Boys cross country team is ready to roll

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Ethan Mladucky helped Middleton’s boys cross country team win a state championship in 2019./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

The wait was excruciating.

Which is why the return was so much sweeter.

Middleton’s boys cross country team began its new season Monday. And after a 16-month gap between competitions, the Cardinals were thrilled to get their new year started.

“Relief. It was a long grind,” Middleton coach Brian Finnel said. “It was tough for the boys to keep training or find a reason to train, especially in the winter. I think that really sparked the team to get in gear. We used all 15 contact days to get ready and I know from those that they are extremely excited to begin the season.”

For the better part of a year now, Finnel wondered if this moment would ever come.

It was mid-March, 2020, when the WIAA canceled the remaining games in the girls and boys state basketball tournaments due to COVID-19 concerns. Shortly thereafter, spring sports were canceled, as well.

The WIAA proceeded with fall sports — and also gave schools the option of postponing those sports until the spring. Middleton picked the fall-to-spring plan, but Finnel & Co. were left in limbo for several months as Dane County kept things locked down.

Finally in early January, Middleton athletic director Jamie Sims and Superintendent Dana Monogue gave winter sports the green light to begin. That also ensured the fall to spring sports season would take place.

“It's been incredibly turbulent, so many highs and lows,” Finnel said. “I felt so confident at the end of May we would have cross country. We had a parent and athlete meeting and there was a lot of excitement to meet up and have practices. Then, it all swiftly was yanked away.

“We were remaining hopeful during the summer for a season, but after the Big Eight announcement in late July (postponing fall sports), it felt like any positive momentum was gone. A lot of the team just struggled mentally to get in the swing of running again.

“But we are excited to be back and incredibly grateful to have a season. I can't wait to see what this group can do!”

When the Cardinals last gathered in Nov., 2019, they edged Stevens Point for the WIAA Division 1 state championship. That was Middleton’s second state title in three years.

The Cardinals graduated 25 seniors from that team — including four that competed at state. Middleton brings back a solid group, though, looking to make its own mark.

Junior Griffin Ward was 22nd individually at state in 2019, while junior Ethan Mladucky was 89th and senior Ryan Schollmeyer was 97th. Ian Bohachek was also an alternate on that team.

“Griffin was in the top-five on the squad last year,” Finnel said. “Ryan battled through some injuries, but is healthy and is running the best he ever has. Ethan and Ian had their best running during all this past year, so I'm excited for what they can bring to our team. In addition, I expect senior Alex Marrione to be a key contributor this spring.”

Finnel also expects sophomores Dean Montour, Nathan Kurtz and Parker Worden, as well as freshman Miles Wagener to compete for varsity spots.

“A lot has changed with our team,” Finnel said. “We graduated about 25 from last year's squad. It was a great group and there were a lot of leaders on that team. We certainly have a different dynamic and not having the summer to establish some norms and expectations was challenging.”

Finnel knows weather could also be a challenge.

Last week’s unseasonably warm temperatures were certainly a blessing. Still, the unpredictability of running in March vs. running on gorgeous fall afternoons could prove tricky.

“I don't anticipate it to be a big problem,” Finnel said. “It'll be about the same as track. It'll be warm at times, but with snow and cold. Eventually it'll be smooth sailing, we just have to grind it out. 

“The one big difference compared to the fall, will just be with our courses being more soft and wet. However, with this recent stretch of seasonably warm temps it may be better than I initially figured.

“Even if the weather is cold or snowy out, we will still be training out there. It'll be a very short season and we will have to make the days count more than before.”

Finnel wanted to thank Middleton athletic director Jamie Sims and assistant A.D. Ben White for helping the Cardinals reach this point.

“They did a sensational job supporting all the coaches this year,” Finnel said. “Allowing contact day practices in late October was great for gathering interest and building team cohesion.

“We had a few contact days before they got shut down with COVID cases increasing again. After the New Year we had an eight week stretch where we held the rest of our contact day practices and that was wonderful! It was fun to interact with the team again and to see where everyone was at in their training.”

Approximately 82% of the state competed in cross country last fall. That means there will be far fewer teams — and potential opponents — for the Cardinals.

The season has also been shortened and will end in early-May.

Still, after a year of trials and tribulations, Finnel and his team are simply thrilled to have a chance to compete.

“We made a pretty solid schedule against some traditionally strong cross country schools,” Finnel said. “I want us to go out and compete well and of course, have some fun doing it. I would love for the boys to get back to state for the eighth time in a row. It's a younger and slightly inexperienced squad, so we will have our work cut out for us to make that happen.” 

 

MIDDLETON SCHEDULE

3/24 — at Verona

Boys 2 p.m., Girls 3 p.m.

3/27 — at Sun Prairie

Boys 10 a.m., Girls Noon

4/1 — at Stevens Point

Varsity 4 and 4:30 p.m.; JV 5 and 5:40 p.m. 

4/7 — HOME vs. Beloit and Wisconsin Heights, TBD

4/10 — at Janesville, TBD

4/17 — at GB Preble 

Boys Varsity - 10:30 a.m., JV - 11 a.m., JV2 - 11:30 a.m. 

Girls Varsity - Noon, Girls JV - 12:30 p.m., Girls JV2 -  1:10 p.m.

4/24 — at TBD

5/ 1 — Sectionals at TBD

5/ 8 — State at TBD

 

 MIDDLETON ROSTER

Seniors: Thomas Blumer, Ian Bohachek, Elliott Buxton, Jeremy Cho, Samuel Eggert, David Hurd, Alexander LaCour, Alexander Marrione, Logan Pinka, Ryan Schollmeyer, Tyler Theis, Blake Thor, Dylan Veit

Juniors: Mason Bauer, Joseph Cristoforo, Jackson Giles, Jack Hartman, Leo Jacoby, Evan Kratochwill, Maxim Maeder, Mihir Manna, Ethan Mladucky, Aayush Mohan, Braden Novak, William Schultz, Griffin Ward,

Sophomores: Riley Johnson, Andrew Johnson, Nathan Kurtz, Dean Montour, Brock Paulisse, Marcio Sierra, Marc Wareing, Parker Worden, Jaden Zuk.

Freshmen: John Dalton, Noah Dorn, Andrew Forslund,  Jayvyn Graves, Wyatt Halverson, Blake Lindsey, Benjamin Pralat, Miles Wagener, William Whiteis,

 

 

 

 

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