Ten city runners to compete at state cross country meet
JANESVILLE—What would the WIAA state cross country meet be without another appearance from the Janesville Craig boys team?
The Cougars will be making their ninth appearance in the last 10 years at Saturday's Division 1 state meet in Wisconsin Rapids.
So what makes the 2014 team different than the Andy Shortslef, Josh Lund, Tommy Meister-led teams from years past?
According to co-head coach Brian Lawton, it's the roller coaster ride this year's team took to get to state.
“This team was all over the map,” Lawton said. “We were awful in September, awesome in October but then finished eighth at our conference meet. It was kind of like a controlled chaos.
“I think more than anything it came down to staying focused and realizing how important it was to each one of them to keep the streak and tradition alive to run at state.”
Nate Farrell has been the clear-cut leader of the young team. The sophomore was fourth at the sectional meet and will be running at state for the second straight year.
“Nate's a talented young runner that is still learning,” Lawton said. “He's got a chance because of the way he works to put himself into that elite category of runners that we've been so fortunate to have come through our program the last 10 to 15 years.”
Payton Bender is the most improved runner on the team, according to Lawton. The junior is now the No. 2 runner on the team. He would've qualified for state as an individual with his 11th-place finish at the sectional meet.
“Payton's been our wild card,” Lawton said. “If he doesn't run the way he did last Saturday, we probably don't get through as a team. He has really come on for us.”
Freshmen Tyler Brown and Anthony Schrader are also among Craig's top five, along with senior Christian Gilmore. Sophomore Joe Cooper is rounding into shape after coming back from an illness, while Landen Graham, Brent Clanfield and Mark Fiore have all run at the varsity level at some point this season.
“This year has been so different because we're so young,” Lawton said. “And there has been a lot of team building through ice baths, sore legs and pushing each other.
“These guys are starting to realize that pain is the same whether you're the No. 1 varsity runner, a JV guy or running a mile in eighth grade. It hurts the same for everybody. It's how you deal with it and respond the next day or next race.”
Peyton Sippy will run at state for the Craig girls. The freshman is the first girl from Craig to run at state since 2009. She finished second at the sectional meet.
“Peyton has broke the 19-minute mark twice this season, and not many girls in the state can say they've done that,” Lawton said. “She's right on the bubble of taking it to the next level, and I don't have any doubt she'll get there.
“She came in with a lot of high expectations, but when you join our program, we don't care about what you did before. Our expectations start when you start working with us, and she's done everything we've asked of her.”
Slaback, Green headed to state
Mandy Slaback and David Green will cap off their prep cross country careers by running at state Saturday.
The Janesville Parker seniors qualified individually at last Saturday's Verona Sectional.
Slaback will be running at state for the second time. Parker qualified as a team in 2012.
“That's an advantage for Mandy,” Parker coach Mike Bieber said. “She knows what to expect. You're competing on a much bigger stage at state, and I think Mandy will handle the pressure well and run a great race.”
Green is running at state for the first time. He finished ninth at the sectional meet.
“It's a great reward for David to be finishing up at state because he has worked so hard,” Parker boys coach Dan Bouska said. “And what makes it even more special is that he's such a great kid.”