Clinton boys squad is back in the running
Before this season, the Cougars boys made 11 appearances at state and won three state titles under Bill Greer, who retired in 1996 after 25 years as coach.
"I was very excited for them," Greer said. "The fire truck came by that afternoon, and I knew what it was, and I came out and gave them the thumps up. I was very happy for them."
At the 2002 meet, Matt Rehberg finished 18th, covering the 5,000 meters in 17 minutes, 13 seconds to pace Clinton's 14th-place finish.
On Saturday, Clinton will be among 16 teams in quest of the Division 2 state championship at the Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids. That race is scheduled for 1:40 p.m.
"Clinton has had a good history in cross country," said second-year coach Kris Wallace, who played football for the Cougars during the school's cross country heydays. "I saw the success."
Wallace said the cross country program has experienced a boost in popularity, and it has contributed to depth and competition.
"We've had more numbers," Wallace said. "More have come out and made contributions. It's important to have a lot of push to get those varsity spots."
Wallace said the Clinton runners share the same level of talent.
"There is not much of a drop-off," Wallace said. "It's been pretty even from our first runner to our seventh."
Wallace said you won't find a superstar on the team.
"We have a dedicated group of senior leaders," Wallace said. "They took it upon themselves to get people working.
"There is no standout in any given race," Wallace added. "Anybody can run in the top 10."
The Cougars maintain a tight pack, which is a key to scoring well in meets. Clinton's runners stayed close in Pewaukee.
Senior Brian Gilbank finished 5,000-meter course in 18 minutes, 26 seconds, good for a team-leading 15th place.
Junior Daniel Banh was 19th (18:40), followed by sophomore Jordan DeLong, 20th (18:40); senior Brandon Wixom, 21st (18:42); senior Craig Smith finished, 29th (19:00); sophomore Nate McConnell, was 39th (19:14); senior Sean Lavery, 41st (19:20).
Gilbank is in just in his second year of cross country after playing football for two seasons. He was immediate success story, usually finishing in the team's top three.
Besides Gilbank, Wallace said the Cougars get a boost from Lavery, whom the coach calls Clinton's unofficial captain.
"Over the summer, Lavery spearheaded the guys' running," Wallace said. "He got on the underclassmen and definitely became one of our leaders."
Greer said it's the seniors who build team success.
"The success of the team is related to the senior leadership," Greer said. "Even if the star runner is a freshman or sophomore."
Wallace is counting on this state appearance to possibly opening the door to putting Clinton back on a higher level.
"That's the hope," Wallace said. "We have five different guys returning that ran varsity one meet or more, and we will look to the upperclassmen to fill the spots."
As for now, Clinton is back at state—and poised to continue a proud tradition.