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Panther runners experience the big time

Senior Julia VanWatermeulen was the top finisher for Ellsworth at the 2017 Roy Griak Invitational, placing 158th in the girls Maroon race. She's shown in the recent Somerset Invitational. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

Getting to run on the biggest cross country stage in the Midwest is an opportunity some area runners receive when they compete at the Roy Griak Invitational.

Ellsworth was one of the teams competing at this year's meet at the University of Minnesota, where hundreds of college and high school teams competed throughout the day at the Les Bolstad Golf Course. The meet attracts teams from all over the Midwest.

For a team like Ellsworth, which is decidedly on the young side, this meet was a great opportunity to see what it's like to compete at a higher plane. Many coaches consider this race as something that strengthens runners on how to deal with running in packs, like they hope to see at conference, sectional and state meets.

Ellsworth's top finisher was senior Julia VanWatermeulen in the girls race, where she placed 158th. Rachel Mancuso was 204th, CeCe Groh 234th, Claire Straub 240th, Sophie Vogel 254th, Freya Nelson 263rd and McKenna Gerdeen 300. The Panthers finished 42nd among the 48 teams competing in the girls Maroon race.

The Panther girls have more experience in larger races than the boys team, with VanWatermeulen, Mancuso and Nelson being seniors. The Ellsworth boys didn't have a senior in the varsity lineup on Saturday. They were also without lead runner Charlie Stuhl.

Junior Kyle Perkins was the top finisher for Ellsworth's boys in the Maroon race, placing 224th. Roy Roberts was 233rd, Nick Erickson 315th, Addison Peters 320th, Godwin Gtakpe 350th, Matthew Williams 351st and Jack White 367th. Ellsworth's boys ranked 54th among 58 teams in the race.

Durand Invitational

Both Ellsworth and Prescott competed at the Durand Invitational last Tuesday. The Prescott girls took second place and Ellsworth was third among the 19 teams in the female race. In the boys race, Ellsworth placed seventh and Prescott took seventh.

The Prescott and Ellsworth girls have been running very competitively against each other all season and that was the case again at Durand. Prescott tied La Crosse Aquinas for the top spot in the results with 85 points, but Aquinas won the tiebreaker. Ellsworth was third with 105 points.

Prescott had a strong trio at the front of the girls pack. Senior Mari Sommer placed eighth, followed by freshman Kiera Penk in tenth and senior Hayley Hillman in 11th. The top five was completed by Kjerstin Carlson in 27th and Ella Linder in 29th. Jessie Urman, running her first varsity race, was Prescott's sixth runner.

Prescott coach Steve Peterson said the girls will be doing speed work in their upcoming practices.

"Hopefully that translates to faster times as well, we have to run up front to be up front. I think the girls lose sight of how good they are as a team, and we have to get that confidence up," Peterson said.

Ellsworth also had a potent top five, led by VanWatermeulen in ninth and Mancuso in 14th. Groh was Ellsworth's third runner, placing 23rd. Vogel was 30th and Straub 31st to round out Ellsworth's top five.

Ellsworth's boys were led by two freshmen and a sophomore. Roberts was the top finisher, placing 23rd. Erickson ran 37th and Peters 38th. Perkins placed 48th and Cedric Kosnopfal was the Panthers' fifth runner, placing 51st.

The Prescott coaches rested Cody Hauenstein, putting Dylan Rieken in the position of being the lead runner. He handled it well, placing 12th in the race. Tristan Winkler finished 28th, Ben Barksdale 45th, Blaise Schnorr 50th and Charlie Canfield 62nd. A pair of freshmen were the Cards' sixth and seventh finishers, Connor Lubich and Walker Lenz.

Both teams face highly demanding schedules in the upcoming days. Ellsworth has three meets this week, running at Spring Valley on Thursday, New Richmond on Saturday and Black River Falls next Tuesday. Prescott has two meets planned, running in New Richmond's Invitational on Saturday and Amery's Invitational next Tuesday.

Dave Newman

Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for more than 30 years.

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