McCluskey, Lalor, Farrell advance to state cross country
VERONA--Keegan McCluskey didn't need to be reminded of what was on the line at Saturday's WIAA sectional cross country meet.
The Janesville Parker junior knew a top-five finish in the 5,000-meter boys race would earn him an automatic bid to the state meet.
Thanks to an impressive finishing kick, McCluskey breezed to a state berth.
McCluskey finished second behind Verona's Ryan Nameth and earned one of five individual qualifying spots.
Big Eight Conference powerhouse Madison La Follette won the boys Division 1 team title with 43 points, while Lake Geneva Badger also qualified as a team by finishing second with 70 points. Janesville Craig's boys saw an eight-year state qualifying streak come to an end by finishing third, but the Cougars' Evan Lalor and Nate Farrell advanced as individuals.
Stoughton and Fort Atkinson finished one-two in the girls team race to earn automatic bids to state, while Milton sophomore Brynn Lunaas qualified as an individual after a sixth-place finish.
McCluskey finished fourth at the Big Eight meet last Saturday and continued his impressive late-season run by finishing second with a time of 16:28.07. Nameth won on his home course with a time of 15:54.23.
“I kind of psyched myself out last year before the sectional meet, because I wanted to run at state so bad that I didn't sleep much leading up to the meet,” McCluskey said. “This week by Wednesday, I was pretty relaxed and just looked at today like another race.
“Ryan was pretty far ahead and he's a real good runner, but I knew coming down the last hill that I could finish second. I felt like I had a lot left in the tank.”
Lalor will be running at state for the fourth time. The senior finished ninth in 16:54.73. Farrell kicked it in gear late to earn the final individual qualifying spot. The freshman finished in 16:59.84.
“That's the present and the future of our program,” Craig co-head coach Brian Lawton said. “Evan's done so much for our program for four years that it's fitting that he's going to end his career at the state meet.
“And we knew Nate was capable of making it to state. He just needed to believe in himself and go out and run the type of race that we all knew he had in him.”
Lunaas couldn't hide the smile on her face after becoming the first Milton runner to qualify for state since 2008. The sophomore kept up with lead pack for most of the race and eventually finished sixth in the 4,000-meter race in 16:38.97.
“This is a difficult course to run, but I (set a personal record) here last year, so I knew I could make it to state if I ran my best,” Lunaas said. “I didn't have a PR today, but I felt like it was the best I have ever run hills.
“I needed everything I had at the end as far as my kick, but as it turns out, it was enough to get me to state.”
Alex Martinez finished third to lead the Badger boys. Also competing at state will be Cody Sadikof, Gavin Denecke, Sam Carmona and Jacob Hesenhofer.
Grace Shockman finished 11th overall to lead the Fort Atkinson girls to a state berth.