WISCONSIN RAPIDS – When members of the Lancaster girls cross country team were preparing to run at this past Saturday’s WIAA State Cross Country Meet, coach Taylor Reynolds simply asked one thing of them.
He didn’t want his team to be satisfied with just getting to state, he wanted them to give a championship effort and leave nothing to regret.
His team responded to his advice, and in doing so, brought home the Division 3 girls state runner-up trophy, which will forever be displayed in the school’s trophy cabinet as a reminder of that special day on Oct. 28, 2017.
“Saturday’s state runner-up finish was a great way to cap off an exciting 2017 season,” said coach Reynolds. “I was very impressed with how focused and tough our girls competed. They were racing with a mission, and you could tell they were hungry to see how far up they could place.”
Going into Saturday’s state meet, coach Reynolds also set a couple bench-marks for his girls to think about, both of which were met, and led to their second-place finish.
He first challenged his top two runners, junior Lydia Murphy and freshman Kristin Muench.
The way he saw it, if his top two runners could come in with a combined 10 points or less, they would be off to a good start toward bringing home a trophy.
Murphy, who finished second at last year’s state meet with a time of 19:26.98, finished Saturday’s 5,000-meter race with a blistering time of 19:12.68 to again claim a second-place finish in the division 3 girls’ field. Winning the D3 individual state title was Edgar sophomore Marissa Ellenbecker with a time of 18:56.33.
With her state time of 19:13, Murphy also earned second-team All-State honors, among all three divisions, from the Wisconsin Cross Country Coaches Association, and was just three seconds away from making first-team All-State.
Muench, who was making her first, of probably many, appearance at the state meet, finished 18th overall on Saturday with a time of 20:24.16.
Once the individual runners were taken out of the mix, Murphy had scored one point for finishing first among the team competitors, and Muench scored seven points, giving the two a combined eight points. Mission accomplished.
“Lydia placing second and being the individual state runner-up made Saturday all that much more special,” coach Reynolds said.
“She’s just a tough, hardworking kid that is filled to the brim with the highest level of character. I was so impressed with the tough grit she ran with on Saturday. You cold not ask for anything more than what she gave. She’s really shined at the state meet the last three seasons, and it’s hard to put into words just how proud I am of her.”
“Kristin ran so well and so solid for us all season,” said coach Reynolds. “You just rarely see freshmen run this well and this consistent. We gave her a lofty goal of scoring 10 or less points at the state meet, and she shined during the race by placing seventh for team and 18th overall. This is just crazy impressive for such a young athlete.”
The second little nugget that coach Reynolds had given his team to think about prior to Saturday’s race, was that if they could score less than 100 points combined, they would have a good shot at bringing home some state hardware.
By the time Lancaster’s top five runners had all crossed the finish line and the points were all tallied, the Flying Arrows had accumulated 97 team points, and sure enough, brought home the D3 silver trophy.
Winning the Division 3 girls’ state title was Dodgeland, who had three girls finish among the top 20 overall runners, and scored 56 points.
“We talked about trying to score less than 100 points to be in the trophy hunt, and with 97 points, the girls got it done,” added Reynolds.
Finishing 39th overall with a time of 21:04.00 and scoring 14 team points for the Arrows was junior Hanna Cohen.
“Hanna had a heck of race,” Reynolds said. “She caught tons of people, especially in mile two and three. That’s where she really shines.”
Following her was senior Maddie Hampton, who placed 63rd overall with a time of 21:31.66, and gave her team 31 points.
“Maddie has had a great season all season, but she’s really come on strong at conference, at sectionals and at the state meet,” Reynolds said.
And, rounding out Lancaster’s top five was junior Crystalyn Mish, who placed 81st overall with a time of 22:05.84, and accounted for 44 team points.
“Crystalyn is my little speed demon. I just tell her that if she can stick, then she can out-kick,” said Reynolds. “If she can just be close with a half mile to go, she gets in sight of the finish line and turns it on. She maybe passed 10 people in the last 300 meters.”
Finishing 125th overall with a time of 23:33.65 was Lancaster sophomore Kylie Hale, while senior Megan Volkmann placed 144th overall with a time of 24:19.44. Alternates on the state team included sophomore Haley Timmerman and senior Felicia Holmes.
“This is a tight-knit group of girls. They are like a family of sisters,” Reynolds said. “They work hard, have great attitudes, and are always smiling and laughing. It’s such a joy and a pleasure to coach them.”
“The tears, the hugs and the excitement was so cool to experience. You could see how much it meant to them,” Reynolds added.
After winning the Southwest Wisconsin Conference title and the D3 Fennimore Sectional title prior to the state meet, this year’s D3 state runner-up title is the first in school history, and may just be the beginnings of a cross country dynasty.
“Winning the conference title was super cool. It’s something that has happened only a handful of times in the 90’s, then we did it in 2015 and we did it again in 2017. That was an awesome day,” remembers Reynolds.
“Then going to the sectionals, some of these girls had qualified in 2015, but to be the sectional champions on a tough course against probably the best competition, was pretty cool. We tied the ’93 team that also did that.”
“But when we got to the state meet and had this awesome performance, we’ve done something that no team has done before, and that is bring a state runner-up trophy back home,” Reynolds added. “I’m proud of these girls to be able to put a cross country trophy in the school cabinet.”
WIAA D3 State Meet
(from Saturday, Oct. 28, at Wisconsin Rapids)
Team scores - 1. Dodgeland 56; 2. Lancaster 97; 3. Marshall 108; 4. Auburndale 114; 5. Palmyra-Eagle 135; 6. Lourdes Academy 161; 7. Bonduel 188; 8. Aquinas 223; 9. Glenwood City 251; 10. Cashton 262; 11. Phillips 277; 12. Cameron 280; 13. Oostburg 285; 14. Rosholt 315; 15. Chequamegon 326; 16. Weyauwega-Fremont 336.
Top finishers from Lancaster
2. Lydia Murphy 19:12.68; 18. Krustin Muench 20:24.16; 39. Hanna Cohen 21:04.00; 63. Maddie Hampton 21:31.66; 81. Cyrstalyn Mish 22:05.84; 125. Kylie Hale 23:33.65; 144. Megan Volkmann 24:19.44.