Oconto Falls boys take second in humid weather

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Panthers cross-country finishes ahead of rival Freedom

Greg Bates, Times Herald correspondent

Oconto Falls and Freedom have been dueling for conference supremacy for years in boys cross-country.

Freedom defeated Oconto Falls by 21 points at the Bonduel Invitational on Sept. 12. Panthers coach Lon Ludemann wanted his guys to close the gap against their rival at the annual Jim Bremser Invitational in Mishicot on Thursday.

The Panthers did one better, beating Freedom and placing second in the large division race, just 12 points behind De Pere (49) on a hot and humid day.

“I want them to have us in their head,” Ludemann said of Freedom.

Consider Oconto Falls’ race a warning to their North Eastern Conference foes. The Panthers are running well with their top five guys finishing in the top 27 in their division at Mishicot.

Noah Kokko-Ludemann finished ninth overall, fifth in the large division, with a time of 17 minutes, 39.6 seconds. Brody Schindel placed sixth (17:39.7) and Justan Konitzer ninth (17:56.7).

Kokko-Ludemann said the heat didn’t alter his race too much. It was just more difficult to warm up since the guys went into the woods to get out of the direct sun.

“Obviously, it is hot and humid, but there’s a lot of shade here, so can’t complain too much,” Kokko-Ludemann said.

Kokko-Ludemann, Schindel and Konitzer were running in a pack in ninth, 10th and 11th places, respectively, at the 2-mile mark. Kokko-Ludemann and Schindel broke away from their teammate and made a push to the finish line.

“We always took turns, not intentionally, taking the lead and just pushing each other throughout the whole race,” Kokko-Ludemann said. “And then the last 500 meters we both took off, and about the last 200 I just came up right behind him. It was a nice run for us.”

The two runners have a friendly competition that makes them push one another in practice and in meets.

“They don’t like losing to each other,” Ludemann said.

Oconto Falls’ fourth runner was Jaren Van Haren, who finished 17th (18:24.4) in the division. Brendan Konitzer came in 29th (19:01.3). Brent Wolf was 43rd (19:31.2) and Dylan Nelson was 57th (20:16.4).

The Panthers recently learned they will be without one of their top seven runners, Evan Roberts, for the rest of the season due to knee pain.

Ludemann is hoping a few guys will step up to fill the void.

“I think it’s going to make them realize it’s their turn,” Ludemann said. “They’re going to have to do it.”

After De Pere, Oconto Falls (49), Freedom (61), Luxemburg-Casco (128) and Kiel (154) rounded out the top five in the large division.