Janesville Craig’s state champion is graduated and gone.
The rest of the Cougars girls cross country team, which finished fourth in the state in Division 1 a year ago, remains.
Indeed, the cupboard is anything but bare despite the loss of Peyton Sippy for a Craig team that opens the cross country season Thursday at Lake Geneva Badger.
“The only runner out of our top 10 that graduated or won’t be here this year is Peyton,” said first-year Cougars head coach Brandon Miles. “Losing the No. 1 from the state meet does hurt, obviously, and we’ll miss her leadership that she’s been able to give us.
“The nice thing is the heart of girls varsity team now is juniors ... and they’ve seen Peyton for a couple years and have honed their craft to be prepared and lead.”
Four of those juniors—Lauren Shanks, Gabriella Petruzzelo, Ellie Lorenz and Maddy Arrowood—all finished in the top 90 in Division 1 at state on the way to the fourth-place team finish. Shanks led the way, running 39th with a time of 19:43.67. Classmate Ivy White is also a top returner, though her cross country and track and field seasons as a sophomore were hampered by injury and illness.
Sophomore Clare Hulick finished 76th at state as a freshman, while classmate Cambria Thompson finished 153rd.
Miles credited senior captains Lauron Williams and Sierra Lopez with keeping the team tight-knit during the offseason.
“They’re definitely the glue that holds everything together and sets the tone for the atmosphere, which is nice,” Miles said.
“We’re really excited for the girls and think they have a good chance to hopefully do some pretty cool things this year again.”
Parker’s Gage coming
off foot injury
Janesville Parker senior Catie Gage narrowly missed advancing to the WIAA state meet a year ago.
Parker coach Mark Little said Gage is coming off a stress fracture injury in her foot but is nearing a return to running.
The Vikings take part in a scrimmage Wednesday at Milton and officially open their season Sept. 1 at Lodi.
“She’s just about to the point where she can start running, so she’ll be a little behind, but we’ll see what happens,” Little said. “She’s been doing biking and water running, swimming, for a few weeks. We’ll slowly bring her back.”
Vikings senior Brooke Graesslin and junior Rachel Howell should be in the mix for the team’s top three runners. Both are coming off successful track and field seasons, including Graesslin qualifying for state in the 400 meters.
Junior Lexie Schroeder and sophomore Brooke Schroeder give Parker five returners from the varsity lineup it put out at sectionals.
Little said he has zero freshman girls out for cross country this fall.
Bloomquist, Leverson lead Craig boys
Craig’s Bryan Bloomquist took the cross country scene by storm a year ago, peaking at the state meet with a 22nd-place finish that was the best time in the field for a freshman.
Aaron Leverson, now a senior, was Craig’s top runner until Bloomquist emerged late in the year.
The Cougars have both Bloomquist and Leverson back, which could help make them a formidable team.
“Bryan was all-state as a freshman, and he backed that up as one of the top freshmen in the state in track,” Miles said. “He put in a lot more work this offseason than he did last year, just because he didn’t know what he was expecting as a freshman, so we’re excited to see how that translates.
“And Aaron, he went to state for track and is a super talented and great runner, and is a captain.”
Daniel Thomsen and John Bever join Leverson as captains. With a couple other close-knit seniors—including Zander Arena and Corbin Kettle, whose times counted during a sixth-place sectional finish—Miles said the boys team may run as a pack during the first half of races, working together to run other competitors down.
Meyer paces Vikings
Senior Peyton Meyer was the leading non-senior for the Parker boys team a year ago.
Meyer finished a team-best 34th at the sectional race last year. Nathan Warda was the Vikings’ third-best finisher in that race, with the then-junior taking 65th overall.
Voicemails seeking further information on the Parker boys team were not returned Monday.