WISCONSIN RAPIDS — Cade Ferron had one goal: Make it in the top 20 at the WIAA Division 1 state cross country meet.

The Beaver Dam junior did that as he finished the 5,000-meter race on Saturday in a time of 16 minutes, 21.09 seconds. He wore an expression of relief after crossing the finish line at The Ridges Golf Course.

“It was because the last two weeks I didn’t have the best races,” Ferron said. “Then I came to this one to finish on a strong note. It was good.”

Throughout most of the race, he and Golden Beavers freshman Gavin Czarnecki had to fight a large group of very strong runners.

“They both ran very well,” Beaver Dam head coach Hans Gochenaur said. “I told them before the race that this race was crazy fast at the beginning. People just take it out so hard. There’s always a bulk of people that have no business being up at the front that wing it and try to do something crazy.

“I just encouraged them to stay relaxed and don’t try to do anything big in the first mile, let everything come back to you after the mile. They clawed back into the race the entire second mile and hung on tough towards the end. I’m very pleased with both of them.”

Ferron said the game plan was to “get out a little slower and (stay in) control. The course rewards the runners that get out slow and as the race went on, you just had to keep picking up the pace and try to keep passing people.”

Czarnecki listened to his more experienced teammate and achieved his goals of breaking 17 minutes and finishing in the top 75. He took 55th in 16:46.31.

“I think I did all right,” Czarnecki said. “I think my time was good for my meet at state.

“It was hard, but it was fun. I gave a good effort today.”

Gochenaur was pleased with Czarnecki’s performance.

“I told him before the race, ‘Don’t treat this as any pressure of expectations and anything like that. You’re a freshman and it’s so rare,’” Gochenaur said. “He’s the first freshman that’s ever gone to state for our school for the boys. Just getting here is such a huge benefit as far as experience. He did absolutely fantastic.

“In fact, in the past, he ran about as well as any of our upperclassmen in the past that have run here. It’s a great start to his career.”

The Beaver Dam girls placed 19th in the Division 1 team race with 454 points. Sun Prairie won its second straight title with 57 points, the third-lowest score since 1999. Muskego (74) was second.

The Golden Beavers were led by sophomore Jada Donaldson and senior Paige White, who finished 90th and 91st out of 189 runners in the Division 1 field.

“The course wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it was definitely a fun experience, and a chaotic experience running with so many girls and so many talented runners,” said White, who finished in 20:14.49. “There were so many girls and they’re all so good. I’ve never been to a meet this big before.”

Donaldson finished in 20:13.54 in her second straight appearance at state. She clocked a 20:00.05 as a freshman.

“It takes some of the nerve out of it because you have a feel and you know this happened last year, so I’m going to change this,” Donaldson said.

Beaver Dam’s “Cleanup Crew” — freshman Mariah Alvarez (21:23.12), senior Hailey Stofflet (21:23.44) and junior Rachel Ulrich (21:23.56) — finished together, taking 161st through 163rd.

“This was the first time in several weeks where throughout the race it was starting to look like they were going to break up and weren’t going to be able to stick together,” Gochenaur said. “Lo and behold, in the last mile, they were able to find each other out and get back together.”

Gochenaur said the girls met expectations.

“Overall, we did fine,” he said. “We did about what I expected we would do. I knew we weren’t coming here for a state championship. They ran solid. Everybody ran solid.”

With only two seniors running for the Beavers on Saturday, Gochenaur is excited about a possible return to Wisconsin Rapids.

“The vast majority of our runners, the second time they come back to the course, there isn’t much of the deer-in-the-headlights look and the ‘Oh my gosh, what am I going to do?’ You feel like you belong here,” Gochenaur said. “You feel like you belong here and you’ve had the experience of running on the course, the competition and what the race feels like. That just bodes well … for all of the underclassman girls and these guys.”

DIVISION 1 STATE CROSS COUNTRY

Boys

Winner: Drew Bosley, Homestead, 15:39.87.

Team scores: Middleton 76, Stevens Point 177, South Milwaukee 191, Monona Grove 197, Sun Prairie 203, Madison West 212, Kimberly 229, Hamilton 240, Hudson 298, Wauwatosa East 300, Appleton North 305, Whitefish Bay 306, Pewaukee 308, Eau Claire Memorial 312, West Bend West 313, Muskego 316, Slinger 341, Kenosha Bradford/Reuther 348, Bay Port 366, Brookfield Central 387.

Beaver Dam: 17, Cade Ferron, 16:21.09; 55, Gavin Czarnecki, 16:46.31.

Girls

Winner: Peyton Sippy, Janesville Craig, 18:01.56.

Team score: Sun Prairie 57, Muskego 74, Onalaska 174, Janesville Craig 177, Waukesha West 194, Hudson 218, Milwaukee Divine Savior Holy Angels 244, Whitefish Bay 259, Madison West 276, Stevens Point 287, Pewaukee 291, Brookfield Central 321, Stoughton 331, Kimberly 335., Wausau West 353, Pulaski 357, Slinger 423, Brookfield East 443, Beaver Dam 454, Lake Geneva Badger 465.

Beaver Dam: 90, Jada Donaldson, 20:13.54; 91, Paige White, 20:14.49; 161, Mariah Alvarez, 21:23.12; 162, Hailey Stofflet, 21:23.44; 163, Rachel Ulrich, 21:23.56; 179, Angelique Vega, 22:16.42; 185, Morgan Kuhl, 22:51.25.

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.