peterson said the Cardinals now have a clear objective of what needs to be done the rest of the season.
"We are solid for both the boys and the girls, but this week's races really reinforced that we still have some work to do if we want to compete at the top of the conference. New Richmond, St Croix Central and Osceola all have very strong teams this year, and we have a good idea of how our runners stack up, and what we need to do to compete," Peterson said.
In the home meet, the Prescott girls had a nice pack performance, but the pack was behind those from New Richmond and Central. Senior Kjerstin Carlson was Prescott's top finisher, ranking 11th. She was followed by Mari Sommer in 15th, Hayley Hillman 16th, Kiera Penk 18th and Ella Linder 19th.
Hauenstein earned the honor of being a champion in his home invitational, winning Tuesday's meet in a time of 17:46. He had a 26-second bulge over the second place finisher, New Richmond's Dylan Wachter. Prescott's Dylan Reiken was also among the lead runners, placing 14th. Tristan Winkler placed 16th, Ben Barksdale 21st and Josh Dickey 25th.
Sommer was the top finisher for the Prescott girls at Osceola, placing 13th. She was followed by Carlson in 17th, Hillman in 23rd, Samantha Braunlich in 31st and Megan Gilles in 32nd. The girls were able to place fourth despite having three runners pull out of the race due to injuries.
Rieken placed 13th as the top finisher for the Prescott boys. Winkler was 29th, Trevor Rein was 38th, Blaise Schnorr 43rd and Dickey 46th.
Peterson said he's looking for more clarity on who'll be the fourth and fifth varsity runner for the boys in upcoming meets.
The Cards return to running this Thursday at the Durand Invitational.