It was a cloudy day in Wisconsin Rapids on Saturday for the state cross country championships, and the atmosphere was especially gloomy around the Lakeland girls’ team at the finish line after the race. 

While there was no disappointment in their season, since racing in the state finals is a reward itself, the Thunderbirds got there believing they could win races, so their mediocre eighth place team finish was bound to hurt at first.

“They’re very disappointed,” head coach Dan Claussen said. “Obviously our expectations were very high.”

The let-down, though, was lightened when Lakeland junior Ashley Peterson stepped up on the podium at the awards ceremony with a sixth place medal, and her sullen teammates were given reason to celebrate. 

“I am etxtremely proud of Ashley,” Claussen said. “She’ll get a medal and she deserves it because she works her tail end off.”

Peterson represented the Thunderbirds well, finishing with a time of 19:01.4 to become the state’s sixth fastest girl in division two, and to do so she had to trust her training and her coach’s words, because, after the first mile, that was all she had out there.

“I executed my plan today which was good,” Peterson said. “There were so many girls that just went. So my plan was just to stick with that second group and I did for, like, a mile.”

After that first mile Lakeland, as a team, was in the lead, but then the race took its course and split the T-Birds up.

“Then it got kind of weird,” Peterson explained. “It was like three girls running by themselves. I wasn’t in a group anymore. I was kind of nervous about that but then I got to the two mile in sixth place and Coach Clauassen always says ‘at the two mile just hold on and you’ll stick in your spot.’ So when I was in sixth place after the two mile I just held on and stayed on there.”

Kate Melms would be next across the finish line for Lakeland, taking 68thth place with a time of 20:53.9. 

Following Melms was Maddie Nelson who finished with a 21:06.4 for 81st place. Less than a second later Stephanie Mauzer finished in 83rd place with a 21:07.3.

Katie Tharman and Kate Vizkano were next for Lakeland, taking 100th and 104th place with times of 21:25.0  and 21:35.9 respectively.  

Aubrey Anderson, usually a front runner, unexpectedly came in last for the Thunderbirds with a time of 22:02.7.

“I’ll have to go back and talk to the girls and figure out what happened,” Clauassen said. “They just did not run real well.”  

Fortunately for Claussen and the T-Birds, he’ll have plenty of time to converse with almost all of his girls, as five of the seven will return next year. Nelson and Mauzer will graduate this year.

“We’ll figure it out,” Claussen said.  

If they do, Lakeland could be dangerous again next year, because the coach is quite confident what this group is capable of. 

“I truly believe that we could have taken first or second,” Clauassen said.

Medford won the team title and Freedom finished runner-up 

Individually, Leah Kralovetz of Denmark was the champion with a time of 17:46.7. Dana Feyen, the defending back-to-back champion finished second with a 18:19.2.

Jacob Friede may be reached at jacob@lakelandtimes.com or sports@

lakelandtimes.com.