Rhinelander-Northwoods riders, from left, Megan Lester, Johanna Craig and Sage Flory, wear their leaders’ white jerseys after taking first place in their respective divisions at a Wisconsin High School Cycling League race at Lowe’s Creek in Eau Claire Sunday, Sept. 8. (Submitted photo)
9/12/2019 7:30:00 AM Three RNC riders score wins in WHSCL opener
The Rhinelander-Northwoods Composite mountain bike squad picked right up where it left off last year, with three riders standing on the top of the podium following Sunday's first race of the 2019 season in Eau Claire.
Johanna Craig took the girls' varsity division, Megan Lester was the girls' JV-3 winner and Sage Flory won the girls' JV-2 race at Lowe's Creek. All three received white jerseys from the league following the race, signifying they lead the season-long point standings in their respective divisions.
Craig, from Lakeland Union High School, and Lester, from Three Lakes, helped lead the Composite squad to victory in the Division 2 team standings. Riders from Rhinelander form their own separate team under league regulations. Flory helped lead the Rhinelander High School team to an 11th-place finish in Division 1.
"To have three girls in leaders jerseys already going into the second race, it pretty amazing," coach Steve Engel said. "But all of our kids, they're improving every year. We can't ask for any more."
Johanna Craig, a senior, is the top returning rider from the girls' varsity division from last year, finishing second overall in the standings. She picked up where she left off, completing a 16-mile course in 1 hour, 17 minutes, 55.36 seconds - more than 2:10 faster than were nearest pursuer, Emma Osborne of Brookfield Central.
Lester, a sophomore, bypassed the JV-2 category after winning the freshman title last season. She handled the jump in class well, winning the 16-mile event in a time of 1:23:04.90, more than 2 1/2 minutes ahead of runner up Megan Seiler of Muskego. Junior Gwyneth Lowry, riding for Rhinelander High School, was third in the race (1:26:04.06).
Flory took the 11-mile JV2 race with a time of 56:53.90, nearly a minute ahead of Gracelyn Smith of Lake Mills.
"So many of the girls did well," Engel noted. "We had eight girls and seven guys racing. I think we're one of the few teams that has more girls than guys racing, which is neat."
The composite team also got a sixth-place finish from Jakob Craig in the varsity boys' division. The freshman D2 champ from a year ago, Craig overcame a poor starting draw to finish only three minutes off the winning pace as the only sophomore in the varsity boys' field.
"He's right in the mix. He started in the third row. Next race he should start from the first row (based on his finish this week)," Engel said. "We'll see, maybe he can move it up from there. It takes effort to pass people ... Every time you have to pass somebody, it takes a little bit extra effort, a little energy out of you. To start in the third row, you have to do some passing."
Lakeland junior Grace Dorsey rounded out the scoring for the RNC squad. She recovered from a crash at the start of the JV-3 girls' race to finish 11th in class. Freshmen Tyler Marquardt and Carter Johnson were 28th and 33rd, respectively in the freshman D2 category for RNC.
RNC scored 2,106 points to finish 84 points ahead of Marquette for first place in the 51-school Division 2 field. The Composite squad was the state runner-up last year behind Wausau East.
Freshman Jett Biolo finished sixth for the RHS squad in his debut (55:56.19, 11 miles). Anna Wood was 16th in the JV-2 girls' class, Travis White was 28th in the freshman boys' D1 and Kyle Siefert had a 49th-place finish in the JV-2 D1 boys' race. With the RHS squad only counting six riders, two shy of the maximum in Division 1, the team finished in the bottom half of the 17-team D1 field.
RNC had only two riders in the middle school ranks but both did very well in their six-mile races. Macy Lester won the seventh-grade girls' race (30:57.92) while Joey Belanger finished third in the eighth-grade boys' race (27:32.92).
"Joey did well. He had to start back a ways because they didn't have preferred starting in the middle school races for the first race. The next race should be better for him, too. He won't have to pass a bunch of people from the back," Engel said. "Macy would be racing a lot higher if they allowed move ups. I watched the finish of that race. Seventh graders start a minute or two behind the eighth graders, and there were only four eighth graders that finished ahead of her."
The second round of the WHSCL season takes place this Sunday at Nine Mile Forest in Wausau.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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