Facing their stiffest competition of the season, the Viroqua girls cross country team placed fourth at the 15-team Westby Invitational, Tuesday, Sept. 5, and took home fifth-place honors at the River Valley 16- team competition, Saturday, Sept. 9.
Jillian Weston turned in the fastest time for the Blackhawks with a 19:29, but finished in second place individually, behind the 18:49 pace of meet winner Laura Beghin of Wisconsin Dells. Lauren Brendel was the only other Blackhawk to break the top 10, placing 10th with a time of 21:16. Others contributing points for the Hawk harriers included Caitlin Fox 17th in 21:39, Josephine Dobbs 26th in 22:16 and Katrina Koppa 31st in 22:40. Dobbs’ time was nearly two minutes faster than her time in the same race last year.
Viroqua coach Scott Benzing said that junior Xana Leum, although her time did not count toward the VHS team total, “ran a great race, improving her time from last year’s race by almost two minutes and Angie Harnish, Lauren Campbell, Sophie Kimble and Katrina Koppa all achieved personal best times.”
“Westby will be hosting the sectional meet this year…this was a great opportunity for us to preview the course and compete against some of the schools that we will see again at the sectionals,” Benzing said. “There were a lot of good things to take away from this race. We also saw areas of improvement that need to be made in order for our girls to achieve their team goals for the season.”
Led by Beghin’s performance Wisconsin Dells took home the team title with 31 points, followed by Prairie du Chien’s 75, Westby (Red) was next with 81, Viroqua 86, Boscobel 169, Melrose-Mindoro 178, Cashton 186, Fennimore 252, Hillsboro 260, Westby (Black) 263, Altoona 285, Sparta 320, Brookwood 324, Osseo-Fairchild 361 and Kickapoo/La Farge 383.
River Valley Invite
For the third time in four tries this season, Weston ran to a first-place finish, this time against a field of 119 racers competing at the River Valley Invitational. Weston’s time of 19:46 easily outdistanced second-place runner Lydia Murphy (20:03) of Lancaster.
The next trio of VHS runners placed in a tight group included Brendel (21:48) 22nd, Fox (22:16) 27th and Dobbs (22:17) 28th. Cayleigh Smith’s 37th place finish, in 22:59, rounded out the five individual placings completing the Blackhawks’ team score of 115, good for a fifth-place finish for VHS.
“Our girls competed in the small school division, which was tougher than the large school division this year,” Benzing said. “Many of the top ranked schools in the state competed in the small school race, making for great competition. Our girls place fifth out of 16 teams in the small school division and they would have been fourth in the large school division This meet is often called the September state meet with many of these schools ending up at the state meet at the end of the season.”
The longtime VHS coach also commented on some individual performances following the meet. “Jillian took control of the race right from the start...she is a tough worker and a wonderful kid who provides great leadership and inspiration to all of our athletes. Cayleigh also had a great race…she had a controlled start and had a great finish. I thought our girls worked well together today and helped to push each other. Working together is going to be a key part of this team achieving its goals this season.”