|11/8/2019 3:30:00 PM|
Iowa-Grant 10th, Connolly 14th at state cross country
It wasn't ideal running conditions for running the WIAA State Cross Country Championships at the Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids last Saturday, but all area runners wouldn't complain about being there,
The temperatures were in the 30s while it was snowing and blowing at times during the six races - Division 1, 2 and 3 girls followed by Division 1, 2 and 3 boys.
From our coverage area, Iowa-Grant had the lone team competing that being in Division 3 boys, the final race of the day.
The Panthers finished 10th out of the 16-team field.
La Crosse Aquinas won the race with 68 points to runner-up Brilion's 96.
The rest of the team scores were: Kohler 119, Clear Lake 168, Pacelli 173, Ozaukee 184, Gillett 191, Boscobel 200, McDonnell Central 201, Iowa-Grant 230, Unity 265, Kenosha Christian Life 266, New Lisbon 272, Marathon 317, Bonduel 327, Chequamego 335.
Iowa-Grant coachJake Winkler said about getting to state and the finish, "To finish in the top 10 in Division 3 is a milestone for our team. 176 Division 3 boys teams started the year and we were in the last 16 that got to race at state."
Iowa-Grant junior Nick Connolly, making his third consecutive state appearance, led his team finishing 14th overall and 5th as a team runner in 16:55.
About Connolly, the coach said, "In his third straight State-appearance, Junior Nick Connolly placed 14th in the field of 149 runners. The first mile is always absurdly fast, and this year was no different. Nick knew going in that he didn't have to go out at a crazy pace. He was consistent and strong throughout, and was able to move up throughout the race. He was 25th at the 1 mile, 19th at the 2 mile, and moved up five more places to finish 14th. His experience helped him in this race, and he was a great leader for the other six guys. This is a tough course, and he executed a great race. The goal is now to move up into the Top 10 for his senior year."
Freshman Mason Aide took 34th (69) in 18:00 while seniors Jesse Buroker and Collin Steffl were 38th (74) in 18:10 and 68th (108) in 18:51.
Freshman Owen Laufenberg rounded out the scoring in 85th (125) at 19:22.
The other two runners were senior Kruz Kitelinger at 88th (128) in 19:42 and junior Nic Pennekamp at 99th (139) in 20:44.
"For the others in the top seven, although they didn't have their fastest races of the year, I thought they went out aggressively," Winkler pointed out. "The second half of this course is particularly hilly and curvy, so I think we ran out of gas a little bit. I think the performances will fuel us to get back here next year."
Winkler talked about his seniors, "This was the last race or the seniors, Jesse Buroker, Kruz Kitelinger, and Colin Steffl. I can't say enough about Jesse, but he is a shining example of what happens when you give it your all. He ran 21:11 his freshman year, and kept working, chipping away every year to reach a personal best time of 17:52 this year. His quiet persistence really spread to the others, inspiring them to bring 100% every practice. He really wanted to run at State, and I'm so happy and proud that he had that opportunity. Kruz came out part way through the season last year, and was a key part of our success this season as our fifth runner. He battled a knee injury throughout the year, but still managed to knock almost a minute off his time from last year. He's soft-spoken, humble, and was an awesome addition to the team. This was Colin's first year on the team, as he came over from football. I remember former IG Cross Country coach Corey McCracken telling me about Colin his freshman year, but he was determined to be a football player. Finally this year Colin made the switch. He didn't blow anyone away at the start of the season, but his work ethic is second to none, and he kept pushing. He got his time down from 20:50 at Cashton to 18:30 at Sectionals. All three of these seniors were outstanding leaders in their own way and will be missed next year."
In conclusion, Winkler said, "As a coach, State is always the goal. This year things really came together and we were able to accomplish that goal. There are so many factors that contribute to it, but I believe the biggest aspect has been the positive culture we have that has drawn more students to the sport. From the outside looking in, cross country seems daunting, but once you commit to it you realize how all the work is worth it. There's a camaraderie in this sport that is second to none.
It's been an amazing season, from starting the season with a win at the Cashton Invite to finally beating Darlington and winning the Platteville Invite, there have been so many exciting moments. The growth that I saw was incredible. Not only did times improve, but I saw the confidence of this team grow as the season progressed. Now it's time to start trying to build on those successes from this season. We have a strong group returning and are hoping to continue to grow the program."
The individual winner came out of the same Sectional as Iowa-Grant as Wisconsin Heights senior Christian Patzka toured the course in 16:08. He topped Birchwood senior Matthew Marienske's 16:14.
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