There was a high level of optimism for the Viroqua girl’s cross-country team heading into the 2017 season, and if the results of the first race of the year are any indication, the girls are well on their way to meeting those expectations.
Led by a 1-2 finish by juniors Jillian Weston and Lauren Brendel, the Blackhawks ran away with the team championship, at a meet hosted by Cashton High School, Saturday. In addition to Weston (19:37) and Brendel (21:44), the Blackhawks placed three more runners in the top 16, including Caitlin Fox, Josie Dobbs and Katrina Koppa, for an impressive team winning total of 35 points.
Fox (22:09) placed fifth, but was just seven seconds behind third-place finisher Hannah Munson of Hillsboro. Dobbs (23:00) placed 13th and Koppa (23:18) finished 16th among the 90 runners competing. Fox and Dobbs are both sophomores at VHS and Koppa, a freshman, was making her varsity debut at the meet.
Viroqua head coach, Scott Benzing, was impressed by his young team’s performance. “There were a lot of strong performances and I think that our runners set some good benchmarks that they can use to continually improve as the season progresses.”
Benzing, who is entering his 18th year as VHS coach, had this to say about the individual performances of his young runners, starting with Weston’s amazing 2-minute and 7-second winning margin, “Jillian took control of the race early and never looked back. She is entering the season with a good base and I’m looking forward to seeing her continue to get stronger over the season.”
“Lauren and Caitlin worked well together early on during the race and both finished strong,” Benzing said. “Josie had a good start to the season…she has been working hard and will continue to improve as the year progresses.”
Koppa’s impressive debut was not overlooked. “Katrina had a great start to her high school career in this race…she has been a wonderful addition to this team so far and she is going to continue to make valuable contributions all season,” he said.
In addition to the top five VHS place winners, seven other Blackhawks competed at the event including Xana Leum (26:02), Angie Harnish (26:10), Sophia Kimble (27:10), Brandi Aide (28:26), Lauren Campbell (28:48), Jonica Rider (29:36) and Madison Dull (31:00).
The team’s 35 points easily outdistanced the rest of the competition in the 11-team field. Host Cashton finished a distant second with 92 points, followed by Melrose-Mindoro 96, Fennimore 127, Hillsboro 168, Brookwood 172, Blair- Taylor 183, Independence-Gilmanton 187, Necedah 207, Richland Center/Ithaca 215 and Kickapoo/La Farge 235.