WISCONSIN RAPIDS – All season long, the Wisconsin Dells girls cross country team has had the goal of winning the program’s first ever state championship. On Saturday, the Chiefs came up 30 points short of that goal, but still returned home with lots of smiles and a huge silver trophy, as they finished in second place as a team in the Division 2 girls race at the WIAA State Cross Country Championships.
Wisconsin Dells was led by the duo of sophomore Laura Beghin and senior Taylor Campbell, who both had top-four finishes on a chilly Saturday afternoon at the Ridges Golf Course, helping Wisconsin Dells finish with 98 points, finishing behind only Freedom, who won the Division 2 state title with 68 points.
Beghin, who finished second at the state meet last year as a freshman, was the Division 2 runner up once again. Beghin finished with a time of 18 minutes, 52 seconds, which was just 13 seconds behind two-time state champion Dana Feyen of Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau.
Beghin was pretty excited about her finish.
“I’m ecstatic about it. There was a girl I was running with the whole time, and she was elbowing me and everything, and I just knew I wasn’t going to get third, or I’m not going to get worse than that, I just needed to go,” Beghin said. “With about 1,000 meters left, I just pushed it aside and said ‘this is my last race and I’m an upperclassmen, I have to go now.’”
At the Westby Sectional on Oct. 21, Feyen beat Beghin by 46 seconds, but the Wisconsin Dells sophomore found a way to close the gap on Saturday.
“I closed the gap to less than 15 seconds and it was originally 30,” Beghin said. “I just knew I had to push it for my team and myself. I just had to go.”
At the one-mile mark, Feyen and Beghin were neck-and-neck, 10 seconds ahead of the next runner. At the two-mile mark, Feyen led, with Beghin in third place 12 second back. Beghin moved up to second in the final mile, but wasn’t able to reel in Feyen.
Not very far behind Beghin was Campbell, who ended up finishing fourth in 19:17. That time blew away her personal record time of 19:34, which was set the previous week at the Westby Sectional.
“Last year I was 20th, so fourth is like the most amazing thing I could ever think of,” Campbell said. “Me and my coach have been talking about top 10 all year, so I was really hoping for 10th. I just had a good start and just kept the momentum going.”
Beghin was happy to see Campbell was so close behind.
“When I finished the race, I couldn’t see much, I couldn’t hear. I turned around and (Campbell) was right there next to me,” Beghin said. “I could not have been more proud. I was so happy.”
The next two Wisconsin Dells runners to finish on Saturday were freshmen Emily Cunningham and Megan Jones. Cunningham finished 47th in 20:45, while Jones as 49th in 20:47. The fifth Wisconsin Dells runner was sophomore Lindsay Cunningham, who was 65th in 20:58, while freshman Gracie Walker in 139th (22:34) and sophomore Addy Johnson in 141st (22:44) rounded out the Wisconsin Dells results on Saturday.
As a team, Wisconsin Dells got off to a fast start and was in first place by 50 points (43-93) over Lake Mills at the first mile. The standings started to change after that though, as Freedom surged to a two-point lead (68-70) lead over Wisconsin Dells at the two-mile mark before pulling away in the final 1,800 meters.
After the completion of the Division 2 race, the Wisconsin Dells girls stood just a few feet away from the Freedom squad as they waited for the final team results to be posted on the scoreboard next to the finish line. Once the results showed Wisconsin Dells had taken second, the Chiefs jumped with excitement, knowing they accomplished something that hadn’t been done before by a Wisconsin Dells cross country team.
“Freedom is such a great team. I think they really pushed us this year. We couldn’t be more happy for them,” Campbell said. “We went out there and ran our best. We are so proud to bring home another trophy. … It’s something that will be with our school forever and something we cannot be upset about. We have to be proud of what we did here today.”
Beghin agreed with Campbell.
“We’re happy anyways. No matter what, we are always happy. That’s why we are doing this sport, to have fun. So everyone is happy in the first place,” Beghin said. “Our school has never had a second place championship (in cross country). This has never happened before.”
The second place finish comes one year after Wisconsin Dells finished fifth as a team at the state meet. Next year’s team will certainly miss Campbell – who is just the second person in program history to run at four state meets – but will return everyone else who ran on Saturday. Campbell said next year’s team should use Saturday’s experience as motivation.
“They should take how they feel right now,” Campbell said, “and apply it to next year and go for first place.”
DIVISION 2 GIRLS STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
Team scores: Freedom 68, Wisconsin Dells 98, Lake Mills 118, Jefferson 155, Westby 177, Port Washington 199, St. Croix Central 199, Wisconsin Lutheran 211, Lakeland 218, Xavier 232, Grafton 236, Prairie du Chien 256, Plymouth 272, Hayward 274, Random Lake/Ozaukee 347, McFarland 352.
Top 10 overall: 1, Dana Feye, Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau 18:39; 2, Laura Beghin, Wisconsin Dells 18:52; 3, Annie Higgins, Xavier 19:01; 4, Taylor Campbell, Wisconsin Dells 19:17; 5, Leah Kralovetz, Denmark 19:21; 6, Mariah Linse, Jefferson 19:31; 7, Lindsey Grams, Little Chute 19:33; 8, Erin Sorg, Delavan-Darien 19:37; 9, Katelyn Kitzinger, Marinette 19:39; 10, Jordan Koepke, Martin Luther 19:40.
Wisconsin Dells: 2, Laura Beghin 18:52; 4, Taylor Campbell 19:17; 47, Emily Cunningham 20:45; 49, Megan Jones 20:47; 65, Lindsay Cunningham 20:58; 139, Gracie Walker 22:34; 141, Addy Johnson 22:44.