By: Brett Haffner
With temperatures in the low 60's on a cloudy, fall day, you can't ask for better cross country racing conditions. The athletes racing in West Salem, Wisconsin had a beautiful day to get after things, this being the first opportunity for many to race against real competition from other teams.
The first race started off with a bang, as Tyler Lee of Onalaska took out the race hard in the low 4:50's for the first mile, with Aquinas' Andrew Skemp following close behind. Coming around the rolling hills in mile two, Skemp took a convincing lead and never looked back, crushing the field with an impressive 16:09. Lee would finish in 2nd with a time of 16:44, followed by teammate Ron Walters in 3rd, running 16:55.
On the team side, Aquinas got the victory, showing their prowess as the returning D3 state champs over the last two years. Skemp finished 4th at state last year and is certainly looking like one of the top contenders across the division to compete for the state title later this fall. Alec Taylor and Mitch Ellis were able to stick near Lee and Walters of Onalaska, taking 4th and 5th. Now, their overall split of 1:38 isn't ideal, but this was only their second race of the year - if they can approach closer to a 1:00-1:10 split on 5, Aquinas will be looking deadly across D3.
Onalaska had a tough blow last year at their Sectional meet, tying for 2nd with New Richmond and ultimately losing to a tiebreaker. Fortunately, they return a good deal of their squad, looking very solid behind a strong Aquinas team. They are looking like a strong team to qualify for the state meet this year, led by the strong duo of Lee and Walters.
There wasn't much question as to how the results of the girls' race would pan out. However, we were all still wondering: how fast could the Malecek sisters go? Well, as they showed: incredibly fast. Kora Malecek took to the lead instantly, with sisters Lydia and Amalia following just behind. They continued to open up on the rest of the field, and convincingly: Kora would go on to break her own course record by roughly a second, running an impressive 17:28 to take the win. Lydia came in next at 18:53, with Amalia following her in 19:22.
When you're the returning state champion it's going to be hard to find some competition to battle with, COVID season or not, yet Kora made the most out of it with her convincing victory. She sets a strong example on how racing fast during this challenging season is still very possible, as long as you put your mind to it. With sisters Lydia and Amalia not trailing too far behind, Onalaska is still reigning as one of the top teams in all of Wisconsin. Their second place finish at D1 state last year can certainly be replicated with the squad they have.