A surprise run
The once unheralded Auburndale girls cross country team prepares for state
By Paul Lecker
AUBURNDALE — Three freshmen joining the team and a senior going out for the sport for the first time do not necessarily lead to high expectations, but the Auburndale girls cross country team has grown throughout the season and now finds itself on its way to state.
The Apaches had three girls finish in the top 13 to capture the Division 3 sectional title on Oct. 23 at Nine-Mile Forest in Rib Mountain and in the process earned a berth at the 2015 WIAA State Cross Country Championships at the Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids on Saturday.
Auburndale will compete in the Division 3 girls race, which kicks off the state meet at noon.
“We started out a little slow, but our top three runners — Isabella, Kali, and Katie Leick — were pushing each other,” third-year Auburndale coach Joren Anderson said. “With our 4 and 5 runners, Jordyn Richardson and Anna Kollross, they have been interchangeable with each other. They’ve all been cutting off time and improving throughout the season.
“With our conference being so tough — it’s been back and forth with Stratford, Marathon, and us all year — it really prepared us for the sectional and hopefully now for state.”
Sophomore Kali Karl was an individual state meet qualifier last year as a freshman, finishing 73rd in the D-3 girls race.
Karl, along with returning seniors Hunter Hilber and Alyssa Kollross, joined forces with three incoming freshmen — Isabella Jewell, Richardson, and Anna Kollross — and newcomer Leick, a senior out for the team for the first time.
During the course of the season, the Apaches have consistently improved. A week after finishing behind Marathon and Stratford at the Marawood Conference Meet, the Apaches defeated both to take the sectional title.
“We worked really, really hard, kept on pushing it, worked hard at practice, and did the things we needed to do,” Karl said. “We took it seriously but also had fun.
“It’s really cool to make it to state, but you have to keep a good mindset. It’s a lot different running there.”
Jewell has been the Apaches’ top runner most of the season, finishing fifth at the sectional (20:25), ninth at the conference meet, and as high as third at the Spencer Invitational on Sept. 24.
Stepping in as a freshman, Jewell said she was not sure what to expect but is happy to have helped Auburndale reach this point.
“I wasn’t really sure I could help the varsity, but I really did want to go to state as a freshman,” Jewell said. “I’m really glad I get to go and have great teammates to help me push through.”
Anderson has been impressed by Jewell this season.
“She’s very competitive internally and with the runners she’s around,” Anderson said. “She is very aggressive, motivated, and has that inner competitiveness that is great to see as a freshman. That helps push everyone else also.”
As far as expectations for Saturday’s meet, Anderson said the Apaches are shooting high.
“Being newbies, except for Kali, I want us to be competitive,” Anderson said. “Hopefully we’re not overwhelmed. Comparing our sectional times, it seems that we can be competitive in the top half. We’re going to strive for that. We have nothing to lose.”
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Hub City Times Sports. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.