Panthers run away with Southwest title

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Kokko-Ludemann leads wire to wire

Greg Bates Times Herald Correspondent

Noah Kokko-Ludemann has put in his due over the years.

As a freshman on the Oconto Falls cross-country team, he was the No. 7 runner. The next year, he moved up to No. 3, and last year he was second. Now a senior, Kokko-Ludemann has his shot to be the team’s top runner.

On Aug. 23, he showed he’s ready.

Kokko-Ludemann won the Southwest Invitational as Oconto Falls’ first seven runners placed in the top 12 in the season-opening, three-team meet at Colburn Park in Green Bay.

The Oconto Falls boys ran away with the meet title with 18 points, followed by Green Bay Southwest (39) and Green Bay East (incomplete).

Kokko-Ludemann had a time of 18:21 to lead the way.

“I thought it was pretty good, just to see the training from the summer coming together,” Kokko-Ludemann said. “I know there wasn’t a lot of people here; just a good warmup race and get into the groove of the season.”

Kokko-Ludemann was hoping to get under 18 minutes, but he won the race handily. His teammate, Brody Schindel, was second in 18:43.

“I think he probably would have done better if he would have been a chaser instead of a leader,” Oconto Falls coach Lon Ludemann said about his son’s race. “But there’s nothing wrong with coming in first.”

Kokko-Ludemann’s previous best finish in a varsity race was fifth when he was a sophomore. In his first race as a senior, Kokko-Ludemann led wire to wire.

“I was just going to focus on myself,” he said. “If there were people in front of me, I just wanted to race how I felt was good for me. It just so happened I was in the lead the whole time.”

Winning the first race of his career should do wonders for Kokko-Ludemann as the season heats up.

“It’s definitely a confidence boaster and something that I’ll remember, and keep thinking to myself, ‘It’s my last year, I better keep up with the pace that I set first meet,’” Kokko-Ludemann said.

After Kokko-Ludemann and Schindel, Justan Konitzer placed third (18:52). Jared Van Haren came in fifth (19:12). Brent Wolf wasn’t too far back in seventh (19:47), followed by Dylan Nelson in ninth (19:52) and Evan Roberts in 12th (20:32).

“It’s a good sight seeing all of your teammates finish close to you rather than just being the only one out there,” Kokko-Ludemann said.

Having the guys run in a pack and finishing close to one another will be important for the team’s success.

“Stick together, that’s our goal,” Ludemann said. “The only way we’re going to be good is to stick together.”

Coach Ludemann was happy to see Roberts out on the course after a difficult summer. The sophomore came down with Lyme disease and couldn’t run during the offseason. Getting Roberts back to full strength will be big for the Panthers.

“I think we have a lot of potential as a team,” Kokko-Ludemann said.