Rhinelander High School cross country team award winners pose for a photograph following the team’s banquet at the Cedric A. Vig Outdoor Classroom Tuesday, Nov. 5. Pictured in the front row, from left to right, are Marcus O’Malley, Jaden Beske, Jacob Weddle and Daniel Goldsworthy. In the back row are Ali DeNamur, Abbey Henrichs, Emma Germain and Kylinn Gechas. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
11/9/2019 7:36:00 AM Weddle, Henrichs named Hodags' fastest harriers
When the Rhinelander High School cross country team handed out its year-end awards on Tuesday, improvement and competition were two of the main themes.
Juniors Jacob Weddle and Abbey Henrichs won the team's fastest harrier awards, presented to the squad's top boys and girls runner during a banquet at the Cedric A. Vig Outdoor Classroom.
However, unlike years past, the awards were a foregone conclusion.
Both runners were pushed throughout the season by teammates.
Weddle had sophomore Cal Laggis right on his heels and Henrichs had a running mate in junior Ali DeNamur. Coach M.J. Laggis highlighted how the competition helped the team this year.
"That's a good thing to have going. We've had a lot of years where we have not had any of that. Now we have where we have some challenge going on in practice. That's a good thing," he said.
He wasn't the only one. Laggis had his son, Cal, present Weddle's fastest harrier award. Weddle was the top runner for the Hodag boys in nine of the team's 12 meets this season, while Laggis led the way in the other three, including a fourth-place finish overall in the Great Northern Conference meet.
"This award's not going to me, it's going to a kid who pushed me all year long," the younger Laggis said. "I was right on his heels in races. He helped me pace big time in races. He pushed me a lot in practices and all throughout the year, and that's Jacob Weddle."
The elder Laggis said he was impressed by Weddle's response to having an intrasquad rival.
"Jacob, one of the things that jumps off the map at me, when Cal had a fantastic day at conference, instead of pouting he did the exact opposite. He congratulated him and, then he came back," he said. "I knew he would do it. I told (assistant) coach (Melissa Krueger), 'Just watch what happens at sectionals. He's going to come out and run his best race.' Sure enough, he came out and laid down a 17:35."
Henrichs and DeNamur had a similar dynamic on the girls' side. Henrichs paced the way for Rhinelander in eight races this year, but DeNamur led the way four times in a five-race stretch between the Antigo Invite Sept. 24 and the Tomahawk Invite Oct. 12. Henrichs was Rhinelander's top finisher at both the GNC meet (19th) and the WIAA sectional (27th), where she set a personal-best time of 21 minutes, 26.7 seconds.
"She had goals at the beginning of the year and, if you know her, she's just going to grind away until she gets it, and she did," coach Laggis said. "I think if I were Abbey, my goal wouldn't be to finish anywhere less than the state tournament and I think she has it in her."
The honors were two of eight awards the RHS coaching staff handed out over the course of Tuesday evening's banquet. Though DeNamur did not get the fastest harrier award, she was named the most dedicated runner on the girls' side.
"She's a dedicated kid. I've watched her run through a lot of pain and unfortunate situations throughout the year and she just keeps coming back again, and again, and again," coach Laggis said.
Sophomore Jaden Beske, who was Rhinelander's No. 3 runner much of the season, was the boys' most dedicated runner.
A pair of freshmen - Marcus O'Malley and Kylinn Gechas - won the team's most improved runner award. Gechas dropped 5 minutes, 24 seconds from the season-opening Hodag Invite on Aug. 24 to her personal best at the Hatchet Invite Oct. 12. O'Malley dropped 2:49 in the same time span.
"Maybe it's unusual that two freshmen are most improved, but these are two kids who showed up and are dedicated in every way that we're looking for, did the work and made the progress," Krueger said.
Junior Daniel Goldsworthy and sophomore Emma Germain won the team's long hauler work ethic award.
Rhinelander finished fifth in both the boys' and girls' divisions of the Great Northern Conference this season, but took a jump at the WIAA sectional meet, placing seventh in the girls' division and eighth in the boys' division after finishing 10th and 13th, respectively, last year.
There were no seniors who competed on varsity for Rhinelander at either conference or sectionals, which had coach Laggis feeling optimistic.
"We have an athletic nucleus. We have kids that want to go get it and I think we can turn that heads next year," he said.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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