Athens looks to reload, not rebuild
‘Jay boys strive to maintain last year’s success
By Casey Krautkramer
The Athens boys cross country team enjoyed a historic season in 2019 by capturing its first Marawood Conference championship in school history.
It’ll be tough for this year’s boys squad to repeat the tremendous amount of success the program had last season, when Athens nearly also qualified for the WIAA Division 3 state championship race.
Athens is in a rebuilding mode of sorts this season, after losing its top five boys to graduation. The Bluejays also lost their top runner, Johnathan Nowacki, who qualified in back-to-back seasons for the WIAA Division 3 individual state championship race. Nowacki took 60th place at state his junior season before making it onto the podium with a 10th-place finish last year.
Sophomore Nathan Wolf, who is the son of Mike and Julie Wolf of Athens, was the team’s sixth-best runner last season. This year, he’s battling with junior Brooks Kraus to become Athens’ No. 1 boy’s runner on the team “Brooks and I have been pushing each other to our limits in practices thus far this season and we hope it pays off,” Nathan Wolf said. “We are going to keep doing the best we can do throughout this season.”
Athens sixth-year head coach Korey Rottscheit said some other boy runners are also in the mix to lead the team this year.
“Juniors Ethan Marohl and Mathew Redmann and senior Caleb Welbes will hopefully be able to be right up there at the top of our team as well this season,” Rottscheit said. “I also hope and expect to see our two new freshman runners, Andy Schaer and Garret Knott, grow and contribute to the team going forward into the future.”
Nathan Wolf had a great time being a part of the Athens’ boys team winning the school’s first conference cross country title last season at Frey Field in Spencer.
As the squad’s sixth runner, Nathan Wolf would’ve played an important part in breaking a tiebreaker if that had occurred against Marathon. A tiebreaker wasn’t needed, however, because the Bluejays edged the Red Raiders by a single point to win the conference meet at Frey Field in rural Spencer.
Nathan Wolf developed some running techniques from his teammate Nowacki, who has since graduated from Athens High School and is now running cross country and track at college Division 2 UW-Parkside in Kenosha.
“I learned a lot from Jonathan like not to push myself too hard at the beginning of the cross country season so I don’t wear myself out at the end of it,” he said.
Marathon alum William Litzer is the new Athens Middle School cross country coach this season.
Athens doesn’t have the five girl runners needed to field a team to score points at races this season. Junior Elizabeth Van Rixel returns and she could be the squad’s No. 1 runner this season now that her older sister, Abby Van Rixel, has graduated from Athens High School. Sophomores Addyson Zettler and Emma Ford could push Elizabeth Van Rixel to become the team’s top runner this year.
Coach Rottscheit expects his younger runners who are back this season to carry forth the program’s recent success.
“Every year I have coached the Athens cross country teams, the ‘Athens Cross Country Torch’ has been passed on year after year,” he said. “Yes, there were a lot of hard working and talented seniors last season that have now graduated and will surely be missed, but those runners earned the ‘torch’ that was passed on from the alumni before them, just as runners this season have taken up the ‘torch’ from last year’s seniors. We once again have some very motivated runners and it will be exciting to see what they can do. I can see the ‘torch’ has also been lit at our middle school level this year as well.”