It’s going to be a real mud bath Saturday morning.
The Wayne E. Dannehl National Cross Country at UW-Parkside has already been battered by above-average precipitation combined with heavy use this fall. And with a 90-percent chance of rain forecast for Saturday morning, expect mud-spattered runners at the Foot Locker Cross County Championships Midwest Regional to produce much slower times.
“It’s supposed to be pouring during the race, so it’s going to be a mud bath regardless,” longtime race director Pete Henkes said. “We were pulling rabbits out of hats all fall to get the course ready for meets because we’ve had such an abnormal rainfall.”
The course took a real beating Oct. 31 through Nov. 2 when the Big East Championships followed an early snowfall. That required Henkes and retired Parkside cross country coach Lucian Rosa to modify the course for Saturday’s showcase of the most talented high school cross country runners in the Midwest.
“We had record level snowfall and rainfall in October and November this year,” Henkes said. “As a result, we have altered the course. Basically, we are adding a kilo loop on the top of the course and removing two 500-meter extremely sloppy stretches in the later part of the course.
“With the weather predicted for Saturday, it appears that is is going to be a wet, muddy one.”
Making matters all the more interesting is that more than 2,000 entrants, at least 800 more than last year, are expected Saturday, giving this event its highest participation since 2006. Henkes expects the Championship Girls Race to be be especially impressive.
Three of the top-five finishers at the Foot Locker national meet last December are returning — Katelynn Hart of Glen Ellyn, Ill. (second in 17:01 at the national meet last year), Abby Vanderkooi of Fremont, Mich. (third in 17:14) and Taylor Ewert of Dayton, Ohio (fourth in 17:20).
“The Championship Girls Race field is the strongest in the 35 years I have directed this meet,” Henkes said. “It may be tougher to place in the top 10 at the Midwest Regional than at the Foot Locker or Nike Nationals.”
The boys field is not quite at the same level as the girls race, but there is still some accomplished returnees. Leading the way are Carter Solomon of Canton, Mich. (fourth in the national meet in 15:01 last year), Josh Methner of Mount Prospect, Ill. (sixth in 15:27) and Evan Bishop of Grand Rapids, Mich. (ninth in 15:31).
A top contender with local ties is Nicholas Scheller of Chanhassen High School in Minnesota. He is the grandson of longtime St. Catherine’s coach Tom Scheller recently placed second at the Minnesota Class AA Championships and followed that up by winning the NXR Heartland Regional Championships with a personal-best time of 15:17.8.