Four Manitowoc County prep cross country teams will be represented at the 100th State Cross Country Meet in Wisconsin Rapids on Saturday as 19 local runners have their sights set on accomplishing individual, as well as team, goals.
A pair of program’s boys teams qualified for State as Valders won last weekend’s Division 2 sectional in Two Rivers while Lutheran finished second at the Sheboygan Lutheran-hosted Division 3 sectional. With both programs experiencing recent success at State, each has their sights set on coming out strong and finishing near the top.
“We know that we are right up there with the rest of the teams (at State),” Valders coach Bill Dietrich said after a Monday practice. “We can handle them and I know we can run with them.”
Vikings’ senior Michael Evans, who won State his sophomore year and was 10th last season, heads into the meet with both confidence and a heavy heart as it will be the final time he runs with long-time teammate Joey Kinscher. Kinscher has consistently been Valders’ No. 2 runner over the years, Dietrich said, and Evans and Kinscher expressed this week wanting to make their final race together a successful one.
“If it wasn’t for (Kinscher) I would be nowhere as good as I am today or as seasoned a runner if it wasn’t for him,” Evans said. “I don’t see why I can’t walk into Saturday and win it, just like any race I’ve ever walked into. … We have what it takes to win.”
Kinscher concurred, adding that collectively the team has pushed each other to get to this moment.
“I’ve always wanted to work hard during practice to improve myself and I knew it would improve Michael by pushing him, and I knew that would push the other guys along too,” Kinscher said. “But without Derek (Doescher), Tommy (Meidl), Zach (Leschke) and the rest of the guys, there is no way we would be here going to State. It’s all because of them.”
Lutheran coach Abbey Bubolz similarly felt confident about her team and expressed relief that the veteran group has been able to focus on running and not being prepped for the chaos running at State can bring. She said the team has been working in practice on things that should help them at State and continue a recent string of successful momentum.
“Probably the main thing we have been talking about is not being content with just being at State. They have been there before, they know how it works, and … since they know what State feels like they should be able to run a good race there,” Bubolz said. “They have been very consistent this season. They have been continuing to improve all year. So for us, it will be status quo.”
Both Valders and Lutheran also have one individual girls qualifier as Beth Evans advanced for the Vikings and Rachel Winter did the same for the Lancers. And while Kiel did not qualify as a team in Division 2, the Raiders will be represented by one runner in each the boys and girls events. For the boys, Matt Ritger will cap his career with Kiel while girls teammate Jena Williams, who recorded the fastest local time at sectionals, is looking to cap off a successful junior season.
“(Williams) knows a lot of the girls, she has been a frontrunner and has competed with some of the best in the state. … She is running consistently. She will get out there and get it done,” Kiel coach Tony Grybush said. “I’d expect (Ritger) to have a solid race this year. He has been focused the whole season but this last month he has really been putting everything together.”
For Two Rivers’ lone Division 2 individual qualifier, Carly Terp, this will be her first time competing at State, though she has attended before as an observer. Many of Terp’s teammate have stepped up despite not qualifying as a team, as several of the Raiders have continued practicing with Terp in an effort to get her State-ready.
“(Terp) knows what she is doing and we are going to do the same thing that we have done in other years when individuals have made it (to State), just continue on as normal,” Two Rivers coach Amy Gallagher said. “(Terp) will be ready to go. It’s tough to describe (State) to someone who has never done it, but she has seen it, and it is a tough race to go to and run well at your first time but she has high expectations.”