Improvement would best describe the efforts by both the Viroqua girls and boys cross country teams as they competed in the 2017 Night Fall Classic, Friday, Sept. 29, according to head coach Scott Benzing.
“Our athletes ran well and made a significant step toward achieving their season goals,” Benzing said. “Almost every one of our runners either achieved a season best time or a personal record. The cooler weather was welcomed after two sweltering weeks of training and racing.”
The race itself is unusual in that it is a night race, and has been quite successful, having drawn 30 schools to compete in its inaugural 2016 race and grew to more than 50 teams this year. “We feel lucky to have been a part of this fun and competitive event,” Benzing said.
The girls team turned in a strong performance, including seven personal best records and four season records, en route to an impressive fourth-place team finish among 11 Division 2 schools.
Three Viroqua runners placed in the top 20 at the meet, led by junior Lauren Brendel (20:52.63) 15th, freshman Katrina Koppa (20:57.85) 17th and sophomore Josie Dobbs (21:02.06) 19th. Sophomore Caitlyn Fox (22:15.03) placed 36th and junior Caleigh Smith (22:38.86) 47th, completed the Blackhawks top five runners.
“Katrina had the performance of the night for our team, improving on her previous personal record by almost two minutes,” Benzing said. “Katrina has worked hard all season and is getting stronger as the season progresses. I am glad to see all of her efforts paying off for her.”
“Josie also had a great race…she has been one of our most consistent runners all season and has been improving in every meet,” Benzing said.
Host Wisconsin Dells dominated the meet with a team-winning score of 27, Westby was next with 39, followed by Shorewood with 117, Viroqua 134, Two Rivers 141, Whitewater 154, Deerfield/Cambridge 159, Omro 159, North Fond du Lac/ Oakfield 239, Mauston 266 and Nekoosa 338.
The young, and still very inexperienced boys team, achieved season best records from seven of nine runners competing at the meet, including five personal records, but still finished last in a field of 13 teams.
Junior Michael Stuber (18:06.09), according to Benzing, “ran a tremendous race,” finishing 32nd out of a field of 189 Division 2 runners. “Michael was really strong in the second half of the race and had a tremendous finish-line kick. He is a talented athlete with a great work ethic.”
VHS freshman Aaron Dobbs (19:02.89) improved his personal best time by more than 40 seconds and finished as the second-place Blackhawk runner for the fourth consecutive race. “Aaron has been one of our most consistent runners on the team this season…he is working hard and improving all the time,” Benzing said.
Freshman Andrew Quackenbush (19:39.83) 73rd, sophomore Joshua Frye and freshman Jay Lind (20:15.41) 77th rounded out the Blackhawks’ team score.
“These guys have very little experience competing at the varsity level, but they are learning more every day and they continue to improve,” said Benzing. “It’s fun to work with them as they gain experience and grow as runners.”
Shorewood won the meet with 63 points, Madison Edgewood was next with 85, followed by North Fond du Lac/Oakfield 119, Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau 133, Whitewater 151, Nekoosa 156, Deerfield/Cambrisge 190, Westby 208, Wisconsin Dells 212, Two Rivers 232, Omro 267, Mauston 278 and Viroqua 325.
The Blackhawk harriers compete at the Schultz Farm Race near Arcadia, Saturday, Oct. 7.