City well-represented at WIAA state cross country meet
JANESVILLE Janesville will be well represented at the WIAA Division 1 state cross country meet on Saturday at Wisconsin Rapids.
A total of 15 city athletes will compete.
For Janesville Craig's boys program, trips to state have become the norm. The Cougars are making their eighth straight state appearance, including last year's second-place finish in Division 1.
Janesville Parker's girls program is on the opposite end of the spectrum. The Vikings are making the school's first state appearance.
Parker senior Dane Tyler also qualified for the Division 1 boys meet for the second straight year.
Mike Bieber knew a strong freshmen class would eventually make Parker's program a force once again, but the first-year coach wasn't thinking state early on in the season.
"It's still a very young group that put in the work and earned their spots," Bieber said. "I thought maybe we had an outside chance to make it to state, but I was also realistic about it. There are so many good teams in our area and our conference."
Parker finished sixth in arguably the state's best cross country conference—the Big Eight. But led by senior Miranda Slaback, the Vikings finished second at the sectional meet to earn the state berth.
"Miranda was our leader, and the freshmen were the variable that had been missing in years past," Bieber said. "Things just came together at the right time for them, and through a really strong work ethic, they made the step up."
Slaback, the team's top runner all season who was third at the Verona Sectional, will be joined at state by her sister Mandy, a sophomore, junior Paiton Foster, sophomore Victoria Cook, and freshmen Bree Porter, Aleigh Cook and Kaitlyn Foster.
"We're going up there for the experience and to have fun," Bieber said. "This is something they will never forget."
Tyler will run at state for the second straight year after finishing 73rd a year ago.
"If anyone deserves to run at state, it's Dane," his coach and calculus teacher Dan Bouska said. "He is probably the most focused student/athlete I've ever been around.
"I know he was a little disappointed in last year's finish, so he's hoping to cut that in half this year. And usually when Dane puts his mind to something, he accomplishes it."
Cougars eye podium repeat
Craig High might not have the most talented team running at state—top-ranked Stevens Point appears to be a cut above—but the Cougars are probably the most experienced.
This will be the fourth year in a row that Spencer Hrycay and Hunter Salmon have run at state, and the third straight year for junior Evan Lalor. Junior Alec McCann and senior Eric Paulos will be running at state for the second time, along with sophomore Christian Gilmore. Freshman Landen Graham rounds out Craig's lineup for Saturday.
The Cougars were second a year ago behind Hartland Arrowhead, and although Tommy Meister graduated and is now running at Duke University, co-head coach Brian Lawton thinks this year's team can get back to the medal stand.
"The boys had pretty heavy-duty goals coming into the season about returning to the podium and those haven't changed," Lawton said. "Each one knows what he's capable of running and that positioning is far more important than time.
"This group had some growing pains early on, but they've been at their best the last month or so. That's what you need heading into the state meet."
Hrycay was 27th a year ago, Lalor finished 40th and Salmon 52nd.
"Our top three (Hrycay, Lalor, Salmon) have to have a strong performance on Saturday for us to get back to the podium," Lawton said. "And they're certainly capable of that.
"After that, it comes down to the positioning of our other runners. They have a big job to do as well, and that's to focus on positioning and leaving everything they have on the course."
If you go
What: The 100th running of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association boys cross country championships and the 40th annual girls cross country championships.
Where: The Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids.
Times: Boys—Division 3 at 11 a.m.; Division 2 at 11:40 a.m. and Division 1 at 12:20 p.m.; Girls—Division 3 at 1 p.m.; Division 2 at 1:40 p.m. and Division 1 at 2:20 p.m.
Defending team champions: Boys—Hartland Arrowhead (D1), Wisconsin Lutheran (D2) and Darlington (D3); Girls—Arrowhead (D1), Dodgeville/Mineral Point (D2) and Oshkosh Lourdes Academy (D3).
Returning individual champions: Boys—Chandler Diffee of Madison La Follette in Division 1; Ryan McCoy of New Glarus/Monticello in Division 2and Tyson Miehe of Darlington in Division 3; Girls—none.
Area teams: Boys—Janesville Craig in Division 1; Jefferson, Beloit Turner and Monroe in Division 2; Girls—Janesville Parker in Division 1.
Area individual qualifiers: Boys—Dane Tyler of Janesville Parker, Tomas Pecha of Lake Geneva Badger and Eric Bender of Fort Atkinson in Division 1; Fletcher Strahan of Walworth Big Foot, Brody Kozik of East Troy, Brett Harms of Whitewater and Dylan Johnson Brodhead/Juda in Division 2; Aaron Johnson of Albany in Division 3; Girls—Elle Adams of Lake Geneva Badger in Division 1; Kathryn Colby of Big Foot, Julia Kaster of Clinton, Jessica Drout of East Troy, Brielle Greenleaf of Evansville and Mallory Aiello of East Troy in Division 2.