By Cara L. Dempski
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — Glenwood City head cross country coach Matthew Schutz found a few good spots along the course at The Ridges to watch his girls’ team run in the 2017 WIAA Division 3 girls’ state championship race here last Saturday.
Schutz was spotted just before the end of the October 28 race, near the 2.75 mile marker, loudly cheering the Lady Topper runners; first Isabella Williams, then Elizabeth Wink, Megan Speiser, Julia Dinkel and Makayla O’Brien.
“Step it up, you can catch her,” he called out to both Gabrielle Moede and Myah Eliason as they pushed closer and closer to the finish line of the Division 3 state cross country race.
As he passed the Tribune Press Reporter’s sports writer, he shrugged and smiled, saying “it’s not their best race, but they’re doing OK.”
And so the Lady Hilltoppers ran their final race of 2017.
The team, who copped its second consecutive sectional title and third in four years a week prior in Boyceville, finished ninth out of 16 teams in the Division 3 state championship run held in Wisconsin Rapids October 28.
The Lady Toppers traveled to Wisconsin Rapids to compete in their fourth straight state cross country championship. Glenwood City finished with 251 points to cap a season of team wins in races all over Western Wisconsin, including Dunn-St. Croix and sectional championships. The Hilltoppers finished in eighth place a year ago with 214 points, its best showing in its four state races, and were 15th in 2015 and 12th in 2014.
After running in mild temperatures and good conditions for much of the season, the past two weeks’ races have presented challenges. Temperatures hovered in the mid-30s during last Saturday’s state races while bone-chilling winds greeted runners.
But Schutz said the team seemed to handle the conditions well, but knew they were farther back than anticipated.
The trick in any cross country meet is not only to place high, but for a team to run in as tight a group as possible.
Isabella Williams, a sophomore, got out ahead of the rest of the Glenwood City ladies in the race, taking 61st with a time of 21:29.85.
Elizabeth Wink took 87th after finishing the course in 22:13.01, and Megan Speiser, Julia Dinkel and Makayla O’Brien finished in rapid succession. Speiser was 94th after a 22:21.92 race, Dinkel finished in 22:23.08 for 95th, and O’Brien took 98th for her 22:26.71 effort.
It was the final prep cross country race for seniors Wink, Speiser and O’Brien.
Freshmen Gabrielle Moede and Myah Eliason were the final two competitors to finish for the Hilltoppers. Moede finished in 22:45.61 for 107th and Eliason took 123rd after a 23:30.68 run.
Edgar sophomore Marissa Ellenbecker took home the gold medal for her race-winning time of 18:56.33, while the Dodgeland girls took top team honors after their first five runners finished in the top 25.
One thing that seemed to please Schutz the most was the arrival of a fan bus at the meet shortly before the race started.
“They brought down about 30 kids,” he said as he turned to follow Eliason to the finish line. “I think that’s the most they’ve had on a bus in a few years.”
With the season over, Schutz bids farewell to seniors Speiser, O’Brien, Wink and Emma Scholler on the girls’ team, and Jacob Nadeau, Matthew Bauman, Bradley Kessler and Kyle Meyers from his boys’ team.
Sophomore Emily Bethell was notably absent in the final weeks of the season after sustaining a hip injury in week four. Schutz indicated the runner likely should not have competed in the races leading up to state, but wanted to be competitive with her team.
After not participating at the state meet, Schutz finished “we really just need her (Bethell) to heal up for the future.”
The Durand boys’ team did the Dunn-St. Croix proud as it won the Division 3 state boys’ title with a score of 79 besting six-time defending state champion Darlington, who took second with 104 points. The Panthers had all five of their scoring runners place in the top 57.
David Vannucchi of Onalaska Luther won the boys individual crown with a run of 15:54.83.
GIRLS’ INDIVIDUAL RESULTS: 61. Isabella Williams 21:29.85, 87. Elizabeth Wink 22:13.01, 94. Megan Speiser 22:21.92, 95, Julia Dinkel 22:23.08, 98. Makayla O’Brien 22:26.71, 107. Gabrielle Moede 22:45.61, 123. Myah Eliason 23:30.68.
GIRLS’ TEAM RESULTS: 1. Dodgeland 56, 2. Lancaster 97, 3. Marshall 108, 4. Auburndale 114, 5. Palmyra-Eagle 135, 6. Lourdes Academy 161, 7. Bonduel 188, 8. Aquinas 223, 9. Glenwood City 251, 10. Cashton 262, 11. Phillips 277, 12. Cameron 280, 13. Oostburg 285, 14. Rosholt 315, 15. Chequamegon 326, 16. Weyauwega-Fremont 336.