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Craig High's cross country teams make state trip a habit

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JOHN N. BARRY
October 25, 2007
— If it’s the week of the WIAA state cross country meet, it must be time for another story on Janesville Craig High School’s flourishing program.

And this year is no different.


The Craig girls, thanks to a victory in the Watertown Sectional, will be making a seventh straight trip to Saturday’s Division 1 meet at The Ridges Golf Club in Wisconsin Rapids. The Cougar boys are headed back to state for the third straight year after also winning the Watertown Sectional.


“What it really turns into is a great weekend for everybody involved with our program,” Craig co-head coach Jessica Lawton said. “We go up on Friday morning and try to make it as an enjoyable experience for the kids as we can.


“They did the work to get there, and competing at state is the reward.”


The Cougar girls have the third-longest streak in the state for consecutive state berths. Only Hartland Arrowhead and Whitefish Bay have made more consecutive state appearances.


Junior Cassidi Running and senior Molly Gilmore have led the Cougars for most of the season. Gilmore will be running at state for the fourth straight year, while Running will make her first appearance after missing last year’s state meet with a leg injury.


Rounding out the lineup for the 4,000-meter race are sophomores Kaitlin Erdmann, Liz Ouimet and Regina Griffith, junior Cydney Weber, freshman Rachel Gilmore and senior Ruthie Shea.


Shea said the program’s success is hard to explain, but she’s happy to be getting a chance to run at state for a second time.


“Everything just seems to fall into place,” Shea said. “You have to make the choice as to how hard you want to train and how hard you want to work at it.


“We know all about the teams that went to state before us, but we also knew that didn’t guarantee us making it.”


Lawton, along with her husband and co-head coach, Brian, implemented a training program long ago that is geared toward October. Craig runners put in the miles between August and September in order to peak by the Big Eight Conference and sectional meets. The strategy obviously is effective, but also makes for a grueling two months.


“I never realized how much time went into cross country,” Griffith said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun. All of us can’t wait for Friday morning.”


While the girls established an identity thanks to a solid group of underclassmen, the boys team had to cope with the loss of Josh Lund. The 2006 Division 1 runner-up is now competing at Duke University and left a key spot to fill.


“We lost our front-runner, but we now have a pack like we never had before,” junior Ryan Ahrens said. “This is a better team now.


“That goes back to last summer when we were running 30-to-40 miles per week, a lot of times on the (Janesville) bike trail.”


Craig finished 14th at state a year ago, and this year’s group is hoping for a top-10 finish. Ahrens is the team’s top runner, and will be joined at the state meet by seniors J.T. McCrone, A.J. Evert and Brad Kirschbaum, juniors Jason Ruchti, Garrick Jannene and Matt McDonald, along with freshman Sully Hrycay.


This is the third straight year Ahrens will run at state, while McCrone, McDonald and Jannene will be competing for the second time.


“Since day one, the boys’ mentality has been as a team,” Brian Lawton said. “Josh was the identity of this program for three years, but this year it’s all about the team.


“Volunteer assistant Alex Christianson has really helped with both teams in keeping the focus on the team and not so much on the individual. We don’t have a Josh Lund this year, but we do have two pretty good teams.”


Two teams that will be making yet another trip to the state meet.


JUST THE FACTS


What: WIAA state cross country meet.


When: Saturday—Girls Division 3, 11 a.m.; Girls Division 2, 11:40 a.m.; Girls Division 1, 12:20 p.m.; Boys Division 3, 1 p.m.; Boys Division 2, 1:40 p.m.; Boys Division 1, 2:20 p.m. Awards, 3:45 p.m.


Where: The Ridges Golf Club, Wisconsin Rapids.


Area qualifiers: Division 1 boys: Janesville Craig, Madison La Follette, Verona teams; Spencer Agnew (Fort Atkinson), jr.; Jake Burow (Fort Atkinson), sr.; Cody Brown (Milton), sr.; Fernando Mendez (Delavan-Darien), sr.; Brett Kelly (Madison West), jr.; Adam Olson (Madison East), sr.; Tony Phillips (Sun Prairie), sr.; Spencer Houk (Sun Prairie), jr.


Division 2 boys: Whitewater, Monroe teams; Jose Perez (Beloit Turner), fr.; Gabe Vara (Walworth Big Foot), jr.; Caleb Schmiege (Lakeside Lutheran), sr.


Division 3 boys: Jake Lincicum (Albany), jr.


Division 1 girls: Janesville Craig, Middleton, Stoughton teams; Miceala Magsamen (Fort Atkinson), jr.; Emma Spoon (Verona), sr.; Nicole Kollman (Verona), fr.; Emma Crawford (Madison Memorial), soph.; Liz Berkholtz (Sun Prairie), fr.


Division 2 girls: Lakeside Lutheran team; Sara Levine (Whitewater), sr.; Raquel Newmann (Clinton), soph.; Shannon Klein (Brodhead-Juda), fr.


Tickets: $6 (available at the gate).



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