Hatchet boys’ team wins GNC, girls’ finish 3rd behind pair state ranked teams
By Jed Buelow
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor, Sports, Nature Editor
A win like this needs some historical context. Back in 2008, the Lakeland cross country brought to an end to a six-year run of dominance by the Tomahawk boys’ cross country team had been defending as the GNC Champions.
The T-Birds then went on a run of their own that lasted nine years before Medford topped them last year to win the GNC. This year, Tomahawk returned to the top of the podium as the Hatchet boys’ cross country team outdistanced both Lakeland and Medford to win the GNC Championship at Gartzke Cross Country Ski Trail in Antigo Saturday.
The win was by the slightest of margins that required a top performance by the entire team as Tomahawk edged out Lakeland 51-54, a three-point victory that resulted from countless hours of training and 110 percent effort from Hatchet athletes. The varsity girls’ race found three state-ranked teams in a tight battle, separated by only seven points when the dust settled, defending state champion Medford (40 points), followed by Lakeland (45 pts) and the Lady Hatchets (47 pts) placed a close 3rd.
“We knew this course at Gartzke Park would present several challenges for the athletes. The long steep hills, the quickly narrowing start, the uneven footing and the soft surfaces with mud at times made getting personal records (PRs) or seasonal bests today near impossible. Most athletes from all teams ran on average two minutes slower. The course was brutal to say the least,” stated Hatchet head coach John Zuesldorf. “Both varsity races were exciting, the girls’ was decided between three teams and seven points and the boys came down to a narrow three point margin. It was nice to come out on top for the boys and the girls were Oh so close! It’s been awhile since we won the boys conference meet. They have all worked so hard and it’s paying off.”
And to the victors goes the spoils. Tomahawk had seven speedsters named to the GNC All Conference team. And considering the powerhouse the GNC has been in cross country, it can’t be stated enough how impressive a number that is.Earning All-Conference medalist honors for the Hatchets were: Haley Voermans-Dean, Noah Buckwalter, Drew Bolder, Kate Reilly, Emily Lacina, Garron Albrent, and Macey Mann. H. Voermans-Dean earned All-Conference 1st Team status for the fourth-straight year, as she placed 3rd overall in Antigo. Noah Buckwalter also earned All-Conference 1st Team status with his 3rd place finish in the varsity boys’ race. Drew Bolder and Kate Reilly both placed 7th completing the Hatchet first team All-Conference honorees. Emily Lacina (8th), Garron Albrent (12th), and Macey Mann (14th) earned 2nd Team All-Conference status by virtue of their placement at the GNC event.
“We had awesome representation on the All-Conference team with seven runners earning that status. Haley (Voermans-Dean) and Noah (Buckwalter) led the way with their 3rd place finishes and had awesome races,” Coach Z said in noting to see Voermans-Dean achieve 1st Team honors for the fourth straight year was amazing. “She’s now with an elite group of athletes that have accomplished this feat in our sport or any sport at THS. Drew (Bolder) achieved his third All-Conference in a row, Emily (Lacina) and Noah (Buckwalter) their second, and Kate (Reilly), Garron (Albrent) and Macey (Mann) their first time on the All-Conference squad.”
The boys JV squad also had a big day in Antigo as they won the boys GNC title and the girls JV finished in 3rd place.
Other Hatchet varsity finishers were: Trey Baalke (15th), Meagan Berg and Arden Ziert (16th), Alex Norman (17th), Keaton Jed (21st), Greta Tjugum (28th), and Serena Reinke (34th).
Results at the GNC Championship were: Boys Varsity -THS-51, Lake-54, Med-73, Mos-78, Rhine-95, NPHS-179, Ant-Inc: Girls Varsity -Med-40, Lake-45, THS-47, Mos-92, Rhine-129, NPHS-190, Ant-Inc
Junior Ethan Liebnitz topped the field in the final GNC JV event of the day as he won the title, leading the field from start to finish. Helping propel the boys JV to their second straight title were: Hunter Borchardt-4th, Jack Lacina-7th, Reed Zedler-8th, Brady Tjugum-11th, Matt Johnson-15th, Taje Casey-20th, Trey Miler-32nd, John Mark Hawley-34th, and Henry Calhoun-35th.
The 3rd place girls JV squad was led by Tiana Gerstenberger as she finished 11th overall. Other Tomahawk placers were: Neenah Fuste-14th, Gillian Buckwalter-16th, Ava Dragosh-20th, Geena Wanta-21st, Autumn Peissig-24th, and Yumo Zhang-33rd.
“To end the meet with a win from our boys JV team was sweet today! Along with our girls JV they are our future and our depth. If we are to completely resurrect a culture that thrived in the 90’s and early 2000’s, it starts with our middle level and JV programs. Both squads had solid seasons and it bodes well for the future of high school cross-country in Tomahawk,” Coach Z added.
Sweet indeed, and the Hatchet speedsters will look to keep the momentum going heading into the WIAA Division 2 Northeastern Wisconsin Sectional playoffs as they host the race at Edgewater Country Club this Saturday, Oct. 26. The big day of racing gets underway at 11 a.m. with the girls varsity race. The top two teams and the top five non-qualifying team members advance to the state meet the following weekend in Wisconsin Rapids.
“We are excited to host the Sectional next weekend at Edgewater. Racing in front of the home crowd on a course that we train on regularly and are familiar with is a definite plus. It will be exciting to be in the hunt for team and individual advancement in the tournament series!”
A decade had passed since the boys cross country team flipped the script over the weekend and reclaimed the top spot in the GNC. Sweet indeed, as they get a chance to add to the legacy come this Saturday at Edgewater.