In 2016, the Milton High cross country teams saw great improvement.
The Red Hawks have continued working at their craft in the offseason, head coach Syl Groeschl said.
“(After last season), I said the only way we get better depended on what our athletes are willing to do the next seven months,” Groeschl said. “I have to say that I am impressed by the number of runners who took what I said and did their best to achieve a better result this year. The races we are in are the only sign of us being better but from what I have seen over the summer it should pay off. We have most of our athletes coming back this year.”
Despite the improvement, both the girls and boys finished in sixth place at the Badger South Conference Meet. Stoughton won the girls conference title, while Monona Grove won the boys.
At the WIAA Division 1 Beloit Memorial Sectional Meet, the boys finished 10th and girls 11th out of 12 teams.
On the boys side, the Red Hawks will be without Noah Krueger, Cameron Pumilia, Gabe Sizemore and Connor Shannon, who graduated in June. Krueger, who earned all-Badger South Conference honors, ran the second-fastest time in school history (16:56.5) at sectionals. The girls lost varsity contributor Sydney Miller.
Groeschl noted that key boys returning to the team this year are: seniors Andrew Jordahl and Noah Brown; juniors Davis Turk and Brendan Harbrecht; and sophomores Devin Woodcock, Jakob Snow and Miles Stuckey.
“I know we will have a lot of races where a different boy will finish first for us. This a great thing for a coach,” Groeschl said. “Our team may not have one individual awesome runner but we will have a better overall boys team. I am excited about these guys can all accomplish.
“We have a bunch of other boys that have really practiced hard such as Matt Messer, Jacob Shepard and Mason Lebbakken, and I believe they will have a big impact on this team. We have a good strong team of young new faces and old faces that will help this team succeed.”
The girls return senior captain Lauren Talabac, who broke the school 5K record with a time of 19:51.3 and was an all-conference runner, along with: juniors Darby Schabacker, Gabrielle Pumilia and co-captain Bailey Brookhiser; and sophomores Lexi Slagle, Abby Burke, Allie Miller, Alex Rodenberg. Slagle was the most improved girl runner.
“(Talabac) has had the best summer I have ever seen her put in and I know she has her eyes on only one goal,” Groeschl said. “Bailey had a hard season last year because of injuries and this year we hope injuries don’t return.
“The good thing is our girls team has grown from only 13 members to 24 so far this year. I am still hoping for some of my great runners from middle school to come out for cross country as freshmen. There is still time for students to come out for the best sport in high school.”
The Red Hawks open their season at the Glenn Herold Cross Country Invite in Watertown at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.
“I never make promises about what will happen in a season,” Groeschl said. “We are still an infant cross country program compared to other programs in our conference and our sectionals. What I did tell (MHS activities director Brian) Hammil when I took this position is, ‘if I can’t make this program better every year, then I will step aside and let someone who can.’”