Rhinelander’s Jacob Weddle, front, leads teammate Cal Laggis in the Northland Pines Invitational cross country race in Eagle River Tuesday, Oct. 8. Weddle and Laggis finished 1-2 in the boys’ 5K race, part of a strong day for the Hodag cross country team which placed first in both the boys’ and girls’ divisions in the eight-team competition. (Photos by Jeremy Mayo/River News)
Rhinelander’s Abbey Henrichs rounds a corner during the Northland Pines Invitational cross country race in Eagle River Tuesday, Oct. 8. Henrichs finished fourth overall in the girls’ 5K race.
10/10/2019 7:34:00 AM Hodag harriers capture Pines Invite Weddle, Laggis finish 1-2 in boys' race
EAGLE RIVER - The Rhinelander High School cross country team had a breakout meet against a small field Tuesday afternoon in Eagle River.
The Hodags dominated, placing all seven of its varsity runners in the top 12 in the boys' race, and six runners in the top 12 of the girls' race, to take the Northland Pines Invite in overwhelming fashion.
Jacob Weddle and Cal Laggis finished 1-2 overall in the boys' race and were two of five Hodag runners in the top 10 overall. Abbey Henrichs and Audrey Schiek took fourth and fifth, respectively for the Hodag girls.
After Tuesday's race, only two events remain before sectionals Oct. 26 in Tomahawk. Coach M.J. Laggis said his team is trending in the right direction toward the end of the season.
"I think where we're at, you're looking at a team that was 14th two years ago at the sectional and 13th last year our of 14. We're not satisfied and we're trying to improve," he said. "We've been in some big meets and have gotten thumped. We've been in bigger meets, like Waupaca, and competed really well and finished third. We're in a little smaller meet today and did really well. For our team and where we're at, it's really good to have those experiences where you can win and be No. 1 in a smaller venue, and I'm really proud of the kids."
Times were strong on a fast and relatively flat course, similar to what the Hodags will see in Tomahawk. The RHS boys had eight runners crack 20 minutes in the race.
Weddle and Cal Laggis stalked the early pace set by Butternut's Mike Brown and Antigo's Michale Mallum. Weddle and Laggis were running third and fourth when the pack disappeared into the woods behind the Northland Pines High School campus. When they emerged roughly less than mile from the finish line, Weddle and Laggis had moved into first and second by a comfortable margin.
"I was shocked to see them pop out right there. Maybe not so much Weddle but I was surprised Cal was that close to him. Those guys have been neck and neck. Weddle's had the advantage, no doubt the junior's faster, but Cal's been right there and challenging," coach Laggis said. "I know for Cal, he had the goal to get under 18 minutes at sectionals and he did it today. That's a good confidence thing. I'm proud of Jacob for winning, but I'm also proud of him for continuing to improve."
Both Weddle and Laggis broke the 18-minute mark for the race. Weddle crossed the line first at 17 minutes, 48.5 seconds. Laggis crossed the line 5.9 seconds later (17:54.4).
Sophomore Jaden Beske was fifth overall for Rhinelander (18:35.5) and Daniel Goldsworthy won a four-way sprint to the line for eighth place (18:59.2). He edged Northland Pines' Frankie Milanowski, with Hodag teammates JC Adams and Nathanael Gibbs right behind in 10th and 11th. David Gibbs, Nathanael's older brother, rounded out the Hodag varsity in 12th place.
"JC had a really nice race today. I thought he needed to break out today, and he did," coach Laggis said. "Nate Gibbs has come out of nowhere and is really improving as a freshman, and now brother David is not far behind either. I'm really encouraged. We have a lot of competition on the boys' side and it's about getting better and better."
The Hodags still had plenty in reserve on the girls' side, even with No. 2 runner Ali DeNamur sitting out the race to rest as she battles a nagging injury. Henrichs finished fourth with a time of 22:09.9 and the Hodags had four runners cross the line in less than 23 minutes. Audrey Schiek was fifth (22:35.4), Emma Germain took eighth (22:54.7) and Ella Schiek was ninth (22:58.2).
"The one thing that I'm really encouraged with, with the girls is that they're kind of starting to pack up and go together - and it's not going at the end (of the pack). It's more middle to upper and today it was more of the upper," M.J. Laggis said. "I'm proud of the girls. They laid down nice time and finished strong. That's a confidence booster for them. They needed it."
Sage Flory was 12th for Rhinelander, Megan Brown was 13th and senior Valerie Dalka took the last varsity spot for Rhinelander, placing 17th.
Rhinelander is scheduled to return to action Saturday in the Tomahawk Invite, though Laggis said Tuesday there has been talk about altering the race format, or postponing the event to Monday, due to Saturday's forecast with a high in the upper 30s and a chance of rain and snow. The GNC meet takes place the following Saturday in Antigo before the Hodags return to Tomahawk later in the month for sectionals.
"I'm looking forward to the next three weekends," Laggis said. "Antigo's going to be a brutally tough course for conference. I'm telling you, that's a whole other animal, but we get the Tomahawk Invite this weekend and, of course, Tomahawk for sectionals. What a great venue to be at."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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