Although the 2019 Rhinelander Hig School cross country did not send any harriers to the WIAA Division 2 State Meet this season, they continue to progress and improve as a team which was especially evident in sectionals. The Hodags had several notable individual and team results this past season and here is a look at back at their successes and what to look forward to in 2020 with all 14 varsity runners returning under Coach M.J. Laggis.
Rhinelander opened their season with their home invite where the girls finished 5th and the boys placed 6th. For the RHS's next two meets both the boys and girls finished runner-up or third. At Mosinee both Rhinelander divisions finished third and at the non-conference invite at Stratfrod the girls were 2nd/6 and the boys added another third place finish.
One of the biggest invitationals the Hodags participate in every season is the annual Smiley Invite held at Tribute Golf Course in Wausau. This season was the 63rd annual, and Rhinelander girls finished 7th/8 in the Small Division of D1 schools and the boys were 10th/11. One of Rhinelander's top boy harriers, junior Jacob Weddle was sick but still battled through and finished 54th out of a field of 164 D1 runners.
Sophomore Cal Laggis was the Hodags top finisher in the boys' division and placed 32nd and fellow sophomore Jaden Beske was 49th. On the girls side junior Abbey Henrichs paced the RHS girls and was 21st in a field of 154 D1 harriers. Junior Ali DeNamur was right behind in 22nd. And sophomore Audrey Schiek was 38th, junior Ella Schiek finished 41st, and sophomore Sage Flory placed 48th.
After the Smiley Invite, Rhinelander was primarily back to full strength and went on another streak where they placed top-three in both the girls' and boys' divisions in their next four invites. Starting at Gartzke Flowage, the Hodags got their first look at where the GNC meet would take place in Polar, where the girls finished second and the boys placed in the five team event. From there, both teams earned third place finishes at the Charger Invite in Waupaca, which included a field of 10-teams.
Then at the Northland Pines Invite, both the girls and boys both won their divisions out of five teams. Both teams cruised to convincing wins which included all seven varsity runners placing in the top-12 on the boys side and all seven of the varsity girls recording top-17 finishes. Weddle led a 1-2 finish with teammate Laggis, both cracking the 18-minute mark. Beske finished fifth, junior Daniel Goldsworthy was eighth, junior JC Adams was 10th, freshman Nathanael Gibbs placed 11th, and junior David Gibbs finished 12th. Abbey Henrichs set the pace or the RHS girls’ and was fourth overall followed by Audrey Schiek in fifth, sophomore Emma Germain finished eighth, Flory was 12th, sophomore Megan Brown was 13th, and senior Valeria Dalka rounded out the varsity in 17th.
Rhinelander finished in the middle of the pack to follow in an invite at Edgewater. The lady Hodags were 5th/9 and the boys were also 5th/11. RHS was looking to make up some ground against Mosinee in the Great Northern Conference invite at Gartzke Flowage. But both the boys and girls harriers finished 5th/7 in the conference. Tomahawk boys edged Lakeland for the GNC title and Medford girls beat out Lakeland for the girls' title. RHS did show great improvement in promise as the battled a tough sectional at Edgewater in Tomahawk. The girls were 7th/16 and the boys’ finished 8th/16 but were unable to send any individuals to state. On the plus side the girls bumped up three positions from last season's section finish and the boys jumped spots ahead in sectionals compared to last year.
All 14 varsity runners who competed at both the GNC meet and sectionals will return next season in which 11 harriers dropped time, which could mean a break out season for 2020. The Hodags also had six of the seven harriers on the boys’ side of action set personal-best times this year. Coach Laggis and the RHS Cross Country team will continue to train hard in the off-season and are optimistic for what the future holds.