WISCONSIN RAPIDS—Hannah Wilcox-Borg wasn’t intimidated by her first WIAA state cross country meet.

Wilcox-Borg bolted from the starting line and raced with the lead pack before finishing 21st out of 190 runners in the Division 1 girls meet held at The Ridges Golf Course. She ran the five-kilometer (3.1-mile) course in 19 minutes, 11.4 seconds.

The Tomah High School sophomore ran a blistering 5:42 for the first mile and was in ninth place, just one second out of first, at the mile mark.

“I knew it was going to be fast in the first mile,” Wilcox-Borg said. “I knew the third mile was going to be the toughest.”

Wilcox-Borg was right about the third mile. She hit the second mile in an even 12 minutes before slowing to a 7:12 pace in the last 1.1 miles, which included a long hill leading to the finish line.

“I saw that last hill at the very end, and I just gave it all I had,” she said. “My muscles were really tight.”

Tomah High School cross country coach Jon Heesch said Wilcox-Borg, the first Tomah girl to run at state since Suzie Neas in 1985, ran a smart, aggressive race.

“She ran really well − I’m really proud of how she did,” Heesch said. “This course is not an easy course. Given the conditions, I think she did really well. Being 21st in your first state meet is pretty outstanding.”

Wilcox-Borg and Heesch agreed that course conditions were difficult. It rained for most of the morning, and even though the rain had stopped for the Division 1 girls race, the course was chewed up and muddy from the three boys races that preceded it.

“They were not extremely ideal,” Wilcox-Borg said of the course conditions. “There were quite a few hills, a few sharp turns, and there was a bunch of mud at one spot, and I got mud inside my shoe.”

The state meet was one of the few races this season in which Wilcox-Borg found herself running in a pack. She had run by herself most of the season − either in first place or close to first where the pack was strung out. She had planned to key on a pair of runners who finished ahead of her at the Madison West Sectional but lost track of them in a large lead pack that didn’t separate much until after the first mile.

“It was definitely different,” Wilcox-Borg said. “Mainly in the season I found myself alone, so it was nice to key off someone. It’s really helpful to have other people neck and neck.”

She also had plenty of company before and after the race. The bus to Wisconsin Rapids carried 16 teammates and coaches, and Heesch estimated the total Tomah contingent around 25.

“I saw quite a few people during the race ringing the cowbell and cheering, and I thought that was really neat,” Wilcox-Borg said. “It gave me a lot of excitement and energy.”

Heesch was gratified to see a healthy Tomah cheering section.

“Even though Hannah was the only one racing today, we’re a team,” Heesch said. “Our team made it, and it’s really important that so many people would want to come out and support her.”

Genevieve Nashold, a Madison West freshman, won the race in 18:10 by 16 seconds over second-place Kate Sperka of Muskego.

Mississippi Valley Conference champion Kora Malacek was fifth with a time of 18:35.

The top seven runners were freshmen and sophomores.

Muskego won the team title, and Onalaska was third.

The finish left Wilcox-Borg motivated for track and field next spring and next fall’s cross country season.

“Now I can see where I’m at,” she said. “I’m hoping I’ll have a good spot at state in track next year in the mile or two-mile − we’ll see.”

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Tomah Journal editor Steve Rundio contributed to this report.

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Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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