Milton cross country team meets preseason goal
The members of Milton High School’s boys cross country team can attest to that.
The Red Hawks, with six seniors among the seven varsity runners, set a preseason goal of becoming the first cross country team from the school—boys or girls—to qualify for the WIAA state meet.
The Milton boys finished second to Janesville Craig in the Division 1 sectional at Stoughton and earned an automatic berth in Saturday’s state meet at The Ridges Golf Club in Wisconsin Rapids.
Senior Michael Roherty said a strong showing earlier in the year at the Midwest Invitational in Janesville served as a springboard toward a state berth.
“We had four guys come in within 14 seconds of each other at the Midwest, and that really showed us that getting to state was possible if we ran like that,” Roherty said.
“Getting to state has been in the front of our minds for a long time, and we knew we could do it. We definitely didn’t feel like the underdog at the sectional meet.
“It was ours to take,” Roherty said of the state berth. “And if we didn’t get it, it would’ve been because we had a bad day.”
Joining Roherty at state will be seniors Jacob Brown, Joe Haske, Logan Brown, Alex Fernan and John Ziegler, along with freshman John Wells.
Jacob Brown was the team’s top runner at the sectional with a ninth-place finish, but all seven varsity runners have played an important role in the historic season. Milton finished second to Division 2 state qualifier Monroe in the Badger Conference South and made a strong showing at a number of talent-laden invitationals.
Ziegler said the Red Hawks didn’t necessarily train harder this past summer, but with seven seniors among the first eight runners—including alternate Stephen Kernien—there was a sense of urgency leading up to the fall season.
“We were a lot more focused during the summer,” Ziegler said. “We’ve had this (state) on our mind basically since we started looking at people’s times last spring during track.
“We’ve been part of this program since we were freshmen,” Ziegler said of the seniors. “We thought we were going to qualify, but we were still really nervous at the sectional meet until we knew for sure that we were in.”
With a star-studded Division 1 field that includes two-time defending state champion Madison La Follette, top-ranked Neenah and Madison West, the Red Hawks know that a top-10 finish is a tall task. But that won’t deter the team from enjoying the moment, and capping off a season-long goal.
“We’ve pushed each other all year to go as hard as we can and that’s what will happen Saturday, too,” Roherty said. “We’re not one of the favorites, but we’ve got a race strategy that we want to run.
“This is a dream come true for us, and we want to make the most of it.”
State Meet at a Glance
What: WIAA boys and girls state cross country meet.
Where: The Ridges Golf Club, Wisconsin Rapids.
When: Saturday—Boys: Division 3, 11 a.m.; Division 2, 11:40 a.m.; No. 1, 12:30 p.m. Girls: Division 3, 1 p.m.; Division 2, 1:40 p.m.; Division 1, 2:20 p.m.
Tickets: $6 (available at the gate)