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MCDONALD'S SWNEWS4U GAME OF THE WEEK (Prep Cross Country): WIAA Division 3 State Championships
Area teams, athletes shine at state meet
Lancaster girls CC team
The Lancaster girls cross country team placed fifth at the WIAA Division 3 State Championships last Saturday at Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Dells. It was the Lady Arrows sixth-straight appearance at the state meet, after winning D3 state titles in 2018 and 2020.

PREP CROSS COUNTRY: WIAA Division 3 State Championships

By Jason Nihles, The Platteville Journal / Boscobel Dial / Fennimore Times 

WISCONSIN RAPIDS — It was a beautiful fall day in Wisconsin Rapids Saturday for the WIAA State Cross Country meet, and the Iowa–Grant Panthers took full advantage of the perfect race conditions.

The #2-ranked Iowa–Grant boys team ran a strong, consistent pace to finish third out of 16 teams with 162 points, behind champion Kohler, which captured its first WIAA boys cross country state title with 94. Stevens Point Pacelli (102) finished second.

SWAL rival Fennimore placed 14th in its first team trip since the Golden Eagles boys placed 10th at the 2007 state meet.

“Our boys were ranked in the top 3 in Division 3 throughout the season, so we knew that we could compete to be in that spot,” said Winkler. “I thought Kohler ran a very patient and calculated race, which was impressive. They were in seventh place at the 1-mile mark and moved up into first as a team by the 2-mile mark.

“Our boys ran strong races, but ultimately needed a little more in the second half of the race. The state race is so tricky to prepare for, on one hand you need to get out in the race so you don’t get stuck in a slower pack, while at the same time you need enough gas in the tank for the second half of the race.”

The Panthers were led by senior Mason Aide, who finished 20th overall with a time of 17:10. Classmate Caden Pennekamp had a fantastic finish, moving up nine spots in the last mile to finish 33rd in 17:31. Sophomore Bret Connolly got out and maintained his spot in the race to place 35th at 17:34.  

The Panthers’ top five was rounded out by freshman Will Fulton (92nd, 18:42) and senior Owen Laufenberg (95th, 18:48). Freshman Noah Lange (107th, 19:09.4) and sophomore C.J. Straka (134th, 20:36.6) also ran Saturday.

“We stayed consistent throughout the race, which was part of our strategy going in, but place wise we needed to make some moves in the race based on where we got out.”

Aide and Laufenberg were freshmen on Iowa–Grant’s 2019 boys team that placed 10th in Division 3 at the state meet three years ago.

Led by junior Carter Bunn and sophomore Ben Varela, the Golden Eagles raced to a 14th place team finish in their first appearance at the state meet since 2007. 

“It has been such a fun season and to end it at the state meet makes it even sweeter,” said Fennimore head coach Ryanne Carl. “This was the first state meet that any of these boys have ever participated in and it was such a growing experience for them.  

“We had figured that if we ran well, we could be a top 6 team at the state meet. Unfortunately, the state meet got out fast and we did not realize that we weren’t in good position until about 200 meters into the race and then we had to play catch-up.  

The Fennimore boys got caught in the flood of 151 runners all taking off from the start line at the same moment in a mad dash to get to the front. 

“In the state meet, if you don’t get out at the beginning, you are kind of stuck and unfortunately, that was our reality Saturday,” explained Carl. “The boys raced really well and had solid performances, it would have just been a whole different ball game had we gotten out 20 places higher in the first 800 meters of the race. 

“It was definitely a live and learn moment and the goal is to get back to the state meet next year and use this experience to drive us to a higher finish.”

Bunn placed 58th out of 151 runners with a time of 18:00.8 to lead the Eagles. Varela finished 81st at 18:19.1 in his first appearance at state.

Junior Riley Foreyt (98th, 18:51.5), sophomore Isaac Henkel (104th, 19:02.6) and junior Nick Needham (105th, 19:02.9) made up the rest of Fennimore’s scoring team.

Freshman Griffin Fry (100th, 20:56.5) and junior Jordan Vold (139th, 20:59.4) rounded out Fennimore’s seven-man lineup.

“Overall, this boys team has grown significantly over the course of the year,” said Carl. “They learned how to race as a unit and that showed as they never finished lower than third place in the regular season!  This state meet, although a bit disappointing, was a step in the right direction for this core group of young men. They have already set goals for the upcoming season and know what it takes to get to the next level. I am so proud of them and their accomplishments this season and am excited to see what the future holds for this group of 10. They truly are a special group and one that everyone is extremely proud of!”

Riverdale senior Nick Stitzer capped his decorated career with a seventh-place individual finish in the boys' D3 state championship race Saturday. The individual SWAL champion crossed the finish line at 16:30.4 to earn a podium finish in the final prep race of his career.

Stitzer finished his career as a three-time first-team All-SWAL runner and a two-time state qualifier. He placed 18th at state last year as a junior.

The Lady Bulldogs came into Ridges Golf Course at Wisconsin Rapids Saturday with a goal to capture a back-to-back Division 3 team title, but came up short in a strong effort. 

Cochrane-Fountain City placed 1st with 132 points followed by Oshkosh Lourdes Academy (138) and Valders (151). Boscobel finished fifth with 177 points behind southwest Wisconsin area rival Lancaster (165). 

Boscobel sophomore Nora Jillson finished in second place in a field of 149 runners with a time of 19:08, just 10 seconds behind Cochrane–Fountain City’s freshman Addy Duellman. 

Jillson became Boscobel’s second runner-up finisher in girls’ school history. Tasha Utzig finished 2nd in 2001. Jillson’s time Saturday placed her ninth all-time in WIAA Division 3 State Meet history in a 5K race, and seventh fastest time in WIAA Division 3 State Meet history at the Ridges Golf Course.

Following Jillson, was junior Aleya Kliesner who finished 17th (20:46), followed by senior Skyler Carlin (34th, 21:32), freshman Aubrey Seep (40th, 21:49), senior Easton Carlin (84th, 23:33), junior Lilah Glasbrenner (95th, 24:12), and senior Trinity Steele (99th, 24:27).

“When you get to end your season at the state meet, it is always a nice feeling,” said Boscobel head coach Matthew Fritz. “The girls battled so hard in the race on Saturday, and came up just short of their goal. I am so proud of them for setting their goals high and working so hard to try and reach them this year. Nora ran a great race on Saturday. She fought so well with the best individuals in the state! Her runner-up finish is the best finish for a Boscobel female since 2001. I am so proud of the season that she had.”

“It was amazing to be able to make it back to state for a second in a row and to be able to win back to back conference and sectional titles,” said Jillson. “The team is really close and really happy to make it back to state, even though the outcome was not what we wanted we still worked really hard and are still happy on how the season turned out.”

This is Boscobel’s 17 trip to the state meet in school history, which ranks third among WIAA Division 3 teams. Fennimore and Edgar tied for first with 20). 

Lancaster sisters junior Mallory Olmstead (23rd, 20:26.0) and freshman Kylie Olmstead (30th, 20:45.5) led the Flying Arrows (165) to a fifth-place team finish.

Freshman Sara McWilliams (72nd, 21:45.1), sophomores Carley Vesperman (85th, 22:13.6) and Macie Galle (89th, 22:20.6), freshman Jenna Muench (116th, 23:14.8) and senior Mikayla Smith (120th, 23:23.1) rounded out Lancaster's lineup, which figures to make a run at another team state berth in 2023. 

“I was so proud of the girls’ race at state,” said Lancaster coach Taylor Reynolds. “They ran incredibly tough and battled the entire way. We knew going into the race that the field was loaded. The girls understood that they could run really well and still place seventh, eighth, or ninth.”

This was the Flying Arrows' sixth-straight appearance at the state meet, after winning D3 state titles in 2018 and 2020 and the team's top six runners will return next year.

“I am very proud of the fact that we have qualified a girls team for state the last six years in a row. I'm also thrilled with how well we have placed at state the last six years,” said Reynolds. “It's been an incredible ride, and so beneficial to have great leaders each year setting the example and showing each class of rookies what it takes to compete at the highest level. And, each year our rookies have had the courage to follow that example.” 

Iowa–Grant senior Hope Connolly  finished in 40th place in the Division 3 girls race with a time of 20:55.6.  

“During the race, Hope got caught up in the congestion of a pack and couldn’t break out from that group,” said IG head coach Jake Winkler. “She held her spot consistently throughout the race, but didn’t get that second half surge that she had in previous races.

Connolly was a three-time first-team All-SWAL runner and two-time state qualifier, placing 33rd a year ago as a junior.

WIAA Division 3 State Championships
(from Saturday, Oct. 29 @ Ridges Golf Course, Wisconsin Rapids)
(Girls, 5,000 meters)
Team standings: 1.Cochrane–Fountain City 132, 2.Oskhosk Lourdes Academy 138, 3.Valders 151, 4.Dodgeland 155, 5.Lancaster 165, 6.Boscobel 177, 7.Bonduel 188, 8.Cedar Grove-Belgium  189, 9.Laconia 212, 10.Wisconsin Rapids Assumption 227, 11.Kickapoo/La Farge 237, 12.Phillips 286, 13.Colby 292, 14.Eau Claire Regis 296, 15.Chequamegon 300, 16.Colfax 302.
Top individuals: 1.Addy Duellman (Cochrane–Fountain City) 18:18.1, 2.Nora Jillson (Boscobel) 19:08.4, 3.Autumn Michalski (Chequamegon) 19:12.7, 4.Lucy Dolan (Assumption) 19:23.5, 5.Ella Whiffen (Madison Country Day/Abundant Life) 19:27.5.
Lancaster (165) 23.(11).Mallory Olmstead 20:26.0, 30.(15).Kylie Olmstead 20:45.5, 72.(39).Sara McWilliams 21:45.1, 85.(49).Carley Vesperman 22:13.6, 89.(52).Macie Galle 22:20.6, 116.(77).Jenna Muench 23:14.8, 120.(81).Mikayla Smith 23:23.1. 
Boscobel (177): 2.Jillson 19:08.4, 32.(17).Aleya Kliesner 20:46.8, 66.(34).Skyler Carlin 21:32.7, 73.(40).Aubrey Seep 21:49.0, 123.(84).Easton Carlin  23:33.4, 134.(95).Lilah Glasbrenner 24:12.9, 138.(99).Trinity Steel 24:47.0.
Iowa–Grant: 40.Hope Connolly 20:55.6.
(Boys, 5,000 meters)
Team standings: 1.Kohler 94, 2.Stevens Point Pacelli 102, 3.Iowa–Grant 162, 4.Phillips 163, 5.Cedar Grove–Belgium 166, 6.Ozaukee 197, 7.Solon Springs/Northwood 202, 8.Gillett 221, 9.Chippewa Falls McDonell Catholic 225, 10.Valders 228, 11.Glenwod City 232, 12.Bengor 255, 13.Athens 257, 14.Fennimore 265, 15.Pardeeville 329, 16.La Crosse Aquians 342.
Top individuals: 1.Wesley Pronschinski (Cochrane–Fountain City) 16:08.9, 2.J.J. Williams (Glenwood City) 16:17.0, 3.Carter Scholey (Belleville) 16:20.5, 4.Gavin Stewart (Ladysmith) 16:24.7, 5.Connor Sheehan (Athens) 16:28.6.
Iowa–Grant (162): 20.(12).Mason Aide 17:10.0, 33.(19).Caden Pennekamp 17:31.1, 35.(21).Bret Connolly 17:34.8, 92.(54).Will Fulton 18:42.9, 95.(56).Owen Laufenberg 18:48.3,  107.(68).Noah Lange 19:09.4, 134.(95).C.J. Straka 20:36.6.
Fennimore (265): 58.(31).Carter Bunn 18:00.8, 81.(44).Ben Varela 18:19.1, 98.(59).Riley Foreyt 18:51.5, 104.(65).Isaac Henkel 19:02.6, 105.(66).Nick Needham 19:02.9, 139.(100).Griffin Fry 20:56.5, 140.(101).Jordan Vold 20:59.4.
Riverdale: 7.Nick Stitzer 16:30.4.