GAME OF THE WEEK (Oct. 24–30)
WIAA STATE CROSS COUNTRY: Division 3 Girls
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – While it would take a special season just to match what the Lancaster girls’ cross country team did in 2018, it’s assured the success of this past season will never, ever, be topped.
There simply is no way to get better than perfect.
That’s exactly what the Flying Arrows were this season, finishing first in every single meet they participated in, including the Southwest Wisconsin Conference meet, the D3 Boscobel Sectional, and most impressively, last Saturday’s WIAA Division 3 State Meet.
“We never really talked about it. I never once mentioned the word ‘Undefeated,” until we got on the bus to go over for the state awards,” said Lancaster cross country coach Taylor Reynolds. “Otherwise, no athlete, and no coach, the whole season, ever talked about it.”
“It’s kind of cool though, because that’s a feet that can never be beaten and only be equaled. That’s as good as it gets,” added a smiling coach Reynolds.
With a team score of 74, the Flying Arrows finished 17 points ahead of the state runners-up from Auburndale last Saturday afternoon, bringing home the division 3 gold trophy as a reward for all their hard work.
And make no mistake about it, a lot of hard work went into this year’s state championship.
“It feels great to be able to have all of our hard work pay off and to be able to finish with a gold with this team,” said Lancaster senior Lydia Murphy. “It’s just been an honor to work with these girls. It’s been so fun.”
“My number one goal was to get the team state trophy, and it’s been so fun. Every hard practice, every easy practice, it was all worth it in the end,” Murphy added.
Murphy, who has been a catalyst for the Lancaster girls’ cross country program for the last four years, made four consecutive trips to the state meet, where she finished second the last two years, and fifth as a freshman.
Last Saturday, Murphy finished 13th among 152 runners with a time of 19:54. As a freshman, she ran 19:40 at state, as a sophomore 19:26, and as a junior 19:12.
Senior teammate Hanna Cohen can also now look back fondly on the summer workouts and difficult practices, knowing that her team’s hard work paid off to the fullest.
“There’s a lot of hard work that went into this. There were a lot of hard practices that I definitely dreaded, but then the team just brings it all together,” Cohen said. “I mean it’s hard work, but you’re having fun while doing it. It was all really worth it.”
Cohen finished 49th on Saturday with a time of 20:54 and was the team’s fourth finisher behind freshman Bridee Burks, who placed 19th with a time of 20:07, and sophomore Kristin Muench, who placed 36th with a time of 20:37.
Rounding out Lancaster’s top five scorers was freshman Anna Murphy, who placed 54th with a time of 20:59, while senior Crystalyn Mish came in 79th (21:54) and freshman Meg Walker 132nd (23:24).
Mish, who was making her third trip to the state meet has also made a lifetime of memories with her senior teammates, along with her exceptionally talented younger teammates.
“The last few years have been really exciting running with this senior class, and bringing in new runners each year,” said Mish. “We have worked so hard to get where we are.”
Other senior girls who have had an impact on the cross country program include Maddie McWilliams and Alex Stone, who were alternate runners at the state meet.
With Murphy, Cohen, Mish and Muench all returning from last year’s state runner-up finish, the addition of freshmen Burks, Murphy and Walker instantly made the Flying Arrows this year’s favorites to finish one notch higher.
It certainly wasn’t going to be easy though, as Dodgeland, who won last year’s D3 state title, returned six runners, while Marshall, who edged out Dodgeland at last week’s Lake Country Lutheran Sectional, returned five runners from last year’s team that placed third at state.
There were also five of last year’s top six state individual finishers returning to Wisconsin Rapids, including defending state champion, Marissa Ellenbecker, a junior from Edgar, who again finished first on Saturday with a time of 19:06.
“This season has been so different because we were ranked No. 1 in the state the entire year, and that’s not always easy to be ranked No. 1, because you pretty much have a big old target right on your back every time you step up to the race line to compete,” said coach Reynolds.
“These girls handled everything that anyone could throw at them. They kept their composure, they ran with courage and with confidence. They just brought their best effort every day to practice, before practice in the summer, and then every time on race day,” Reynolds added.
“Last year, getting a state trophy and getting second, we were just absolutely thrilled,” said coach Reynolds. “It would have been a disappointment this year if we had gotten second. I think they would have appreciated it after the fact, but there would have been disappointment had we not won the state championship.”
As the runners began crossing the finishing line on Saturday, and began gathering with teammates in the recovery area, the anticipation of the final team standings grew with each passing minute.
Then it was announced on the display board. This year’s WIAA Division 3 girls’ state championship team was; Lancaster.
“I felt like a 45-pound plate from the weight room was sitting on my chest, on my shoulders and on my back, and they all just fell off when the board showed we were number one,” said coach Reynolds. “It was an awesome feeling, an awesome day and it was an awesome season.”
“I think what I’ll remember most is when I watched (the girls) just go crazy, laughing, crying and hugging when the board showed we finished in first place. I kind of had a million memories go through my head at that moment, including back when it all started with conversations with these girls after gym classes in sixth grade.”
“To bring home a state championship back to Lancaster is just a dream come true for any coach. It’s the best reward you could ever ask for,” Reynolds added.
“I just have to thank the athletes for trusting and believing and buying in, and doing what it takes to get to this level. It’s just an incredible feeling.”
Coach Reynolds knows all-to-well what a special group of seniors he had this season, in Murphy, Cohen, Mish, McWilliams and Stone.
“Those girls provided high-quality examples, high quality conversations and great guidance every step of the way. You couldn’t ask for a better group of seniors to lead them along the way,” Reynolds said of his seniors.
“They’re going to be very much missed, and I told them that I appreciate everything that they’ve done for the program, to their leadership, to their hard work, to their trust, to them believing in themselves and believing in me as a coach and what we’re trying to teach them.”
“If you were writing a book on how to do it, they’re the model athlete as to what you would like as a coach. We’re very, very fortunate as a coaching staff to get those kind of kids. They come from great families and a great community,” Reynolds concluded.
WIAA Division 3 State Meet
(from Saturday, Oct. 27, at Wisconsin Rapids)
Division 3 team scores - 1. Lancaster 74; 2. Auburndale 91; 3. Dodgeland 147; 4. Rosholt 147; 5. Oostburg 151; 6. Marshall 199; 7. Boscobel 214; 8. Cashton 231; 9. Cedar Grove-Belgium 243; 10. Weyauwega-Fremont 250; 11. Bonduel 251; 12. Durand 264; 13. Glenwood City 266; 14. McDonell Central Catholic 281; 15. Cameron 296; 16. Phillips 350.
Top finishers from Lancaster
13. Lydia Murphy 19:54; 19. Bridee Burks 20:07; 36. Kristin Muench 20:37; 49. Hannah Cohen 20:54; 54. Anna Murphy 20:59; 79. Crystalyn Mish 21:54; 132. Meg Walker 23:24.
Top finishers from Boscobel
55. Avery Brown 20:59; 75. Maddie Fritz 21:36; 77. Abri Brown 21:41; 85. Grace Glasbernner 21:52; 100. Ellie Jillson 22:24; 111. Faith Glasbrenner 22:41; 134. Abbey Manning 23:28.
Top finishers from Darlington
5. Ilse Mendez 19:21.
SPECIAL MENTION (WIAA D4 Volleyball): River Ridge 3, Hillsboro 1
ELROY — The undefeated River Ridge volleyball team defeated Scenic Bluffs Conference champion Hillsboro 25–12, 25–15, 19–25, 25–9 Saturday night to win the WIAA Division 4 Royall Sectional final and the program’s first trip to the WIAA state tournament.
Junior middle hitter Skylar White had a match-high 22 kills, five blocks and nine digs, while senior middle hitter Taylor Langmeier added 17 kills and three aces for the Timberwolves. Faith Schier made a team-high 37 digs to lead the defense.
River Ridge (24–0) will now face top-ranked Clayton (28–3) in a D4 state semifinal Friday morning at 10 a.m. at the Resch Center in Green Bay.