Boys XC team jumps to No. 1

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel

Brian Finnel was watching Middleton’s long distance runners during track season last spring. And Finnel had a thought.

“We had so many guys run well in the 3200,” said Finnel, the Cardinals’ boys cross country coach. “I thought this cross country season could be a very special year.”

So Finnel decided to enter the Cardinals in the Roy Griak Invitational, one of the most competitive events anywhere. The 46-team invitational was held last Saturday on the University of Minnesota campus.

“Part of the appeal of going to Griak was seeing more challenging competition,” Finnel said. “But it's always nice to see different competition and learn how to race on a big stage.”

It appears the big stage suits the Cardinals just fine, as they finished sixth overall at the star-studded event.

Great Oak finished first with just 50 points, while the Cardinals were sixth with 275 points and Madison West was eighth at 297. Middleton’s impressive performance helped it jump to No. 1 in the latest state poll.

“Ultimately, I felt if we could get the guys to Griak where there's nearly 50 teams from around the country, we would be more experienced and better for it at the state meet,” Finnel said. “The Griak course is extremely vicious, significantly more challenging than state, so I believe our guys will know how to handle conditions better at the Ridges come late October.

“This was everyone's first time at Griak and we were a little unsure what to fully expect. I just knew the course would be challenging. I have been to many places to race or coach and this course definitely takes the cake for the most difficult course I've seen.”

In addition, temperatures were in the mid-to-upper 80s all day, making for unfavorable racing conditions. But the Cardinals were up to the challenge.

Junior Caleb Easton was seventh overall and finished in 16 minutes, 40 seconds.

“Caleb Easton is arguably one of the most running-savvy runners I have known at the high school level,” Finnel said. “He has great awareness during a race and knows when to make important moves.

“Caleb moved up 20 places in just a little more than a mile. I know he would have liked to place higher, but on a different weather day we most likely have gotten more aggressive and would have tested going out harder.”

Senior Sam Jaeger was 28th overall in 17:03. Jaeger was in 97th place after one kilometer, but rallied down the stretch.

“We went in very conservative due to the heat and hills,” Finnel said. “I kept emphasizing we had to be disciplined to start, begin slow, and the guys ran and executed very well. Everyone moved up from the first part of the race, which was great to see.

“I think most of the guys felt they had much more left in the tank at the end, which I am OK with given the conditions. It's always nice to know there's more in the tank at this point in the season, too.”

Junior Michael Madoch was 31st (17:06) and sophomore Zach Leffel was 102nd (17:52).

“Michael Madoch raced quite well,” Finnel said. “He got up front and stayed there.”

Senior Zach Leffel, who’s been injured for most of the year, finished 107th in 17:58.

“We finally had Jack Rader go out and compete,” Finnel said. “He's easing his way back after spraining his ankle. Jack listened very well and approached the race more like a workout. We wanted Jack there to be a part of the team experience and today was a stepping stone towards being full strength.”

Afterwards, Finnel was thrilled he took his team west, and he believes it will pay major dividends next month.

“I think one challenging part for our young guys was how to move up with so many bodies and when,” Finnel said. “It made for a good learning experience, because it's an atmosphere much larger than the state meet. We go into these meets during the season and you can still see your teammates, or we at least know our opponents who are nearby. However, when the field is nearly 450 people, with some of the best teams in the nation, it's easy to get lost in the shuffle. 

“The experience was fantastic for our team and I know the guys had a blast, not to mention we learned some new things about how to approach a very big race,” Finnel said. “I really think it will pay off when we get to state.”




(Last week’s rank in parentheses)


1, Middleton (2); 2, Madison West (1); 3, Hartland Arrowhead (3); 4, Sussex Hamilton (5); 5, Green Bay Preble (6); 6, Madison La Follette (9); 7, Kimberly (4); 8, Sun Prairie (13); 9, Neenah (7); 10, Stevens Point (11).

Also receiving votes: 11, Germantown (8); 12, Milwaukee Marquette (10); 13, South Milwaukee (18); 14, Kenosha Bradford/Reuther (15); 15, Monona Grove (12); 16, Muskego (19); 17, Appleton North (14); 18, Hudson (16); 19, Wauwatosa East (—); 20, West Bend West (17).



At University of Minnesota


Top 10 (out of 46) team scores: Great Oak (Calif.) 50; Wayzata (Minn.) 75; Des Moines (Iowa) Dowling 221; Edina (Minn.) 226; Minnetonka (Minn.) 260; Middleton 275; Sioux Falls (S.D.) Washington 285; Madison West 297; Yorkville (Ill.) 304; Johnston (Iowa) 322.

Other Wisconsin schools: 19, Milwaukee Marquette 546; 20, Eau Claire Memorial 579; 21, Hudson 613; 40, Minocqua Lakeland 1,157; 41, Eau Claire North 1,162.

Top 10 individuals: 1, Peters, West Central (S.D.), 15:50; 2, Carmody, Des Moines Dowling, 16:12; 3, Carvajal, Great Oak, 16:23; 4, FitzPatrick, Minocqua Lakeland, 16:25; 5, Abbes, Great Oak, 16:23; 6, Manley, Edina, 16:39; 7, Korgan, Great Oak, 16:40; 8, C. Easton, Middleton, 16:40; 9, Wilkinson, Minnetonka, 16:42; 10, Pena, Pleasant Valley (Iowa), 16:44.

Middleton — 7, C. Easton 16:40; 28, Jaeger 17:03; 31, Madoch 17:06; 102, Leffel 17:52; 107, Rader 17:58.


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