WISCONSIN RAPIDS—Tomah High School junior Hannah Wilcox-Borg had just finished her run at the WIAA state cross country meet but felt like the season was only getting started.
Despite missing half the season with shin splints, Wilcox-Borg capped a resurgent October with an elevated finish at the Division 1 girls race. She took 48th in a field of 189 runners with a time of 19:38.
“I don’t think it’s mentally settled with me that this is my last big race of the season,” said Wilcox-Borg, who represented Tomah at state for the second straight season. “I feel like there needs to be more − like I’m just getting into it.”
Her time on a hilly and chilly course at The Ridges Golf Club in Wisconsin Rapids was just three seconds slower than the flat Madison Sectional course she ran a week earlier. She resisted the temptation to keep up with the lead pack and ran reasonably consistent splits on a course with the hills back-loaded at the end.
“I went out conservatively in the first mile,” Wilcox-Borg said.
She said the strategy carried both risks and rewards. While she felt stronger during the final mile, she also ran among the thickest pack of runners. The 40th through 53rd runners finished within seven seconds of each other.
“You can get boxed in,” she said. “You have to use a lot more energy to get around people ... there were a lot of elbows and a lot of kicking.”
Her finishing kick was as strong as it has been all year. That came in handy since the race ends with a steep uphill climb.
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“This is probably the only race I ever run where you run into a hill at the end,” Wilcox-Borg said. “It’s not that horrible. It really shows who’s strong at the end.”
Tomah cross country coach Jon Heesch said Wilcox-Borg executed their race plan.
“I thought she ran really well,” Heesch said. “We gave her a specific plan to go out a little more conservative at the beginning, come through the mile and then start to work, knowing that mile two and mile three are significantly more difficult than mile one.”
A runner very familiar to Wilcox-Borg won the race. Kora Malecek of Onalaska obliterated the field by running the five-kilometer (3.1-mile course) in 17:44, a state record. She finished 30 seconds ahead of runner-up Lauren Pansegrau of Middleton and led her team to a second-place finish in the team standings.
Heesch said Wilcox-Borg will take a couple of days off before running in the 5K Foot Locker Midwest Regional race in Kenosha Nov. 30. After that, she’ll set her sights on the track and field season next spring.
“I’m proud of how she did and of how she got here,” Heesch said. “It makes us that much more hungry to get back next year and improve on this year.”
Wilcox-Borg was happy to return to state after missing the first four meets of the season.
“I was having doubts after the first couple of races. I wasn’t sure making state was even an option,” she said. “It means a lot to me ... I feel like this is where I belong. I love being here. I’m glad with the progress and being able to bounce back.”
Tomah Journal editor Steve Rundio can be reached at email@example.com.