Cross country teams shine at Verona

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Erika Rader and Middleton's girls cross country team finished third at the Verona Invite./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Middleton’s cross country teams got off to a terrific start last Saturday at the Verona Invite.

Middleton’s boys finished second at the 20-team invite, while the girls were third among 19 teams.

In addition, Cardinals’ junior Caleb Easton won the boys race in 15 minutes, 59.05 seconds.

“Caleb ran a very smart race,” Middleton coach Brian Finnel said. “I was very pleased with his patience.

“He positioned himself in third and with a half mile to go he made a great move to the front. His closing speed is up there with some of the best guys in the state and I think he's poised to have a big cross country season.”

Middleton competed without senior Jack Rader — arguably its best runner — who is still recovering from an Achilles’ tendon tear. But the Cardinals showed how deep and talented they are.

Madison West won the team title with 65 points, while Middleton was a close second with 70. Madison La Follette (106), Monona Grove (115) and Sun Prairie (170) rounded out the top five.

Easton edged Monona Grove senior Charlie Ellenbecker (16:01.68) for the individual title. Middleton’s Sam Jaeger was sixth (16:18), Michael Madoch was 13th (16:47), Braedon Gilles was 16th (16:53) and Egan Johnson was 34th (17:27).

“I was really impressed with how good we looked after a hard week of practice,” Finnel said. “Moreover, I think the team proved how a big of threat they could be this season. This is a hardworking team that showed there's some depth. Even without Jack Rader, we placed second behind another great West squad. If you put (JV champion) Michael Easton's time in the varsity race, we actually wind up winning the meet. 

“Overall, it was a great team performance and I'm excited how we stack up against some Milwaukee area schools on Thursday at Arrowhead. Arrowhead was ranked No. 1 last week, but there's also three other teams ranked in the top-15, so it will be a good test for us.” 

Defending state champion Sun Prairie won the girls’ title with 26 points, while Wisconsin Dells was a distant second with 96 points. Middleton (103), Madison West (138) and Madison Memorial (189) rounded out the top five.

“I think our team came out and competed well at Verona,” Cardinals girls coach Alexa Richardson said. “We have had a very difficult past couple of weeks (workout-wise), so the girls definitely were not feeling fresh for the race. However, considering that, I think most of them did better than they expected. 

Middleton’s Shae Ruhly was fifth individually in 18:59 in her first-ever 5K race.

“Shea has high hopes and self-expectations for this season,” Richardson said. “Shea doesn't like to lose, so Verona really put fuel in her fire.

“Shea is one of those athletes who is hard to hold back — she is always wanting to do the most she possibly can to better herself. I admire Shea in that aspect. My main goal with her is to keep her healthy and to peak at Sectionals/State and not a day sooner.”

Erika Rader was 18th (20:30), Charlotte Sue was 22nd (20:40), Megan Schwartz was 25th (20:47) and Maeve Gonter was 33rd (21:01).

“This is a State qualifying team in my eyes,” Richardson said. “We definitely have our eyes on the prize. These are some of the most hard working, hungry for competition, and focused girls I have ever coached. Verona was a good start.”

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