KENOSHA – After a stellar regular season of middle school cross country, Clintonville eighth graders Ali Johnson, Brianna Gretzinger, and Jessica Petruzates continued to train-and train hard. Their goal was to race well and qualify for nationals at the USATF Regional Championship Cross Country Meet in Kenosha on Nov. 7. They were successful in their efforts, finishing third, fourth, and fifth in the qualifying meet. The top ten runners qualify for the National Championships in Hoover, Ala. on Dec. 11.
The trio joined up with two of the other top runners in the area, Bailey Wolf of Oconto Falls and Hannah Bielke of Amherst. The girls had raced against Wolf and Bielke all season long, but decided to join together with the hopes of qualifying as a team for the Nationals. Wolf was the only runner all season to have beaten Ali Johnson and Bielke was Amherst’s top runner and always near the front of all her races. All five trained together under USATF coach Jay Harris in Green Bay who coaches elite runners from Northeast Wisconsin.
The girls ran under the team name of Distance Demons. “It was a really tough course, with three big hills in the first mile,” said Ali Johnson. The racing distance was 4,000 m (2.5 miles), which was a half mile longer than their usual racing distance during the season. The girls still ran excellent times, however. Wolf ran 16:04 followed closely by Johnson in 16:08. Gretzinger and Petruzates crossed the line in 16:25 and 16:33 respectively. Bielke was the team’s fifth runner finishing in 16:43. Their Distance Demons team won first place and will compete against all of the other regional champions in Hoover.
“I am really proud of the girls. They trained really hard all season long. I am especially encouraged that they ran so fast on the demanding UW-Parkside course in Kenosha. They also adapted well to the longer distance,” noted Clintonville Coach Jeff Crumbaugh.