Heeg caps career at state meet
STATE CROSS COUNTRY TOURNAMENT
Heeg carries Tigers’ banner at CC state meet
By Casey Krautkramer
Stratford High has certainly seen its share of athletic glory, especially over the past two seasons. The Tigers have been involved in multiple state tournaments in 2018 and 2019, hoisting their first ever state title in baseball, while also adding trophies for appearances at state football, wrestling and volleyball.
That level of excellence extends beyond the court and the diamond to the woods and trails that make up crosscountry meets and their five kilometer races.
For the past two seasons, Stratford senior James Heeg has been the one carrying the banner for the Tigers, proudly wearing the orange and black, as he speeds through a meet.
“Of course, that’s exactly what I want,” Heeg said about flying the Tiger’s colors. “I really want to see Stratford represent in cross-country.”
Heeg has been a standout in the sport these last two years, after making the move from football to cross-country. He made his first appearance at the WIAA D-3 state cross-country meet last year, and posted a respectable time of 17.52.3, good enough for 60th out of over 150 runners.
It was an achievement that was in some doubt earlier in his running career as he had to overcame a back injury.
With last year’s results burning in his mind, Heeg vowed to return to The Ridg- es Golf Course in 2019, and end his crosscountry career at the state meet.
To do that, Heeg knew he would have to mix up his training. For that, he went to his coach Kevin Burns. Together they created a more individualized approach.
“Really for me, it was just training over the summer, and then the training program was personalized a little bit for each of us and it just pushed us to that next level,” Heeg said about how he got back to the state meet.
The results speak for themselves as Heeg dropped nearly a minute from his time last year, cracking the top 25 as he finished in 17.10.2 and in 21st place.
“It’s awesome and it’s always an amazing experience,” Heeg said, describing competing in the state meet. “To decrease my times from this year to last year was just a big accomplishment for me.”
Heeg was able to make several moves through the race. At the one mile mark he was at 23rd place, by the second mile he had dropped back to 26th place, but made a charge in the final leg of the race to finish strong.
Not that this was easy. The Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids already has a rough reputation, with plenty of hills to challenge a runner’s endurance.
It doesn’t help that the meet took place with temps in the lower 30’s and a blizzard breaking out halfway through the D-3 girls race.
“I wasn’t really counting on the weather, but you just have to battle through it. We’re all facing the same conditions and I knew I just had to run my race. I just wanted to run a solid first mile and then just keep that through the entire race.”
Heeg trusted his training and relied upon his experience from last year’s meet to continue to pump his arms and drive his legs.
“Whenever you’re in a race, always go 100 percent. Even if it’s hard, you always have to go and push through, especially the state course.”
After the race, Heeg put his season and his career in perspective. He knows he’s an excellent runner, but he also gives thanks to all those that pushed him through the hard times.
“Knowing that this is my last race as a senior, that I get to end it here, I’m just so happy,” Heeg said with a smile.
“It means a lot. I’m really just happy for my coach and my teammates, and it’s just a big compliment.”