In years past, the Rhinelander High School cross country team has used the Waupaca Invitational as a springboard toward the postseason. The Hodags are hoping the event will do the same this year.
Rhinelander turned in a solid showing on Thursday in Waupaca, collecting four individual top-15 finishes as both its boys' and girls' squads placed third in the 10-team invitational.
"It's one of those races where it's a really good course and there's always good competition there, and it's one of those races where I feel we start to hit our stride a little bit, start to turn corners and get better," coach M.J. Laggis said. "But we've got a ways to go yet. We're not satisfied with third by any stretch. We're taking not of where we're at and we're going to keep getting better."
Times started to drop on a hilly Waupaca course. Rhinelander placed three runners in the top 20 on the girls' side, led by junior Ali DeNamur, who was 12th overall with a time of 21 minutes, 57.1 seconds. Fellow junior Abbey Henrichs, who missed the last two races for Rhinelander due to illness, finished 13th at 22:04.6.
"It was nice to get her back. Hopefully we can stay healthy and keep improving," Laggis said of Henrichs' return to the lineup.
Audrey Schiek was 18th for Rhinelander and the third Hodag runner to crack the 23-minute mark (22:45.7). Emma Germain finished 23rd, followed by Ella Schiek in 28th, Sage Flory in 30th and Megan Brown in 34th.
"We were right there with out top six - Allie, Abbey, Audrey, Emma, Ella and Sage - those girls are improving like crazy and its showing in our places in races," Laggis said. "There's a lot of good competition here with Winneconne and Peshtigo, eight pretty nice schools on the girls' side. We keep getting better, but we've still got another step to take."
Junior Jacob Weddle led the Hodag boys with a top-10 finish. He placed ninth overall with a time of 18:10.9. Sophomore Cal Laggis was not far behind, finishing 11th at 18:17.3.
Jaden Beske was 24th for the Hodag, Daniel Goldsworthy was 29th, Nathanael Gibbs was 34th, JC Adams finished 35th and Marcus O'Malley was 45th.
"We're scoring better and we've got a nucleus of boys at the top, none of which are seniors," coach Laggis said. "We just feel like we're on the cusp of being a solid team that can score. We're not that far away. We've got another step to take and our goal is to keep running well here into the conference meet and heading into sectionals, and set some serious goals for the end of the year."
Rhinelander was also a little healthier heading into this race, with a full week to prepare, as opposed to a grueling schedule the week prior that saw the Hodags race three times in six days.
"We've been really sick with kids in and out," Laggis said. "We're just trying to get everyone back in the lineup. Every race we're on the verge of having one or two kids not race because of the cold that's been going around."
Rhinelander races again Tuesday at the Northland Pines Invitational in Eagle River.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Northwoods River News | Walker Communications, LLC 232 S. Courtney Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501 | Office (715) 365-6397 | Fax (715) 365-6361
Corporate billing office: The Lakeland Times / Lakeland Printing Inc. | P.O. Box 790, Minocqua, WI 54548 | (715) 356-5236 | Fax (715) 358-2121 Members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Community Papers, Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce