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Boys run to BRC title

Members of the Wildcat boys' cross country team, from front, Mitch Lenneman, Jacob Putzier, Sterling Just, Chris Anderson, Liam Dangeur and Gabe Nelson, run as a pack during the Big Rivers Conference Championship Meet Saturday, Oct. 13 in Eau Claire. Every Wildcat runner turned in a personal best time to help the boys win the 2012 BRC title. <i>Submitted photo</i>

No Big Rivers Conference cross country team, including River Falls, had beaten the Eau Claire Memorial boys this season. And the Wildcats had not finished ahead of Hudson all season long either. So when the Wildcat boys won their second straight BRC title Saturday, Oct. 13 in Eau Claire, even their coach, Pat Lorentz, was surprised.

"I had told the men's team going into conference that we were probably looking at third place; if we ran very, very well, maybe second," Lorentz said. "I gave us pretty much no chance of winning."

Lorentz said he's been riding the runners pretty hard this season, urging them to do better than their results have shown.

"On Saturday, after getting the news the men had won conference, I got down on my knees and bowed to them," he said. "I had to eat some of my words from earlier in the season, but it was worth it."

All eight Wildcat boys responded by turning in personal best times, and three Wildcats finished in the top ten. The team's top five runners combined to score 53 points, edging Eau Claire Memorial by two points for the conference title. Hudson was third with 57.

River Falls' girls also did well, finishing third behind Eau Claire Memorial and Hudson.

Trent Powell paced the Wildcat boys with a second place time of 16 minutes, 2 seconds, while Mitch Lenneman was fifth in 16:42 and Jacob Putzier tenth in 16:59. Tom Ramquist finished 14th in 17:06 and Sterling Just was 22nd in 17:29 to give the Cats a team total of 53 points.

Lorentz said the Cats took it upon themselves to run as a pack Saturday.

"I figured, we don't have anything to lose, so I agreed to let the guys try it," he said. "Senior captain Mitch Lenneman led the pack and did a perfect job pacing the guys, not letting them get out too fast at the start of the race. In the end, it was the smart pacing and pack running that won it for us. I can't take credit for it, this was all the guys' idea, not mine, but it sure worked well."

One advantage River Falls had, according to Lorentz, was that nobody had them on their radar.

"I think Memorial was watching out for Hudson and Hudson for Memorial, and we just kind of slid past them both," he said. "It was the element of surprise, which was nice. However, now both teams know what we are capable of for sectionals."

Powel and Lenneman earned first team All-BRC honors for their efforts Saturday while Putzier and Ramquist made the second team.

Lorentz said the Wildcat girls' third place finish was expected. Annie Frisbie and Paige Skorseth both broke the school record for a 5K race, with Frisbie taking second overall with a time of 18:29 and Skorseth third in 19:01. Skorseth had the previous record of 19:08.

"Annie and Paige continue to run really great," Lorentz said. "I am excited to see these two girls advance on."

Frisbie and Skorseth both earned first team All-BRC honors while Taylor Lindaman finished 20th in 20:57 to earn honorable mention. Ali Casey, in her first race of the season after an All-Terrain Vehicle accident in late summer, finished one spot out of honorable mention, placing 21st with a time of 20:57. Ellie Nelson rounded out the Wildcat scoring with a 23rd place time of 21:07.

"One of the biggest joys for me on Saturday was watching Ali Casey run her first race of season," Lorentz said. "She is such a tough kid, it was great to see her back out on the course. We desperately needed her back, she is such an important part of the team. I think it is incredible that in her first race of the season she almost made an all-conference team."

Eau Claire Memorial won the girls' title with a score of 33, followed by Hudson with 43 and River Falls with 69.

The Cats' next meet will be the WIAA Sectional this Saturday in Menomonie.

"After the guys ran the way they did on Saturday I think they have to be considered a threat to advance," Lorentz said. "Whoever gets it, it will most likely be painfully close. On the girls side we will look to advance our top two girls."

No matter what happens this Saturday, Lorentz said last Saturday will always stick in his memory.

"We have won a few BRC titles over the past few years, but this one will always be really special to me because it was a complete shock," he said. "Most of the BRC titles we knew going into it we were going to win, but this totally unexpected."

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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