A very young and still inexperienced Viroqua girls cross-country team placed fourth among a 14-team field at the WIAA Division 2 cross country sectionals held at Westby High School, Saturday Oct. 21.
The top five Viroqua runners, whose placings count toward the final team score, were all underclassmen led by junior Jillian Weston with an 18th-place finish in a time of 21:23.3. Another VHS junior, Lauren Brendel, placed 21st in 21:28.9 and sophomore Josie Dobbs was next in 21:54.9 for a 28th-place effort. Freshman Katrina Koppa (22:04.3) and sophomore Caitlin Fox (22:05.8) finished side-by-side in 31st and 32nd places, respectively.
“This has been a tremendous group of girls to work with,” coach Scott Benzing said. “They have gained a lot of valuable experience this season that will be a benefit to them next year.”
“Josie and Katrina both turned in excellent performances, improving from their times from the same meet earlier in the season…both finished the season strong achieving their top three times in the last three races,” Benzing said.
The team’s lone senior, Madelyn Anderson (24.25.6), competed in her final race for the Blackhawks. “Madelyn finished in one of her fastest times of the season…I am going to miss working with her…she is a wonderful kid with a terrific work attitude and she always brings smiles to her teammates’ faces,” Benzing said.
Wisconsin Dells won the team title with 40 points, host Westby finished second with 58. The top two schools in the sectional competition qualify for the WIAA state tournament which will be held in Wisconsin Rapids, Saturday, Oct. 28.
“Wisconsin Dells and Westby are tough teams that are going to do a great job of representing our sectional at the state meet,” Benzing said.
Mauston finished third with 102 points, followed by Viroqua with 130, La Crosse Logan was next with 143, West Salem 145, Neilsville 203, Arcadia 220, Colby/Abbotsford 234, Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau 245, Altoona 274, Sparta 329, Adams Friendship 339 and Nekoosa/Port Edwards 413.
The Viroqua boys cross-country team is even younger than the girls squad, with a trio of freshman, a sophomore and a junior competing for the Blackhawks at the Division 2 sectionals. The Blackhawks surprised the experts, who had rated the young harriers as the 14th-ranked team prior to the tournament, by placing 11th in the 15-team field.
“Our boys competed well,” Benzing said. “This group of guys really came together as the season progressed and continued to get tougher all season.”
Junior Michael Stuber led the Hawk harriers placing 35th in 18:39.3, followed by freshman Andrew Quackenbush (19:02.7) 48th and sophomore Joshua Frye (19:11.7) 52nd, while a pair of freshmen, Aaron Dobbs (19:57.4) and Henry Roehls (20:06.7), placed 73rd and 76th, respectively, among the 101 runners competing.
“Henry had a great race, finishing the, season with a personal record,” Benzing said. “Josh also had a great race, improving on his season best time by over 30 seconds...he continued to improve all season and turned in his top three times in the last three races of the year.”
Benzing also shared thoughts about Jackson Roehls, the only senior on the VHS boys team, “Jackson had an excellent race, finishing in one of his top times of the season…he is a great kid who has provided positive leadership for his team. It has been a lot of fun working with him over the past four years and I’m really going to miss him.”
La Crosse Logan won the team championship with 66 points qualifying for the WIAA state tournament, along with G-E-T in second with 96 points. Sparta was next with 123, followed by Nekoosa/Port Edwards 133, West Salem 144, Arcadia 156, Mauston 162, Westby 176, Wisconsin Dells 210, Colby/Abbotsford 249, Viroqua 284, Altoona 288, Neilsville 326, Black River Falls 345 and Adams-Friendship 416.
“Our runners (both boys and girls) dealt with a lot of variable this season and they kept a positive outlook the entire time,” Benzing said. “I am grateful for the positive leadership provided by our seniors and I am going to miss working with them. They have made an impact on this program that will last for years to come. Our team was young and relatively inexperienced this year…they worked hard every week and I’m looking forward to working with them next year as they build on everything they have learned from this season. They are a great group of kids who have done a great job representing the program, our school and our community.”