It has been a strange fall for the DeForest boys and girls cross country teams. The number of events and the style of events was drastically altered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The odd season didn’t slow down the Norski boys, as they made school history this past Saturday after qualifying to the state meet as a team for the first time since 1999.
“Having the first team to get to the state meet since 1999, with the obstacles and stresses that the season brought, was certainly a special moment,” Norski boys coach Joe Parker said. “It was made even more special with Logan (Peters) getting through and sharing the moment with coach Smith, coach McDonough as well as long time middle school coach, Kathy Gordon, and finally coach Batty, who started the program 50 years ago.”
The DeForest boys put together their best effort of the season at the WIAA Division 1 Portage Sectional, which was held at Wyona Park in Wyocena last Saturday.
The Norskies claimed the sectional title by two points over Onalaska after earning 37 team points. Onalaska finished with 39 points, followed by Holmen (73) and Dodgeville/Mineral Point (81).
“The guys really responded well to the challenge the day presented,” Parker said. “Between the course holding 6.5-inches of water in multiple spots and the competition ratcheting up, I could not have been happier to come away with the win. All told, our guys averaged an additional 4.5 second drop from the unbelievable improvements they had made last Tuesday at subsectionals on the same course that was made slower by the rain.”
DeForest received more good news when freshman Logan Peters qualified for state individually on the girls’ side. She is the first state qualifier for the Lady Norskies since 2003.
“Logan broke the ice for us,” Lady Norski coach Chris Smith said. “She made the commitment to stay with the girls she needed to race with about halfway through the race and then held off any challengers in the final mile. Looking forward to another week of practice and racing at state.”
Peters finished ninth overall to earn one of the individual qualifying spots. She had a time of 20 minutes, 27.85 seconds.
Peters was the only Lady Norski to run at the sectional meet.
Onalaska easily claimed the girls sectional title with 16 points, followed by Waunakee (74), Holmen (75) and Beaver Dam (76).
Onalaska had Kora Malecek (17:43.81), Lydia Malecek (18:58.89), Amalia Malecek (19:41.80) and Ellie Smith (19:59.05) Sweep the top four spots in the race.
The Norski boys were led at the sectional by the brother duo of Isaiah and Elijah Bauer. They placed fourth and sixth, respectively, with their times of 16:42.79 and 16:45.12.
“Isaiah and Eli really took a huge step forward in being our front runners, to high-level race front runners,” Parker said.
Onalaska’s Tyler Lee (16:27.88) won the individual boys tittle, while Sauk Prairie’s Jack Boerger (16:32.99) was second.
Korbin Eisler was the third Norski to finish the course. His time of 17:19.46 put him in 13th place.
The Norskies’ Caleb Ekezie (17:19.72) was not far behind in 16th place.
“Korbin Eisler and Caleb Ekezie continued to challenge each other for the betterment of the team,” Parker said.
Jackson Grabowski (17:51.43) was the final scoring runner for DeForest. He finished in 21st place.
Ferris Wolf (23rd, 17:59.74) and Matthew Vander Meer (28th, 18:10.89) also represented the Norskies in the race.
The Norskies hosted the subsectional at Wyona Park on Oct. 20.
The DeForest boys earned the subsectional title with 54 team points, followed by Dodgeville/Mineral Point (79), Elkhorn (80), Watertown (81), Waunakee (101), Fort Atkinson (138) and Beaver Dam (173).
The Lady Norskies finished sixth with 138 points.
“We have been trending in a positive direction for the past couple of weeks for sure, so I was pretty anxious to see how we would run at subsectionals,” Smith said. “From an individual standpoint, all seven of our runners ran their season best times. That’s outstanding when you can be firing on all cylinders in the same race. Being honest, our team placing was not where we thought we should have been. We ran without our No. 2 runner, Lydia Bauer. We could have easily been 20 points better with her racing. We can’t attribute all of the scoring challenges to missing one runner though. It’s always tough to see your seniors in their final competition but at least we’ve had competitions this fall.”
Waunakee claimed the subsectional title with 60 team points, followed by Beaver Dam (67), Dodgeville (80), Elkhorn (84), Watertown (116), DeForest and Fort Atkinson (157).
Isaiah Bauer (16:59.33) came in second overall behind Beaver Dam’s Gavin Czarnecki (16:43.84) to lead the Norski boys at the subsectional.
Elijah Bauer (17:03.92) was two spots back in fourth place.
DeForest secured the team victory after Ekezie (17:34.96), Eisler (17:34.21), Grabowski (17:39.94) and Vander Meer (17:50.02) finished in a pack in eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th place, respectively.
Wolf (17:54.12) was not far behind in 13th place.
Peters advanced to the sectional after placing sixth overall at the subsectional. She had a time of 20:30.20.
Beaver Dam’s Kylie Haackbarth (19:40.29) claimed the individual title, while Waunakee’s duo of Anna Vanderhoef (20:15.86) and Kelsey King (20:17.60) were second and third, respectively.
Grace Roth (21:23.33) had a solid race for the Lady Norskies and finished in 26th place.
The Norskies’ Carleen Snow (21:53.83) and Erica Bodden (21:55.79) placed back-to-back in 34th and 35th place, respectively.
DeForest’s Rylan Oberg (22:00.20) edged out teammate Maddie Martin (22:05.51) for 34th place.
Grace Kuiper (22:18.53) was the final runner for the Lady Norskies.
The WIAA Division 1 state meet will take place this Saturday at Arrowhead High School.