WISCONSIN RAPIDS – The Appleton North girls’ cross country team came tantalizingly close to taking home some hardware from the WIAA state meet on Saturday at The Ridges Golf Course.
The Lightning finished third as a team in the Division 1 race with 174 points. Freshman Sydney Squire was the top finisher for North, placing 16th overall with a time of 19:16.37. That was also the top time for all area runners.
Eau Claire Memorial won the team title with 117 points and Arrowhead took second with 169.
Constant rain throughout the meet made footing slippery at specific points in the course.
“I thought they ran excellent,” said Appleton North coach Annette Jadin. “We talked about the conditions, but you know what? Everybody runs in the same conditions. We told them to go out there and be tough and they were. To miss second place by five points like this… I’m just so impressed with how well they did and I’m so proud of them.”
Mary Rose Flood was 41st overall (19:47.87) for Appleton North with Payton Fors (58th, 19:55.90), Dakota Holzem (61st, 19:57.44) and Lauren Drankoff (84th, 20:21.63) also contributing points.
Iris Hertting (87th, 20:22.83) and Kari Brekke (116th, 20:48.34) also competed for the Lightning.
The Lightning, which finished eighth last season, had to patiently wait as the team scores were announced following the D-1 race. Team members and their fans cheered when their placement was read.
“As it was coming down, we were noticing that we were doing better than last year,” Holzem said. “It’s tough being close (to getting second place), but I’m happy with it.”
Kimberly was led by Ashyton Johnson (43rd, 19:49.37) and finished 11th with 285 points. Neenah placed 20th overall (424 points) with Hannah Sorenson pacing the Rockets with a time of 20:13.80 (78th).
Carisa Weyenberg, the Fox Valley Association conference champ, finished 50th with a time of 19:52.18. Contributing points for the Papermakers were Hailey Ruplinger (82nd, 20:19.58), Iris Hertting (87th, 20:22.83) and Mada Laundrie (110th, 20:43.32). Mackenzie Scholz (21:14.13) and Ashley Handschke (21:14.42) also competed for the Papermakers.
Appleton East’s Mackenzie Larsen was the top area individual runner, placing 30th with a 19:42.26. Hortonville’s Hannah Lohrenz was 37th (19:45.40) and Appleton West’s Maddy Vantassel was 86th (20:22.12).
It was the first state meet for Larsen, a sophomore.
“It was really an awesome experience and I want to come back again,” Larsen said. “It’s definitely worth it.”
Sam Weiler was 115th for Neenah (20:47.44). Abigail Helwig (20:58.94), Jacqui Beran (21:16.32), Megan Senderhauf (21:17.45), Kaitlyn Olsen (21:22.92) and Morgan McClone (21:59.09) also ran for the Rockets.
Eau Claire Memorial’s Aubrey Roberts was the Division 1 top overall finisher with a time of 17:49.98.
Freedom finished 12th overall with 239 points. Pewaukee won the D2 competition with 112 points with Shorewood and Luxemburg-Casco finishing second and third, respectively.
Freshman Lauren Vosters placed 19th overall with a time of 19:48.71 to lead the Irish.
Jaci Hinz was 37th overall for Freedom (20:29.07) with teammates Jordan Van Camp (84th, 21:08.16), Abby Murphy (117th, 21:57.63) and Josie Knuth (118th, 21:57.95) also contributing points.
Caitlyn Verhasselt (22:14.96) and Melissa Hofacker (22:31.90) also competed for Freedom.
Van Camp is the only senior among the top five Freedom runners, and varsity assistant Dean Aerts says the future looks bright for the Irish.
“We’re very, very young,” Aerts said. “We had one senior running and she turned it on at the end of the year. The future is definitely bright for us. I know we had some girls that are disappointed, but that should fuel the fire for next year. We have a proud history of being here and we’ll come back strong.”
Freshman runner Lindsey Grams of Little Chute was the area’s top overall individual finisher, placing ninth with a time of 19:24.64.
“I felt really good,” Grams said. “I was ranked 12th and I got ninth, which is really cool. The rain didn’t really bother me that much, but at some points it was really slippery. I had to be careful that I didn’t fall.”
Clintonville’s Kara Pyatskowit was 11th overall with a time of 19:32.65 and Fox Valley Lutheran’s Taylor Schulz was 97th (21:19.02).
“My goal was to get in the top five, so I didn’t really accomplish that,” Pyatskowit said. “But coming to state was an amazing opportunity.”
Alicia Monson of Amery was the Division 2 top overall finisher with a time of 18:28.96.
In Division 3, Amherst’s Alissa Niggemann was medalist with a time of 19:00.40. Oshkosh Lourdes finished first as a team with 98 points.
Neenah’s Weiler was running in her first state meet race after being an alternate the past two years. The steady rain didn’t deter the senior. In fact, she enjoyed it.
“I don’t really think the rain affected me at all,” she said. “I think it was kind of refreshing. It wasn’t like a downpour. But the mud … maybe that wasn’t as bad as I thought. The only time was on the downhills, so I felt like we had so much momentum, I didn’t get stuck or stuck down. So I don’t think it was as bad as it was.”
Weiler’s teammate Sorenson said she loves running in “intense” weather.
“Everyone has to deal with it. I like it and it makes the atmosphere more intense,” Sorensen said. “Running in a state meet with weather like this is awesome.”
Ricardo Arguello: 920-993-1000, ext. 558, or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter@PCRicardo