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‘Jays experience state

‘Jays experience state ‘Jays experience state

Boys place higher than local teams

The Athens boys cross country team battled many hills on the WIAA state championship race course at The Ridges Golf Course on Saturday afternoon, during a sunny 61-degree day that is uncharacteristic for this time of year in Wisconsin Rapids. For example, two years ago there was a blizzard for a while during the WIAA Division 3 girls state championship race.

Athens took 13th out of 16 Division 3 squads competing at the state championship. The Athens boys, which were making their first trip to state in over 50 years, finished higher than Marawood schools’ Marathon in 15th and Auburndale in 16th places.

Junior Nathan Wolf was the fastest Athens runner by taking 76th place out of 149 runners in 18 minutes, 35.6 seconds. Senior Brooks Kraus placed 84th in 18:41.3, sophomore Andy Schaer 92nd in 18:49.2, junior Connor Sheahan achieved a personal record by placing 95th in 18:51.6, freshman Nick Pittman was 125th in 19:33.4 and sophomore Garrett Knott 149th in 26:48.

Brooks Kraus was happy to end his Athens cross country running career at the state championship race.

“We put a lot of work into this year and my teammates pushed me, and it just feels real good to go out on a high,” he said.

Kraus also enjoyed running in warmer-than-usual weather on the final weekend in October, except the temperature couldn’t been a bit cooler, but he didn’t want to complain too much about the weather.

“It was really nice and felt really good for the first two miles, but it was almost a little too warm when you’re pushing yourself hard like we did,” he said. “Other than that, it was nice to have a good, decent day.”

Nathan Wolf said the hills on the state course were definitely a challenge.

“I found the hardest to be motivated when going up these hills and pushing yourself on every uphill and downhill,” he said. “You really got to find motivation and push yourself all throughout the entire course. I’m not going to lie, the heat surprised us and really played a factor. This time of year you expect it to be cold, but it was really hot running up these hills.”

Athens head cross country coach Korey Rottscheit said it was neat for his boys team to experience competing at the state championships.

“There’s nothing better than ending the year at state,” he said. “A lot of hard work went into it, obviously through the coaching staff and the runners especially. It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of desire to get to where they got to, and I’m glad they made it and had fun running at state. It’s a tough course, and they all ran really well and we even had one personal record today which is awesome to see on such a tough course.”

The Athens boys won its home WIAA Division 3 sectional to qualify for state this season for the first time in over half a century. Kraus enjoyed running for Athens.

“Making it to state doesn’t happen very often, and obviously everyone knows the last time was like 50 years ago,” he said. “The goal going into this was just to represent Athens as good as we could, and I think we did that this year.”

Wolf said Sheahan joining the Athens boys squad made a big difference in how successful the team was this season.

“It feels great to finish it all here,” Wolf said. “At the start of the season, we were thinking we were going to be shy of state this year, but Connor Sheahan came out and that really gave us the hope we needed. It feels great to represent Athens at state and to know we did something special.”

Coach Rottscheit was coy during the season about letting his boy runners know the team hadn’t been to state in over 50 years.

“Honestly, we didn’t really talk about it,” he said. “I purposely didn’t bring it up a lot throughout the season because I didn’t want any more pressure put on them. Two years ago it was kind of a big thing and I wanted to make sure we could bring history back and talk about it. We’re back on the map as cross country in Athens has been in kind of a lull until the last seven or eight years. Finally we are respectable.”

Athens High School held a pep rally in the gym on Thursday afternoon to get the boys cross country team pumped up for the state championship race. Young Athens middle school runners, such as eighth grader Riley Schultz-Becker and sixth grader Ted Schultz-Becker, spent time at the pep rally celebrating Athens boys cross country with alumni like their grandfather, Ed Schultz, who was a member of the last Bluejay boys cross country team to compete in the state championship race. “Once they won sectionals I wanted to make a big deal, and we got some of our alumni in for a pep assembly, and Doug Riske was here cheering us on,” coach Rottscheit said. “It’s good to bring the community together and bring your alumni back, and it’s been awesome to see and have the kids to experience this; I think they thought it was pretty cool. We got 2021 up on the cross country banner in the gym already, and it’s good they can be part of history.”

Coach Rottscheit said it was a remarkable accomplishment for the Athens boys cross country team to qualify for the state championships this season.

“To have kids from a small school like us is unbelievable,” he said. “We were the smallest school at state. To be able to have five runners that are this good to come out of Athens, which is that small, is unheard of. It’s exciting when you are going against teams that are 20 kids deep, and we only have six kids total.”

Although this is Kraus’ final year running cross country for Athens before he graduates high school this spring, he’s hoping the team’s state tournament appearance this season provides a bright future for the school’s boys cross country squad.

“We don’t have a huge team this year, but I hope we motivated those young kids to come out and try it,” he said. “I think we showed that if you work for something you can make things happen.”

BATTLING THE HILLS AT STATE- Athens sophomore Andy Schaer (932) and junior Nathan Wolf (931) run up a hill during the WIAA Division 3 state cross country championship race on Saturday afternoon at The Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids.STAFF PHOTO/ROSS PATTERMANN