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Prep girls cross country: Sun Prairie facing a challenge in its quest for a third consecutive state title

August 29, 2018

Sun Prairie's Autumn Dushack runs to a seventh-place finish at the 2017 WIAA Division 1 state cross country meet, helping the Cardinals win a second consecutive state title. She returns to lead this year's team in its bid for a third consecutive title.

PRESEASON AREA RANKINGS

1, Sun Prairie; 2, Stoughton; 3, Janesville Craig; 4, Waunakee; 5, Madison West; 6, Wisconsin Dells; 7, Verona; 8, Marshall; 9, Jefferson; 10, Middleton.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

Sectional shift: Only the top two teams in each WIAA sectional meet qualify for team state, so a lot of attention is paid when the WIAA makes tweaks to its sectional assignments. There’s a new Division 1 list this year, and it has placed three-time Badger South Conference champion Stoughton in the Wales Kettle Moraine sectional to battle two-time defending state champ Sun Prairie and four other Big Eight Conference teams. “(It) will push us as a team,” Vikings coach Susan Zaemisch said.

Going for the triple: Sun Prairie has won the last two WIAA Division 1 state team championships, and while the incredibly deep Cardinals are certainly in the conversation to win a third, coach Matt Roe believes this year’s title chase might be the most challenging of the three. Five runners were lost to graduation, and a couple of other teams around the state seem to be gearing up for peak years. Still, the Cardinals are packed with enough talent to make a credible run at a three-peat.

Marshall on the move: Jeff Looze is looking forward to a big season with his Cardinals, who won the Capitol South Conference last year, ran to a third-place finish in the WIAA Division 3 state meet … and return all seven of their top runners this year. The depth of talent and experience also comes with an unusual level of cohesiveness, the coach said — making the Cardinals a potential challenger for the state title this fall.

RUNNERS TO WATCH

Laura Beghin, jr., Wisconsin Dells: Beghin has only one more rung to climb up the Wisconsin cross country ladder. She finished second in the WIAA Division 2 state meet each of her first two years, and last fall led the Chiefs to a runner-up team finish. She missed most of track season with an injury that has limited her training miles over the summer, but expects to be ready for another late push.

Katelyn Chadwick, jr., Poynette: Finished third in the Capitol North Conference race (20:02), helping the Pumas take second, and qualified individually for the Division 3 state meet, taking 35th in 20:57.

Jada Donaldson, so., Beaver Dam: Took fourth in the Badger North Conference meet last year (20:23) and was 90th at Division 1 state (20:14).

Autumn Dushack, jr., Sun Prairie: Really, every Sun Prairie varsity runner qualifies as a runner to watch this fall, but Dushack tops the list. She won the junior-senior race in the Saturday’s Jamie Block Invitational in West Bend (19:57). Last fall, she took seventh at Division 1 state (18:45) and was third in the Big Eight race (18:47). She’ll be joined in the front of the pack by junior Hannah Ray and senior Maddie Thompson and sophomore Kate Kopotic.

Lauren Haas, so., Fort Atkinson: After finishing second in the Badger South Conference meet as a freshman (20:00), Haas ran to 36th at Division 1 state (19:42).

Reagan Hoopes, sr., Waunakee: Hoopes enjoyed a banner junior year, winning individual cross country titles in Badger North and WIAA sectional meets and taking 74th at Division 1 state (20:07). She also took seventh in the 3,200 and ninth in the 1,600 during the track season.

Claire Huggett, sr., Marshall: Finished 14th in the Division 3 state meet last year, leading the Cardinals to a third-place team finish, and won the Capitol South Conference individual title while helping Marshall win the league title.

Mariah Linse, sr., Jefferson: Won the Rock Valley individual title (19:57) and turned on the jets in the posteason, taking sixth at Division 2 state (19:32). Also a standout track athlete.

Lauren Winslow, so., Lake Mills: Took second to now-graduated teammate Kayli Buchli in the Capitol North Conference meet (19:45), helping the L-Cats win the title, and again finished one spot behind Buchli at Division 2 state, taking 16th (20:03).

Anna Wozniak, sr., Stoughton: The defending Badger South Conference individual champion (19:59), Wozniak finished 50th at Division 1 state last fall (19:54).

CONFERENCE CAPSULES

BIG EIGHT

Coaches’ picks: 1, Sun Prairie; 2, Janesville Craig; 3, Madison West, Verona.

Janesville Craig lost conference and WIAA Division 1 state champ Peyton Sippy to graduation, but the Cougars have a strong group of returnees eager to blaze a new trail this fall. Six return from last year’s WIAA Division 1 fourth-place team. Among those back are juniors Lauren Shanks (39th at state, 19:44), Gabriella Petruzzello (73rd, 20:07), Ellie Lorenz (79th, 20:10) and Madalyn Arrowood (89th, 20:14) and sophomores Clare Hulick (76th, 20:09) and Cambria Thompson (153rd, 21:10).

Janesville Parker has its hopes set on challenging for a spot in the upper half of the league standings, with a focus on individual improvement. Senior Catie Gage was 11th at conference last fall, junior Rachel Howell returns after missing last year with an injury, and senior Brooke Graesslin and junior Lexie Schroeder finished in the top 50 at conference last fall.

Madison East has a new coach in Matthew Peters, and a talented group of freshmen whom Peters believes can help the Purgolders move up from last year’s ninth-place finish in the conference. Top returnees are Rachel Hughes and Evelyn Betts.

Madison La Follette coach Matt Krall welcomes back senior twins Elli Hosokawa and Erika Hosokawa and sophomores Zella Milfred and Nyah Lues after last year’s team placed seventh in the conference.

Madison Memorial finished sixth in the Big Eight last fall, but expects the return of most of its top seven runners, including seniors Claire Reed and Alkyana Enemuoh, sophomore Natalie Rhodes and juniors Isabel Eigenberger and Sylvia Greene.

Madison West, which took third in the league and ninth at Division 1 state last fall, lost leader Vivian Hacker to graduation but expects the return of senior Andi Bowman (12th in the Big Eight meet and 43rd at state last year), juniors Kristina Rohrer, Ella Kunstman, Grace Weigl and Sophia Miller-Grande, and senior Carson Drury.

Third-year Middleton coach Alexa Richardson is expecting a big year, because of a hard-working and deep group led by returning state meet qualifier Megan Schwartz, a junior. Maeve Gonter returns after being sidelined last season with a stress fracture. Junior Elizabeth Engle also returns. Richardson welcomes an exceptional group of freshmen, including Erin Gonter, Lauren Pansegrau, Megan Frantz, Julie Toeresani, Maddie Ruszkiewicz and Grace Winkleman.

Sun Prairie has been all but unstoppable while winning the last two WIAA Division 1 state titles. Again, Coach Matt Roe’s Cardinals are packed with a huge number of determined, talented runners, led by junior Autumn Dushack (third in the Big Eight and seventh at state last year), sophomore Kate Kopotic (sixth and 12th), senior Maddie Thompson (fifth and 24th)

Verona will be led by sophomore Anna Knueve, who opened the season with a fourth-place finish in the Jamie Block Invitational in Watertown. The Wildcats’ talented and young crew also will include juniors Abby Wampfler, Leah Remiker, Jamie Hogan and Lucinda Bakken, freshman Emma Petta and senior Caroline Bobb.

BADGER NORTH

Coaches’ picks: 1, Waunakee; 2, DeForest; 3, Beaver Dam.

Baraboo’s top returnee is expected to be sophomore Venna Krayer, who was 25th in the Badger North meet last fall (22:19).

Beaver Dam finished only four points behind Waunakee in the race for the Badger North title last year, and returns a solid group to take on the Warriors and the rest of the North. The leaders will be sophomores Angelique Vega and Jada Donaldson (fourth in last year’s conference meet) and freshman Corey Gundert.

DeForest is expected to return three runners who placed in the top nine in the conference meet last year: Sophomore Maddie Martin (third, 20:18) and seniors Katelyn Fox (21:00) and Ashley Cass (21:06).

Mount Horeb is expected to return sophomore Anna Ollendick, seventh in last year’s conference meet (20:58), and junior Emma Van Orsel, who took 16th (21:42).

Portage is expected to return sophomores Hanna Garetson and Aubrey Rietmann and senior Hunter Warzecha.

Reedsburg returns Caylee Fry, a junior who was 17th in the conference meet last year (21:52).

Sauk Prairie returns three runners from last year’s team, which took fifth in the Badger North. Back are sophomores Mabel Schneller, Emily Herbrand and Cassie Radl. Freshman Trinity Doerre hopes to make an impact.

Waunakee is the favorite in the North, despite the loss of eight runners to graduation. Back at the front of the pack, though, is senior Reagan Hoopes, seventh at state last fall. Senior Riley Armstrong is back after a strong track season, junior Emma Bertz finished second in the Badger North race last year, and Anne Dozier is back after missing last season due to injury.

BADGER SOUTH

Coaches’ picks: 1, Stoughton; 2, Monona Grove; 3, Fort Atkinson, Oregon.

Fort Atkinson is building around a young crew led by freshman Lauren Haas and junior Jenna Lovejoy, who took second and third, respectively, in last year’s conference meet to lead the Blackhawks to a third-place team finish.

Madison Edgewood’s push to return to the top half of the conference standings will be led by sophomore Grace Nemeth and junior Erin McClimon, both of whom are expected to return from last season’s seventh-place team.

Milton is expected to return sophomore Sam Henry, who was 15th in last year’s Badger South meet (21:24).

Monona Grove coach Amanda Mertens returns six letterwinners, but the lineup remains very young. Sophomore Peighton Nelson made it to state last fall, finishing 85th (20:12), and will be pushed by an experienced group including junior Vanessa Thomas, sophomore Teal Coil-Otto, four-year varsity runner Payton Jenks-Recker and sophomore Acacia Holmquist.

Monroe, last year’s last-place finisher at conference, is expected to return sophomore Jacie Hayes and seniors Maddie Bartelt and Natalie Faith.

Oregon has high hopes with eight letterwinners returning, led by two-time all-Badger South honoree Lauren Beauchaine, a senior who took eighth in the conference race last fall. Also back are senior Katy Kliminski and junior Zoey Frank, each of whom earned all-conference honors in 2016. The Panthers also add Sofie Kirketerp, a foreign-exchange student from Denmark.

Stoughton has won the last three Badger South titles, and returns six of the seven runners who led the Vikings to 13th place among 20 teams at WIAA Division 1 state last fall. “This team has big goals, but a few of our top runners are coming off injuries from track season and have been cross-training most of the summer,” coach Susan Zaemisch said. Senior Anna Wozniak and senior Margaret Ross are four-year varsity runners. Also back are juniors Grace Jenny and Molly Olstad and sophomores Gina Owen, Maddie Schneider and Gabrielle Trieloff.

Watertown will be led by senior Marissa Wackett, junior Cara Smith and sophomore Autumn Meyers.

CAPITOL NORTH

Coaches’ picks: 1, Lake Mills; 2, Poynette; 3, Lodi.

Lake Mills has a young roster that nevertheless has drawn the attention of opposing teams. Six of the top seven runners from last year, including senior Stacie Dressel and sophomores Jade Pitta and Brooke Fair. “These girls are very close with one another and love to cheer each other and push them to do better,” coach Dan Zaeske said.

Lakeside Lutheran coach Cameron Ausen returns five letterwinners and lost only two varsity regulars to graduation from last year’s third-place team. The leaders will be sophomores Jada Gresens and Haylee Meske and juniors Maddie Abel and Abbie DiGiovanni.

Lodi coach Kurt Wilson said he enters his 27th season with “some very good runners. When we are at full strength, the girls should be very competitive at (invitationals) and the postseason.” Isabelle Clary (sixth in the conference meet last year), Hannah Busser and Lauryn Milne give the Blue Devils what Wilson calls “a very formidable top three.” A large freshman class bolsters the Blue Devils’ hopes.

Poynette coach Kevin Frehner starts his 22nd year with high hopes for a repeat of last year, when his Pumas were ranked ninth in Division 2 in the final state poll and finished second in the conference race. A run at a state berth is among the Pumas’ goals this fall, thanks to the return of seven letterwinners led by sophomore Katelyn Chadwick (a state qualifier last year who took third in the Capitol North meet) and juniors Brianna Kowald and Abbey Marquardt.

Watertown Luther Prep coach Naomi Fritz lost only one regular from last year’s team, which took fourth in the North. Back are 11 letterwinners, including juniors Maya Habben (seventh at conference last year) and Hannah Schroeder (15th at conference) and sophomores Katelyn Mensching and Lilianne Zimpelman.

CAPITOL SOUTH

Coaches’ picks: 1, Marshall; 2, Wisconsin Heights; 3, Deerfield/Cambridge.

Marshall is clearly a team to watch out for. Last year, Coach Jeff Looze’s Cardinals won the Capitol South title and went on to finish third in the Division 3 state meet. And this year, all seven varsity runners return, four of whom placed in the top 50 at state. The leader is Claire Huggett, pushed by senior team MVP Anahi Bonilla, junior Gianna Dugan, sophomore Mya Andrews and senior Kyra Andrews.

New Glarus/Monticello, under 33rd-year coach Steve Wehrley, has lost two of its top three runners to graduation after finishing fourth in the South meet last fall. Molly Molencamp will move into the No. 1 spot, with seniors Brooke Dreyfus and Emily Streiff pushing her.

ROCK VALLEY

Coaches’ picks: 1, Jefferson; 2, McFarland; 3, East Troy.

Edgerton coach Adam Gould lost only one letterwinner and returns seven, including four of the top five runners from last year’s team, which finished eighth in the Rock Valley. Sophomore MaeAnna Stockel was last year’s MVP and senior Holly Salimes will serve as a captain.

Jefferson won the conference title last year, edging East Troy by four points, and returns one of the area’s top track and cross country athletes in Mariah Linse, who won the season-opening Palmyra-Eagle Invitational in 19:59 last week. Three seniors were lost to graduation, but the Eagles also return sophomores Makenzie Hottinger, Nora Wichman and Emily Hollenberger.

McFarland co-coaches Andrew Garvey and Scott Fischer returns eight letterwinners and lost only two from last year’s team, which took third in the Rock Valley and 16th in the program’s fourth consecutive trip to Division 2 state. Leading the pack will be Ella Ceelen and Lindsey Lonigro. Seniors Arianna Moede and Allison Sommer are two-time letterwinners.

AROUND THE AREA

Wisconsin Dells finished as the WIAA Division 2 state runner-up last fall, and four of the top five runners from that team are back. Leading the pack is junior Laura Beghin, who took second in last week’s Westfield Pioneer Invitational. Also back are sophomores Emily Cunningham and Megan Jones, and junior Lindsay Cunningham.

Dodgeville/Mineral Point expects the return of seniors Lindsay Johnston, Josie Jabs and Hannah Tremelling to a team that took third in its sectional last fall.

Johnson Creek coaches Chad Hayes and Kayla Potts are led by junior Hannah Constable, the reigning champ in the Division 3 state track meet, and state track qualifiers Taylor Hallam and Mateah Rohl. The coaches must develop more strong finishers among a group of newcomers to bolster the team’s overall hopes.

Pardeeville has only four runners in the lineup, led by junior Callie Brouette and juniors Addisyn Guenther and Josie DeLapp.

Madison St. Ambrose coach Melissa Martens has a full varsity lineup this year, with the arrival of freshman Bella Keefe and junior Erin Butler. Other than Butler, all the runners are underclassmen.

EVENTS TO WATCH

REGULAR SEASON

Verona Invitational: Saturday, Sept. 1, at Verona High School

Madison West Invitational: Saturday, Sept. 8, at Lake Farm County Park

Midwest Invitational: Saturday, Sept. 22, at Blackhawk Golf Course, Janesville

Stoughton Invitational: Saturday, Sept. 29, at Stoughton High School

CONFERENCE MEETS

Rock Valley: Thursday, Oct. 11, at UW-Whitewater

Southwest Wisconsin: Thursday, Oct. 11, at Lancaster

Trailways: Thursday, Oct. 11, at Markesan

Badger South: Friday, Oct. 12, at Lake Farm County Park

Badger North: Saturday, Oct. 13, at Beaver Dam Country Club

Big Eight: Saturday, Oct. 13, at Lake Farm County Park

Capitol: Saturday, Oct. 13, at Edelweiss Country Club, New Glarus

South Central: Saturday, Oct. 13, at Westfield

POSTSEASON MEETS

WIAA Sectionals: Oct. 19-20

WIAA State Meet: Oct. 27 at Ridges Golf Course, Wisconsin Rapids

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