The Tomah High School boys cross country team launched its 2019 season by defending its championship at the Pioneer Invitational in Westfield Thursday.
It was also a strong start for the Tomah girls, who finished fifth out of eight teams despite competing without their top runner.
There were 46 runners in the boys field, and all seven Tomah runners placed in the top 17. That was critical in securing first place since both Tomah and Wautoma tied with 33 points. Tomah was awarded the title based on the team with the higher number-six runner, which was Ty Schanhofer. He finished 66 seconds ahead of his Wautoma counterpart.
“It is a good example of how cross country is also a team sport and a good reminder that every position matters,” Tomah boys and girls coach Jon Heesch said.
Eugene Peterson led the Tomah boys with a third-place finish and a time of 18:48. Coy Nelson was fourth in 18:57, followed by Kale Gnewikow (sixth, 19:10), Weston Boettcher (ninth, 19:22), Jesse Smith (12th, 19:38), Schanhofer (15th, 19:55) and Caleb Lenning (17th, 20:22).
Lance Erdman of Wautoma won the race in 18:01.
Team scores: Tomah 33, Wautoma 33, Reedsburg 80, Lodi 104, Portage 123, Rio/Fall River 163.
On the girls side, Brooke Bakken stepped up with a strong race in the absence of Hannah Wilcox-Borg, who is still recovering from a track and field injury last spring. Bakken finished 10th in the 53-runner field with a time of 24:44.
Jennie Jorgensen also finished in the top half of the field. She was 23rd with a time of 26:19.
Tomah other runners were: Brielle Harmel (27:35), Maddy Kline (27:38), Reyna Herold (27:57), Jenna Hausman (29:27) and Alyssa Alden (31:19).
Macy Goldthorpe of Portage won the race in 23:38.
Team scores: Wautoma 41, Reedsburg 46, Portage 56, Lodi 91, Tomah 127, Rio/Fall River 193, Westfield 195, Markesan 217.
Heesch said the times were significantly influenced by a difficult course compounded by a brisk wind.
“Westfield is a hilly course,” Heesch said. “It is always a difficult course but a great challenge to start the season ... Our athletes did such a great job working hard and continuing to push throughout the race.”
The Tomah boys were second out of six junior varsity teams.
Thor Lass was third out of 53 junior varsity runners with a time of 21:52.
Austin Lyden also finished in the top 10. He was sixth at 22:20.
The rest of the jayvee boys: Calvin Zeps (23:44), Thai Davis (23:59), Charlie Ella (24:26), Carl Oskar Wilcox-Borg (24:39), Sam Burbach (25:27), Jeremy Kuhn (25:31), Tyler Hausman (26:50), Eric Wilcox-Borg (30:47), Jeremiah Parrott (31:01).
Junior varsity team scores: Wautoma 25, Tomah 55, Portage 73, Reedsburg 79, Rio/Fall River 133, Lodi 171.
Aisha Hughart Topgyal led the junior varsity girls. She was 14th out of 41 runners in 30:17. She was followed by Joy Hilson (31:38), Ava Harmel (32:44) and Autumn Sparks (34:13).
The Tomah girls were one runner short of a complete jayvee team.
Heesch said it was a positive meet across the board.
“They all raced really well and pushed themselves,” he said. “All the athletes were super excited with how we all performed. It is such a great feeling to see them get excited for themselves but also for the team overall on both sides.”
The runners return to action Tuesday, Sept. 10 with a trip to the Marshfield Invitational, followed by the Sept. 14 Madison West Invitational.