Merrill runners battle elements and foes at MARC
Cross country can be challenging enough by itself, with courses covering a full 5K for both boys and girls this year, but then there are those extra obstacles that creep up now and then.
Weather fit not-so-neatly into that obstacle category in Saturday’s seven-team Merrill Invite held at the MARC proving grounds.
Runners faced temps in the high 30’s, although most of the snow hit surrounding areas and missed the MARC. They also fought steady winds out of the west, but the course that circles the park and even forays into Council Grounds mercifully puts those prevailing winds square in the back down the homestretch.
The Bluejay boys ended up third by a mere two-point margin, while the girls finished the same by a larger difference. Medford – which reportedly saw up to an inch of snow the same morning – captured the title of both events, while Wisconsin Rapids Assumption edged the boys and Mosinee surpassed the girls.
“Our Invitational numbers were down a bit from prior years, but the talent pool was very strong”, MHS coach Craig Hoffman said. “Our boys had to really compete to stay in the top-25 today. Our regional competitors came here to race in the inclement weather and it was a race to the very wet finish. The efforts of seniors Brady Schmelling, Brett Swan, Jacob Jensen, Losha Heisinger and Reese Beyersdorf paid off with the team coming in a very close third place finish.
“Hats off to Medford and Assumption; they competed very well. Sophomores Treven Oberg and Nathan Koch need to believe they can compete and they will be coached to stay closer to the pack of seniors ahead of them.”
The boys finished with 65 points with finishes from Scmelling (9th, 18:32), Swan (10th, 18:33), Jensen (17th, 19:03), Heisinger (18th, 19:04) and Beyersdorf 19th, 19:17). Oberg (21st, 19:24) and Koch (23rd, 19:29) were close behind.
The girls ran just five on varsity, Harris (12th, 23:25), Schleif (15th, 24:21), Morgan Pettit (20th, 25:20), Mickenna Comstock (21st, 25:40) and Elizabeth Danielczak (26th, 26:52).
“Our girls were dealt a blow with the illnesses and injuries of junior Kennedy Soderberg and sophomore Gabby Schlegal, but the five remaining runners put in a pretty good effort,” Hoffman said. “Junior Shelby Harris and senior Christa Schleif showed much improvement in their races. I was pleased with our Junior Varsity runners today, they weathered the beaten down path today and proved they can compete when given the opportunity.
“Overall, both our boys and girls teams need to stay healthy, and need to mentally prepare for some hard driving competition. All runners run the same length of the race, so we may as well be the top dogs in the race because you’re going to hurt no matter where you place.”
“We will see many of our Valley competitors next week up in Tomahawk, so it will be a good meet before conference,” Hoffman said. “We now need to focus on the upcoming tournament series in a couple of weeks.”