WISCONSIN RAPIDS – Nothing is guaranteed at a state competition.
Throw out seedings and last year’s finishes — all that matters is what happens during that 5,000-meter race.
Amherst junior Alissa Niggemann found out that past laurels meant nothing. The sixth-place medalist as a sophomore, Niggeman placed eighth in 19 minutes, 52 seconds Saturday during the Division 3 competition at the WIAA state cross country meet at the Ridges Golf Course. Frost on the course delayed the start of the meet an hour.
“I’m not too happy with that,” Niggeman said. “I figured everyone was going to go out too hard, but that didn’t really happen. Some people went out too hard, but my usual strategy is to pass people during the race, and today I got passed at the end. That usually never happens, but it did today.”
Niggemann was five seconds off a return trip to the medal stand, which was tough to swallow, but she was upbeat thinking about next year already.
“I’m a junior, so I have one more year to kick butt,” she said. “I ran good splits today, and I’m kind of happy with my time, just not so much with my place.”
In his first appearance at state, Medford junior Jarod Rudolph raced like a veteran of the course, as he turned in an eighth-place finish in the Division 2 race in 16:13.
“I felt OK racing, but the hills were difficult and real steep,” Rudolph said. “I feel I could have done better, but it shows me I have to practice harder to get used to the hills.”
On the team side of Division 2, the Colby/Abbotsford boys made their first trip to the state meet since 1996, and the first time as a co-op.
Despite the 18-year absence from the meet, C/A ran like it had been there before, racing to a 10th-place finish with a score of 249.
Senior Sam Bach anchored C/A with a 48th-place finish in 16:59.
“The delay in the race helped us, I think,” Bach said. “We had a chance to wake up and get something to eat and get ready instead of just getting here and running.”
In Division 1, racing on his home course was Wisconsin Rapids junior Joseph Comeau. He was making his first appearance in the state meet and learned what he needed to work on so it wouldn’t be his only appearance. He ran the course in 17:30, but for Comeau, it was all about being with his team and family.
“I was surprised at how loud the race was,” Comeau said. “It was very exciting to race in front of all my family and friends.”
In Division 3, the Stratford and Rosholt girls teams made return trips to the state meet after lengthy absences, but showed they remained among the state’s elite.
Rosholt made their first appearance at the meet since 2005 and finished in sixth place with a score of 205. The Hornets were paced by Brittany Gagas with a time of 20:34.
Stratford appeared for the first time since 1980 and finished in 16th place. Without any seniors, the Tigers were able to gain valuable experience to make a return trip to next year.
“This race was full of more hills, sharp turns, and aggressive runners than we’re used to,” Stratford freshman Amelia O’Donnell said.
Iola-Scandinavia also had a pair of runners compete in the D-3 race, with sophomore Leighten Fischer and Freshman Erika Kisting placing 19th and 20th, respectively.
Three area boys teams qualified. First-time qualifier Assumption led the trio, finishing 12th with 269 points, followed by Rosholt in 13th with 280 and Columbus Catholic 14th with 305 points.
“It was a good day for a run, but that course was hard,” Assumption’s Connor Dolan said. “I’ve never been on a course with so many hills, so I tried to pace myself. This was a great first state championship experience for us.”
The Dons, making their eighth appearance at state, improved on their 16th-place performance from a year ago.
“We were more prepared and knew what to expect, to so we ran better this year,” Columbus senior Ben Behling said. “I took a minute off my time last year, and that was good way for me as a senior to go out.”