Distance runners ready to take off

With so much young talent, the track and field distance squad is prepared for several years to come, and with returning national champions and conference competitors, this year has high potential for success

After two weeks off, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville distance runners are back, putting in the miles in preparation for the start of the track and field season.

The distance men’s and women’s teams this year differ in the number of returning seniors. However, both teams show potential with returning top runners in addition to talented freshmen and sophomores.

“Obviously we’ve got some good people returning. Ian [LaMere], being the defending national 10,000-meter champ, has had an unbelievable cross country season,” head distance coach, Thomas Antczak said. “He is just taking it to another level beyond where he was last track season. So that should be exciting, assuming he stays healthy.”

The men’s cross-country team placed 27th at nationals with 599 points among 32 teams and with LaMere winning the NCAA Cross Country National Championship title for the second year in a row.

Following LaMere are Jason Winchel (placing 155th with a time of 25:48), Dan LaCroix (177th, 25:56), Zach Lee (223rd, 26:14), Trevor Wunnicke (238th, 26:22), Walker Rynes (250th, 26:33), and Benjamin Rhode (255th, 26:33).

“Just as with cross-country last year to this year, we lost a lot of senior guys but last year as an example for cross-country, we thought for sure we were going to make it to nationals. This year it was more of a hope and prayer and we did,” Antczak said.

The loss of the seniors is being offset by 17 freshmen and sophomore runners.

“Zach Lee who is a freshman has had a great cross-country season. He is coming in with some great high school credentials so he should be an immediate impact guy in the middle distance,” Antczak said. “There is also Trevor Wunnicke who is a transfer from Parkside. [He’s] running absolutely great for us. Beyond that, I look to sophomores Walker Rynes, Logan Steinhoff and Isaac Schuetz.”

On the women’s team, the top female runners for distance events include Chelsey Heiden, who was all conference and all region in cross-country in the fall and Kiera Depies who placed her highest score at conference, finishing 11th and cutting 23 seconds off her 6,000-meter personal best.

Freshman and sophomore runners on the women’s team include Johanna Meister, who is coming in after placing at the state meet, Janelle Ferguson, who has been the third runner for a majority of the cross-country season, Hannah Ihlenfeldt and Katie Wardinski.

“The team has gradually improved every year since I have been here and it was exciting to have our team score at conference be the second lowest in school history,” Kiera Depies said. “We had a handful of younger girls on the team this year and they were a huge contribution to our success this year, which means the future is even brighter.”

While anticipation runs high for the beginning of the track season, the Alumni and Intrasquad Meet will kick off the season on Saturday, Dec. 5, which will also serve as tryouts. The first home meet will be the UW-Platteville Open on Saturday, Jan. 16.

“We are waiting to see the quality that is going to shine on the women’s side having over 50 women on the team. We are excited about that and the young athletes to see where they lead us now and in the future. We are also really excited about what the men have for the returning athletes with the young ones that are starting to develop and the possibility of being really competitive at the conference and national level,” head track and field coach, Chris Rotzenberg said.

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