WISCONSIN RAPIDS — Waupun senior Bailey Bille and freshman Rhyer Smit wanted to enjoy their experiences at the WIAA state cross country championships on Saturday.

“Throughout this week, most of our team stayed with us through workouts, so we still had that team aspect,” Bille said. “I told them at sectionals, ‘No matter what happens, I want the whole team here.’ That way it stays a team thing. I don’t want to go alone.

“Having Rhyer, it makes it that much better because I’m not running state alone either. I have a teammate with me.”

Bille had Smit with him for the first two miles of the 5,000-meter race at The Ridges Golf Course before pulling away on Saturday. Bille finished 82nd in 17 minutes, 55.7 seconds, while Smit was 97th in 18:07.57.

“We were working with each other, keeping our times where we want them,” Bille said. “I knew this was a tough course where we had to take a lot of things easy, so our times were a little down. I’m still happy with how everything worked out.”

Smit, on the other hand, found out quickly the hills on the course were tough as he didn’t break the 18-minute barrier.

“The hills were definitely a killer and I had nothing left in the tank,” Smit said. “This was a lot harder than I expected. It kicked my butt.”

Bille had been here before, running as a freshman when Waupun qualified as a team. He finished 120th in 18:17.01, but his return to Rapids took three years, derailed in part by injuries.

“It definitely gave me a lot to know,” Bille said. “Knowing what to expect helped with preparation and especially telling (Rhyer) this is what it’s going to kind of be like. It’s one of those things where I was just happy to be here again.

“Not being here for the last two years because of injury to actually being able to come back and enjoy it a lot more means everything to me.”

Bille made sure to enjoy it a lot more because he said he didn’t really take the time to remember much of the experience from his freshman year.

“The experience as a whole was just for me a lot more to take in,” Bille said. “We’ve been here for five hours, which is more than enough time to soak in everything. To really have that memory with you and remember everything, what it was like and even to help out Rhyer for the future and guys that come up to the team to let everyone know this is what it was like.

“The experience is well worth the work that you put into it out of the season.”

Rhyer took in what Bille was saying as well.

“It was definitely an experience,” he said. “The atmosphere was just crazy with all the people screaming your name. It’s just loud.”

And he learned something for his hopeful return over the next three years.

“Do more hill workouts and definitely run more over the summer and train more during the offseason, lift during the offseason and get my legs stronger and practice more,” Smit said.

Bille, who only was able to run three meets as a junior, put in plenty of work in order to extend his senior season for one more race.

“The hard part is over,” Bille said. “We’re already at state. The only thing really past this is just enjoying it.”

STATE CROSS COUNTRY: DIVISION 2 BOYS 5K

Winner: Kavanaugh Fitzpatrick, Lakeland, 15:52.88.

Team scores: Valders 60, Dodgeville/Mineral Point 99, Port Washington 116, Green Bay Notre Dame 122, La Crosse Logan 193, McFarland 196, Jefferson 213, Lakeland 222, Medford 242, Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau 257, East Troy 261, Wisconsin Lutheran 269, Cedar Grove-Belgium 286, Grafton 288, Osceola 308, Saint Croix Central 348.

Waupun: 82, Bailey Bille, 17:55.7; 97, Rhyer Smit, 18:07.57.

At The Ridges Golf Course, Wisconsin Rapids, 5,000 meters

Follow Mark on Twitter @mmcmull2.

Mark McMullen is currently a sports reporter for the Daily Citizen. He can be reached by email at mmcmullen@wiscnews.com or by phone at 920-356-6754. Can also follow him on Twitter at @mmcmull2.