In 2018, a nervous Emma Bertz didn’t quite know what to expect at the WIAA Cross Country State Championship.

Fast forward to 2019, the Waunakee senior went into state for her second consecutive race in Wisconsin Rapids with more experience, more knowledge of the course and a strategy with the goal of running her best race of the year.

WIAA Cross Country State Championship

By posting a season-best time of 19:28.9, Bertz did exactly that, cutting nearly nine seconds off her previous fastest time of the season.

“I went with the flow…” said Bertz. “I tried to really use the uphills and drive my arms… and Coach Raffel said to really open up my stride on the downhills, which really helped.”

Bertz got stronger and stronger as the race went on. After the first mile, she was in 49th place out of a field of 189 runners. When she crossed the two-mile mark, Bertz had gained seven spots, moving up to 42nd place. The final 1.1 miles of the race saw her pass runner after runner; she jumped another eight spots to cross the line in 34th place.

This year’s 34th-place finish marks a jump of 32 spots from last year, when the then-junior finished in 66th.

“The training that I put in [was the difference],” said Bertz. “I put in a lot more training during the summer. I did a lot of extra mileage – probably more than I should have – but I think it paid off.”

Her 19:28.9 time bested last year’s mark by nearly 34 seconds, ending the cross country season with a bang. Though she ran as an individual on the course, Bertz was joined in Wisconsin Rapids by a large portion of her teammates for the final race of the year.

“It felt really, really amazing,” Bertz added. “I was so happy that so many people came out to support. It made the experience so much better.”

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