Boys XC team headed back to state

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Dennis Semrau/Special to the Times-Tribune
Griffin Ward (left) and Ryan Schollmeyer finished second and fourth, respectively, at the Middleton Sectional./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

CROSS PLAINS – Griffin Ward hoped Middleton would be able to extend its boys cross country season one more week when the Cardinals competed in a WIAA sectional meet at Glacier Creek Middle School last Saturday.

That dream didn’t appear to be possible last fall, when any thoughts of the Cardinals making what has become an annual trip to the WIAA state tournament seemed to be nothing more than a pipe dream.

“Honestly, I didn’t think we’d have an alternate season,” Griffin said after Middleton opted out of competition last fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “But it obviously has worked.”

Griffin and senior Ryan Schollmeyer recorded a one-two finish in the second of two sub-sectional races to help Middleton finish second overall and secure a state meet berth for the eighth consecutive season.

“We feel pretty fortunate and very lucky that we get that opportunity given that it’s a crazy year,” Middleton coach Brian Finnel said.   

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.  

Sun Prairie won the meet with 57 points, while Middleton was second with 88 points. Verona took third with 104 points. The top two teams and top five individuals not on a qualifying team advanced to the state meet in Janesville on Saturday.

Verona junior Aidan Manning used a strong final kick to edge Sun Prairie sophomore Mateo Alvarado and capture the individual sectional championship. Manning’s time of 16 minutes, 00.011 seconds was just ahead Ward, who won the second race in 16:00.219 in the warm and windy conditions.

“The wind definitely played a role,” Ward said. “My legs felt good before the race. But then a surge of wind came in. You obviously felt it. It definitely played a role.”

Temperatures had soared into the mid-70s with winds of more than 20 miles-per-hour by the time the last of the four races was completed.

But Middleton put a plan into action that helped the Cardinals accomplish their mission with Ward and Schollmeyer leading the way.

Ward and Schollmeyer, who finished fourth overall in 16:10.126, ran together for the majority of the race and used a drafting technique to block the wind for each other.

“On Thursday, we practiced on the track just getting behind someone for the wind, them taking it for a bit and then switching off,” Schollmeyer said. “That’s what we really tried to do today.

“We realized in the warmups, it was pretty windy going out. So immediately we were talking, pointing out where I would be and he would be behind me, and then I would be behind him. That’s what we kind of wanted to do, what we had in mind.”

Middleton junior Ethan Mladucky was 16th overall in 17:18, senior Alexander Marrione was 29th in 17:46, and freshman Miles Wagener was 37th in 17:59 to round out the scoring for the Cardinals.

“Miles really stepped up for us,” Finnel said of Wagener. “He was seventh last week for us and moved up to fifth today. He really bailed us out. He stepped up a lot.”

Sophomore Dean Montour (18:04) and senior Ian Bohachek (18:33) rounded out the lineup for Middleton.

“I’m super stoked. I felt all week the race would be super tight, and it was,” Finnel said. “I’m glad we persevered. I know we were confident in each other and trusted each other.

“We talked about strategy all week and the wind. We saw there would be 20-mile-an-hour winds. We tried to draft off of each other, and we practiced that a bunch.”

Along with Manning, also qualifying for state as an individual were: Monona Grove senior Eli Traeder, Verona sophomore Blake Oleson, Madison La Follette senior Karl Olson and Madison East junior Malachi Oser.

Sun Prairie coach Kevin Hall was pleased his team advanced to state for the first time since 2018. The Cardinals placed five runners in the top 18 led by Alvarado, who finished third overall (16:00.878).

“Three months ago, it looked pretty dead. Anything we get now is kind of a gift,” Hall said of being able to compete. “We took advantage of an opportunity we didn’t have. It was great for the guys to be able to compete.”

Finnel said he knew it would be a competitive meet with Middleton, Sun Prairie and Verona all vying for state berths.

“This was our third time against Sun Prairie,” Finnel said. “They beat us twice, we beat them once. We beat them by three points last week, and they beat us by two earlier in the season.  They beat us by 31 today. So we’ll work to close that gap and hopefully make it a closer battle for the podium next week.”

Middleton, which won the 2019 Division 1 state title, will be after its fourth overall state championship and third in four years.

The one-division state meet is set for Saturday at the Blackhawk Country Club in Janesville.

“I felt that (Stevens Point) is the number one unanimous choice,” Finnel said of top-ranked SPASH. “Then I think it’s a real battle. If we can regroup and freshen up a bit and give Sun Prairie a battle like we did last week, I think we’re in the mix.

“But I’m just excited to be there.  We know that course well, it’s the Midwest Invitational course. It’s a flat, fast course. The weather looks like 60 degrees for a high so we expect good conditions.”

Schollmeyer, who missed his junior cross country season due to a stress fracture, said all that matters now is the season that almost never was still has one more race remaining.

“This year, to have a cross season and everyone is healthy, we’re all having a great time together. It just means everything,” Schollmeyer said. “To have a good cross season to end my high school career is something I’ll never forget.”


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 scoring: 1, Sun Prairie, 57; 2, Middleton, 88; 3, Verona, 104; 4, Madison East, 117; 5, 5, Madison La Follette, 119; 6, Madison Memorial, 135; 7, Monona Grove, 146; 8, Madison West, 147; 9, Mount Horeb, 215; 10, La Crosse Logan, 267; 11, Bangor, 316. Madison Country Day/Madison Abundant Life, Wisconsin Heights/Barneveld, incomplete.


Team state qualifiers: Sun Prairie and Middleton.


Top five individuals: 1, Aidan Manning, V, 16:01; 2, Griffin Ward, Mid, 16:01; 3, Mateo Alvarado, SP, 16:01; 4, Ryan Schollmeyer, Mid, 16:11; 5, Eli Traeder, MG, 16:32.


Individual state qualifiers: 1, Manning, V, 16:01; 5, Traeder, MG, 16:32; 6, Blake Oleson, V, 16:37; 7, Karl Olson, ML, 16:44; 8, Malachi Oser, ME, 16:45.


Sun Prairie: 3, lvarado 16:01; 9, Tyler Stoll 16:49, 13, Joseph Stoll 17:11; 14, Ben Marshall 17:12; 18, Will Schrandt 17:23; 22, Jonah Marshall, 17:27.


Middleton: 2, Ward, 16:01; 4, Schollmeyer, 16:11; 16, Ethan Mladucky, 17:18; 29, Alexander Marrione, 17:46; 37, Miles Wagener, 17:59; 41, Dean Montour, 18:04; 49, Ian Bohachek, 18:33.


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