Emma Bertz

Emma Bertz sprints to the finish line during Saturday’s race at Lake Farm County Park. Her finish of 19:45.3 was good for 11th place, one of the five individual-qualifying spots for the WIAA State Cross Country Championship.

For the second year in a row, Waunakee’s Emma Bertz will finish her season at the WIAA State Cross Country Championship.

Bertz and the Waunakee cross country teams competed at the Madison West Sectional on Saturday morning against runners from 11 other schools with hopes of qualifying for state.

WIAA Sectional Meet

Needing to place in the top two to qualify as a team, both the boys and girls had their work cut out for them in order to claim a spot.

The girls ran in the first race of the day, and the top runner from both Middleton and Madison West quickly separated themselves from the pack. Bertz remained in the pack behind the two leaders, ensuring she’d be in the mix for one of the five individual spots for state.

“She ran a great race; she was right up there from the get-go,” said Waunakee’s Head Coach Heather Raffel. That’s a very fast race. You’ve got so many good teams.”

With the Middleton and Madison West teams outpacing the field, Bertz’s 11th-place finish of 19:45.3 claimed one of the five individual spots.

“It feels amazing,” said Bertz of making a return trip to Wisconsin Rapids for the second season in a row. “I’m so humbled to be able to have this experience.”

Waunakee’s scorers behind Bertz in the girls’ race were Warren Ambord in 31st (21:00.5), Jordyn Jarvi in 32nd (21.04.8), Brinley Everson in 36th (21:23.9) and Jenna Schiffman in 37th (21:24.6).

“Jordyn ran her best race this season, Brinley ran great, Jenna had a PR in the last race of her senior year…” added Raffel. “They did great considering the circumstances and how fast that race was going to be.”

Waunakee’s final two finishers were Kelsey King in 39th (21:29.0) and Anne Dotzler in 53rd (22:01.2). As a team, the girls took fifth out of 12, scoring 147 points.

Next up, the boys were hoping to make some noise in their race.

“They wanted to go out and compete,” said Raffel. “At the back end, they started to lose a little bit of gas.”

Drew Regnier was Waunakee’s fastest finisher, crossing the line in 45th place with a time of 17:46.3. Scoring behind him were Coleson Lincoln in 51st (17:55.6), Todd Niles in 55th (18:07.5), Evan Voge in 57th (18:11.6) and Baylor Smith in 64th (18:16.9).

Voge – one of two seniors in the boys’ lineup – was gunning for an individual qualifier spot after posting a personal record at last week’s conference race; a fast start put him within striking distance early.

“Evan was going for broke; he told me beforehand he was going to try to qualify…” added Raffel. “The last half mile, he just didn’t have anything left. He put so much into the front part of it.”

Waunakee’s final two finishers were Alex Korth in 67th (18:18.4) and Trenton Niles in 76th (19:03.6). The boys wound up in 11th place, just 11 behind 10th-place Baraboo.

Waunakee’s JV runners also competed in their final race of the season this past week, running at the Meet of Future Champions/JV State on Thursday.

Darya Pronina was the top finisher for the girls, coming in 26th place with a time of 21:58.1, while Paul Busse posted the fastest finish for the boys, crossing the line 28th with a finish of 18:04.0.

“It was an awesome race for us…” Raffel said of the JV State Meet. “Some of them had minute personal records; it was incredible.”

For Bertz, the season continues one more week. With the experience of running at state last year in her back pocket, Bertz hopes to be able to lean on her familiarity with the course to improve on her 66th-place finish a year ago.

“Last year, I was really nervous…” said Bertz. “I’m going to be a little more prepared, knowing the course. I know it’s really hilly, so I’ll try to use that.”

The final race of the season for Bertz is scheduled to start at 12:40 p.m. on Saturday at Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids.

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