Although the team results from the Badger South Conference Meet might not directly show it, head coach Syl Groeschl feels his Milton High boys and girls cross country teams are heading into WIAA postseason action on a high note.
The girls team finished in sixth out of seven conference teams with 149 points on Saturday in Stoughton. The host Vikings dominated the girls race with 32 points with all five of their contributing runners finishing in the top 15.
The boys tied for sixth place with Fort Atkinson with 161 points as Monona Grove won the conference title with 29 points. The Silver Eagles’ five scoring runners finished in the top-11 places.
“As a team, we climbed one rung on the ladder in the Badger South,” Groeschl said. “There are seven rungs and it is going to take time to get to that last rung. I can’t say when that is going to happen, but when I can’t move the team up the ladder, then I need to step aside and let someone better than me do it.”
The Red Hawks finished with two all-conference runners: Lauren Talabac for the girls and Noah Krueger for the boys. Talabac placed ninth individually with a time of 20 minutes and 32.7 seconds. Krueger was 14th with a time of 17:29.3.
Factoring into the girls team score with Talabac were: Mady Moxley (30th, 22:27.9), Abby Burke (34th, 22:40.1), Allie Miller (37th, 22:47.5) and Lexi Slagle (40th, 22:56.4).
“Our girls team had five girls under 23 minutes, which is awesome compared to last year, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Groeschl said. “Good thing is we have a very young team to work with. We have a lot of freshman and sophomores who are going to make a huge difference next year.”
Alex Rodenberg (24:06), Darby Schabacker (24:06.7) and Sydney Miller (24:42.1) also competed in the varsity girls race.
Also contributing to the boys team score along with Krueger were: Cameron Pumilia (29th, 18:12), Davis Turk (39th, 18:30.3), Devin Woodcock (40th, 18:42.9) and Jakob Snow (43rd, 18:52.9).
“Our boys team produced five runners under 19 minutes, which hasn’t happened since 2009,” Groeschl said.
Miles Stuckey (19:25.6), Noah Brown (19:56) and Connor Shannon (21:15.7) also raced in the boys varsity lineup.
Groeschl said he was also proud of a couple of junior varsity runners: Mark Daane and Elizabeth Patrick. He said Daane had been chasing a goal of under 27 minutes this year, which he accomplished on Saturday with a 26:56. Patrick wanted to break the 30 minute mark and did so with a time of 29:55.
“The coaches on this team aren’t only interested in the top eight or nine runners,” Groeschl said. “We want to help every runner do the best they can do. This is what makes cross country stand out from all other sports.”
Groeschl also said he is excited to keep bringing up young talent from the youth team, which has had “outstanding success” this year.
The Red Hawks next race at WIAA Division 1 Beloit Memorial Sectional Meet, which begins with the boys race at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Leeson Park in Beloit.
Groeschl said he wanted to point out a few things to the people who won’t give either Milton team a chance to compete for a berth at the state meet.
“I have 16 runners and three coaches that disagree,” Groeschl said. “Back in 2010, I was coaching Fennimore and the odds were set against my team. We were ranked 11th out of 19 teams in the sectional. My team wasn’t even ranked at the state level.
“Well, I had seven girls who decided that everybody was wrong. All seven girls ran the race of their careers and took second overall and went to state and finished fifth there. I had a Milton boy in 2007 who wasn’t all-conference and was told by a lot of people that he didn’t have a prayer. Well, Cody (Brown) decided they were all wrong and he ran the best race of his career and went to state.
“I can give other examples, but everybody needs to know that in cross country, it isn’t over until the last race is over. I have a team that believes cross country isn’t over until Oct. 29 (the date of the state meet).”