Oconto Falls girls place third at Southwest Invitational

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Greg Bates Times Herald Correspondent

After losing five of their top seven runners from last season, the Oconto Falls girls cross-country team heads into this year without a lot of experience.

Of the nine girls on the team, four or five of them are new, coach Lon Ludemann said. The Southwest Invitational at Colburn Park on Aug. 23 gave the young athletes some experience in a varsity race.

The Panthers finished third as a team with 64 points. Green Bay Southwest (20) won the invite, and Green Bay East was runner-up (46).

Oconto Falls’ top two runners, Breanna Sadowski and Autumn Canavera, ran well. Sadowski finished in fifth (22:06), and Canavera was seventh (22:35).

“I’m relying on those two girls to get the others to get the picture,” Ludemann said.

Sadowski, a junior, was trying to chase down four Green Bay Southwest runners, who took the top four spots.

“I was like, I’m just going to keep up with these girls,” Sadowski said. “I didn’t know who was behind me; I was just going to keep going.”

Sadowski felt good after the race. She dedicated herself in the offseason to running, and it paid off. She learned she had a little more left in the gas tank at the end.

“I feel like I could have gone a little harder, but I usually like the cold,” Sadowski said. “This was a little hot for me.”

Ludemann said, “She hangs around the front well. For the first 2 miles, she was with them and kind of tapered off a little bit.”

Sadowski and Canavera, who logged times of 6:30 in the first mile, have been running together in practice and want to be partners during races. Oconto Falls’ next four finishers also want to run in a pack, and did that for a bunch chunk of the race.

“I like that. Now you work on moving that closer to our No. 2,” Ludemann said.

Haley Bell came in 18th (27:34), followed by Morgan Helmle (20th, 29:41), Morgan Van Haren (23rd, 32:52), Katie Kurth (24th, 33:59) and Emily Gonnering (25th, 35:58).

Early in the season, Ludemann will continue to work with his young runners to get them to believe they can compete at the varsity level.

“Work in progress, that’s what it’s going to be,” Ludemann said.