10/19/2012 8:00:00 AM Lakeland cross country eyes trip to Waupaca sectional FitzPatrick, Orlowski in line for possible state trips
Michael Orlowski (center) leads the pack at the beginning of the Ted Voigt Invitational earlier this year. Orlowski is hoping to make the state meet this weekend at the WIAA Sectional in Waupaca. Bryan Rose photograph
Coming off a successful conference meet that saw the Lakeland Union High School cross country teams collect an arms full of hardware, the Thunderbirds will look to extend their seasons Saturday when they travel to the WIAA sectional meet in Waupaca. The Lakeland boys’ team won its fourth straight conference title last Saturday at Tomahawk and Delaney FitzPatrick earned her third straight conference title. FitzPatrick will look to keep her run of threes going as she attempts to qualify for her third straight state appearance when she runs Saturday at the Waupaca Sectional. “Delaney is definitely in the top five,” coach Kevin FitzPatrick said. “She took second in this meet as a sophomore ot the eventual state champion. Last year she took second to Rachel Sudbury who ran a tremendous race. So this year, I expect her to be in the mix.” The Lakeland senior comes into the meet as the favorite after the conference meets. She has the top time of any other runner as she turned in a 15:06 last week at the GNC championships. Tiffanee Fameree of Seymour has the next best time, running a 15:29 at her conference meet, while Liz Bloy of Freedom collected a 15:37 at the Eastern Valley Conference meet. Kevin FitzPatrick said Delaney will need to keep an eye on Bloy. “Liz Bloy has been running very well,” the coach said. “She will be in the mix.” Brigit Murphy of Seymour also ran a sub-16-minute race and finished her conference meet in 15:42. One other runner could figure in the mix for the sectional title as Anna Madsen of Peshtigo ran a 15:26 at state last year as a freshman. The results of Peshtigo’s conference meet were not available but she should be a factor. With those runners all coming in with sub-16-minute times, they look like locks for the state meet. WIAA rules state that the top two teams at the sectional meet advance to state along with the next top five individual finishers from each sectional. With only five runners coming in with sub-16-minute seeds, they should easily make the state meet because at least two or three of those runners should be on the top two teams. Which top two teams those are, however, could be up in the air as the girls’ competition is much more muddled than it was last year. A year ago, the field was a three team race between Freedom, Notre Dame Academy and Tomahawk. While Freedom looks tough again, Notre Dame Academy is in a different sectional and Tomahawk is vulnerable without a sub-16-minute runner on their squad. Shooting for the top two contenders will be a group of that includes Colby/Abbottsford and Clintonville. “Both of those teams are ranked in the state,” FitzPatrick said. “They are having strong seasons.” FitzPatrick said Lakeland could have been in contention but injuries have slowed the Thunderbirds. “If we were healthy I would say we would have a shot,” he said. “But losing Sophia Weiss was a big hit. We just don’t have the depth right now to move on.” On the boys’ side, the team situation is solid as Freedom and Little Chute are clearly the dominant teams in the field. Freedom has the top three times coming into the sectional meet and another runner with a time that puts him in the top 10. Little Chute had the fourth place winner in the Eastern Valley Conference meet and then had their next four runners come in under 17:25, all within 13 seconds of one another. “We can’t get any love from the WIAA,” FitzPatrick said. “We were moved into the Freedom regional three years ago and they moved Green Bay Notre Dame into the sectional with us.” With Freedom and Notre Dame in the sectional, it left no room for other teams to move past the perennial powerhouses. This year, Notre Dame is out of the sectional but Little Chute moved in. “We saw they moved out Notre Dame and we thought great we have a shot,” FitzPatrick said. “But then the WIAA moved Little Chute in.” While team success may not be in the cards for Lakeland, the Thunderbirds do have a good chance of sending one individual to the state meet. When you take out the runners from the top two teams, six runners emerge as possibilities for earning the final five spots. In that mix is Lakeland’s Michael Orlowski, who took third at last week’s conference meet. Orlowski comes into the sectional meet with a time of 16:47 and that puts him fourth on the list of runners vying for those final five spots. “He has the best shot of any boy runner that we have had recently,” FitzPatrick said. Leading that list is Justin Skinkis of Seymour, who put in a time of 16:23 to win his conference meet. Bryan Tomek of Tomahawk, the Great Northern Conference champion matched that time of 16:23. The second place runner from last Saturday’s GNC meet, Devin Savoula of Northland Pines, is third with a time of 16:47. Behind Orlowski on the list is one unknown and another runner from the GNC meet. Eric Tomson of Wittenberg-Birnamwood put in a time of 16:52 at his confernence meet, while Tyler Schumacher of Medford matched that time at the GNC meet. Having four of the six runners coming from the GNC should be a boost for Orlowski. “I think it will help,” FitzPatrick said. “He knows what Tomek can do, he knows what Savoula can do and he knows what Schumacher can do. That familiarity will help him prepare and run the race he needs to run.” The sectional meet will begin Saturday at 11 a.m. with the boys. The girls race will follow at 11:45 a.m. Bryan Rose may be reached via email at email@example.com.