Tigers cross country overcomes injuries, prepares for postseason
By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD – The Marshfield cross country team has had to fight through numerous injuries, especially with the girls team, but coach Dan Akin is confident the Tigers have enough to compete well this postseason.
Marshfield will take part in the Wisconsin Valley Conference Meet at Nine Mile Forest in Rib Mountain on Saturday and also in the WIAA Division 1 sectional on Oct. 25 at Standing Rock Park in Stevens Point.
The top two teams and the top five individuals not on those teams at the sectional will qualify for the 2014 WIAA State Cross Country Championships at Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids on Nov. 1.
Akin said he does not think the Tigers will be in the chase for one of those team spots, but he is encouraged by the way his teams have come together despite injuries.
The girls are led by juniors Dani Bender, Morgan Irish, and Courtney Brown.
Bender has been the Tigers top runner all season and is coming off one of her stronger performances finishing 25th at the Wisconsin Rapids Invitational last Saturday, the same course where the state meet will be held.
Bender finished in 21:05, nearly 50 seconds faster than her run at Chippewa Falls on Sept. 30 that netted her an eighth-place finish.
The Tigers girls were second at the Chippewa Falls Invitational, their best team finish.
Akin said McKayla Scheuer and Ashley Holubets, who have both missed a handful of meets with injuries, are set to return for the conference meet.
“Dani Bender, Morgan Irish, and Courtney Brown have really been consistent for us all season,” Akin said. “Irish dropped 2-3 minutes off her time from last year, and all three have an outside chance at getting honorable mention all-conference (11-15 place finishes) this weekend. Brown is really stepping up, and we have two freshmen, Sophia Schrodi and Lily O’Brien, that have got a lot of varsity experience for next year.”
The boys have a diverse group this season, with two seniors leading the way and five freshmen gaining valuable experience for the future.
Seniors Devon Klement and James Kollross have been the top-2 finishers for the Marshfield boys in every event this fall.
Klement was fifth at Chippewa Falls and ran a season-best 17:48 to take 32nd at Wisconsin Rapids last weekend. Kollross has been consistently running in the mid-18-minute range all season.
Akin said he wishes the five freshmen could have spent more time maturing on the JV squad, but it was necessary to push them up to varsity and let them learn the hard way.
Paul Fischer, Sam Huettl, and Jordan Dzikowich have ran in all of the varsity races this season as freshmen, while the other two spots have been a mix of three others.
“Those three have been rock solid all season long,” Akin said. “We had 30-plus kids with season-best times last Saturday at Rapids. This is where we’d like to start next year with them. The ones that are healthy are running well. We can only take seven to sectionals. So the conference meet will be important for them to sort out those spots.”
Akin said he is looking at the conference meet—and eventually the sectional meet—as an individual challenge for his runners.
Akin is realistic that the Tigers are not going to compete for a top team spot. He wants the runners just to run their best and try to see how much better they can be running on the Nine Mile course again. Marshfield competed on the course at the D.C. Everest Invitational on Sept. 16, placing third in both the boys and girls standings.
“We have a chance to show a lot of improvement,” Akin said. “I have challenged them to go after the Nine Mile course and see how you can run again a month later.
“They all have a great attitude, and I am really pleased with our youngsters. They have all been working really hard, and the seniors have been great leaders and mentors for our young guys, especially.”
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Hub City Times sports. You can reach him by email at email@example.com.