It was the best day for Tomah cross country at the Mississippi Valley Conference meet in a very long time.
The Tomah boys finished fourth and the Tomah girls tied for fifth at the races held at Maple Grove Cross Country Course near West Salem.
It was the highest finish for the Tomah boys since a fourth-place finish in 1997. For the girls, it was their best finish since the 2001 team took fifth.
Tomah produced three all-conference runners − Hannah Wilcox-Borg, who finished third in the girls race, and Trevin Nelson and Caleb Lenning, who were 11th and 13th in the boys competition.
“I have had so much fun coaching this group.” Tomah boys and girls coach Jon Heesch said. “This is a great group of kids who have worked their tails off all year for a goal of finishing as high as we could at conference and sectionals. They should all be proud of their hard work and how they finished.”
Wilcox-Borg, a freshman, ran near the top of a freshman-dominated race in which ninth-graders took five of the first six places, seven of the first 10 and nine of the first 14.
Wilcox-Borg was fifth at the half-mile mark but had moved up to third halfway through the race and spent the last 1,500 meters stalking Holmen senior Mason Kalander, who won the MVC title as a sophomore. Wilcox-Borg couldn’t catch Kalander but easily held off Onalaska’s Lydia Malecek and Amalia Malecek for third place.
The winner was Onalaska’s Kora Malecek, triplet sister of Lydia and Amalia. Kora ran the five-kilometer (3.1-mile) course in 19 minutes 15 seconds. Wilcox-Borg finished in 19:47, 3.4 seconds behind Kalander.
Tomah’s second runner was Brielle Harmel, who finished in the middle of the 47-runner field by taking 24th in 22:28. She was followed by Brooke Bakken (23:14), Brooke Lucka (23:35), Hannah Scorsone (25:57), Kyrie Ambrosia-Brown (31:15) and Autumn Sparks (36:59).
“I am very proud of how hard the girls have worked and continue to work,” Heesch said. “They all ran strong races today and showed that they belong with the other teams and runners in the conference. The girls are looking forward to proving themselves again next weekend at sectionals.”
Team scores: Onalaska 26, La Crosse Central 54, La Crosse Logan 92, La Crosse Aquinas 101, Holmen 136, Tomah 136, Sparta 195.
The boys had four runners finish in the top half of the field. Nelson, the team’s only senior, ran the course in 17:38, while Lenning finished in 17:43.
Eugene Peterson was 19th with a time of 17:59, and Coy Nelson was 23rd in 18:05 and was the third freshman to cross the finish line. There were 49 runners in the boys field, and all but one of them finished in under 20 minutes.
Rounding out Tomah’s varsity were Eric Tollefson (18:20), Matthew Holtz (18:33) and Weston Boettcher (18:39).
“The boys ran really strong races today and were pushing each other the whole way,” Heesch said.
The team race was tightly bunched with only 85 points separating first from last place. Every team had a runner finish in the top 17.
La Crosse Logan, which began a string of seven straight championships starting in 2008, won its its first title since 2014.
Team scores: Logan 52, La Crosse Central 56, La Crosse Aquinas 66, Tomah 92, Holmen 135, Onalaska 135, Sparta 137.
Tomah competes in the WIAA Division 1 Menomonie Sectional Saturday, Oct. 21 starting at noon. Joining Tomah and Menomonie in the field will be Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire Memorial, Eau Claire North, Holmen, Hudson, La Crosse Central, New Richmond, Onalaska, River Falls and Superior.
The top two teams and top five individuals from non-qualifying teams advance to the state meet at Wisconsin Rapids Saturday, Oct. 28.