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Cross Country at the Highlander Invitational

The University School cross country team competed in the Highlander Invitational, a meet sponsored by Homestead High School at Tendick Park in Saukville on Friday, September 4th and Saturday, September 5th

Due to COVID – 19 safety measures, the USM girls’ team and the USM boys’ team raced on different days. The girls’ race was held Friday afternoon and the boys’ race was held Saturday morning. For further safety, runners ran the 5-kilometer race in different sessions on each day.  The times of all the runners in each session were then merged to determine the full race results.  

Only two runners ran for USM in the girls’ race on Friday; consequently, USM did not place as a team in the girls’ results.  However, sophomore Mya Hartjes finished in fifth place in the girls meet. USM junior Drew Stephens placed first in the boys’ race. His twin brother, Thomas, took  seventh place. Overall, the USM boys’ team raced on Saturday and took 9th place.

Most of USM’s opponents were runners for Division 1 schools, making USM’s successes even more worthy of note.

A total of 136 boys from 14 different schools that had the requisite 5 or more runners ran in Saturday’s sessions. Drew Stephens finished 1st in both his session and in the merged results.  He finished the 5K course with a time of 16:20.5.  Thomas Stephens finished 4th in the same session, and 7th overall.  Thomas finished with a time of 17:12.0.

Commenting on his win, Drew said, “I got out pretty fast, but I didn’t realize it at the time. I pulled away from the other runners at the first mile, and then I just tried to keep pushing the rest of the way. I think it was a really good race, and I thought I finished in a pretty good time.”

Five other Wildcats competed in the boys' race. Ryan Treptow finished 26th in his session and 72nd overall.  The senior’s time was 18:58.2.  Senior Harrison Hartjes finished in 96th place overall with a time of 19:34. Senior Carlos Banda was USM’s fifth finisher.  He had a time of 21:06.2.  Sophomore Keith Krull and senior Asher Rafkin also ran for the Wildcats, but they did not tally points.  Krull finished 135 with a time of 21:34.6 and Rafkin finished 136 with a time of 21:53.1.

Sophomore Mya Hartjes and junior Brooke Robinson were the two Wildcats who competed in the girls’ race. Hartjes took 2nd place in her session and ended in 5th place overall out of 104 runners with a time of 19:56.0.  Robinson finished in 17th place in the same session and finished 50th overall. Her time was 22:44.6.

After the race, Hartjes said, “Placing fifth felt good for this meet. The race was different, as there were thirty seconds between the start of every few runners, and having less spectators was also different. During the race, there were a few places where the wind was hard to run against but keeping up with the top runners helped me maintain my pace throughout the whole race. At the end of the race, I trailed the runner in front of me by a few feet, but when I turned to see the finish line and ran into the chute, I knew I had to pick it up for this last little bit. I caught up to her by the finish line and ended up finishing right in front of her. Overall, this race was very good as I was able to see where I am at for this season so far and I am glad that we are able to have races this season.”

Eric Pilling, USM’s head coach was pleased with the team’s performance.  He detailed the meet, “Our top two ladies, Mya Hartjes and Brooke Robinson, competed Friday afternoon, and our boys raced on Saturday morning.

“Due to limited racing venues, we returned to Tendick Park, the site of the Shorewood Scrimmage on August 29th. Running the same course gave our athletes an opportunity to make some tactical adjustments. We talked about being a little more patient through the first mile since the constant hills and varied terrain make it hard to recover from an early fast pace.

“The race format was unique. The meet was broken into two races of seven teams with a rolling wave start. Two runners from each team started in 30 second intervals. The chip timing technology made it possible to score each race and then merge the results from all races.

“Both Mya and Brooke improved significantly from the previous week. Mya benefitted from the high level of competition provided by Shorewood, the top team in the state. She didn't need to force the pace all by herself and raced literally step for step, outkicking Shorewood's Louisa Fowler by the narrowest of margins for second place in 19:06.0. In her second season, Brooke continues to demonstrate steady progress. Running a smart, patient race she moved up in the third mile to finish 17th in 22:44. With results merged from both sessions, Mya placed 5th and Brooke placed 50th in the combined field of 104 runners.

“We had a more sizeable contingent for the boy's meet on Saturday.

“Drew Stephens made a strong statement, winning the race by 34 seconds and posting the fastest time of the day in 16:20. He had a little company through the first mile, covered in 5:06, but kept the pressure on and opened a 22 second lead by mile 2. From there, it was just him against the clock. Thomas Stephens ran an extremely impressive race, finishing 4th in 17:12. Those times on a challenging course this early reflect the work that was done through the spring and summer and bode well for whatever awaits in the championship portion of the season.

“As a team we scored well, beating some of our usual area rivals, Port Washington and Grafton, but we will need to continue to improve to compete near the top of our division.

It looks like we will return to Tendick on Saturday September 12th with a limited squad for the Whitefish Bay Invitational.

As Pilling indicated, the Wildcats compete next in the R. Vanden Avond Invitational hosted by Whitefish Bay High School on Saturday, September 12h at Tendick Park in Saukville.