Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 season will look different for the Poynette girls and boys cross country teams, but long-time coach Kevin Frehner is approaching the season like the past.
“The main goals we have every year are to be our best in October and give the kids an experience that they will remember fondly,” Frehner said.
Among the changes this season, the Capitol Conference has canceled all conference competitions and championships.
“We have had to change our schedule, our practice routine, and many of the outside of practice activities that make our program so fun,” Frehner said. “However, we have great kids who are still fun to be around. I just told our kids this week how proud I am of them for sticking with this season despite the changes. There are still many questions regarding the end of the season and what opportunities there will be for our kids.”
Last season, the Poynette boys came in second at the Capitol Conference Meet, while the Lady Pumas were third.
Both Puma squads were fourth at the WIAA Boscobel Sectional.
The Poynette boys will use their depth to run past the competition in 2020. They return seven letter winners.
“We also have two first-team all-conference runners returning,” Frehner said. “While we do not have the same caliber frontrunner we had the last two years with Elias Ritzke’s graduation, the improvement of our returning runners could make us a stronger team in the
end. We should also have a very strong JV team with a handful of runners who would be varsity runners at most Division 3 schools in the state.”
Juniors Tucker Johnson and Trent Sickenberger lead the list of returning varsity runners for the Puma boys. Both earned first-team all-conference honors after placing sixth and seventh, respectively, at the conference meet.
Senior Adam Hehl and juniors Trent Chadwick, Cater Hansen, Cash Stewart and Austin Kruger also return after earning letters last season.
Chadwick placed 16th at the conference meet, while Hansen was 18th. Stewart and Hehl claimed the top two spots in the Junior Varsity Capitol Conference race. Kruger missed last season with an injury.
Sophomore Isaiah Gauer is back after earning the team’s Rookie of the Year award. He was fourth in the conference JV race.
Adding depth for the Pumas this season is Matthew Bartz (Sr.), Dayne Bednarik (So.), Tanis Crawford (Fr.), Dominic Graeme (So.), Garret Johnson (So.), Wyatt McLaughlin (So.), Lucas Prince (So.) and Gabe Tobin (So.).
The Lady Pumas have a lot of talent at the top of their lineup, but will need to fill some holes.
“We are very strong up front with Katelyn Chadwick,” Frehner said. We also have good experience coming back with Felicia Ritzke and Megan Reddeman. How our 4-7 runners develop over the season will determine how much our team accomplishes.”
Chadwick, a senior, returns after a remarkable junior season. The three-time state qualifier placed third at the state meet last season and placed second at the conference meet. She won a conference title in 2018.
Reddeman (Sr.) and Ritzke (So.) placed 27th and 28th, respectively, at the conference meet last season. Reddeman is a three-year letter winner.
Frehner is also excited about senior Sydney Tobin and junior Kennedy Pafford. Tobin is a two-year letter winner, while Pafford missed most of last season with an injury.
The Lady Pumas’ roster also includes Gracie Bergeman (So.), Ava Brickson (So.), Whisper Erickson (Jr.), Maddie Lee (Fr.), Emma McGlynn (So.), Isabella Morales (Jr.), Maddie Morton (Jr.), Hope Ninmann (Jr.), Hazel Ruckle (So.), Sydney Small (Sr.) and Abby Stalbaum (Jr.).
There are a lot of unknowns surrounding the season because of the pandemic, but Frehner is confident his team will handle whatever is thrown their way.
“We have great kids with great attitudes,” Frehner said. “They also like to work hard and compete. It is a group that likes to be around each other, despite the amount of running we do. Many kids are happy to be out for a sport, around their friends, and back to something normal after the craziness of losing those things last spring. I think that goes for the coaches, as well.”