Girls XC team headed to state

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Dennis Semrau/For the Times-Tribune
Kiara Malloy-Salgado (left) helped Middleton’s girls cross country team qualify for state for the first time since 2013./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

MADISON — Middleton sophomore Lauren Pansegrau continues to get better and better.

Just don’t ask her whether she expects to win every cross country race that she enters.

“I don’t know, but that is the goal after all,” she said with a smile, shortly after winning her first sectional championship at the WIAA Division 1 Madison West Sectional at Lake Farm County Park last Saturday.

Pansegrau covered the 5,000-meter course in a personal-best time of 17 minutes, 55 seconds to lead Big Eight Conference champion and fourth-ranked Middleton to the sectional team title with 32 points.

The Cardinals earned their first trip to state since 2013, which ironically was the last time that both the Middleton’s boys and girls teams qualified for state in the same season.

Middleton’s boys’ team followed nearly an hour later with a team title of its own to make it a clean sweep for the Cardinals.

The state meet will be held at the Ridges Golf  Course in Wisconsin Rapids on Saturday with the girls competing at 12:40 p.m. and the boys to follow at 2:35 p.m.

“It’s huge. This is my first time taking the Middleton girls to state as a team,” Middleton fourth-year coach Alexa Richardson said. “Just seeing them grow throughout the season, in general, has just been really fun to watch.”

Middleton placed all five of its scoring runners in the top-13 to soar past sixth-ranked Madison West, which also qualified for the state meet with a runner-up finish with 60 points. Madison Memorial, ranked 15th, was third with 82 points.

“They’re an easy team to coach,” Richardson said of the Cardinals. “They’re really motivated with each other. It doesn’t take much to get them excited. They really push each other.”

Pansegrau, the Big Eight Conference champion, pulled away from Madison West sophomore Genevieve Nashold at the two-mile mark to earn her first sectional title.

“I told her with one mile to go, see how you feel, see who’s around you,” Richardson said. “If you want to push it, then that’s the time to push it.”

Pansegrau did just that to run away from Nashold, last year’s sectional and Division 1 state champion, who finished second in 18:18.

“It was really a nice day to run — a perfect day for a race,” Pansegrau said. “I’m really proud of how everyone did on the team. That was our goal, to make it to state. I’m glad we did.”

Sisters Zaira Malloy-Salgado (19:10), a freshman, and Kiara Malloy-Salgado (19:35), a junior, placed third and sixth, respectively, for Middleton.

The duo, who moved to Middleton from Iowa City last summer, were thrilled to be a part of making history for the Cardinals.

“I’m so happy for everyone,” Zaira Malloy-Salgado said. “When we finished, everyone was screaming and cheering together.” 

Sophomore Maddie Ruszkiewicz (19:41) was ninth and junior Bella Chirafisi (19:51) finished 13th to round out the Cardinals’ scoring lineup.

“It was a very great race for the whole team,” Richardson said.  “It was a great team effort. Maddie (had a) personal-best, and Zaira came in third overall and that was a great surprise. She ended up crushing the last mile.”

Sisters Elizabeth Schwartz (20:33), a freshman, and Megan Schwartz (20:42), a senior, finished 23rd and 27th, respectively, to round out the Cardinals’ lineup.

“When I crossed the line and everyone said we were going to state, it felt surreal,” said Megan Schwartz, who qualified for state as an individual her sophomore year. “I knew Lauren could win it. She works so hard, and she just totally deserves it.”

Following their victory, Middleton’s girls rallied around the Cardinals’ boys squad, cheering them on to a seventh consecutive state meet berth.

“We are family,” Megan Schwartz said. “Everybody feels like family. That includes our coach, who feels like our older sister.”

Along with the top two teams, the top five individual finishers, who weren’t on the state qualifying teams, advanced to the state meet.

Richardson said the race had a similar feel to the conference meet one week earlier in Janesville, when the Cardinals held off West to win the title.

“We went into both races with confident attitudes, but also very focused,” she said. “We don’t want to change anything. We’re going to keep everything the same with what we’ve been doing and treat every race the same.”

Richardson said her only concern was how quickly the Cardinals would get out at the start.

“I always get a little nervous because they like to go out a little conservative,” she said. “The first 800 of the race, I try not to look at my watch.

“They prefer to pick it up a little bit as they go throughout the race and that’s a strategy that has worked so far throughout the season, so I’m not changing anything.”

Pansegrau said that a year of experience helped contribute to her strong start and terrific finish in the race.

Richardson agreed.

“She was focused last year, but she’s a lot more focused this year,” Richardson said of Pansegrau, who was runner-up to Nashold at sectionals a year ago.

Pansegrau went on to finish 31st overall at the 2018 state meet, competing as an individual.

“She’s doing the same types of workouts,” Richardson said. “She’s doing the same types of cross training. But she is not afraid to go run with the varsity boys. She’s been hitting the training hard, and she’s really easy to coach because she’ll do what you say.”

Middleton girls’ team joined the boys this season in competing at the prestigious Griak Invitational, hosted by the University of Minnesota on Sept. 29, that included 60 elite prep programs from around the country.

While the girls are making their first state appearance in six years, Richardson said they are ready to compete at a higher level.

“This was my first year taking the girls with confidence that they would do well. I think that paid off for them,” Richardson said of the Cardinals’ 14th-place finish at Griak, where Pansegrau was also eighth overall in the Maroon Division.

“We’re going to just treat (state) like any other race. We’ve been doing a lot more hill workouts this year in preparation hopefully for state. We’ve already had a big race setting so they should be ready to go.”


Oct. 26

Madison West Sectional


Team scoring: 1, Middleton, 32; 2, Madison West, 60; 3, Madison Memorial, 82; 4, Monona Grove, 125; 5, Waunakee, 147; 6, Verona Area. 182; 7, Baraboo, 203; 8, DeForest, 214; 9, Madison East, 246 ; 10, Reedsburg Area, 259; 11, Tomah, 284; 12, Sauk Prairie, 307.

Team state qualifiers: Middleton, Madison West.

Top 10 individuals: 1, Lauren Pansegrau, Mid, 17:55; 2, Genevieve Nashold, MW, 18:18; 3, Zaira Malloy-Salgado, Mid, 19:10; 4, Cecily Greblo, MW, 19:17; 5, Annika Cutforth, MM, 19:26; 6, Kiara Malloy-Salgado, Mid, 19:35; 7, Hannah Wilcox-Borg, T, 19:36; 8, Peighton Nelson, MG, 19:40; 9, Maddie Ruszkiewicz, Mid, 19:41; 10, Natalie Rhodes, MM, 19:45.

Individual state qualifiers: 5, Annika Cutforth, MM, 19:26; 7, Hannah Wilcox-Borg, T, 19:36; 8, Peighton Nelson, MG, 19:40; 10, Natalie Rhodes, MM, 19:45; 11, Emma Bertz, W, 19:46.

Middleton finishers: 1, Lauren Pansegrau, 17:55; 3, Zaira Malloy-Salgado, 19:10; 6, Kiara Malloy-Salgado, 19:35; 9, Maddie Ruszkiewicz, 19:41; 13, Bella Chirafisi, 19:51; 23, Elizabeth Schwartz, 20:33; 27, Megan Schwartz, 20:42.

At Lake Farm County Park, Madison, 5,000 meters.





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