Harris thrilled with chance in the big show

Merrill junior Sydney Harris encountered the experience of her young lifetime when she competed in Saturday’s WIAA State Cross Country Meet in Wisconsin Rapids.
Harris ran 91st in the meet in 15:53.91, a pace of 6:24 per mile over the 2-1/2 mile course.
“Our trip to state was an exciting event,” MHS coach Kurt VandenHeuvel said. “Sydney prepared herself very well and ran a great race on a course she has never been on before.
“She was on pace to run the best time of the season for 3/4 of the race, passing people on the hills, but just ran out of gas in the last 400 meters. When talking to her afterwards she told me she started too hard. I am truly proud of Sydney’s accomplishments this year. Every race she ran was with heart and a purpose. That is all I can ask for as a coach. Sydney has been a great leader for our team and I am excited to see what she will bring to the team next year for her final season!”
Harris had her eyes opened with the vibrancy and vitality of the state meet.
“It was really exciting,” Harris said. “It was just a completely different atmosphere from the other meets with so many people there.”
Yet, she competed in fine fashion, despite the potential for feeling overwhelmed.
“I was pretty happy with it,” Harris said. “I cut off a lot of time from the first race to sectionals to state.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to qualify again. If I work hard enough in the off-season I should be able to. I probably would just like to finish stronger. The end of my race was kind of weaker, so hopefully I’ll have a better finish and get a better time.”
Some say the Ridges Golf Course track provides a tough test, particularly due to hills that show up when runners are tiring. The temptation to run too fast, too early with the high-quality field doesn’t help.
“I thought it was a little different, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle,” Harris said. “They have a couple of hills late in the race, but I just tried to push through them.
“I had watched the race as a freshman, so I kind of knew what the course was like, but I didn’t remember it all.”
The event closed out the season.
“I feel as a coach we made good ground this year,” VandenHeuvel said. “All the athletes improved tremendously. We need to work on closing the gap between our first runners (Sydney Harris, Garrett Schmelling, Andrew Seaman) and the rest of the varsity runners (Ashley Berton, Stephanie Chapleau, Kate Williams, Kendra Andreska, Kelci Peterson, Christa Schlief) (Michael Seaman, Marcus Reinhardt, Andrew Koch, Jake Jenson, Reese Byersdorf, Matt Dewar). Also getting more athletes interested in running CC would help as well. I am proud of the hard work and dedication these athletes put into the season and look forward to working with them again in the track season!”

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