HARTLAND — Even the strong winds that attacked the course being used for the state’s top Division 1 cross country runners at Hartland Arrowhead High School couldn’t stop Onalaska senior Kora Malecek from ending her career on a high note Saturday.
Malecek won her second consecutive WIAA state championship by battling that wind and crossing the finish line in 17 minutes, 52.8 seconds.
That led the way in a third-place finish for the Hilltoppers, who have now finished either third or second four years in a row.
“Kora owns the fastest time at the course we normally run the state meet on,” Onalaska coach Darin Shepardson said of Malecek’s winning time of 17:44.6 in Wisconsin Rapids a year ago. “That course has a lot of hills, and this one was very flat, so the times will tell you what the wind was like.”
Malecek, who will run with her sisters Lydia and Amalia at the University of Illinois next year, was unchallenged in her session and finished the race 8 seconds faster than Kimberly senior Brooke Edwardson (18:00.3). Homestead senior Leane Willemse (18:12.5) was third, Kaukauna senior Anna Fauske (18:23.8) fourth and Lydia Malecek (18:41.2) fifth.
Kaukauna won the team championship with a score of 79 and was followed by Whitefish Bay (86) and Onalaska (99), which held off fourth-place Muskego (103).
“The first (session) had Whitefish Bay and Muskego racing each other, and those two teams match up pretty well together when it comes to racing together,” said Shepardson, whose team ran in the second session. “In the third session, you had Kimberly, Kaukauna, which were also pushing each other.
“In our race, there just wasn’t a team like that for us. We were just kind of out there by ourselves. It’s interesting when you look at the winners of the first session, second session and third session. They finished first, second and third in the state and never raced against each other.”
But Shepardson was certainly grateful for his team being able to compete with so many events being shelved do to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the fact that the Hilltoppers have placed third or better in Division 1 four straight years wasn’t lost on him.
“That’s an accomplishment,” he said. “I think the girls wanted more, and maybe on a different day or with a different setup, that could have happened. But I’m proud of this group of young ladies and what they’ve done.”
Amalia Malecek was 38th overall (19:41), and senior Carolyn Kearns was 60th (20:18.7). Junior Jillian Lonning was 62nd (20:20.2) to round out Onalaska’s scoring.
Lydia Malecek’s finish was her best in four state appearances, which all included placing 30th or better.
“Lydia really put together a phenomenal effort,” Shepardson said. “She was out there chopping wood on her own like Kora was. She did really well today.”
ONALASKA BOYS 10TH: With plenty of top runners expected to return next season, Onalaska’s boys gave themselves a good experience on Saturday.
The Hilltoppers ran to a team score of 206 and were led by junior Tyler Lee’s time of 16:29.3, which put him 23rd overall.
Senior Jacob Oyen (60th, 17:13.8), freshman Blake Burnstad (77th, 17:26.3), junior Austin Oyen (86th, 17:36.6) and sophomore Ryan Topolski (87th, 17:36.9) also scored for Onalaska.
Oconomowoc won the team championship with 100 points and was followed by Milwaukee Marquette (129) and Whitefish Bay (130).
“DeForest beat us at the sectional meet, so we knew we could key off of them a little bit,” Shepardson said. “We wanted to make sure we didn’t get over our skis in the first mile, and we may have looked a little behind where we wanted to be after the first mile.
“But the same thing happened at the sectional, and this team really runs better in the second half of the race. Over the second half of the race, they really pressed people.”
Lee lost a few spots with 1,000 (meters) to go and gained some of them back down the stretch after finding another gear. Jacob Oyen also hada strong move late for his finish.
INDIVIDUALS: Tomah senior Hannah Wilcox-Borg placed 48th with a time of 19:57.4 in the girls race. Holmen freshman Sydney Valiska (21:22.8) was 92nd.
Holmen junior Cameron Lamere was 66th in the boys race with a time of 17:17.5.