Jacob friede/lakeland times

Lakeland’s Ashley Peterson finished first at the sectional race in Freedom. She and Aubrey Anderson will be the Thunderbird’s front runners at the state championship race at the Ridges Golf course in Wisconsin Rapids at 3:05 p.m. Saturday.
Jacob friede/lakeland times

Lakeland’s Ashley Peterson finished first at the sectional race in Freedom. She and Aubrey Anderson will be the Thunderbird’s front runners at the state championship race at the Ridges Golf course in Wisconsin Rapids at 3:05 p.m. Saturday.
The Lakeland girls’ cross country team will hit the Ridges Golf course in Wisconsin Rapids for the state championship race Saturday with plenty of momentum.

At sectionals they placed second as team, behind defending state champion Freedom, and they had the top two finishers in Ashley Peterson and Aubrey Anderson.

Peterson is riding a wave of success as she is coming into the finals on a three race winning streak. In the weeks leading up to sectionals she also won the Hatchet Invitational in Tomahawk, setting the course record, and then won the Great Northern Conference meet in Rhinelander.

Behind Peterson at sectionals was Anderson, who finished second, and Kate Melms who finished seventh. Together they will lead the Thunderbird’s pursuit on the Ridges Golf Course on Saturday.

“We think that Freedom and Lakeland are the top two teams in the state,” head coach Dan Claussen said. “Ashley and Aubrey, because they’re such front runners will hopefully close that gap between our top runners and Freedom’s top runners and we’ll be able to win.”

But in order to take the title, Lakeland’s four through seven runners will also have to repeat the good showing they had at sectionals.  

In that race Katie Tharman, Stephanie Mauzer, Maddie Nelson, and Kate Vizanko finished 17th, 19th,21st, and 24th respectively.

“If we can stay 10 seconds behind Freedoms fifth, I think we should be pretty good,” Claussen said.

As for Peterson and Anderson, the final race will be a culmination of a season in which both reaped the benefits of training with the other.

“We push each other during workouts,” Peterson said. “So that’s good to have that within the team, but its just all good energy.”

And Anderson notes Peterson and herself, though they are the front runners, are always racing for the team first.

“We know that either way one of us winning or the other that we are just scoring for the team,” she said. “As long as one of us is there then we’re good.”

The girls, though, will have plenty of competition other than themselves in Rapids as seven of the 10 top finishers from last year’s championship are returning, including defending back-to-back to individual champion Dana Feyen of Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau and the 2017 state runner up Laura Begin of Wisconsin Dells.

On the team side, Claussen believes a handful of schools have, at least, a shot.

“I believe Plymouth, Freedom, Green Bay Notre Dame, Medford, and Lakeland all have a shot at trophy.”

But even though both team and individual champs are back in the field, if Peterson and the T-Birds continue their pace, there could be new faces on the podium this year.

“The girls have been preparing for this race since the end of track,” Claussen said. “They believe in their training and are ready to roll.”

The boys will race first Saturday in Wisconsin Rapids, with division one starting at noon followed by the division three race at 12:35 p.m and the division two race at 1:10 p.m.

The girls start racing at 1:45 p.m. with the division one race. The girls’ division three race will be next at 2:25 p.m and the division two girls’ race will close out the day at 3:05 p.m.

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

com.