Klaus collects a medal; boys’ teams fare well


CEDAR GROVE-BELGIUM’S Mason Hoopman (upper left) led the boys’ state cross country race for a mile. Ozaukee’s Owen Klaus (right) finished ninth and earned a medal. Ozaukee’s second runner, Aaron Nehls (bottom left), was 54th and the Rockets’ second runner, Jamison Velzke, was 28th.

By MITCH MAERSCH

Ozaukee Press staff

Ozaukee High School senior Owen Klaus and the Warrior boys’ cross country team went 2-for-2 in Wisconsin Rapids on Saturday.

The Warriors finished sixth in the Division 3 meet — no Andrew Pfeuffer-coached team has placed lower, and this year’s boys wanted to keep it that way — and Klaus cracked the top 10 and earned a medal.

“I can’t even put it into words — just knowing how hard I’ve worked during the season for my biggest goal of the season to come true,” Klaus said.

Klaus finished ninth of 151 runners on the 5,000-meter course in 16 minutes, 30.9 seconds. Obtaining hardware came down to a final push.

“From seventh to 11th place, it was all within about two seconds. I want to say I was very lucky but at the same point it was a dogfight between everybody,” Klaus said.

He didn’t know where he placed when he finished, but “I just knew I was in the top 10,” he said.

It was Klaus’ lowest finish of the season — he was first or second in every other race, including breaking the school record and winning the sectional —  but it was his most gratifying performance.

“That was bringing a little bit of peace of mind to myself knowing how hard I’ve been working throughout my high school career,” he said.

“Owen did a great job with his race plan. We wanted him to be within striking distance of the top 10 through the first mile and run patiently because we know the last half of the race is very challenging,” Pfeuffer said.

“He started off in 10th through the first mile and worked all the way to the end. Once he got to the final 400 meters, he really dug deep, fought for every inch, and showed how much he wanted a podium spot.”

Klaus’ place among those on full teams was fifth, which helped the Warriors to 197 points and sixth place, behind one of their Big East Conference rivals, Cedar Grove-Belgium.

The Rockets were fifth with 166 points, led by senior Mason Hoopman, who finished 14th (eighth in team score) in 16:52.1, just four seconds off his personal record. It’s more impressive since the Ridges Golf Course is tougher terrain than where he ran his fastest.

“I was really proud of my race. It was the second-fastest race I’ve ever ran but probably the best run I’ve ever had,” Hoopman said.

Hoopman led the race at the mile mark, and coach Brandon Langer said the pace was in his comfort zone.

“I would have preferred him to be a second or two back and let the pack pull him along versus leading the pack at this point,” he said. “With just under a mile to go, he was in 12th place and in good position to finish in the top 10, but he wasn’t able to cover some of the moves his competitors made to close out the race.”

“It felt really cool being in first for a little bit,” Hoopman said.

The whole team was a little cooler than the day before. They all shaved their heads the night before the meet.

“We kind of joke around and say it makes us more aerodynamic,” Hoopman said.

It was one of the many ways the team made the season enjoyable.

“The team this year was so fun to be around. It made it more of a hobby than a sport. Every practice I was excited to be around the guys,” Hoopman said.

The Rockets wanted to crack the top five and had dreams of making the podium by taking at least third, and they finished a handful of points away. Phillips was fourth with 163 points, and Iowa-Grant was third with 162.

Another Big East team, Kohler, won the meet with 94 points, followed by Pacelli’s 102.

“The boys would have needed some help to meet their goals, but it wasn’t in the cards. Kohler ran a very strategic race, moving from seventh at the mile to first at the second mile and then extending their lead to the finish,” Langer said.

“The boys went after it from the gun, though some were a little too aggressive through the first 800. This cost some of them over the last two miles, which proved to be the difference in finishing fifth versus third — missed it by four points.”

Rocket sophomore Jamison Velzke was 28th (16th) in 17:25.2. Sophomore Will Huenink was 47th (28th) in 17:49.1, and his freshman brother Wes was 84th (47th) in 18:26.6. Freshman Carsen Voskuil was 106th (67th) in 19:03.9.

Langer said Velzke and Will Huenink each had solid races,

“Wes fought through a quad issue for most of the race, but even so, was the fifth freshman to cross the line,” Langer said.

Voskuil was the team’s fifth runner for the first time this season, just missing a personal record.

Junior Michael Kuerschner was 112th (73rd) in 19:16.8, and sophomore Reid Ketterhagen was 120th (81st) in 19:34.9.

The Rockets have a hole to fill when they lose Hoopman next season to graduation, but they return six of their top seven runners, “which sets us up well,” Langer said.

For the Warriors behind Klaus, junior Aaron Nehls was 54th (29th) in 17:56.2, senior Chase Miller was 75th (39th) in 18:13.5, sophomore Brice Schueller was 87th (49th) in 18:35.8 and freshman Dane Zimdars was 114th (75th) in 19:20.3.

Pfeuffer said the goal was to be patient and save energy early, then move up after the first mile when the course gets hilly.

Nehls moved up 25 places, Zimdars 13, Schueller 12 and Miller nine.

Senior Riley Borchardt was 118th in 19:28.1, and sophomore Otto Utecht was 143rd in 21:22.5.

Pfeuffer said Borchardt got stepped on at the beginning and one of his shoes came off in the first 600 meters of the race.

“For him to run that whole race and over some gravel hills with only one shoe on shows how tough he is,” Pfeuffer said.

Pfeuffer said he was proud of his team after losing Calvin McKee and Tyler Mueller to graduation from last year’s Warriors that finished third at state.

“I think our boys did a great job stepping into those roles and maintaining a tough state-caliber team,” he said.

Ozaukee loses Klaus, Miller and Borchardt to graduation. Borchardt was on varsity for four years and the other two each for three years.

“Their leadership and performances helped pave the way for our younger athletes and maintained a strong cross country tradition here at Ozaukee,” Pfeuffer said.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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