The morning runs, pre-race nerves and aching muscles paid off for four Pierce County cross-country runners who qualified for the WIAA State Cross-Country Championships on Saturday, Oct. 26.
Spring Valley’s Charlier Maier and Matt Thoms, Ellsworth’s Addison Peters and Prescott’s Zach Knee all earned bids for the state meet at their sectional races on Saturday.
Maier and Thoms qualified out of the Division 3 Boyceville sectional where first-place Clear Lake and second-place McDonnell Central advanced their entire teams. The top-five runners not on Clear Lake or McDonnell Central’s teams qualified as individuals. Maier finished seventh overall (fourth among runners not on Clear Lake or McDonnell Central’s teams) with a time of 17 minutes, 45.8 seconds. Thoms became the final individual qualifier after running a ninth-place time of 17:51.7, which beat out Glenwood City’s JJ Williams by 1.2 seconds.
"At the sectional meet, Charlie and Matt did what they needed to do," Spring Valley's head coach Greg Dieckman said. "Both Matt and Charlie are very competitive. Matt had his best race of the year, he ran a personal record of 17:52 which was 18 seconds faster than his previous PR. Charlie had a great race too; he stayed with the top five runners throughout the race and gave everything he had left at the end."
The Spring Valley boys were hoping to advance their entire team, but they instead finished in third place, 62 points behind second-place McDonnell Central.
"The boys' goal all year has been to make it to state," Dieckman said. "We knew Clear Lake and McDonell Central had very good teams and would be tough to beat. The boys gave it their best at sectionals. We came up with a third-place finish which was short of our goal but a big improvement from last year. Getting both Charlie and Matt to advance was great. They worked very hard for it."
The Elmwood/Plum City Wolves also competed at Boyceville’s sectional on Saturday and were led by Austin Bartz who ran a time of 21:19.3 for a 89th-place finish.
Peters and Knee raced in St. Croix Central’s Division 2 sectional meet, which was won by Osceola who beat out runner-up St. Croix Central by 11 points to claim the team sectional title.
Peters finished in fifth place overall after recording an impressive, season-best time of 17:21.6 on one of his favorite courses.
"Addison was very determined right out of the box," Ellsworth's head coach Marcie Jahnke said. "He was already ahead of his usual pace when he came through at the first mile. While I was a little concerned that he would struggle to maintain the pace for the next two miles, Addison proved how determined he was by staying with the front runners.
"It was the best race of his career, and we are very proud of him."
Knee finished behind Peters in sixth place with a time of 17:25.5.
"I knew from the moment he started, it was going to be a good day for him," Prescott's head coach Alexis Lahn said of Knee's performance.
The Ellsworth boys finished in fifth place as a team with 119 points while the Prescott boys earned a sixth-place finish with 154 points.
Peters and Knee will compete in the Division 2 state meet at Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids on Saturday, Nov. 1. Maier and Thoms’ Division 3 state race will follow at 3:10 p.m.
No female Pierce County cross-country runners were able to qualify for the state meet on Saturday, but a few runners presented hope for their teams’ futures.
Spring Valley freshman Lydia Hannack capped off her rookie season with a team-best, 28th-place finish after crossing the finish line at 22:49.8, and EPC freshman Rylynn Yoder also led her Wolves team with a 46th-place finish and time of 24:16.0.
The Cardinal girls finished with a seventh-place team finish after recording 188 team points. Spring Valley senior Katherine Dieckman concluded her high school cross-country career with a 32nd-place finish and time of 23:12.2.
"The girls' team did meet its goal, which was a seventh-place team finish," Dieckman said. "All of the girls had a good race, and Kari Hybben and Allison Graham both had PRs. The girls' team made some huge improvements this year, and a lot of that can be credited to the two freshmen, Lydia Hannack and Grace Webb."
Ellsworth junior Sophie Vogel led the Division 2, Pierce County female runners with a 27th-place finish earned with her 5k time of 22:14.3. Vogel’s Panther team finished in 13th place at the 14-team St. Croix Central after recording 321 team points.
"Several of our runners ran the best races of the season on Saturday," Jahnke said. "While the boys team fell short of qualifying, they fought hard. I was proud of how we ran. They gave everything they had and that's all you can ever hope for."
After the race, the physical demands of Saturday's 5k may have been completed, but the most challenging task for Jahnke was at hand.
"Saying goodbye to our seniors is always the hardest part of our final race," Jahnke said. "Senior Charlie Stuhl ran for us for all four years and has been a leader on our team through his entire career. He is very committed to always giving his best and leaves a legacy of his work ethic and leadership that our younger athletes will model even after he moves on.
"Charlie, Max, Daniel, Raye, and Nick demonstrated what being a good teammate looks like. They made sure the gear was packed, helped set up and take down camp and never failed to mentor our younger runners when the runs were hard and conditions were less than ideal. The closeness of our team and their commitment to each other is 100% due to these seniors. I don't think any of us were prepared for it to be over and saying farewell to this amazing group of runners makes it even harder."
The 12th-place Prescott girls were led by sophomore Grace Dickey who earned a 42nd-place finish with her time of 23:09.1.
"Overall I’m happy with how we placed," Lahn said. "The boys placed as I expected, which was good. Our girls team has struggled with more injuries than normal and some of them had to fight through to the end. I am proud of both teams."
Glenwood City and Cameron advanced to state out of the Boyceville sectional while Osceola and Hayward earned first- and second-place finishes at the St. Croix Central sectional.