His cross country season is only two meets old and Waupaca’s Zach Wheeler already has a pair of top-three finishes.
The Comet junior, a state qualifier last year, placed second Sept. 2 at the Winneconne Invitational with a time of 17:14 and opened the season two days earlier with a third-place finish at the Iola-Scandinavia Invitational, where he turned in a time of 17:36.
“Zach is looking forward to going back to state,” coach Mark Unertl said. “Not all talented runners are good leaders, but Zach sets a really good example.”
Wheeler’s second-place finish in Winneconne helped the Comet boys place seventh with 181 points, while the girls tied for fourth with Omro with 119 points.
At the Iola Winter Sports Club, the boys placed 11th with 272 points, while the girls were 10th with 236.
Also placing for the Comet boys were Jeff Servey, 44th, 21:24; Adam Biba, 65th, 23:05; Gabriel Vassar, 74th, 24:07; Shawn Adkins, 86th, 27:28; and Logan Ader, 90th, 31:03.
Freshman Autumn Schultz led the Comet girls’ team by placing 36th in 19:32. Also placing were Taylor Fabricius, 39th, 19:36; Kathern Haen, 50th, 19:49; Abbey Lazers, 52nd, 19:58; Taylor Davidson, 59th, 20:19; Lizzie Hanke, 67th, 20:41; Haley Flesch, 69th, 20:46; and Izzi Mielke, 90th, 24.38.
The boys’ middle school team placed three runners in the top six and placed first with 36 points. Mitchell Rota, Eric Bolwerk and Ryan Wiese placed second, third and sixth, respectively, while other finishers were Aavery Grant (12th), Ryan Esch (13th), Hunter Smith (21st), Ben Waitrovich (22nd) and Luke Wanty (23rd).
The girls’ middle school squad placed fourth with 89 points and had a pair of top 10 finishers. Macie Davidson placed fifth and Victoria Nowak was ninth. Also placing were Michelle Petkovsek (22nd), Ashley Jeske (24th), Alissa Blank (29th), Raven Patzke (36th), Tatiana Sotka (38th) and Paige Lavine (44th).
Other returning runners on the boys’ side include Servey and Biba.
“We didn’t really lose anybody critical from last year,” Unertl said. “Just like in any sport, experience is paramount.”
While Wheeler is expected to lead the boys’ team at races, the girls’ squad doesn’t have a go-to runner.
“Unlike the boys, it’s a very tight group of girls in the races,” Unertl said. “The girls are a better team, but they don’t have an upfront runner. We have eight girls that are all good varsity runners.”
Schultz shows some promise, as she turned in the team’s second-fastest time at Winneconne behind Fabricius.
“She has some talent, but she complements that with her hard work,” Unertl said. “She’s very aggressive and that’s what we talked to the team about. We have to be more aggressive.”
As in other years, the Comets will spend the vast majority of the season on the road. The only home meet is the Waupaca Invitational, scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 30.
“I think the best thing about this team is the attitude and the willingness to do what it takes to get better,” Unertl said.