Gillett Girls Take Home D3 State SilverIssue Date: November 7, 2019
Don't look now, but the Gillett Tigers are building something special in the sport of cross country.
The Tigers sent both their cross country teams to state this season, which took place Saturday at the Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids. When all was said and done, the Tigers girls had taken second and the boys took seventh.
The girls ran the third race of the day. After cold but relatively calm weather for the Division I and Division II girls' races, the DIII race was a bit more of a challenge. About two miles in, cloudy skies turned into a blizzard, with large snowflakes blowing against runners and spectators alike.
The Tigers, who were first in the 16-team field entering the third and final mile, finished second after a big push by Lourdes Academy. The Tigers said they didn't have any issues with the weather, however.
Ryann Wagner, who led all Gillett runners with a time of 20 minutes, 26.1 seconds, the 20th-fastest individual time of all 148 runners in DIII, said it was "pretty fun," if not a bit unexpected.
"I knew it was going to be chilly, but I wasn't quite sure that it was going to snow, so that was kind of a surprise," she said. "But we've run in the rain before, so you kind of just think of it like rain I guess. That's how I kind of thought of it."
Wagner ran as an individual at state last season for Suring. This year, it was a whole different ballgame for the sophomore as she competed with her teammates for a shot at the state title.
"Last year was very exciting, but this year I feel like it's more exciting because you're not just competing for yourself, you're also working hard for your team to help your team," she said. "I almost feel like it's a whole different race with how you mentally prepare for the race."
Next across the line for the Tigers was junior Sylvia Hansen, who has already had a standout career for the Tigers. Hip problems have bothered her in the past, and Saturday was no different, but she "gutted it out" for a 20-minute, 52.3-second time, good for 32nd as an individual, coach Bill DeJung said.
Wagner and Hansen are the undisputed top two runners on the Tigers, but the team earned second place with its third, fourth and fifth runners on Saturday, DeJung said.
"The kids behind those two ran unbelievably well and that's what you have to do to have a good score at state," DeJung said.
Sophomore Angela Mosconi finished in 21:14.3 for 62nd overall, freshman Cheyenne Krueger finished in 67th with a time of 21:19.7 and freshman Kasey Hansen was 68th with a time of 21:21.9.
"We knew we were in the top handful and it just depends how the day goes," DeJung said. "We had enough depth through our top five so they picked up where we needed it. It was incredible. Our three, four and five, that's the whole key."
Freshman Megan Wagner took 99th in DIII (22:16.9) and Alaina Herzog was 125th (23:15.1).
Three races later, it was the Gillett boys' turn.
After one mile, the Tigers were 12th of 16 teams, but they picked it up over the final two miles. By the end of the second mile, they were up to 10th. When the scoreboard flashed the results after the race, the Tigers had made the jump to seventh.
Big team jumps don't come without big individual jumps. Between mile one and two, freshman Alex Peterson jumped 17 spots to 52nd individually in the field of 149. Junior Derek Hanson leapfrogged 19 runners into 51st. By the end of the race, Peterson would make another jump finish 38th individually and lead the Tigers across the finish line with a time of 17 minutes, 25.9 seconds. Hanson was 48th overall with a time of 17:31.7.
"I feel like our team really pushed it in the last two miles and the last mile especially," Peterson said, noting a steep hill toward the end of the race. "We just pushed through and passed as many people as we could."
Sophomore Connor Hanson took 81st individually (18:17.2), freshman Evan Peterson took 95th (18:34.2) and Riley Engebretsen was 97th (18:35.1). Antonio Lizzaraga took 145th (21:44.8).
Derek Hanson was the only runner coming into the season for the boys that had been to state previously, so it took a lot of work to make it to state and finish in the top half of the field.
"These kids have worked awfully hard," DeJung said of both his boys' and girls' teams. "They ran a lot during the summertime, they worked really hard in season, and it's beautiful to see hard work and effort pay off, because you preach it, but it's so great when it unfolds for those kids. It's great."
The Tigers return every runner next season, including all their girls and boys. That could hopefully add fuel to the fire, DeJung said.
"With everyone back next year, it should make both the girls and boys work hard knowing they can be in the mix for title," he said. "That being said, it guarantees nothing without the commitment to get better on the part of everyone."
Elsewhere in Division III, Faith King represented the Coleman Cougars by taking 43rd individually in the field of 148 with a time of 21 minutes, 1.4 seconds.
King, a senior, missed qualifying for state by one spot last year. According to Coleman coach Becky Chaltry, that added extra motivation for King. Coming into the season, she set her sights on a time of 20 minutes, 50 seconds. Earlier this year, she blew that time out of the water when she ran a 20:10 at Luxemburg-Casco.
"I knew since August that she'd be running at the Ridges come November," Chaltry said. "She trained in the offseason and worked hard over the summer and it definitely paid off in her racing this year."
Chaltry had all good things to say about King, one of the leaders of a Coleman team that lost several runners to graduation last spring.
"Faith is a very driven woman," Chaltry said. "She works extremely hard both in her sports and academics. She's also extremely kind and is always willing to help others or put their needs above her own. She truly is an outstanding girl to coach."
In the DIII boys race, Oconto's Josh Woller finished his standout junior season with an eighth-place finish in the field of 149.
Woller came out of the gate strong. After one mile, he was in third place, just .4 seconds off the leader, Assumption's Garrett Dolan.
Unfortunately for Woller, the second mile didn't go how he would have liked and he fell to ninth going into the final mile.
"My plan was to just be by the leaders and hopefully stick with them and sprint past them at the end, but the middle section I kind of died and just didn't have enough in me," he said.
After taking 58th at state as a freshman and 26th last year, Woller's third crack at state ended with an eighth place finish. He'll take it for now, but he'll be hungry for a spot at the top as a senior next season.
"It felt good to be here," he said. "I was a little disappointed I couldn't get a little closer to finishing first, but I'll be good with an eighth place and hopefully come back next year."
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