Pansegrau makes history, powers MHS runners

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Dennis Semrau/Special to the Times-Tribune
Middleton junior standout Lauren Pansegrau became the first female in state history to break the 17-minute barrier in a 5,000-meter cross country race./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

CROSS PLAINS – It was business as usual for Middleton junior Lauren Pansegrau on a windy, sun-splashed Glacier Creek Middle School cross country course on Saturday morning with a special twist.

Competing at the WIAA Middleton Sectional meet, Pansegrau broke the 17-minute mark with a personal-best time of 16 minutes, 57.976 seconds in winning the second race and the overall sectional title.

Pansegrau’s big day also helped Middleton roll to the sectional title with just 42 points. Madison West was second with 56 points and also qualified for state.

According to research by Middleton girls coach Alexa Richardson and boys coach Brian Finnel, Pansegrau is the first girl in state history to break the 17-minute barrier in a 5,000-meter cross country race.

The WIAA website lists Onalaska junior Kora Malecek’s time of 17:44.6 in 2019 as the fastest girls’ 5,000-meter state time since the switch to the longer distance in 2014.

Although temperatures soared into the 70s with winds of over 20 miles an hour, Pansegrau had no concerns about the course or the weather.

“I always like the warm weather, so it’s nice that it’s started to heat up,” she said. “During the race we had to run into the wind, but then it was pushing you so I guess it evens out. It was in our face at the beginning, but it was pushing us at the end.”

Pansegrau said her previous cross country personal-record was 17:15.

“I was hoping to set a PR,” she said. “I didn’t know how good I would do because it was pretty windy, but I’m really happy with it.”

Pansegrau finished nearly 2 minutes ahead of the overall second-place finisher, Middleton sophomore Zaira Malloy-Salgado, who also helped lead the Cardinals to the sectional title with 42 points.

“I wanted to set a PR, but with the wind and the unevenness of the course, I didn’t have too high of expectations,” said Malloy-Salgado, who recorded a personal-best time of 18:47.3. “I told myself, as long as I try my best, we’ll see what happens.”

With more than 80 percent of the state’s schools having competed in cross country last fall, that left 55 girls’ teams, covering all divisions, to compete in a single-division alternate season this spring.

Middleton hosted one of the four sectionals, which was split into two sub-sectional races. Final team and individual results weren’t revealed until both races were combined.  

“It’s a really fast course,” Pansegrau said. “I went to Glacier Creek Middle School, so I’ve seen a few races here. But this is the first time I’ve run here. I like the course a lot. It was fun to see all the races come together so well.”

Pansegrau finished second as a sophomore at the WIAA Division 1 cross country meet in the fall of 2019 and was second as a freshman in the 3,200-meter run at the Division 1 state track and field meet in spring 2019.

But she has had to compete out-of-state to find any serious competition in Wisconsin this spring.

“It really impressed me that she was able to do it on a course like this, running by herself,” Richardson said of Pansegrau breaking the 17-minute mark. “Lauren continues to run every race by herself, and I’m excited to see her get some competition at state.”

Madison West junior Genevieve Nashold won the first race and took third overall in 18:59.9 to lead the Regents to a runner-up finish with 56 points and secure the second state berth.

Nashold, who finished eighth at the Division 1 state meet as a sophomore, returned to action after being sidelined with a stress fracture in her foot. She set the pace, like Pansegrau, and ran alone in front during her race.

But Madison West coach Cory Hayden said it was no surprise that Pansegrau would emerge as the individual sectional champion.

“We’ve had a backseat to watching her the last three years. She’s been nothing short of incredibly impressive,” Hayden said of Pansegrau. “In the quarantine, she was able to do some races out of state and really put up some times that would grab your attention and now she’s backing it up in state. I’m really happy for her and her team.”

Also qualifying for state as an individual were: Mount Horeb senior Anna Ollendick, Madison Memorial junior Annika Cutforth, Sun Prairie junior Reagan Zimmerman, Madison Memorial senior Natalie Rhodes and Verona senior Anna Knueve.

Middleton sophomore Elizabeth Schwartz, who was eighth in 19:43, said after months of speculation, it was fun to compete with a trip to state as a reward.

“I was really nervous about the wind, and it getting too hot with the sun,” she said. “But it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Usually, you were going with the wind.

“I was just hoping to be able to run with the team. I didn’t know if we’d have any races this year.”

Juniors Amalia Morner (20:42) and Natalie Ahn (20:43) rounded out the scoring for Middleton, finishing 15th and 16th overall.

“Everyone had a personal-best,” Richardson said of the Cardinals, which also included freshmen Meredith Pansegrau (20:45) and Morley Schroeder (20:53). “The girls ran awesome today. No one had a bad race.”

The one-division state meet is set for Saturday at the Blackhawk Country Club in Janesville. Middleton will be after its fifth overall state title and first since 2006.

“I’m going to push the girls to try and win it,” Richardson said. “For Lauren, obviously, the same thing. She wants to win state this year. That’s her goal.

“It’s going to be another fine course in Janesville. It will be nice and quick. I know the girls will be so excited. They’ve grown really close this year as a team.”

One addition to the lineup at state will be senior Bella Chirafisi, who was one of the top returnees from Middleton’s 2019 state cross country team that finished fourth, one place behind Sun Prairie.

Chirafisi wasn’t available to compete on Saturday due to a prior commitment, but was listed as an alternate and can race at state.

“She will run at state,” Richardson said of Chirafisi. “She committed to run in college in a triathlon and was actually doing a sprint triathlon today.

“She’s a senior who has proved herself many times. I have absolutely no issues putting her in at state and helping us out. None of the girls have an issue with it. They’re all excited she’s able to race.”

Chirafisi will replace the Cardinals’ seventh finisher at the sectional meet, freshman Morley Schroeder.

“If it happens where one of our other girls is injured, (Schroeder) will take over that spot,” Richardson said.


May 1

Middleton Sectional


Note: The top two teams in each of four sectionals qualify for state, along with the top five individual finishers in each sectional from non-qualifying teams.



Team scores: 1, Middleton 42; 2, Madison West 56; 3, Madison Memorial 86; 4, Verona 127; 5, Monona Grove 141; 6, Sun Prairie 149; 7, Mount Horeb 151; 8, La Crosse Central 228; 9, Madison Country Day/Abundant Life 271; 10, Madison East 294; 11, Madison La Follette 312. Bangor, La Crosse Logan, Wisconsin Heights/Barneveld incomplete.


Team state qualifiers: Middleton and Madison West.


Top five individuals: 1, Lauren Pansegrau, Mid, 16:58; 2, Zaira Malloy-Salgado, Mid., 18:48; 3, Genevieve Nashold, MW, 19:00; 4, Anna Ollendick, MH, 19:26; 5, Annika Cutforth, MM, 19:37.


Individual state qualifiers: 4, Ollendick, MH, 19:26; 5, Cutforth, MM, 19:37; 6, Reagan Zimmerman, SP, 19:39; 7, Natalie Rhodes, MM, 19:41; 9, Anna Knueve, V, 20:04.


Middleton: 1, Pansegrau 16:58; 2, Malloy-Salgado 18:48; 8, Elizabeth Schwartz 19:43; 15/16, Amalia Morner 20:42; 16/17, Natalie Ahn 20:43; 17, Meredith Pansegrau, 20:45; 19, Morley Schroeder, 20:53.


Madison West: 3, Nashold 19:00; 10, Cecily Greblo 20:22; 12, Celia Wallace 20:28; 13, Mathilde Sloan 20:29; 18, Clare Nieds 20:49; 21, Violette Culp, 20:57; 28, Hypatia Newton, 21:29.



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