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High hopes for Wildcat runners

Paige Skorseth, left, Lucy Ramquist, Aislinn Pomfret, Laura Anderson and Natalie Powell take off from the starting line at last year's WIAA State Cross Country Championships in Wisconsin Rapids. All five runners return this year and will try to improve on their 10th place finish in 2009. Journal file photo

It may be the start of the fall sports season, but members of the Wildcat cross country teams have been working in the heat and humidity all summer with the goal of trying to improve on their historic 2009 campaign.

The Cats opened fall practice Monday and will kick off the season by hosting the popular River Falls Extreme Meet next Thursday, Aug. 26. The meet, which has grown to 16 teams this year, takes place near the intramural fields on the UW-River Falls campus with portions of the course taking runners through the South Fork of the Kinnickinnic River.

The 2010 Wildcat girls will look to set all time school records in just about all areas this season, according to head coach Pat Lorentz.

Fresh off their 10th place finish at state in 2009, the Wildcats return seven of their top eight runners from last season, and all of their top five.

The Cats will look for the joint efforts of standout sophomore Paige Skorseth and senior captain Lucy Ramquist to lead the way. Returning top five runners, senior captain Laura Anderson, junior Natalie Powell, and junior Aislinn Pomfret will continue to punish teams in the three through five spots.

Should any of the girls get sidelined, the Wildcats can count on the likes of sophomore Ellie Nelson, junior Vanessa Maione, junior Hanna Gribble and senior Tia Harris.

"We have the depth to just keep throwing good runners at a team," Lorentz said. "We can sit a couple of our top women out and still produce great results. Our depth gives us the versatility to stay rested, healthy and hungry, making our women all the more dangerous at the end of the season."

The Wildcat girls will look to make school history by winning their third straight Big Rivers Conference title this year. The BRC championships will be hosted in River Falls this season at Hoffman Park, an advantage Lorentz likes.

"I don't think these women have any intention of letting another team beat us in our backyard," he said. "I think there is a little sense of urgency on the women's side this year. This is our year to go for it."

On the boys' side, the 2010 Wildcat's might seem like a milder version of the '09 team. They lost three of their top five runners to graduation, but Lorentz said this year's team will look to move up in the results by relying on big improvements from returning athletes and a strong incoming freshman class.

"If I had to pick one team to surprise people this season, it would be our men," Lorentz said. "My guess is that some teams in our conference will be looking to knock us down from our third place finish in the BRC last season because of the number of guys we graduated."

Lorentz said he expects big improvements from returning athletes like senior captain Ethan Genco, junior captain Shae Taylor and junior Salvador Bastien. Returning athletes such as senior captain Garrett Williams and senior Evan Miller will combine with a strong freshman class to round out the top seven for the Wildcats.

"Teams will start noticing some of the same last names as on the women's side soon, names like Powell and Ramquist," Lorentz said about the youth on the boys' team."

Lorentz said the team has been training hard this summer.

"I have been really impressed with the way our men have trained over the summer," Lorentz said. "All summer we have had a nice group of guys running together in the evenings, and I believe all of their efforts will pay off this fall."

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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