The way the season ended for the Milton High cross country teams will always leave a sour taste in head coach Syl Groeschl’s mouth.
The boys finished seventh at the Badger South Conference Meet and 10th of 12 teams at the WIAA Division 1 Watertown Sectional Meet. The girls also finished seventh in conference, and took 11th place at sectionals.
“The season was OK but we are a long way from where we need to be,” Groeschl said. “The crash and burn at the end is still ridiculous … I would give myself an ‘F’ for the season. The complete failure of my teams at sectionals will burn for a long time. I believe we team bonded and hopefully that will help in the future.”
Despite the tough finishes, there were many highlights to remember from the season for each team.
Highlighting the boys season was the varsity team’s second-place finish at the Ladish Invite in East Troy. At the same invite, the junior varsity runners finished atop the competition.
“It was an exciting bus ride home,” senior Jonathan Connor said. “There were lots of cheers and good times.”
For the girls, sophomore Lauren Talabac, who switched from swimming her freshman year to cross country, had multiple top finishes, most notably winning the freshman/sophomore race at the Midwest Invite in Janesville and placing second at the conference meet to earn first-team all-conference honors.
“Lauren was a great runner because of her work ethic,” Groeschl said. “She started early in June and continued to progress.”
Also earning all-conference honors was junior Noah Krueger. He placed 14th and was a second-team selection.
“Noah will continue to get better because he is a ‘runner,’” Groeschl said. “He knows we have to get him in the 16s and he is prepared to do the work to get there.”
Talabac and Krueger were named the most valuable runners on the team.
The teams are losing a combined 11 seniors. Groeschl said they all had some impact on the teams but Connor and Brynn Lunaas, who qualified for state as a sophomore, will be missed because of their leadership during the season.
Athletes who earned varsity letters included: seniors Olivia Rigg, Taryn Rowley, Jackson Van Den Heuvel, Owen Peroutka-Kress, Lunaas and Connor; juniors Sydney Miller, Nico Pusateri, Andrew Davis, Cameron Pumilia, Connor Shannon, Ethan Schabacker and Krueger; sophomores Allison Peterson, Mady Moxley, Kate Westrick, Grace Rodenberg, Jack Barrette, Andrew Jordahl and Talabac; and freshmen Bailey Brookhiser, Darby Schabacker, Davis Turk and Josh Cash.
Lunaas (season-best time of 22:12) and Van Den Heuvel (19:17) were named the outstanding senior runners. Krueger (17:22) and Miller (22:57) were selected as the best junior runners.
Talabac (20:02) and Jordahl (17:59) were named the best sophomore runners. Talabac’s best run set the new program record, breaking Michelle Kraus’ 2014 record of 20:05.
Turk (18:37) and Darby Schabacker (22:13) were the outstanding freshmen runners.
Brookhiser and Mason Lebakken earned the coaches’ award for outstanding work ethic. Gabrielle Pumilia and Casey Brandt were named the most improved runners.
Lunaas and Connor were captains, and Davis, Rowley, Rigg and Ethan Schabacker were co-captains.
Connor was also the recipient of the Red Hawk award. According to Groeschl, the award is the biggest and goes to the individual who shows the most school spirit, but more importantly, team leadership.
“All other awards are second to this one,” Groeschl said.
Connor, who missed much of the year with a hip flexor strain, said he was shocked to win the award, which includes a $500 scholarship.
“It totally caught me off guard, but it’s amazing,” Connor said. “I’m so grateful. Groeschl is a great coach, so I really appreciate him and all that he has done and is going to do for the Milton cross country program.”
Connor said spaghetti dinners is what he will miss the most about being part of the Milton High cross country program.
“I feel like if you asked any cross country runner, it would be spaghetti dinners. Just hanging out with the family,” Connor said.