Central boys win first sectional CC title
The season of firsts for the St. Croix Central boys cross country team continued when the Panthers won the championship in the 2008 Unity Division 2 Cross Country Sectional Meet on Friday.
This means the Panthers will be competing at the WIAA State Meet for the first time this Saturday. Central senior Steve Zerwas was the first Panther boy to run at the state meet when he competed there last year.
The state meet will be run at The Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids on Saturday. The Division 2 boys meet will begin at 10:40 a.m. on Saturday.
When Zerwas went to state last year, Panther coach Bill Emery took the entire Central team along. He said that was done with a specific purpose in mind: to inspire the team to get to the state meet this year.
The move worked to perfection. The Panthers were a dedicated team of runners in the off-season. They began winning meets at the start of the season and they've won every meet they've competed in this season, other than the Amery Invitational.
At the sectional meet the Panthers were a focused, hungry team. Sophomore Brett Johnson again was Central's leader, placing fourth overall with a time of 17:17.
Zerwas and classmate Derrek Pedersen were close behind. Zerwas placed 13th and Pedersen placed 16th.
The depth of the Panthers' lineup locked up the sectional title. Senior Ryan Hansen placed 22nd and freshman Stephen Brunshidle was a step behind him in 23rd. That gave the Panthers a team total of 78 points. It put them ahead of Rice Lake, which finished with 87 points to earn the second berth in the state meet from this sectional meet.
Senior Logan Snyder and junior David Butler were the sixth and seventh Panther runners, placing 51st and 53rd overall.
Emery said all the credit for this success goes to the runners, who he praised for their self-motivation.
"Dreams come true," Emery said. "It's been the focus from them. If the heart comes from them, rather than a coach, it does better."
While the Panthers were successful all through the season, they had some obstacles too. Zerwas and Snyder both battled injuries for much of the season. They stayed dedicated to the final goal, and they were back to full health in time for the conference meet.
Central's girls were also hoping to be represented at the state meet, but that dream didn't quite come true on Friday.
Central's girls placed ninth among the 16 teams. Senior Michelle Brunshidle ran another top quality race, placing 11th overall. She missed qualifying for state as an individual by 20 seconds.
Brunshidle ran an aggressive race. She went out with the leaders and tried to maintain that pace, but couldn't quite maintain a spot needed to get into the state meet.
"The girls had a great season. I was impressed with how hard they worked," Emery said.
Brunshidle is the only senior in a Panther lineup that was strong and consistent all year. The team will return juniors Anna Langer, Abby Delander, Martha Landry and Janel Jacobson and sophomores Corynne Nelson and Maddie Skaalrud.