The Rhinelander High School boys’ cross country team leaves the starting line of the Hodag Invitational in front of Rhinelander High School Thursday, Aug. 29. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
Rhinelander’s Abbey Henrichs, left, and Alison DeNamur run together during the Hodag Invitational cross country meet in front of Rhinelander High School Thursday, Aug. 29. Henrichs and DeNamur led the Hodag girls’ cross country team with 17th- and 20th-place finishes, respectively in the race. (Jeremy Mayo/River News)
8/31/2019 7:33:00 AM Hodag harriers compete in soggy home invite
The Rhinelander High School cross country team had to be on its toes Thursday as Mother Nature threw it a curve ball.
Morning rains, heavy at times, highlighted a wet and wild Hodag Invitational in front of RHS. The Hodags, competing in the large school division, were fifth out of six teams on the girls' side, and sixth in the boys' division.
A couple of downpours associated with a passing cold front turned the wooded loops of the RHS trails into a quagmire. Athletes' legs were covered in mud following the sloppy 5-kilometer jaunt.
"The back loop, which had a lot of work done to it, wasn't able to take much water and some of those hills were the same," RHS cross country coach M.J. Laggis said. "It started to get really slick so spikes were a huge advantage if you had them. It was muddy. We had a couple of girls go down back there today and guys were awfully muddy when they came off their loops. It was definitely a great experience and different than any other meet we've hosted."
The Hodags are young this season, but have a virtually all of their starters from last year's varsity squad. The six returning runners on the girls' side were Rhinelander's top six Thursday.
Junior Abbey Henrichs paced the Hodags, placing 17th overall in a field of 109 runners with a time of 23 minutes, 20.61 seconds. Fellow junior Alison DeNamur was not far behind, taking 20th with time of 23.28.6.
"Abbey and Ali have both done the work. In the summer they ran the miles and trained diligently. They deserved to do well and I'm happy with them," Laggis said.
Junior Ella Schiek was 34th overall in the race, followed by Sage Flory in 35th. Audrey Schiek was 45th, Emma Germain finished 47th and sophomore Megan Brown rounded out the varsity squad with a 54th-place finish.
"Ella Schiek and Sage Flory, they're just going to continue to get better and better," Laggis said. "Emma Germain and Audrey (Schiek) were in that mix behind them. Emma is one of the hardest workers in the program. Knowing Emma, she's a little disappointed in her time today, but she's just going to keep getting better and better because she's a worker."
Jacob Weddle paced the Rhinelander boys. Up in the top 20 much of the race, Weddle faded down the stretch and finished 24th overall with a time of 19:49.6. He was the only Hodag boy in the top 30, and the only Hodag to finish in under 20 minutes.
"Jake was our No. 1, but you could see he started out strong, but we've got work to do, no doubt about it. But he had a good first run overall and got it under his belt," Laggis said.
Sophomore Cal Laggis was next across the line for Rhinelander in 32nd, followed by senior Levi Smith in 35th, junior Daniel Goldsworthy in 46th, sophomore Jaden Beske in 54th, first-year senior runner Nicholas St. Pierre in 59th and freshman Cody Ruetz in 61st.
"We have a host of boys right there that are going to compete," coach Laggis said. "I think the one thing that you're going to see, and I pretty much guarantee this, our Nos. 3, 4, 5, 6 are going to be something that is going to change on and off based on who's having a day. JC Adams was a ways back in the pack be we know what he can do and he started cross country late. He'll be there. I'm really happy with Levi Smith. I think he's going to come on and have a year, for sure. Overall, I think we have a group of boys that have improved. Daniel Goldsworthy has emerged on our team as a leader and I want to see him keep going in the right direction. He's kind of becoming the backbone of the team on the boys' side."
Lakeland, which finished a close second in the Great Northern Conference behind eventual WIAA Division 2 state champion Medford last fall, won the girls' race going away, with the top three runners and all of their top seven placing in the first 16 overall. Wausau West, Wausau East, D.C. Everest, Rhinelander and Merrill rounded out the large school division.
Wausau West, D.C. Everest and Lakeland were the top three in the boys' large division, separated by a total of 12 points. Laona-Wabeno won the small school title in both the boys' and girls' divisions.
"Lakeland is just going to be outstanding," Laggis said. "They've got a really good group and, the thing when you watch their girls, in particular, you can see they just put in the miles. There's no substitute for that. If you're not putting in the miles in, in the summer, and you're not training, you're not going to hit the ground running like they do. They look like they're in midseason form. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of catch-up to do. We know the Medfords and Mosinees and Tomahawks are going to be good. As we start facing those teams, we'll see where we stack up.
"It's an early meet. It's time to shake it out and start of figure out where your kids stack up ... then you start to work on improvement and trying to get better as you start to move into the meat of the season."
The Hodags will see Mosinee, Medford and Lakeland this coming Tuesday as Mosinee hosts a nine-team invite at Nine Mile Forest in Wausau.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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