Back to stateTiger boys make fourth consecutive trip to state meet, girls make third trip in four years
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
The streak continues for Northwestern High School.
The Tigers made a clean sweep Friday afternoon as both the boys and girls cross country teams won their races at the Division 2 sectional meet in Barron.
Northwestern now advances to the WIAA Division 2 state meet Saturday at Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids, which marks the fourth consecutive trip to state for the boys and the third trip in four years for the girls.
Representing the boys will be seniors Ryan Lind, Ty Rankin, Kyle Rautio and Travis Sznaider; and juniors Bret Little, Mason Lombard and Josiah Vik. Nathan Markon, a senior, is the alternate for the boys team.
Running for the Tiger girls are seniors Jordan Johnson, Tess Nelson and Angela Snow; sophomores Kelly Erkkila, Carmen Ormston and Michaela Ruhman; and freshman Emma Nelson. Freshman Anna Kalin is the Tiger girls alternate.
The Division 2 boys race begins at 11:40 a.m. Saturday and the Division 2 girls race begins at 1:40 p.m.
When the Northwestern boys advanced to state last year, they claimed the sectional title over Ashland by just one point.
This year Tigers won their third straight sectional crown by a more comfortable margin.
“They set their goals early in the season, and they knew where they wanted to go,” said Phil McGrath, head coach of the Tigers. “They love competing and they love doing well, but they’re all pretty humble guys. They just go out there and do their thing.”
Six runners finished in the top 14 for the Tiger boys at Friday’s sectional meet, and the Tigers won with a team score of 38. Ashland, also advancing to state for a fourth consecutive year, finished 65 points back in second place.
“We kind of knew that it was going to be a battle between a few teams,” Rankin said.
“Ashland’s always got a pretty good team,” Sznaider said. “We knew they were going to be there, and we knew Bryce (Miller) was going to be good, but we weren’t too sure of the team.”
Miller, who finished eighth overall last year at state, won the sectional race in a time of 15:53.5. No other Ashland runners placed within the top 10.
Lind led the Tiger boys with a second-place finish in 16:22. He was followed by Lombard in sixth, Sznaider in eight, Rautio in tenth and Rankin in 12th.
“The past two years that I’ve been on varsity going to state, we’ve all been running in a pack,” Rankin said.
Each runner pushes the next to go faster, said Markon, a team captain. He was an alternate for the Tigers at the sectional race and watched as Northwestern pulled away to victory.
“It was great to watch the team coming in, seeing our top guys way up there in the front,” Markon said.
To him it was clear no other teams would come close to the Tigers, but his teammates in the race weren’t aware of their advantage.
“I think we weren’t too focused on if we were going to dominate during the race, we were more focused on the task,” Sznaider said. “Just making sure that we did what we had to do and then worrying about the results later.”
The results show one of the most commanding wins in years for the Tiger boys.
John Woodbury, who coached the Tigers from 1979 to 2011, was on hand to watch Friday’s sectional race. He led the Tiger boys to multiple sectional titles and a second-place finish at state in 1981, but even he was stunned by this year’s sectional race.
“We had five of our guys in the top 12 spots, and he said he’s never seen a team that strong before,” McGrath said. “His first sectional title was in like 1977, so it’s been a while.”
At state, the Tigers are hoping to break into the top five teams. They’ve made steady progress toward that goal since finishing 14th in 2009. The Tigers cut 10 points from their team score to move up to 13th in 2010, and last season they jumped three more places to take 10th.
“I think a lot of teams, they’ve got one or two or three good kids, but we have such depth on our team,” Markon said. “There’s just no other team in our conference or section that has that depth.”
At state, the Tigers will face stronger competition.
Wisconsin Lutheran, the defending Division 2 boys champion, returns three runners from last year’s team. Shorewood, which placed third in 2011, returns four of its runners and is expected to contend for its third title in four years.
For seniors Johnson, Tess Nelson and Snow, the course in Wisconsin Rapids is very familiar.
Johnson is running in her fourth state race, and Nelson and Snow are competing for the third time each.
“Freshman year I never thought this day would come,” Snow said. “Now I’m kind of sad — we’ll be running our last race.”
All three seniors have competed at state for Northwestern since they were freshmen. The Tiger girls finished eighth that year, and in 2010 the team returned to state and took sixth.
In 2011, girls fell just short in their bid for a third consecutive trip to state. They finished behind Rice Lake and Bloomer at sectionals — one place away from another state berth.
Johnson, who placed second in the race, qualified for state as an individual.
“I went last year by myself and it just wasn’t the same,” Johnson said. “Having the whole girls team there will be nice.”
The Tigers put together their best race of the season Friday at Barron to return to the Division 2 state meet.
“At the sectional, the girls gave everything they had,” McGrath said. “Going in, I thought we’d be second to Rice Lake. Rice Lake beat us at the Griak by a pretty good margin, and I knew we had to beat Osceola.”
Both Rice Lake and Osceola defeated Northwestern at the Roy Griak Invitational in September. Osceola finished one place and one point ahead of Northwestern with 611 points, and Rice Lake took 15th place with 515 points.
At Friday’s race, the Tigers arrived in Barron prepared to battle Osceola for second place. But Northwestern started off strong, and McGrath soon saw the Tigers had a chance to win.
“At the end of the race all of the girls were crying before they knew (the results) because they just gave everything in the race,” McGrath said. “And they were completely elated when the results came in.”
The Tiger girls edged out Rice Lake 57-61 to win the sectional title. Osceola finished well back in fourth, and Amery took third with 116 points.
“I think we all just had the drive to push ourselves because we wanted it as a team,” Johnson said.
“Everyone stepped up,” Nelson said. “Everyone set personal records by a lot, like 30 to 40 seconds.”
Johnson won the girls sectional race in a time of 14:56.9 and was the only runner to finish in less than 15 minutes. She holds the fastest qualifying time among Division 2 girls heading into the state meet.
“It doesn’t really put a lot of pressure on me,” Johnson said. “Our sectional is a fast course, so I wouldn’t base anything off of that.”
Johnson finished 19th of 152 runners at last year’s state meet.
Only three runners who placed in the top 10 at the 2011 Division 2 state meet return this year, led by Kristen Linzmeier of Chilton, who took fifth.
TIGER TALES: The Tigers had strong crowd support at Friday’s meet. Northwestern’s volleyball players made the trip to Barron and brought cowbells, megaphones and signs to cheer on the Tiger runners. “We had our own cheering section,” McGrath said. “It was great. We were really appreciative of that.”
Division 2 Sectional Meet
at Barron High School
Friday, Oct. 19
1. Maple-Northwestern, 38; 2. Ashland, 103; 3. Unity/Luck, 118; 4. St. Croix Central, 152; 5. Amery, 155; 6. Hayward, 170; 7. St. Croix Falls, 207; 8. Somerset, 215; 9. Baldwin-Woodville, 243; 10. Rice Lake, 244; 11. Barron, 244; 12. Osceola, 279; 13. Bloomer, 286; 14. Spooner, 352.
(field of 100)
1. Bryce Miller, Ashland, 15:53.5; 2. Ryan Lind, Northwestern, 16:22.0; 3. Nathan Tripp, Rice Lake, 16:29.0; 4. Daniel Pederson, Spooner, 16:31.8; 5. Henry Klein, St. Croix Falls, 16:49.9; 6. Mason Lombard, Northwestern, 17:04.2; 7. Clint Heinze, Bloomer, 17:11.4; 8. Travis Sznaider, Northwestern, 17:19.5; 9. Martin Coulondre, Hayward, 17:19.9; 10. Kyle Rautio, Northwestern, 17:30.6; 12. Ty Rankin, Northwestern 17:35.7; 14. Josiah Vik, Northwestern 17:42.5; 50. Bret Little, Northwestern 18:46.0.
1. Northwestern, 57; 2. Rice Lake, 61; 3. Amery, 116; 4. Osceola, 124; 5. Bloomer, 148; 6. Ashland, 150; 7. Hayward, 184; 8. Baldwin-Woodville, 190; 9. St. Croix Falls, 224; 10. St. Croix Central, 276; 11. Barron, 300; 12. Somerset, 306; 13. Spooner, 354; 14. Cumberland, 384; 15. Unity/Luck, 387.
(field of 98)
1. Jordan Johnson, Northwestern, 14:56.9; 2. Harley Kinney, Ashland, 15:20.3; 3. Mckenzie Fortier, Osceola, 15:26.1; 4. Emma Nelson, Northwestern, 15:33.8; 5. Chelsea Tremblay, Hayward, 15:41.4; 6. Sophie Klein, St. Croix Falls, 15:43.7; 7. Mickie Gearin, Osceola, 15:48.6; 8. Maya Kamrath, Rice Lake, 15:49.9; 9. Alicia Monson, Amery, 15:53.3; 10. Maddie Carlsen, Rice Lake, 15:53.4; 13. Carmen Ormston, Northwestern, 16:03.2; 14. Michaela Ruhman, Northwestern, 16:09.3; 25. Tess Nelson, Northwestern, 16:50.6; 26. Kelly Erkkila, Northwestern, 16:51.7; 31. Angela Snow, Northwestern ,17:00.6.