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Red Raiders battle in the snow

Red Raiders battle in the snow Red Raiders battle in the snow


Marathon ends historic season at state CC meet

By Ross Pattermann

Over the course of his many years as the Marathon Red Raiders head crosscountry and boys track and field coach EJ Otto has seen it all. His boisterous and energetic personality has inspired countless student-athletes at Marathon High to accomplish great things.

But this year’s cross country teams were different, and for the first time in his long tenure as a coach, Otto was watching as both his girls and boys crosscountry teams prepared to race at the highest and most illustrious meet in all of Wisconsin - the WIAA state meet.

Nearly a thousand runners descended upon The Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids on Saturday. Among them were 16 teams on both the boys and girls side. And this year the Red Raiders had teams in both races.

His voice hushed, his expression one of pride, surprise and awe, Otto watched both of his cross-country teams as they warmed up, stretched and prepared for the WIAA D-3 state meet.

“You know what . . . I’m still in shock over it,” Otto said, struggling to find the words to describe the occasion. “When these kids came in over the summer, I didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Some runners were making a transition from one sport to another, while others were still learning how to handle a course and picking up the techniques needed to be a good distance runner.

But as the season progressed, and as the times improved and the runners got better, Otto could see the potential.

“You know, once we got into the season we taught them how to breathe and how to have proper posture, how to control yourself on hills, uphill, downhill, I thought to myself - this is doable.”

Marathon has fielded cross-country teams on the boys side, but it’s been since 2014 since that last happened. For the girls, up until this year, there was an empty space on the banners for state meet appearances.

That all changed this year. The Red Raiders pushed each other and vowed that they would be the team to do what no other had done, and Otto believed them.

“It was there, it was a bright shiny light,” Otto said. “I’ve done this a long time, and you could see it, there was absolutely no question these girls could get themselves here.”

Both the boys and girls team made it into the state meet as sectional runnerups at Erbach Park last week, and with the achievement, the girls cross-country banner will be empty no more.

“It’s incredible that we as a team got this far and it’s so cool to end it on such a high note,” senior Katrina Fredrickson said. “Last year we were super close to doing it, and that was just heartbreaking we didn’t make it, so this year it just felt so triumphant to do what we’d always wanted to do. It’s just so cool to see the program take off like this.”

As far as the race itself, it featured conditions more in line with a winter event than a fall sport, with high winds and thick, heavy snowflakes bombarding the girls D-3 race for the final two miles.

“There were so many hills and it was snowing so badly you couldn’t even see where you were going,” sophomore Laci Hoeksema said. “I was running with my eyes closed!”

As a team, the girls finished tenth overall with a combined score of 249 points, with Lourdes Academy winning the state title with a score of 112. Gillett took second and Auburndale finished in third place.

Guiding Marathon was sophomore Jada Prihoda in 36th place overall, and 19th as a team score, with a time of 20.54.5. Frederickson was second across the finish line, taking 41st overall, and 20th as a scorer, in a time of 21:00.9. Hoeksema was 101st and Anna Cleven was 102nd in times of 22:19.8 and 22:20.9.

Rounding things out for the Marathon girls team was Camryn Sapinski in 122nd in 23:08.6, Kayla Radtke in 134th in 23:33.9 and Jersey Lobner in 147th in 25:18.9.

With the Red Raiders set to lose just one runner, Frederickson, the result on Saturday gives Marathon all the confidence in the world for next season - and a burning desire to do even better as a team.

“It’s amazing to be here because this is the first time in our school history to go to state and it’s just a really fun experience,” Prihoda said.

“Hard work pays off, and we worked so hard in practice for this. Our coach said at the end, this is just practice for next year, and it would be amazing to come back.”

As far as coach Otto? Well, he’s still somewhat speechless, but incredibly grateful and happy for his young runners and their season.

“I told them at sectionals, ‘Just give me one more week. I just want one more week with you.’ By golly, they did it. They gave me one more week,” Otto said. “I’m kinda wordless, which is hard to believe, but I’m just so happy for them. No one ever realizes how much work they put into this.”

Boys return to state meet

The Marathon Red Raiders boys crosscountry team might have come up short in their bid for a conference title this year, losing to Athens by just one point, but like the girls team, they’ll be putting another year on their cross-country banner.

Their appearance at the WIAA D-3 state meet on Saturday marked their first appearance at The Ridges Golf Course since 2014, and senior Will Prihoda could not be happier. STATE CROSS COUNTRY TOURNAMENT

“It’s pretty surreal . . . I didn’t think we’d be here this year,” Prihoda said. “But after the sectional race, and being here, it’s been pretty cool. Seeing the potential come through, especially in this race . . . and just knowing the fact this was our last race, and using all that energy I had from the rest of the year, it really helped during the race.”

Prihoda, along with the rest of his team, would need that help as the course featured high hills, biting winds and bitter cold temperatures.

“It was really cold, and it was a tough start and it hurt pretty bad,” senior Aaron Schumacher said. “It’s a really cool experience, especially since I’m a senior this year, along with Will and Tyler [Cliver], so making it our senior year feels pretty awesome and we’re all pretty happy.”

That goal was always in reach, and it offered special motivation for the three seniors on the team, says Schumacher, and to end his career at the state meet was the perfect way to end his crosscountry career. “At the beginning of the season I set a goal where I wanted to make it here as a team because I’ve made it in track before and I thought in cross-country that would be awesome to make it as a team and once we were able to make second as a team at sectionals I was very happy.”

As he has all season, Phrioda led the way for Marathon, placing 58th overall and 26th as a scoring runner with his time of 17.47.4.

Junior Cullen Krasselt was second through the finish line for the Red Raiders, taking 58th as a scorer and 98th overall in 18:35.4.

Schumacher came next, completing his final cross country race in a time of 18.55.5, taking 111th overall. Freshman Jaron Gage was the fourth finisher, placing 118th overall in 19:06.6.

Cliver was 124th overall with his time of 19:19.5, sophomore Owen Marks was 132nd in 19:58.0, and the final runner through the finish line for the Marathon boys team was sophomore Jonah Streveler in his time of 20.03.1, taking 133rd overall.

With a young team returning to Marathon next year, the Red Raiders should be in the mix for a conference title. They’ll have the benefit of being armed with the knowledge of running at state, but for the moment, all the runners will enjoy their accomplishment.

And for some, the work towards returning to the state meet in Wisconsin Rapids in 2020 will be on their schedules.

For others, it was the end of their prep career, and the feelings and thoughts and reflections spanned the whole spectrum from sadness to happiness.

“It was a great experience - it hurt a lot, that’s for sure, but at the end of the day it was an awesome experience,” Schumacher said.

For Prihoda, the final race of his career left him with pride, and the knowledge that he competed and held his own with some of the best runners in the state of Wisconsin.

“Obviously we’re proud to be out there,” Prihoda said. “It’s a once in a lifetime experience, and the last race of my high school career.

“It’s bittersweet. Obviously a lot of miles put on during the season and during the years. It’s good to put a cap on it, but at the same time, it’s the last meet ever, so I never get to do it again, but I got to do it against the best of the best.”

Another season of cross-country is in the books, and new faces will certainly emerge, but one fact remains - the banners in Marathon High are forever changed.