SPASH girls cross country team headed to State Meet
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
With a trip to the State Meet on the line, the Stevens Point Area Senior High School girls cross country team won the WIAA Division 1 Sectional at Standing Rocks County Park Saturday, Oct. 26, to qualify for state for the fourth year in a row.
Sophomore Roisin Willis won the Individual Title as the 16th-ranked Panthers finished with 55 points to win the Team Title Saturday over 12th-ranked Appleton North (61) and advance to the WIAA Division 1 State Meet at The Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids at 12:40 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2.
“I’m really excited that we were able to come through and win the Sectional Title,” said SPASH girls cross country head coach Mike Olson. “Appleton North was rated higher than us, and I knew it would be a tall order, but the girls came through and they ran really tough.
“I still feel that our best meet is out there, we haven’t hit it yet, so I’m very excited about what state’s going to hold,” he said.
This season, SPASH returned five of its seven runners that competed at last year’s State Meet when the team finished 11th, while senior Maddie Hyland (20th at state as a freshman, 23rd as a sophomore) came back after she missed all of last season due to injury
After winning the Individual Title at the Sectional and placing fourth overall at state last year, Willis repeated as the Sectional Champion Saturday, as she finished in 18:39.0 to beat Marshfield sophomore Eliana Kanitz (19:30.7).
“I tried to go out a little bit slower, run a little bit smarter, and I’m starting to slowly come around as I run more races,” said Willis. “I’m starting to feel better and better as I start racing, so hopefully for state, I’ll be really ready to race hard.”
“Roisin just works so hard and has such great concentration and sets high standards for herself,” said Olson. “She never disappoints, I’m really pleased with where she’s at, and I’m excited for next weekend, both from a team and an individual standpoint, to see what she’s capable of.
“It’s going to be a real battle between a number of people, and Roisin’s going to be right in the thick of it,” he said.
Hyland placed fifth for SPASH, followed by junior Sara Hopper (11th), freshman Brittany Beadles (17th), sophomore Autumn Itzen (21st), sophomore Emelia Johnson (25th) and sophomore Anna Meilahn (56th).
In a tight battle at the top of the team standings, SPASH ended up with 55 points to win the Sectional Title, while 12th-ranked Appleton North had 61 points to take second and also advance to state over Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln (74), Marshfield (113) and Wausau West (150).
“I’m just super excited to run state with all of my teammates,” said Hopper. “And just have a great race next weekend too.”
This Saturday, Willis will look to challenge for the Individual Title with a group that includes sophomore defending State Champion Genevieve Nashold of Madison West and sophomore Lauren Pansegrau of Middleton, while the Panthers will try to improve on their finish from a year ago.
“We’ve got a good thing going, and hopefully a little more improvement yet, and we’ll see what happens,” said Olson. “I haven’t got a chance to look at the other teams yet, but I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people, if we run the way we’re capable of.”