Rhinelander’s Abbey Henrichs, center, and Ali DeNamur, far right, lead a pack of runners during a WIAA Division 2 sectional cross country meet at Edgewater Country Club in Tomahawk Saturday, Oct. 26. Henrichs (27th) and DeNamur (30th) were the top finishers for the Hodag girls, who placed seventh in the 16-team meet. (Photos by Jeremy Mayo/River News)
Rhinelander’s Jacob Weddle races toward the finish line of a WIAA Division 2 sectional cross country meet at Edgewater Country Club in Tomahawk Saturday, Oct. 26. Weddle finished 28th in the race and the Hodags improved five positions in the team standings from last year, taking eighth overall.
10/29/2019 7:34:00 AM Hodag harries finish mid-pack at sectionals
TOMAHAWK -Rhinelander High School cross country coach M.J. Laggis said he wanted to see his team rise from the bottom third of the standings in the postseason and that's exactly what the Hodags accomplished Saturday.
Rhinelander finished smack dab in the middle of the field, placing seventh out of 14 complete teams in the girls' division and eighth out of 15 in the boys' division of a WIAA Division 2 sectional at Edgewater Country Club in Tomahawk.
There will not be a state qualifier for the Hodags this year - marking only the second time in the last six years the team has not sent a runner to Wisconsin Rapids. But, considering Rhinelander finished 10th in the girls' division and 13th in the boys' division against the same field in last year's playoffs, coach Laggis considered Saturday a step in the right direction for his program.
"We're excited about the future," he said. "You always want to do better today but, if you would have told me before the meet today you're going to crawl out of the cellar and be a mid-pack (team) on both sides, I would have said that's great improvement.
"We were right in the middle of the pack, seventh with the girls and eighth with the boys. That's the kind of progress we need."
Rhinelander figured to have one or two longshot hopes to qualify for state individual, especially considering Cal Laggis' fourth-place run at the Great Northern Conference meet last week. Laggis, Jacob Weddle and Jaden Beske all set personal-best times and cracked the 18-minute barrier, but it was not enough to make it in a blisteringly-fast sectional.
Weddle, a junior, was the first across the line for the Hodag boys in 28th place overall with a time of 17 minutes, 35.2 seconds. Only the top five finishers not already on a state-qualifying team earned a trip to Wisconsin Rapids. The cutline fell at seventh place overall as GNC champion Erik Kordus of Mosinee was the last qualifier at 16:48.8.
"I said 17:10 would (qualify) on the boys' side and I wasn't even close. It was 16:48. That just tells you a lot about the competition here," coach Laggis said.
Cal Laggis set a PR at 17:48.5, but finished 36th overall. Another sophomore, Jaden Beske, finished 39th at 17:54.1.
"Weddle was a 17:35, that's got to be a PR for him. Cal was a PR again today. I think his previous fast was 17:55. He had another PR today and that's great," coach Laggis said. "Those guys have a lot of life left in them with Weddle having another year and Cal having two more.
"Beske was off the rocker today. He had a great run. I'll just tell you with (Daniel) Goldsworthy and JC Adams and Dave Gibbs had a really good run. We bring a lot back and that's really encouraging."
David Gibbs was 58th overall for the Hodags (18:33.1), Goldsworthy finished 62nd (18:46.5), JC Adams was 63rd (18:50.1) and Nathanael Gibbs rounded out the contingent in 76th at 19:19.8.
Abbey Henrichs paced the Hodag girls, taking 27th overall at 21:26.7. That was about a minute and a half off the cutline. Mosinee's Kate Fitzgerald was the last individual qualifier in seventh at 20:00.1. Ali DeNamur was not far behind Henrichs, finishing second for Rhinelander, and 30th overall, at 21:31.3.
"Abbey was right up there at No. 1 and Ali was our No. 2. Ali and Abbey have had that same relationship that Cal and Weddle have had where they flip flop back and forth (as our No. 1 runner)," coach Laggis said. "That's a good thing. You want them all to be faster and you want them to get to state. That's the next goal."
Junior Ella Schiek had what coach Laggis described as "a nice breakout run," placing 40th overall at 22:19.8. Audrey Schiek, Ella's younger sister, was 43rd at 22:25.2. Emma Germain finished 53rd (22:44.9), Sage Flory was 61st (22:59.7) and Megan Brown placed 67th (23:35.9).
Overall, 12 of Rhinelander's 14 runners dropped time compared to when they ran the same course two weeks ago in the Hatchet Invite. Ella Schiek was the biggest mover, dropping 1:17 off her time. Weddle had the biggest drop on the boys' side, improving his time by 50.9 seconds.
"That's the gauge that we use," coach Laggis said. "(Assistant) coach (Melissa) Krueger keeps meticulous times and we're always looking at them and comparing. That's a really nice thing to have to gauge where you're at. Even though you're eighth out of the pack of 16, you look for all the things that you improved on and ways you can get to the next level."
Tomahawk edged Freedom by a point for the sectional title on the girls' side. Lakeland finished third, five points out of first, but was denied a trip to the individual state meet. Marinette's Katelyn Kitzinger took the individual win at 19:28.8 after Lakeland's Ashley Peterson, who nearly led wire-to-wire, faded over the final 500 meters and finished third.
Freedom placed five runners in the top 14 overall, led by individual champ Jack Reiter (16:34.6) to take the boys' title. New London earned the second state qualifying spot.
"There's a lot of really good teams and I think for our boys and our girls both, they now can look at the bar and say, 'this is what we have to do if we want to compete next year and be one of the big teams,'" Laggis said. "None of us are satisfied. We've got to try to get into that top part next year and with everybody returning, I don't see why we can't climb a few more spots."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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