Port girls, boys race to team berths in WIAA final for first time in same year
Big smiles became part of the post-meet protocol for the Port Washington cross-country teams last Saturday.
Not only did the Pirates receive solid performances from both their girls’ and boys’ squads in a WIAA Division 2 sectional meet at Tendick Park in Saukville, those finishes put them in the history books.
Port won the girls’ portion of the meet and took second in the boys’ field — marking the first time the school has had both teams qualify for the state level in the same season.
“It’s excellent. The boys ran very well, and to have the girls qualify, too, is outstanding,” Port boys’ coach Mark Pasten said.
Both Pirate squads went into the meet knowing their toughest competitors would be from Shorewood. True to form, each race for the two state-qualifying spots became a two-team battle.
Led by sophomore Bianca Benkley’s third-place finish, the Port girls scored 45 points, 12 fewer than runner-up Shorewood. Watertown Luther Prep was a distant third with 108 points.
The Shorewood boys finished with 43 points, well ahead of the Pirates (69) and third-place Lakeside Lutheran (130).
Benkley paced her team with a 4,000-meter time of 15 minutes, 51 seconds, edging teammate Diana Seer, a senior who was fourth (15:54).
Most impressive, though, was the collective effort of seven Port girls who all finished in the top 20 of a 79-runner field.
Ashley Hilton was sixth (16:00) for the Pirates, followed by Allison Hilton in 15th (16:40), Bonnie Allen in 17th (16:45), Payton Greisch in 18th (16:47) and Abby Kotecki in 19th (16:48). Kotecki, a freshman, had a
personal-best time in her first varsity race.
“They all did great,” Port girls’ coach Joe Adamak said. “It was a matter of going out and doing what we needed to do to qualify.
“This was really a total team effort.”
Shorewood’s Emily Bachhuber won the individual title with 15:29.
The Port boys nearly matched the girls by having their five scoring runners finish in the top 20.
Senior Jake Verfuerth led the way with a 5,000-meter time of 17:14, good for eighth place. The Pirates’ other scoring finishers were Augie Yates in 13th (17:25), Jason Marhal in 14th (17:27), Justin Fote in 16th
(17:29) and Jared Burris in 18th (17:45).
Also for Port, Jared Sandlin was 26th (18:05) and Brandon Hinneberg was 27th (18:07).
The boys’ individual champion was Lakeside Lutheran’s Grey Davis (16:37).
Pasten said his team focused on placing at least second without trying to stay with Shorewood.
“Timewise, we were not running all out,” he said. “We pack-ran through the first mile and stayed together for another half-mile after that.
“We really weren’t going to go all out with the state meet coming up the next week.”
Although Sandlin and Hinneberg, both seniors, fell off the pace, other Pirates picked up the slack, Pasten noted. He singled out Marhal, a sophomore, for a particularly strong run.
“We showed some depth, which is definitely a strength of our team,” Pasten said.
The strong finishes of both Port teams were decided improvements over last year, when the girls took fifth and the boys were third.
Benkley and Allison Hilton will make return trips to the Division 2 state final this Saturday at the Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids after qualifying as individuals last year.
The Port boys’ only state qualifier last season was Jeff Bartow, then a senior.
Although neither Port team is expected to be in the running for a state title, both coaches expect their squads to be among the front-runners.
“It would be great to finish in the top five,” Adamak said. “We’re capable of that.”
Pasten is hoping for a top-four finish for the boys.
“Pewaukee is the top team, but we could beat Shorewood and finish as high as second if we run well,” he said.
The Division 2 state boys’ final starts at 11:40 a.m., followed by the girls’ race at 1:40 p.m.
THE PORT WASHINGTON girls’ cross-country team raced to a first-place finish in a WIAA Division 2 sectional meet last Saturday at Tendick Park in Saukville. The title qualified the team for this week’s state finals along with the Port boys’ team, which placed second in its portion of the sectional. Photo by Sam Arendt