WISCONSIN RAPIDS — When Lodi senior Tanner Maier entered his first and only season as a member of his school’s cross country program, he did not know what to expect. When the season started back in August, he certainly didn’t think it would finish with an 11th place at the WIAA state meet, but yet that was exactly what happened.
Maier, who didn’t decide to go out for cross country until a successful track and field season in the spring, finished in 11th place in the Division 2 boys race at The Ridges Golf Course, with a time of 16 minutes, 40 seconds over 5,000 meters on a chilly Saturday afternoon at The Ridges Golf Course.
Maier ran the first mile in 5:07, which was a little faster than he hoped, but he also wanted to keep the leaders within striking distance.
“I wanted to sit back in the first mile and get out in like 5:15,” Maier said. “But I was still a ways back. I was like in 15th place. The goal was to sit around 10th place and work my way up, but I probably should have went out with the leaders.”
Maier was 13th at the mile mark and was in the same place at the 2-mile mark, before moving up two spots over the final mile.
“I wish I could have (moved up) one more spot to (get in the top 10), but it is what it is and it’s my first time at state, so I didn’t expect much,” Maier said.
Maier said he often thinks about what could have been had he concentrated on cross country for all four years of high school, and not just his senior season.
“I wish I would have started sooner, because I think I could be a lot better than I am right now, which kind of sucks,” Maier said, “but I still have the track season ahead of me.”
Portage junior Tyler Jones was making his debut at the state meet, and he ended up finishing in 39th place in the Division 2 race in 17:15.
Like Maier, Jones went out fast, and was sitting in 28th at the first mile, before dropping back to 40th at the 2-mile mark.
“I went out a little fast, but other than that it was good, just a little cold,” Jones said. “I could have done better. It wasn’t my best race.”
Jones drew an unfortunate starting position in box 24, which was on the far right side of starting line. That made getting out front difficult in the early going.
“It was kind of weird being on the end,” Jones said. “It was hard to see. I was trying to pace off of Tanner (Maier). It was hard to see him, but it straightened out.”
Jones still has one more year of cross country left. He is hoping to make a return trip next year, but wants to come back with his teammates along for the run.
“We just got to get them out running in the summer and we should be good,” Jones said.
In the Division 3 boys race, Poynette sophomore Elias Ritzke finished in 43rd place in his state championship debut with a time of 17:36.
Ritzke was happy with how he did in the opening mile, but said he started to run out of gas in the second mile, even though he moved up two spots from 52nd to 50th during that span. Then in the final mile, Ritzke moved up seven spots to finish in 43rd.
“I’m pretty happy. I got out where I wanted, but then I died in the second mile,” Ritzke said. “I gained some of those spots back in the third mile, but it was little bit harder than I expected it to be. My arms were cold.”
Ritzke said the second mile is always the hardest for him, because the adrenaline from the start of the race is gone, and the finish is still long ways off.
“Once you hit the mile and a half, there are some hills,” Ritzke said. “The middle mile is always the hardest for me, because it’s different than the first (mile) and then being almost done.”
Judging by the smile on Ritzke’s face after he finished the race, he enjoyed his day.
“It was super fun. Just watching all the other races and at the (starting) line meeting everyone,” Ritzke said. “That was super cool.”
Poynette was also represented on Saturday by Katelyn Chadwick. The Poynette freshman ran in the Division 3 girls race and finished in 35th place with a time of 20:56.
Chadwick’s placing didn’t change much during the race. She was 32nd at the first mile, and 33rd and the second mile.
“Coach (Kevin Frehner) told me to save some of my energy in the first mile,” Chadwick said. “The second part of the course is really tough, so I wanted to save my energy to see if I could catch people at the end. … I caught a couple, but then one girl caught me. I still ended up in 35th, so it didn’t bug me too much.”
Overall, it was a great state debut for the Poynette freshman.
“Honestly, the whole day (was the best),” Chadwick said. “I love my team and they’re like a family. They make it fun. I was super nervous, but everyone was super supportive and it made me feel so comfortable to go out and run this race.”
Also making her state championship debut in the Division 3 girls race on Saturday was Westfield’s Mikayla Flyte. The Pioneers junior started fast — she was 28th at the first mile — but had trouble keeping that quick pace and ended up 47th in a time of 21:17.
“I had a pretty fast first couple of miles and then the last mile I kind of got tired,” Flytle said. “I didn’t realize how many hills there were on the course.”
Flyte was Westfield’s first state championship qualifier since Paige Peschel finished ninth as a sophomore in 2011. Flyte said it was an honor to get the Pioneers a representative back at the state meet.
“Paige Peschel has always been an inspiration to me, so it was really cool,” Flyte said.