Competing in far less than ideal conditions, the Viroqua cross country teams ran in the Gerald Holte Invitational race held at the Schultz Family Farm outside Arcadia, Saturday Oct. 6.
“This meet represents a true cross-country experience,” said VHS coach Scott Benzing after the race. “The terrain is picturesque and very demanding. The weather that we have had this fall provided even more challenges…the course was muddy and slippery and the parts that were on grass in open areas were very soft.”
Benzing noted that the Blackhawks handled the adverse conditions well, focusing on what they could control and worked with the elements that were out of their control.
The girls team placed four runners in the top 10 and all five runners were among the top 20 finishers, en route to winning the large school team title at the annual meet hosted by Arcadia High School.
Jillian Weston, Lauren Brendel, Josie Dobbs and Katrina Koppa all finished in the top 10 individually and Caleigh Smith was 19th, as the Blackhawks won their first team championship of the 2018 season.
Weston ran away from the field to win her first individual championship of the season in a time of 20:38, easily outdistancing 2nd place finisher Madison Sand of Durand. Sand traversed the course in 21:17. Brendel placed 4th with a time of 21:29, Dobbs (21:38) was 6th, Koppa (22:06) was 10th and Smith (23:06) was 19th. Angie Harnish (24:35) and Sophia Kimble (25:02) also competed for the Blackhawks.
Viroqua finished with 28 team points, Durand finished a distant 2nd with 54 points, followed by West Salem with 99, Holmen 106, Arcadia 107, La Crosse Aquinas 112 and Ellsworth 137.
“Our girls took a big step forward at this meet…they started the season with several injuries and have spent the large portion of the season focusing on overcoming those injuries and getting back to full strength as a team,” Benzing said. “Katrina Koppa ran her best race of the season so far and has been making a lot of gains in the latter part of the season. Caleigh Smith had a terrific race and has gotten faster in every race she has run this season.”
The Viroqua boys ran to a seventh-place team finish totaling 155 team points.
Andrew Quackenbush continued his impressive sophomore campaign placing 16th individually with a time of 18:36. Josh Frye was next for the Hawks placing 27th in 19:11, Michael Stuber (19:40) was 27th, Henry Roels (20:24) was 34th and freshman Benny Fergot (20:43) rounded out the Hawks team score.
“Josh Frye had a very good race,” Benzing said. “His time was the second fastest of the season for him, which is impressive given the hills and muddy conditions.”
La Crosse Aquinas placed four runners in the top six to win the large school team title with 29 points, West Salem was second with 66, followed by Holmen with 69, Durand 113, Ellsworth 125, Arcadia 145, Viroqua 155 and G-E-T with 238. Ethan Gregg of Aquinas was the top individual runner with a time of 17:06.
The VHS harriers wrap up their regular season schedule competing at the G-E-T-hosted Coulee Conference tournament, Saturday, Oct. 13, before heading down the WIAA tournament trail with sectional competition to be hosted by Colby High School, Saturday, Oct. 20.
“Our runners have appreciated the support of our community this season and would love to see a whole bunch of screaming Viroqua fans at the upcoming meets,” Benzing said.