Waupaca athlete places ninth at Tomahawk Sectional
By Greg Seubert
Mitchell Rotta needed to run the race of his life if he was going to qualify for his first WIAA State Cross Country Meet.
That’s exactly what the Waupaca senior did Oct. 24 at the Division 2 Tomahawk Sectional at Edgewater Country Club. His ninth-place finish was good enough to qualify for state, slated for Saturday, Oct. 31, at The Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids.
Not only did Rotta claim the final individual state-qualifying spot, he did it in his fastest time, 16:55.
“I knew (a qualifying place) was on the line,” he said. “I did not know if I actually made it, although a lady from the crowd and the Freedom coach both said, ‘I think you’re the last one.’”
Lakeland and Northland Pines qualified their boys’ teams for state, while Freedom and Peshtigo are moving on from the girls’ side.
The top five finishers not on a qualifying team also advance to state.
“I started out at an easy, moderate pace,” Rotta said. “I was quite far behind at the mile mark, but I was pacing myself because I knew I was hitting my times. I ran through the mile marker at 5:19, which is right where I wanted to be, came through the two-mile marker where I wanted to be and took four more places by the time I hit the finish line.
“I was focused on catching each and every one of them,” he added. “There were two Lakeland kids I was running with and I knew they were going to qualify as a team. I didn’t have to worry about them as much.”
Rotta just missed out on a trip to state as a junior.
“I came so close, but I didn’t have my best race,” he said. “This year, I had my best race, my lifetime PR. Hopefully, I can beat that further when I get to state.”
Rotta also wrestles and is a distance runner on the track team.
“Last summer, I put in over 300 miles,” he said. “This summer, I came off of a knee injury and was out for three weeks. A lot of training went into that. I was running six miles last year every morning before wrestling practice. This summer, I had stuff to do every day.”
The Waupaca boys and girls placed 10th at the sectional.
Also placing for the boys were Hunter Smith (34th, 17:53); Danny Esch (58th, 18:39); Ryan Esch (69th, 19:02); Ben Waitrovich (83rd, 19:38); Dayton Bell (95th, 20:14); and August Kuffel (100th, 20:36).
Placing for the Waupaca girls were Michelle Petkovsek (14th, 20:46); MacKenzie Schultz (46th, 21:54); Ashley Jeske (58th, 22:29); Victoria Nowak (62nd, 22:43); and Kristin Petkovsek (71st, 22:56).
Clintonville’s Kara Pyatskowit won the girls’ race in 18:57, while Medford’s Jarod Rudolph won the boys’ race in 16:20.
Rotta is looking forward to one more race before wrestling practice gets underway in early November.
“The last four years have come down to this moment,” he said. “It feels amazing.”