Lady Hatchets finish season with 9th place finish at D2 State Championships: Noah Buckwalter represents boys’ team in Wisconsin Rapids with 17:26 5K

By Jed Buelow

Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor, Sports, Nature Editor

Lady Hatchet cross country finished off a fantastic season returning to state as a team for the first time in a decade where they finished in 9th place at WIAA Division 2 Championship held in Wisconsin Rapids Saturday.

On a day when snow flurries came down heavy at times at Ridges Golf Course, the Hatchets got off to a good start at the mile mark, as did Noah Buckwalter representing the boys’ team as an individual qualifier at Rapids.

“Noah got out strong and for the girls our #2-#5 scoring runners were only six seconds apart at the mile. They knew where their teammates were, which can be a challenge in a race with this large of a field,” stated Hatchet head coach John Zuelsdorf in noting the next third of the race is where the team struggled a bit as the #2-#5 scoring split jumped to a 46 second gap.

Coach Z said the split at that point had gotten too big to be effective in the team scoring, but added on a positive note, in the last mile his runners  were able to improve the team position by a couple of spots to finish strong down the stretch.

The Lady Hatchets managed to place 9th out of 16 teams, while N. Buckwalter finished in 65th place in the field of 152 runners. Tomahawk senior Haley Voermans-Dean concluded her outstanding Cross-Country career as she ran 19:59, placing 24th overall (13th in the team scoring) with her best race at State to date over the 5000 meter course.

Senior Meagan Berg tied her career best effort on a very tough course in some challenging conditions with her 20:28 clocking, placing 47th (29th in the team scoring). A host of sophomore scorers came in next with Emily Lacina placing 57th overall (35th  in the team scoring) in a time of 20:37, Macey Mann finished 96th (63rd team)-21:34 and Kate Reilly placed 111th (74th team)-21:49.

Also getting great state-level experience in their first state championship races were freshmen Greta Tjugum (131st, 92nd team)-22:31 and Serena Reinke (142nd, 103rd)-23:10 in the 152 runner Division 2 field. Both girls improved their positions throughout the race and rounded out the state-level competing Hatchets.

“All in all we were proud of our women and Noah and the way they represented themselves at Rapids. I know that they had aspirations of higher team placements and individual placements but hopefully that will only serve to motivate the returning underclass athletes,” Coach Z said. “We told the athletes post-race that there are a lot of other teams that would love to have had the opportunity to compete and finish 9th in the State for the girls (top 43% for Noah of all State D2 competitors) and have the experience and opportunity that these athletes had.”

This was the Hatchets first trip to State since 2009 and 16th team appearance since 1993. Buckwalter’s race included a great position early on as he came through the first mile in a season-best time of 5:08 in 21st position. Competing at State provided him some valuable experience that he can share with his returning Hatchet teammates as he worked hard over the last two miles to finish in 17:26.

“Our program will miss the leadership, dedication, and drive that this group of seniors provided by example on a daily basis,” the coach added about a great group of seniors who helped lead the team all season long. “They not only were great role models, they helped form cohesive bonds for the team that will carry their friendships long into the future.”

Shorewood won the D2 Girls State Championship scoring 61 points. Osceola finished second with 102 and Freedom (149), Medford (152) and Xavier (188) rounded out the top five. The team from Valders took the top spot on the boys’ side scoring 78, followed by Notre Dame (108), Freedom (116), La Crosse Logan (133) and Shorewood (174) finished out the top five at Rapids.

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