WISCONSIN RAPIDS — The primary purpose of the trip to Wisconsin Rapids was to run a cross country meet.

On a secondary level, when the Deerfield/Cambridge cross country team finished the WIAA State Cross Country Championships in ninth place with 212 points, it had gathered data and motivation to return to the meet in 2020 with its sights set on an even higher finish at The Ridges Golf Course.

Valders won the meet with 78 points after putting three runners in the top 13, all finishing under 17 minutes.

“On the way home, the boys were talking about some pretty big goals for next year,” Deerfield/Cambridge coach Matt Polzin said. “They should have , we have everybody back and will even add some kids who were injured this year that we thought would contribute. The big thing is that it’s good to have those goals, but you have to be excited about it in June when it’s time to start training.”

The ninth-place finish was the best in the history of co-op, which was incepted in 2000.

Sophomore Zach Huffman finished the race in 15th place after 16 minutes, 52.7 seconds. Huffman ran the first mile in a time of 5:11, which is a brisk pace, but fitting for the crowded, competitive state meet.

Huffman was the 10th team-affiliated runner to cross the finish line.

Senior Lucas Florsheim of Shorewood was the first team-affiliated runner to finish the race. He finished in a time of 15:58.8.

Deerfield/Cambridge juniors Jack Nikolay and Austin Trewyn-Colvin finished the first mile within five seconds of each other.

“The top three, Zach, Jack and Austin all ran a pretty good race. The one thing about The Ridges is that it gets tough in the second half,” Polzin said. “You have to get out to be in good position but you never know how to do that until you get out there. For those three, they executed it pretty flawlessly. Now the trick is doing it again, but a little bit faster.”

Nikolay finished the race in 17:04.1, which was good enough for 32nd place, and Trewyn-Colvin was the 37th runner to finish the race after he completed it in a time of 17:08.1. Finishing in the fourth and fifth position for Deerfield/Cambridge was Makhai Navarro (17:58.2) and Carter Brown (18:30.6) finished in 108th place and 134th place respectively.

None of the runners on the state-qualifying team were seniors this season.

“The nice thing about this sport is that (from year to year) most times don’t change all that much,” said Polzin looking ahead to how Deerfield/Cambridge could improve its showing at state next season. “So, for the most part, we know where they need to get. The runners for the top teams were about 20 to 30 seconds faster than our runners. That’s where they’ll need to have this level of excitement in the spring and in June.”

Physically, the Deerfield/Cambridge runners were pushed to run at paces they hadn’t been throughout the season — which is natural with the best of the state running together. To maintain that, Polzin pointed to trusty 400-meter intervals.

“If you look at it as a full mile, it might be eight seconds but if you look at it 400 meters at a time, it’s only two seconds,” Polzin said. “If we’re running 400-meter repeats, it’s easier for those kids to know that it’s only two seconds in 400 meters if you do the math.”

And now that they’ve pushed themselves at state, they know they’ve got faster times in the tank.

“They’re not that far away, but it’s another level up,” Polzin said. “Like anything, I think it’s confidence. The way they ran gives them confidence that they can run even faster and it’s exciting for sure.”

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