For the second time in as many weeks, the Viroqua girls and boys cross country teams competed in extremely challenging, hot and humid conditions, this time at the Fennimore Golden Eagles Cross Country Relays, Saturday, Sept. 23. Even with race times moved up to avoid the hottest periods of the day the racers hit the course with temperatures in the mid-80s and high humidity levels.

“This is one of the toughest courses we race each year,” coach Scott Benzing said. “The heat only adds to the difficulty. The high heat index (approaching 100 at races end) was difficult for a lot of athletes to deal with. I feel the heat really had an effect on racers competing at the end of the meet, when temperatures were really starting to climb.”

Benzing said the Fennimore race format is unique.

“This meet is very different than any other meet in which we compete,” Benzing said. “Instead of a mass start…there are seven different varsity races…each race has one runner from every team, with the races starting exactly 10 minutes apart, so there is always a runner on the course to cheer for. Instead of placings being used for scoring purposes, the top five times for each team are added up with the lowest overall times winning. This is always an exciting format that provides the spectators with hours of cheering.”

VHS girls

Sophomore Josie Dobbs turned in the Blackhawks’ best time, finishing second in the fourth runner’s race with a time of 23:01. Another 10th-grader, Caitlin Fox, placed second in the third runner’s race in 23:40. VHS freshman _____ continued her impressive rookie season turning in a time of 24:27, good for a sixth-place finish in the fifth runner’s race. Junior Lauren Brendel (24:35) placed 10th in the second runner’s race, senior Madelyn Anderson (27:19) was eighth in the sixth runner’s race and junior Xana Leum (28:21) placed 10th in the seventh runner’s race.

The VHS girls placed sixth as a team in the large school division, with a combined time of 123:03. Lake Mills was the team champion with a total time of 109:47. Brooke Fair of Lake Mills turned in the fastest time of the day with a 21:12.

“Josie Dobbs had an excellent race…she was very controlled off the start and worked her way up through the pack as the race unfolded. She is a hard worker. I love her work ethic and her great attitude,” Benzing said. “Caitlin Fox had a strong start and was able to hold on for a great finish. She is showing a lot of improvement and is gaining a lot of confidence. Lauren Brendel had a really gutsy performance…she was not feeling good at all before the race, but she toughed it out and turned in a good time.”

VHS boys

The Viroqua boys ran to a sixth-place team finish with combined times totaling 108:00. West Salem won the team title with a total of 98:03 and also had the fastest individual runner, freshman Charlie McKinney, finishing the race in in 17:34.

Viroqua’s fastest time was recorded by freshman Andrew Quackenbush (20:58) in the second runner’s race, followed by fellow freshman Aaron Dobbs (21:22) in the third runner’s race, junior Michael Stuber (21:33) in the first runner’s race, freshman Henry Roels (22:00) in the fourth runner’s race, junior Sam Urch (22:05) in the seventh runner’s race, senior Jackson Roels (2:15) in the fifth runner’s race and sophomore Joshua Frye (22:20) in the sixth runner’s race.

“Our boys put forth a lot of effort today,” Benzing said. “Sam Urch had a great race…Sam is the kind of kid who doesn’t demand a lot of attention as an athlete, but he definitely deserves it. Sam improved his time over last year by over a minute, even with the difficult weather conditions…he shows up every day and always gives his best…he finished in our top five for us for the first time in his career. It was also fun to watch Henry and Jackson work together in the combined numbers four and five race…they worked well together and pushed each other the whole race. Aaron (Dobbs) has been a great addition to our team…he finished second on our team for the third straight race.”

“I saw a lot of good things happen during today’s races that make me optimistic about the ability of our teams to continue to improve before the conference and sectional meets,” Benzing said. “We still have a long way to go to reach our goals, but today was a good step forward…competing in tough conditions like we had today will make our athletes appreciate it when the weather is in the 60s and conditions are perfect for racing.”