Nelson/Adams lead area runners at state meet

Jacob Swanson, Michael Wieting, Laura Ehlers

Peshtigo sophomore Rachel Nelson took 34th at Saturday’s WIAA Division 2 State Cross Country Championship in her first trip to state, while Oconto Falls’ Ben Adams was 38th in his return trip and two Panther girls finished in the top 75.

Nelson was 29th after mile one and 24th after the second mile with 12 minutes and 41 seconds gone. She ran the last 1.1 miles in 7:21 and finished with a final time of 20 minutes, 1.6 seconds.

“Rachel ran a quality race,” Bulldogs coach Derek Smith said. “State starts really fast so we wanted her to stay patient and finish strong.”

Smith said the bar is set high after Nelson’s 34th place going into her final two cross country seasons.

“State is tough and not many people get the opportunity,” he said. “It was a great learning experience and Rachel will become a better runner having had that opportunity. So proud of her season.”

Oconto Falls junior Hailey Delzer took 57th in the girls’ race and junior Brooke Hodkiewicz was 75th.

Delzer finished in 20:33.7. She was 46th after one mile and 57th after two, the same spot she’d finish the race. One word Oconto Falls coach Lon Ludemann used to describe Delzer was “consistent.”

“Her last four races of the season have been within 10 seconds of each other and she put together another solid race on Saturday at the Ridges,” Ludemann said.

Hodkiewicz finished in 20:52.2, starting fast with a 6:06 first mile that had her 24th before dropping back to 59th over the course of the second mile.

Ludemann called the first mile the junior’s “true form.” With all three Panthers that qualified for state, there’s the opportunity to look forward to next year.

“All three are juniors and hopefully have learned from their experiences and hopefully they all return to state in ‘24,” the Panther coach said.

Adams was 78th last year as a sophomore and made a huge jump both in his final place and his final time of 17:53.7, taking about 50 seconds off his time this season to 17:03.4.

He ran a steady race, having been 33rd at the first two mile markers.

“It went better than last year,” Adams said of the return trip to state. “It’s a lot less scary.”

He said he put in a few more hill workouts between last year and this one to prepare for this moment.

The D2 boys state champion was Edgewood senior Noah Kuhn, who finished in 15:50.5. Lakeside Lutheran won the team title.

Xavier’s girls won the team title and Northland Pines senior Nora Gremban was the individual winner in 17:46.7.

Bradyn Wendorff continued the Gillett cross country tradition with a 17th-place finish in the Division 3 State Cross Country Championship.

Wendorff was 40th last year in his freshman campaign with a time of 17 minutes, 41.5 seconds, improving to 17:10.6 as a sophomore at the Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids this season.

He was 21st after one mile with a pace of 5:15, 25th after two miles with 10:55 elapsed, and raced ahead eight spots over the final 1.1 miles.

He talked about starting out calm then picking it up the final two miles, saying, “I did that, so it was a nice race.”

Last year, Wendorff ran alongside seniors Alex and Evan Peterson as they wrapped up their careers that included multiple state trips, and he took some advice from one of them going into his second time at state.

“He said about the hills, attack the hill and then pick it up, so I did that and it worked,” Wendorff said. “I’m still trying to figure out the kick. Because that last hill is devastating.”

The Tigers have built a strong program with a history of state appearances.

“Bradyn’s had great mentors to follow and the nice thing is those older kids are very willing to pass down their knowledge and wanting the underclassmen to do just as well as they did or better, so it’s great,” said Gillett coach Bill DeJung. “This is where the tradition continues is wanting to be here themselves someday, and ‘Hey, this is possible,’ and that is the biggest barrier many times is mentally believing you can do it.”

Wendorff said he’s already thinking about coming back next year as a team.

Crivitz junior Ben Brown took 84th of 150 D3 state runners in 18 minutes, 18 seconds, accomplishing his goal of competing in the state championship.

Brown enjoyed his first state run according to Crivitz coach Bryan Anderson. “It was a new experience for Ben,” said Anderson. “He never ran in such a large group before. He can’t wait to try again next year.” 

Brown touched on the importance of running in the state meet 

“Working on getting to state was a big part of it and I made it,” Brown said of his goals for the season. “I feel pretty good about it, but I feel like I could have done better today, but it is what it is.”

He was 53rd after one mile at a 5:25 pace, then 76th after the second mile.

“I was doing pretty good for the first mile,” he said. “Then it would start getting crowded and I kind of slowed down a bit there.”

The D3 boys’ individual championship was won by Charlie Vater of Iola-Scandinavia, who ran a 15:49.7 time to distance himself from the competition. Kohler won the team title.



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