Prep cross country: Superior’s McMeekin ready to compete Saturday at Wisconsin state meet
Both Northwestern and Solon Springs/Northwood qualified their boys teams.
SUPERIOR — Superior freshman Tayler McMeekin burst onto the local running scene last fall as a freshman, running past Lake Superior Conference competition en route to a 19th-place finish at the Wisconsin Division 1 Cross Country Championships at the Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids.
While McMeekin made it look easy, it’s been anything but easy ever since as she’s dealt with injuries stemming from her growth plates still being open.
While McMeekin didn’t exactly pick up where she left off this fall, the sophomore has gradually gotten back on track and Saturday, Oct. 29, she will compete at the Wisconsin state meet for the second straight year.
“I think I am feeling ready to run,” McMeekin said. “I have been staying pretty healthy this season and of course, I am nervous, but I am excited as well to be back at state.”
The girls races start at noon (Division 3), 12:40 p.m. (Division 2) and 1:20 p.m. (Division 1) in Wisconsin Rapids, while the boys are at 2 p.m., 2:35 p.m. and 3:10 p.m., in the same divisional order.
McMeekin qualified for the state meet with a second-place finish at the Division 1 sectionals last weekend in West Salem, Wisconsin.
New Richmond sophomore Marah Benedict covered the five kilometers in 19 minutes, 32.9 seconds, while McMeekin was less than five seconds back in 19:36.2.
In a heartbreaker, Superior’s Jacob Lind missed qualifying by 5.5 seconds among boys competitors.
McMeekin’s time was slightly better than the 19:37 she posted at the Ridges last year. While every cross-country race is different, with various courses and variables, the fact she is running that well would have almost been hard to fathom early in the season.
That’s a fact not lost on the sophomore. She’s soaking this up.
“The atmosphere is very impressive (at the state meet). Just being present is a blessing,” McMeekin said. “Ultimately, my goal is to come in the top 20 again and hopefully stay in the lower 19th minute. Despite the (earlier) results, I’m proud of how far I’ve come this season.”
Tigers on the prowl
In Division 2, the Northwestern boys have qualified for the state meet for the third straight year, including captains Mark Jarman, Emmett Johnson and Ian Kalin. It will be senior Peter Kephart’s and sophomore Morgan Martens’ second trip, while freshman phenom Hunter Fredrickson has had a big impact.
Trevy Amundson rounds out the team while fellow sophomore Oscar Danz will serve as an alternate.
Meanwhile, among girls competitors, Northwestern junior Jenna Hursh qualified individually after finishing fourth at the Rice Lake Sectional in 20:04.9.
“She’s just an incredible talent,” Tigers coach Phil McGrath said. “Very coachable. She put in a ton of miles over the summer.”
In Division 3, Solon Springs/Northwood qualified its boys team for the third time in program history, and it took a bit of an upset at the Phillips Sectional last weekend as Phillips won a tight team race with 69 points, SSN was second with 73 and Grantsburg third with 78.
The Wisconsin cross country coaches’ poll had Phillips ranked fourth and Grantsburg 10th going into the race.
Ladysmith sophomore Gavin Stewart won the boys individual race in 16:55.9, with SSN junior Dylan Taggart second in 17:17.6 and sophomore teammate Isaac Dickenson fourth in 17:42.1.
“Just really proud and excited for the boys,” said coach Dale Rajala. “They are the hardest working team I’ve ever coached. They came into the season with some big goals and so far, most of them have been met.”
Taggart is a repeat state-meet qualifier, having clocked a 17:28.5 last fall in Wisconsin Rapids to finish 26th.
Isaac Dickenson, meanwhile, is the younger brother of former Solon Springs/Northwood standout Owen Dickenson, who as a senior in 2019 finished 12th at the Division 3 state meet in 16:53.6.
The program previously finished seventh of eight teams in 1991 and 14th of 16 teams in 2017.
With the likes of junior Tarver Sellwood, freshman Isaiah Ahlberg and sophomore Silas Kidder, who placed 19th, 23rd and 25th, respectively, at sectionals, the best appears yet to come for this group.
“Nobody really gave us a chance to compete for state,” Rajala said. “We didn’t mind flying under the radar (last weekend). The kids trusted their training and did everything they needed to give them a shot to qualify. We are really excited to compete at state and get another chance to run together. Our whole school and community are really proud of this team.”