Cross country Sectionals: Rachael Reilly punches ticket to State
For the Tomahawk Leader
COLBY – The Tomahawk Hatchet cross country team traveled to Colby High School, the site of WIAA Division 2 Sectional cross country meet, on Saturday, Oct. 23, where ideal conditions greeted the 16 teams as they competed to earn the right to advance to Wisconsin Rapids this weekend for the State Championships.
“Going into the meet, the coaches and athletes had a plan to team advancement to Rapids, and the athletes set realistic individual goals that would have led to this possibility,” said head coach John Zuelsdorf. “Our co-eds went after it and put themselves in a position to advance. This was indicated by the boys’ low team scoring split and much of what the girls did in the front part of their scoring pack. However, we couldn’t control what other teams did around us, and the end result was what it was. This was a tough sectional with a lot of qualitying teams and individuals.”
In the opening event of the day, the Tomahawk boys had one of their best scoring split efforts of the year as they placed 5th overall with 156 points. West Salem dominated the event with a low team score of 61 points, followed by Gale Ettrick Trempealeau (94), Altoona (117), Mauston (125) and Tomahawk.
The Hatchets were led by sophomore Owen Dickrell with his 23rd-place finish in a time of 18:17. Sophomore Presley Gutbrod, freshman Sam Zastrow and senior Arden Ziert all crossed together in 18:30 (placing 32nd, 33rd, and 34th, respectively), with a PR for Zastrow. To close out the Hatchet scoring with a low 24-second scoring split was sophomore Brett Borchardt, as he had his best race of the year and finished with an 18:41 PR effort. Ty Anthes (62nd-19:41) and Jacob Towle (72nd-20:00 SB effort) rounded out the sectional roster for the Hatchets. 103 athletes crossed the finish line at the event.
In the final event of the sectional, sophomore Rachael Reilly led her team and punched her individual ticket to the State Meet in Rapids this weekend with her 7th-place overall finish in a seasonal-best time of 20:21 for the 5K distance. Rachael worked with the lead pack throughout the race as the pack distanced themselves from the rest of the field, and in the process assured herself of a state-qualifying berth.
“Rachael put herself in a nice position early and worked with athletes that she was familiar with,” Zuelsdorf said. “This was a good move on her part, as evidenced by her final state-qualifying placement. The racing conditions were ideal, and she really took advantage of that.”
Reilly’s teammates put together a valiant effort, but couldn’t overcome state-ranked teams from Medford and West Salem. Placing for the Hatchets were senior Macey Mann (15th-20:28 SB), freshman Alli Palmer (18th-21:12 PR),and seniors Kate Reilly (35th-21:56), Ava Dragosh (40th-22:19 PR) and Emily Lacina (44th-22:22). Junior Serena Reinke had her second-fastest time of the year as she placed 46th in 22:35. There were 86 finishers in the girls’ race.
Medford won the girls event with score of 47 points, followed by West Salem (75) and Lakeland (104), both finishing ahead of the Hatchets (110).
“Half of our athletes that competed had career best 5K efforts or seasonal best efforts,” Zuelsdorf stated. “Several others were very close, as a coach, one can’t ask much more than that of a team.”
With Reilly’s individual qualifying effort, Tomahawk continued its rich tradition of being represented at the state meet for the 27th time in the last 30 years (28 qualifying teams and 16 individual qualifiers).
The Great Northern Conference (GNC) will be well-represented in Wisconsin Rapids this weekend. Along with the girls from Medford, the boys from Rhinelander also qualified (out of the Oconto Falls Sectional), and individual boys from Medford, Lakeland, Northland Pines (Oconto Falls Sectional) and girls from Lakeland, Mosinee, Tomahawk, and Northland Pines (Oconto Falls Sectional) will be competing.
The Tomahawk boys finished their season with a 94-25 record (.790 win pct.), and the Lady Hatchets concluded with a 107-8 record (.930).
Zuelsdorf noted that the coaching staff will miss this year’s group of seniors.
“They have put a lot of time, dedication and effort into keeping our program successful,” he said. “Their leadership over the past two seasons has made our jobs as coaches a lot easier and enjoyable.”
“For the future, we really have opposite trends with our teams, as the girls are graduating five senior scoring leaders (Mann, Reilly, Lacina, Dragosh, and Wanta,) and we will be in a more youthful movement next season, much like the boys were this year,” Zuelsdorf continued. “For the boys, we will be building on the experience that they gained this year as they return the majority of their sectional team (graduating only one senior – Ziert).”
Zuelsdorf said that keys to continued success for the Tomahawk cross country program will be “a renewed commitment to ‘out of season’ running and strength building for both squads, getting the underclassmen ladies to step up and fill the void for the departing seniors, and finally to work on increasing the depth of our boys team with more squad members.”