Running down a dream
The Wildcat girls' cross country team has come close to qualifying for the state meet the last two years. This year it left no room for doubt.
The Cats won the La Crosse Logan sectional Saturday in La Crosse to earn a spot at this weekend's WIAA State Cross Country Championships in Wisconsin Rapids. This year's team joins the 1998 and 2002 teams as the only girls' cross country teams in River Falls history to qualify for the state meet.
"It was a incredible accomplishment," head coach Pat Lorentz said. "Many of our women have been dreaming of competing at a state meet. So many of them have been on teams that have come very close but have fallen short. It's great to see them realize their dream."
The 2007 and 2008 Wildcat teams, as well as the 2005 squad, all placed third at sectional, missing a spot at the state meet by one position. This year's Cats won the 12-team meet by nearly 20 points, finishing with 57, while second place Eau Claire Memorial finished with 73 to also advance.
Freshman Paige Skorseth led the Cats with a second place time of 15 minutes, 31 seconds, while junior Lucy Ramquist was right behind in third in 15:32. Lorentz said the duo is a rare combination.
"You know, you might get one athlete every 10 years or so with the talent that Skorseth and Ramquist have in a school this size," he said. "We got two in the same year."
Sophomore Aislinn Pomfret was the third Wildcat across the finish line in 12th place with a time of 15:58. Sophomore Natalie Powell finished 14th in 16:02 while junior Lara Anderson rounded out the Wildcats' top five with a 27th place time of 16:32.
Senior Monica Morgan finished 40th in 17:03 and sophomore Hanna Gribble placed 56th in 17:30.
Lorentz said every runner on the team contributed to the sectional title.
"What's interesting is to look at what happens if you take out any one of our girls from the results, we don't go to state," he said. "It really was a team effort."
The Wildcat girls are undefeated when fielding a full squad this season, having run to first place finishes at the River Falls Extreme Meet, the Menomonie Relays, the Smiley Invite, the Big Rivers Conference Championships, and now the La Crosse Logan sectional.
The Wildcat boys saw their season end with a seventh place finish Saturday. River Falls was without the services of sophomore Shae Taylor due to the flu.
Hudson won the boys' team title with 47 points and will be joined at state by second place La Crosse Logan, which finished with 65. River Falls totaled 160.
"Times were consistently slow because of how soft the course was from all the rain lately and the girls ripping it up during their race," Lorentz noted.
Senior captain David Ritter paced the Cats with a 22nd place time of 17:45 while junior Ethan Genco and senior captain Casey Schellhorn both finished in 17:59. Genco placed 26th and Schellhorn 27th.
Senior Patrick Keicher added a 35th place time of 18:17 while sophomore Salvador Bastien finished 50th in 18:44. Junior Evan Miller was 51st in 18:48 and junior Steffen Nielsen finished 54th in 19:01.
"We are a better team than the results show," Lorentz said about the Wildcat boys. "Each guy who ran did their best to make up the difference, but we just don't have the depth to lose one of our top guys and not see a drop in the results."
Lorentz praised the work of senior captains Ritter and Schellhorn this season.
"David really came on strong at the end of the year when it matters most," he said. "(Casey) did a great job leading the team this year as a senior captain. We will miss him next year."
The WIAA Division 1 girls championship race will be held Saturday at 12:20 p.m. at The Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids. The 1998 Wildcat team finished eighth at the state meet while the 2002 team placed 12th. Lorentz said anything's possible with this team.
"It's hard to say right now what will happen," he said. "I would like to see the girls finish higher than eighth so it would be an improvement on the '98 finish. If we say healthy and have a good day that should be very doable."