Annalise Schroeder and Macy Egan already knew they qualified for state as they crossed the finish line last Friday at cross country sectionals.
It was Michael Heise who endured painful uncertainty for an hour over whether he made the cut.
“It was the most stressful hour I’ve had in a long, long time,” Heise said. The top two teams (consisting of seven people each) and the top five individuals outside of those two teams move on, so his ninth place finish did not guarantee a shot.
Thanks to champion team Stevens Point having the first, second and sixth place finishers and runner-up D.C. Everest having the fourth place runner, Heise was the cut-off for qualifiers. He finished within one second of seventh place (Hortonville’s Tony Cass) and eighth place.
Assistant coach Nick Schaefer told Heise he would have a fast run based on Schaefer’s own college races in Nine Mile Forest. Heise wound up disagreeing, saying “I thought it was pretty hilly.”
Annalise Schroeder enjoyed her run through the forest despite pre-race nerves, getting boxed in at the beginning and experiencing some potholes and unfriendly gravel.
Macy Egan was in agreement with Coach Schaefer. “Every uphill had a downhill,” she said. She compared the woodsy one-loop course to the Polka Grounds in Pulaski, where the team established a combined total of 26 personal and seasonal bests last month.
The girls finished knowing their spots were safe thanks to Coach Ron DuVernay telling them standings during the race. Still, the girls kept the speed rolling to secure their spots. Schroeder was the second individual qualifier overall with a ninth place finish at 15:24. Egan followed her within two seconds for tenth place. Egan had an 11-second lead over the final individual qualifier.
Egan will be New London’s rookie in Wisconsin Rapids this Saturday, so she must strategize based on advice, not experience.
“Everyone is as fast as you, no one is slower than you, so get out there and don’t get caught in the pack,” Egan said DuVernay informed her. She is less nervous than she was for sectionals because now she can have fun. She hopes the fierce competition will lead her to a new personal record time.
Senior Michael Heise’s 2008 trip to state is still fresh in his mind. Crowd noise rang nonstop in his ears as deep mobs of spectators cheered for 190 Division 1 runners climbing the uphill finish. His goal is to reach his personal record, a 16:26 set last season.
Junior Annalise Schroeder says she is thrilled to be joined by Macy and Michael in Wisconsin Rapids this time. After topping her personal best time by a second last week, she is still determined to display her best performance yet in a race where all runners are boxed in for the first mile with no choice but to literally go with the flow. Whether or not successful, Schroeder is grateful for the opportunity and insists “I won’t be disappointed no matter what.”
Along with Heise, Bulldog boys Andrew Philippon, Ian Wetzel, Kevin Urban, Andrew Schlais, Dan Bosquez and Chris Steingraber showcased their strides in Wausau. Bridget Pethke, Amber Pethke, Kara Hoier, Anna Staudenmaier and Brenna Heise represented New London’s girls’ team.
The cross country team will join their state bound runners on the trip to Ridges Golf Course this Saturday. The Bulldogs will don their spookiest or most ridiculous Halloween costumes so Schroeder, Egan and Heise can spot their fans among the thousands of avid spectators.