Boys XC team thinking big

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By: 
Rob Reischel
David Marrone and Middleton’s boys cross country team should be a force this fall./File photo

State title.

Middleton’s boys cross country team certainly understands those are just words. Nothing more, nothing less at this point in the season.

But truthfully, there are no more than a handful of teams in Wisconsin capable of bringing a coveted WIAA Division 1 state championship back to their school. And Middleton is undoubtedly one of those teams.

The Cardinals finished sixth at state a year ago. Now, Middleton returns four of its top-seven runners and welcomes track and field standout Perrin Hagge to the team.

With a deep and extremely gifted roster, anything and everything seems possible.

“The words ‘state title’ have been uttered among them and it is certainly on their radar,” said Middleton co-coach Isaac Mezera, whose team begins its season Saturday at the Verona Invite. “For how young this group is, they seem to realize the hard work and perseverance it takes to bring that trophy home from Wisconsin Rapids. So, we'll take it one meet at a time, train our tails off, and see what happens if we’re lucky enough to compete at state.”

Middleton’s top returnee is junior Gus Newcomb, who has had a sensational first two seasons in the cross country program.

Newcomb finished 33rd overall at state last year after a 45th place showing as a freshman.

“Gus is poised to be not only a top runner in our conference, but in the state of Wisconsin,” Mezera said. “With a greater level of maturity than I've ever seen out of him, I think he's going to have a special season.”

Mezera was also thrilled to add Hagge to his team. Hagge finished second at the state track and field meet in the 800-meter run and was fourth in the 1,600.

Now, after playing soccer the last three years, Hagge is hoping to make a lot of noise on the cross country trails.

“Perrin is a high caliber Division 1 track recruit,” Mezera said. “I know the college coaches are excited to see how he performs in his first year of cross country. However, no coaches are more excited than the six of us.

“Based on his work ethic, race performances and will power, I have no doubt he'll be right up there with Gus all season. Perrin will give us an amazing one-two punch that should be tough for teams to combat.”

Middleton has a lot of talent and depth surrounding that terrific twosome, as well.

Sophomore Jack Rader finished higher at state last year (39th) than any other freshman in the race.

“He has done the work to build off of that this season,” Mezera said of Rader. “Look for him to be a varsity staple this season.”

Junior Ryan Madoch missed the 2014 season with an injury, but seems ready for a big season. Senior David Marrone was part of Middleton’s state team last year.

Sophomore Sam Jaeger was Middleton’s alternate at state last year, while senior Cole Conklin-Little is coming off a terrific track and field season.

Senior Christian Lindblom was Middleton’s No. 4 runner at state last year. Lindblom will miss the first half of the season, but should factor in upon his return.

“He'll be on the shelf for the first half of the season, healing from a nagging injury,” Mezera said of Lindblom. “But we're expecting him to be a factor when he returns.”

Freshmen Caleb Easton and Michael Madoch were impressive in the Cardinals’ recent time trials and will run the varsity in the season-opening meet.

“Caleb and Michael have been training with our top group since the season started,” Mezera said. “They give the coaching staff warm feelings about the future of this program.”

Seniors Kyle Puchalski, Ed Larson, Evan Birschbach, Bryce Hellenbrand, Connor Kooistra and Danny Johnson-Schunk are all looking to break into the varsity lineup. Sophomores Kane Birschbach and John Jones, along with junior Colin Hogendorn also have the potential to crack the Cardinals’ top-seven.

“This is a deeper boys team than we’ve had in my career as a coach here,” said Mezera, who’s now in his 14th season with the cross country program. “The boys have been working hard all summer with the goal of repeating or bettering last year's performance.”

 

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