By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD — After its strongest finish in 15 years at the Wisconsin Valley Conference Meet last October, the Marshfield boys cross country team has high expectations coming into 2017.
The Marshfield boys took second place at the WVC Meet it hosted at Frey Field in Spencer last year with only perennial power Stevens Point beating them out. Point won its 29th-straight conference title while the Tigers had their best finish on the boys side since 2001.
Marshfield returns 14 boys letter winners, including seniors Jared Oemig and Jordan Dzikowich, who each earned all-WVC honors with 10th- and 11th-place finishes, respectively, at the conference meet.
Senior Paul Fischer; juniors Carter Chojnacki, Jacob Dick, Nathaniel Phillips, and Eli Swanson; and sophomores Ben Claessens, Evan Ellis, Addison Hill, Joseph McKee, Joshua McKee, and Spencer Wirthlin also are back for the Tigers after competing at one time or another at the varsity level last season.
“Last fall we had too many lineup changes, and that was because we were inconsistent as a team,” Marshfield coach Dan Akin said. “With another summer of training, this group is ready to compete and become a more consistent group. The boys worked hard this summer and in spring track and are ready to improve over last year’s season.
“We have a big crew of runners (50 boys), and that will provide us some depth as the season goes on. I like what I’ve seen so far.”
The Marshfield girls will look to improve on a sixth-place finish at the WVC Meet last fall.
Seniors Sophia Schrodi, Lilly O’Brien, and Katelyn Gauerke; juniors Jocie Anderson and Emma Gilkerson; and sophomore Madysen Bohman are returning letter winners for the Tigers, and they are joined by a number of newcomers, including nine freshmen.
“We have a nice mix of veterans and new varsity runners, including nine new ninth-grade runners on our girls team,” Akin said. “The girls have worked hard so far, and the new girls have shown great work ethic early on. These ladies will continue to get better in time.”
Marshfield opens its season Saturday at the Marshfield Columbus Catholic Invitational. The traditional Labor Day weekend meet will be held at Wildwood Park beginning at 9:30 a.m.
The Marshfield Tiger Invitational will be held at Frey Field for the first time instead of Wildwood Park. The meet — featuring 23 teams: Auburndale, Columbus Catholic, Spencer, and Stratford included — starts at 4:15 p.m. on Sept. 5.
“It was a hard decision,” Akin said of moving the meet away from Wildwood Park. “It was not taken lightly. Mark (Frey) has put so much time and energy into his course. It’s an all-grass surface, one of the finest facilities, and it’s right here for us.”