MADISON — The Sauk Prairie High School boys cross country team spent a year working up to Saturday.
The Eagles left everything they had on the course, but couldn’t advance through a talented WIAA Division 1 sectional meet at Lake Farm County Park in Madison. Sauk Prairie scored 171 points to take seventh out of 12 boys teams, ending a season in which the Eagles won five invitationals.
“The guys were ready to go and were trying to do whatever they could to qualify,” Sauk Prairie coach Andy Sherman said of the Eagles, who took eighth at last year’s sectional. “The teams we competed against are the best in the state and they definitely proved it again. Our guys gave it everything they could and it, unfortunately, just didn’t work out for them.”
The Madison-area schools won the day, as Middleton and Madison West advanced to Saturday’s state meet in Wisconsin Rapids. Middleton scored 35 points to win the boys sectional title, while Madison West took second with 73 points. Middleton (32) and Madison West (60) also led the girls field, with the Sauk Prairie girls took 12th with 307 points.
The top five individuals who aren’t members of either of the two state-qualifying teams receive state berths. Sauk Prairie’s Camden Desroches just missed that cutoff. The senior had the fastest time that didn’t lead to a state berth, as he crossed the finish line in 16 minutes, 51 seconds to take 14th out of 83 runners.
“He has grown into a very good leader,” Sherman said of Desroches, who took 34th at sectionals last year. “He talks strategy and he understands the benefits of each workout, relaying that to our younger guys who have benefited greatly by having him around. He has always been a good runner, but this season he really understood things even better and he loved to run which made him that much better.”
The individual state-qualifying spots went to DeForest’s John Roth (first, 16:05.1), Verona’s Aidan Manning (fourth, 16:21.5) and Luka Dimaggio (fifth, 16:29.2), Madison Memorial’s AJ Ketarkus (11th, 16:48.3) and Monona Grove’s Eli Traeder (12th, 16:48.6).
“At the 2,000-meter mark, both Cam and Hudson (Haas) were in the last two individual qualifier positions,” Sherman said. “After about the 3,200-meter mark, the two guys from Monona Grove and Memorial got past Cam. He tried to run them down during the last 800 meters, but he was unable to get them. He knew exactly where he was the entire race. Cam is a very smart runner that really understands everything that is going on during races. He knows the runners who have faster times and he knows those that don’t. So when he gets into those races, he knows who to run with and who is going to fade after a quick start.”
Haas also put together a top-20 finish. The senior, who took 102nd at state in 2017, used a time of 17:12.5 to place 20th Saturday.
Senior Noah Wankerl (17:34.4) added a 37th-place finish. Desroches, Haas and Wankerl — all four-year varsity contributors — led Sauk Prairie to Badger North runner-up finishes in 2016 and 2017 before winning the title the last two years.
“Our seniors, both boys and girls, have been so important to our program,” Sherman said. “They have been the driving force of change to our team culture that has allowed us to be very competitive within the Badger Conference. What I will remember most is their drive and their willingness to bring the best out of everyone. There are few teams that are as close as these teams, and there are no other teams where the genders get along as well. Our seniors have made that happen the past four years.”
The other four Sauk Prairie boys at sectionals are eligible to return next year. Freshman Jack Boerger took 47th in 17:47.3, sophomore Dalton Zirbel took 53rd in 18:03.4, junior Sam Beattie placed 58th in 18:12.4, and sophomore Carson Enge finished 60th in 18:14.0.
“Our younger athletes have all watched our seniors and the way that they have approached all they do,” Sherman said. “I have watched as they try to do everything the same way our leaders do it. The seniors have laid the foundation for future success that will carry on without them.”
The Sauk Prairie girls will lose just one individual — senior Livia Jurt — from the group that took 12th Saturday.
Jurt, a foreign exchange student from Switzerland who led the Eagles much of the season, capped off her high school cross country career by taking 61st out of 84 runners with a time of 22:26.0.
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Sophomore Kassia Marquardt led the Eagles by taking 43rd in 21:34.4.
“Kassia did have a great race on Saturday,” Sherman said. “She has improved so much in her confidence and strategy that with the right offseason training she can be very good.”
Junior Cassie Radl (22:20.5) added a 59th-place finish and will play a big role heading into her senior year.
“I have really been pleased with Cassie Radl and the improvement she has made throughout this season,” Sherman said. “Not only has she improved her racing, she has also become a leader for the girls team. She has worked hard to get where she is and her confidence is growing, which will also make her a very competitive runner for us next season.”
Sophomore Marissa Howard (23:02.1) added a 67th-place finish, followed by sophomore Trinity Doerre (77th, 23:52.1), junior Mabel Schneller (81st, 24:10.2) and junior Emily Herbrand (82nd, 24:56.8).
Middleton sophomore Lauren Pansegrau won the girls title in 17:57.7. Madison Memorial’s Annika Cutforth (fifth, 19:25.4), Tomah’s Hannah Wilcox-Borg (seventh, 19:35.1), Monona Grove’s Peighton Nelson (eighth, 19:40.0), Madison Memorial’s Natalie Rhodes (10th, 19:44.1) and Waunakee’s Emma Bertz (11th, 19:45.3) earned their way to state as individuals.
Team scores — Middleton 35; Madison West 73; Verona 86; Madison Memorial 108; Monona Grove 124; Madison East 163; Sauk Prairie 171; Tomah 187; DeForest 245; Baraboo 258; Waunakee 269; Reedsburg 381.
Top five individuals — 1, Roth, D, 16:06; 2, Gary, MW, 16:07; 3, Johnson, Mid, 16:17; 4, Manning, V, 16:22; 5, DiMaggio, V, 16:30.
Individual state qualifiers — 1, Roth, D, 16:06; 4, Manning, V, 16:22; 5, DiMaggio, V, 16:30; 11, Ketarkus, MM, 16:49; 12, Traeder, MG, 16:49.
Sauk Prairie: 14, Desroches, 16:51; 20, Haas, 17:13; 37, Wankerl, 17:35; 47, Boerger, 17:48; 53, Zirbel, 18:04.
Team scores — Middleton 32; Madison West 60; Madison Memorial 82; Monona Grove 125; Waunakee 147; Verona 182; Baraboo 203; DeForest 214; Madison East 246; Reedsburg 259; Tomah 284; Sauk Prairie 307.
Top five individuals — 1, Pansegrau, Mid, 17:55; 2, Nashold, MW, 18:18; 3, Z. Malloy-Salgado, Mid, 19:09; 4, C. Greblo, MW, 19:17; 5, Cutforth, MM, 19:25.
Individual state qualifiers — 5, Cutforth, MM, 19:25; 7, Wilcox-Borg, T, 19:35; 8, Nelson, MG, 19:40; 10, Rhodes, MM, 19:44; 11, Bertz, W, 19:45.
Sauk Prairie — 43, Marquardt 21:34; 59, Radl 22:21; 61, Jurt 22:26; 67, Howard 23:02; 77, Doerre 23:52. At Lake Farm Park, 5,000 meters.
Follow Brock Fritz on Twitter @BrockFritz or contact him at 608-963-0344.