Coming off their strongest races of the year so far, both Milton cross country teams came into the River Valley Invite strong. And while the results may say otherwise, each runner on the team had a year-best time.

“We had 14 people running at River Valley,” head coach Syl Groeschl said. “I was very impressed by their results but what I was most impressed by was the number of athletes who didn’t run that came along anyway to cheer on their teammates. I know some of our runners had other plans made and really good reasons why they couldn’t go. This is more about the ones who could have come up with excuses and they didn’t. Their team unity I have been trying to push the past three-plus years is happening now and it makes me believe they are understanding what the true meaning of team is.”

Girls

Overall, the girls took third out of 16 teams in the large school division with 108 points and fifth out of 30 teams overall.

“The big schools division was very impressive in this meet,” Groeschl said. “(The girls) were only four points out of second place.”

The Red Hawks had three runners earn medals. Mara Talabac took fourth with a time of 20:33.63, Alayna Borgwardt took 17th with 21:37.46 and Samantha Henry finished 18th with 21:40.36. Samantha Benson finished one spot short of medaling in 21st place with a time of 21:49.18.

“Darby Schabacker (53rd, 23:05.92), Anneka Dorn (78th, 23:37.27) and Allie Miller (98th, 24:22.36) brought in impressive times of their own,” Groeschl said. “Allie has been dealing with some painful hip issues, but it never stops her from doing the best she can possibly do. She is probably one of the hardest workers I have been around in cross country.”

Groeschl said that even though they had three girls place for medals, it was still heavily a team affair.

“In cross country the first five spots on a team of seven are scored for the event. These three girls and others on the team know it is their job to bring that fifth position as close to the first four positions as possible,” he said. “You can be very good as an individual, but it is about all seven positions that make a school a running school. I am trying to make us a running school. As a coach you are always lucky to have one or two gifted runners. They are going to be good because they just are. We have a bunch of girls who are determined to be the best they can be so the whole team is better.”

Boys

In the large school division, the boys took 10th from 18 teams with 226 points and finished 13th out of 38 overall.

“Even our boys team is excelling this year,” Groeschl said. “Most of them wish their times were better. If they didn’t, I would question their reason to race. Having all seven boys under 20 minutes is a milestone for us. We are way ahead of last year, but we have a lot of work ahead yet.”

Devin Woodcock led the way for the Red Hawks with a time of 17:30.67 to finish in 20th. Davis Turk took 47th with a time of 18:50.74. Matthew Messer (51st, 18:55.46), Travis Smith (52nd, 18:56.09) and Trey Smith (56th, 18.57.24) all finished within two seconds of each other. Miles Stuckey (69th, 19:41.78) and Reider Snow (71st, 19:42.06) rounded out the Red Hawks.

“Devin went into the 17-minute time zone where we need all of our boys to be,” Groeschl said. “To be competitive in this sport you have to be under 18 minutes. Davis Turk, Matt Messer, Travis Smith and Trey Smith finally broke the 19-minute mark. It seems that once you jump over a hurdle the next one seems more in reach. Miles Stuckey and Reider Snow also broke the own 20-minute hurdle so now they can move onto the next one. I guarantee these boys are focused to do so.”

Badger Challenge

Competing in the Badger Challenge, the girls finished in 8th while the boys took 14th.

The girls split their runners between the freshman/sophomore division and the junior/senior division.

Talabac led Milton with a time of 21:29.6, taking fourth in the fresh/soph division. Henry (21.59.7, 14th) and Borgwardt (22:28.0, 20th) also were in that division.

Schabacker finished fourth for Milton with 23:52.4 to take 42nd over in the junior/senior division.

Benson rounded out the Red Hawks with a time of 23:56.8 to take 43rd in the fresh/soph divison.

Opposite of the girls, the boys had all their top 5 placing runners in the junior/senior division.

Woodcock led the Red Hawks with 18:11.9 for 21st overall, followed by Travis Smith (19:04.9, 41st), Turk (19:05.9, 42nd), Messer (19:18.1, 48th), and Alex Pember (19:30.4, 53rd).

In the fresh/soph race, Trey Smith placed with 23rd-place finish in 19:31.

Milton next competes Saturday at Belleville.

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