Cougars’ cross country goals start with state
SEPTEMBER: 5—At Verona Invitational, 9:00 a.m.; 10—At Madison West Invitational 4 p.m.; 15—At Big Eight grade level meet (Middleton), 4 p.m.; 26—Midwest Invitational (Blackhawk), 9:15 a.m.; 29—Five-team conference meet (Sun Prairie), 4:45 p.m.
OCTOBER: 3—Badger Invitational (University Ridge), TBA; 6—Rock County Classic (Janesville Parker and Beloit Memorial), Rockport Park; 17— Big Eight meet (Verona), 9:30 a.m.
JANESVILLE The beat goes on for Janesville Craig High School’s cross country program.
The Cougar girls have qualified for the WIAA state meet eight consecutive years, while the boys streak is at four.
Things don’t look to change in 2009 as both teams bring back a number of runners who competed at the state meet.
“Our goals are steady, and it starts with state,” Craig co-head coach Brian Lawton said. “We talk about it every night, and once we got there in 2001 (with the Cougar girls), then it became something that was communicated between everyone on the team. It’s definitely a focus.
“We want to have good kids out who want to be an important part of the community. But in the same sense, we want to them to know that winning is important, and that there are lessons that can be learned from winning.”
With seven of the top eight runners returning, the Cougar girls will be tough to dethrone as they look for a second straight conference meet title. Craig finished third in Division 1 at the state meet a year ago, the school’s highest finish since a 1991 state championship.
Seniors Megan Muhs, Regina Griffith and Liz Ouimet are back from the state team, along with sophomores Danica Reinicke and Emilie O’Donnell.
“The success of our girls team starts with our three seniors and the leadership they will need to provide,” Lawton said. “Megan just missed being all-state a year ago, and Regina was a state qualifier as well.
“All three of them know what we expect as coaches, so we don’t have to do a whole lot at practice or before meet to get everybody ready.”
Junior Rachel Gilmore was the team’s top finisher at state a year ago at 22nd. She is back, along with sophomore state qualifiers Katie Bagley, Stephanie Perleberg and Jessie Finnane.
Junior Jill Castro also is expected to compete for a varsity spot.
“From day one, we concentrate on getting better each and every meet,” co-head coach Jessica Lawton said.
“We talk about state and what a great opportunity it is to run there, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in order to have it happen.”
The Cougar boys return four runners from the state meet, including senior captains Matt Bordwell and Madison Schricker, along with junior Sully Hrycay. Sophomore Tommy Meister also returns after earning all-conference honors a year ago. Sophomore Zach Olson also returns after running at state a year ago.
Craig’s boys were fourth a year ago in the conference meet and 13th at the Division 1 state meet. And there’s a strong commitment to duplicate that effort.
“There’s a pretty good battle going on for the varsity spots for the boys,” Brian Lawton said. “And that’s good because everyone has to work a little bit harder, knowing that there is someone right behind them ready to take their place.”
Senior Eric Gudgeon, junior Ryan Fenrick and sophomore Joe Sarow are also expected to run at the varsity level.
The Cougar boys and girls open the season Saturday at the Verona Invitational.
“We want to be peaking right around the sectional meet,” Jessica Lawton said.
“Our goals are pretty high, and they’re talked about on a daily basis, but our main focus is on getting back to state.”
A place that the Craig cross country program is very familiar with.