After decade-long hiatus, Lady Hatchet X-Country wins Sectional to advance State Championship: Noah Buckwalter to represent Hatchet boys’ team at Wisconsin Rapids Saturday, Nov.2
By Jed Buelow
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor, Sports, Nature Editor
Coming into the final stretch it appeared Lakeland had the top spot wrapped up in the WIAA Division 2 Tomahawk Sectional girls’ race held at Edgewater Country Club Saturday.
But as the leaders crested the hill and made the final push to the finish line it wasn’t Lakeland leading the pack. Instead, it was Katelyn Kitzinger of Marinette and the Hatchet’s Haley Voermans-Dean running in the top two spots as the T-Bird runner faded after appearing to run out of gas. And that made all the difference, as the Lady Hatchets went on to win the Tomahawk Sectional over state ranked #2 Freedom – by one-point and outpaced #4 Lakeland by five points to take the top spot and win the Sectional Title for the first time since 2008 to advance to WIAA State Championship being held in Wisconsin Rapids this Saturday, Nov. 2.
The 6th ranked Hatchets placed all of their scorers in the top 20, with four of the Lady Hatchets racing to a personal records (PR) in the process. Tomahawk was led by senior Haley Voermans-Dean who covered 5000 meters in a personal best time of 19:34, as she placed 2nd overall. Sophomore Emily Lacina had her first sub-20 5K as she placed 4th overall in 19:50 (PR).
“Much of our success can be attributed to the team leadership that our seniors have modeled for the team. The level of cohesion that these girls have and the bonds that they have formed has carried them through a lot of the challenges that they have faced this season, including today,” stated Hatchet head coach John Zuelsdorf. “To upend two teams that were ranked in front of us on the state level was nothing short of amazing! The girls also believe in their training and preparation and truly want the best for each other.”
And the best for each other is what they got, as sophomore Kate Reilly finished 16th in a P.R. of 20:30 just ahead of the final scoring pack of Hatchets led by Meagan Berg 18th in 20:39 and Macey Mann 20th in 21:01. Those lady harriers along with freshman teammates Greta Tjugum 38th -22:12 and Serena Reinke 45th-22:27 (PR) will represent Tomahawk this coming weekend in Wisconsin Rapids at the Division 2 State Meet.
“Our core group of young ladies (Haley, Meagan, Emily, Kate and Macey) worked so hard for this moment, it was great to see it all pay off for them. Also, to have two freshman (Greta & Serena) contributing on the varsity level and gaining state-level experience bodes well for the future,” Coach Z said. “They collectively ran with a purpose and passion today, they knew what they wanted to accomplish and they went out and did it.”
Coach Z said the coaching staff knew it would take some career best efforts to overtake Freedom and Lakeland, and when all was said and done the Hatchet girls finished with four PR’s, and three within a few seconds of setting new ones.
“All in all it was a solid effort by the young ladies.”
Making sure the boys’ team would also be represented in Wisconsin Rapids, junior Noah Buckwalter showed off the closing speed he is known for putting up his best race to date, cracking the 17 minute barrier to qualify as the second non-team member with his PR of 16:46. That moved him into an elite group as the 15th fastest Hatchet 5K runner of all-time.
“Pre-race both Noah (Buckwalter) and Drew (Bolder) knew that if we didn’t advance as a team they had to position themselves near the top 10 to have a chance at advancing as individuals. Buckwalter did a nice job of maintaining contact with the lead pack the whole race, letting them do a lot of the work,” Coach Z said. “When he came around the last corner with 250 yards to go I knew he had a great shot at advancing with his leg speed. He turned on the gas and surged by 4-5 athletes in the home stretch to punch his ticket to Rapids.”
While N. Buckwalter was able to stamp his ticket to state, the boys’ team was not able to overcome top state-ranked teams from Freedom (#3) and New London (#7), coupled with strong performances from Shawano and Lakeland, leaving them in a 5th place season-ending position.
Junior teammates Drew Bolder-35th (17:47), Garron Albrent-37th (17:49), Alex Norman-42nd (17:59-PR), Arden Ziert-44th (18:05), Trey Baalke-49th (18:12), and senior Keaton Jed-53rd (18:20) rounded out the Hatchet sectional finishers in the 100-runner field. The boys’ team concluded their stellar season with a team record of W-136 L-13, topping the field at five meets, including finishing atop the Great Northern Conference last weekend.
“I like to live in the present, but one caveat is that we return our top six varsity athletes, and all have sub 18 min PR’s (two of those even sub-17 for 5K) going into next year. No other team in our sectional will have that kind of stock coming into the season. In fact, we didn’t even have that in the tank preseason, going into 2008, and many can remember what happened that year for our boys’ team. With work, preparation, and belief we can make some real noise next year come conference and tournament time,” Zuelsdorf said.
He added the experience that Haley (Voermans-Dean) and Macey (Mann) had from last season’s individual appearances at the State Meet will be a key component in helping the girls during this week of preparation. They will share with the team and Noah (Buckwalter) what to expect, how they handled it, and what they feel can be done differently to give us our best chances of success.
“It’s been a few years since we’ve had team representation at Rapids (2009 boys and girls), and these opportunities don’t come around often. Our athletes will be prepared to ‘respect’ all, but fear ‘none’ this weekend at State.”
The run for a State Championship for the Lady Hatchets gets underway at noon at Ridges Golf Course. Then N. Buckwalter will look to continue a strong finish to the season as he takes part in the D2 boys State Championship starting in Wisconsin Rapids at 2 p.m.
Tomahawk’s tradition at State:
*27 qualifying teams since 1992 – Coach Z’s Era – 11 Boys Teams, 16 Girls Teams — State Titles: Girls 2004, Boys-2008 State Runner-Up: Girls 1996, 2005, 2006; 3rd: Girls 1993, 1994, 1998; Boys Ken “Punchy” Reich-2nd & Suzie Houston-1st 1975 and 1976.