MANITOWOC — Paige White said she and her teammates on Beaver Dam’s prep girls cross country team were nervous headed into Saturday’s WIAA Division 1 sectional meet at Meadow Links Golf Course.
If they were, they sure did a darn good job of hiding it.
“They just seemed super relaxed and comfortable,” Beaver Dam head coach Hans Gochenaur said.
Whatever their emotional state was, it was the right one.
White, a senior, finished the girls 5,000-meter race in fourth place with a time of 19 minutes, 58.77 seconds, sophomore Jada Donaldson took seventh in 20:27.55, and the Golden Beavers’ showed off the kind of depth that’s impossible to compete with, dominating the field to win the sectional championship with a score of 48 points to runner-up Slinger’s 94.
The victory punched the girls team’s first ticket to state since 1988. For once, it was Beaver Dam’s turn to celebrate.
“We’ve always been on the broken-hearted side of this, where we’re leaving this meet with girls with tears running down their face,” Gochenaur said, recalling one time the Golden Beavers fell short of a state berth by three points and two other times they fell short by two points. “So it’s so great to be on the other side of that.”
The girls won’t be alone when they head to Saturday’s state meet in Wisconsin Rapids, either — they’ll be joined by junior Cade Ferron and freshman Gavin Czarnecki, who nabbed individual qualifying berth.
The top two teams both advance to state, and then the best five individuals who aren’t members of those two teams also go.
White and Donaldson delivered the front-running firepower for Beaver Dam, but the Beavers have freshman Mariah Alvarez (10th in 20:41.68), senior Hailey Stofflet (13th in 20:46.96) and junior Rachel Uhrich (14th in 20:49.97) to thank for winning the title with such ease.
“The three of them finishing as high as they did, I think it just shocked all of us,” Gochenaur said. “They kind of hang back a little bit in races and come back a little bit stronger later on. And when we got to about the halfway point of the race, I was feeling really good, because they just looked so much stronger than all of our competition.”
The group has even earned a catchy nickname for their part in the team’s success this season: “The Cleanup Crew.”
“It took about four meets or so for them to figure out that they could all race together and stay with each other, and then there was chemistry that developed in the Cleanup Crew that was just awesome,” Gochenaur said.
Chemistry, too, has been a big part of the success for all seven girls on the team, who were as loose and relaxed after the race as White said they were beforehand.
But this time, it was because, well …
“It hasn’t really settled in yet,” Donaldson said.
For the boys, it wasn’t just Ferron and Czarnecki who enjoyed success Saturday — it was the whole team, which took a surprising fifth place with 141 points, well clear of sixth-place Manitowoc Lincoln (160).
“My assistant coach’s scouting report on the boys kind of felt like eighth place would be fair, seventh place would be good, sixth place would be out of this world,” Gochenaur said. “So for us to place fifth was just awesome, and that’s just a tribute to the guys that are in (those) three, four and five (spots) to be able to get it done the way that they did.”
Those guys would be sophomores Adam Chase (33rd in the boys 5K in 18:25.90) and Broden Boschert (35th in 18:27.44) and freshman Dakota Eggers (61st in 19:20.23).
But it’s Ferron (fifth in 16:51.85) and Czarnecki (seventh in 17:03.90) who extended their season for another week. Ferron grabbed the third of the five individual berths, while Czarnecki claimed the fourth.
Ferron said that he went out a little faster than he wanted to, and once he did, there was really no way to correct his pace.
“Once you get out (too) fast, you can’t redo it,” he said. “So then you’ve just got to pretty much survive and advance the rest of the race — finish strong and not completely fall off.”
He did just that.
Czarnecki, on the other hand, went about things pretty much exactly as he intended.
“Gavin has kind of been taking it out a little bit more conservative and then striking late,” Gochenaur said. “At conference, his second mile was just crazy, and it was again today.
“He positioned himself where he needed to be to be able to get to state. And then it was just a matter of, can you hang on? And he hung on for about another half-mile, until about the 2½-mile mark, and then he just started pulling away and solidifying his spot.”
All in all, it was a pretty memorable day for Beaver Dam.
“Both sides ran awesome, did what they needed to do,” Gochenaur said. “And that’s what you want — you want kids running their best when it matters most at the end of the year.”
WIAA DIVISION 1 SECTIONAL MEET
Team scores: Beaver Dam 48, Slinger 94, West Bend West 127, Fond du Lac 135, Sheboygan North 139, Sheboygan South 155, Hartford 160, Oshkosh North 164, West Bend East 186, Manitowoc Lincoln 204, Oshkosh West 237, Menasha 309.
Medalist: Madison Hughes, Fond du Lac, 19:37.36.
Individual state qualifiers (overall finish in parentheses): Madison Hughes (1), FDL, 19:37.36. Sydney Knepfel (3), ON, 19 57.37. Ella Reinemann (6), SN, 20:11.71. Alyx Evans (8), H, 20:30.58. Sydney Clark (9), ON, 20:31.50.
Beaver Dam: 4, Paige White, 19:58.77. 7, Jada Donaldson, 20:27.55. 10, Mariah Alvarez, 20:41.68. 13, Hailey Stofflet, 20:46.93. (40, Morgan Kuhl, 22:13.97. 63, Angelique Vega, 23:04.48.
Team scores: Slinger 58, West Bend West 61, Oshkosh North 117, Fond du Lac 123, Beaver Dam 141, Manitowoc Lincoln 160, Oshkosh West 178, West Bend East 180, Hartford Union 207, Sheboygan South 251, Sheboygan North 255, Menasha 315.
Medalist: Wesley Schiek, ON, 16:00.74.
Individual state qualifiers (overall finish in parentheses): Wesley Schiek (1), ON, 16:00.74. 4, Kiernan Koepke (4), FDL, 16:41.70. Cade Ferron (5), BD, 16:51.85. Gavin Czarnecki (7), BD, 17:03.90. Jack Scherer (8), ON, 17:09.32.
Beaver Dam: 5, Cade Ferron, 16:51.85. 7, Gavin Czarnecki, 17:03.90. 33, Adam Chase, 18:25.90. 35, Broden Boschert, 18:27.44. 61, Dakota Eggers, 19:20.23. (62, Aaron Uhrich, 19:21.12. 71, Peter Kremsreiter, 19:50.02.)
at Meadow Links Golf Course, Manitowoc