The Stoughton girls cross country team looks to recapture its stranglehold atop the Badger South Conference with four of its top six runners returning from last year.
Monona Grove snapped the Vikings’ run of three straight Badger South titles last season, edging the Vikings 37-43 at the conference meet.
The top runners back for Stoughton are senior Grace Jenny, who finished third in the Badger South meet last year and earned first-team all-conference honors; senior Molly Olstad; juniors Gina Owen and Ellie Trieloff; and sophomores Hannah Lawrence and Maddie Schneider. Owen (13th) and Olstad (14th) earned second-team all-conference honors last season.
The conference meet was Jenny’s second race last season, as she battled shin splints. She went on to take 13th at the WIAA Division 1 Kettle Moraine Sectional and missed qualifying for state by three spots. She missed the track season while recovering from the injury.
“She skipped her junior year of track to get healed 100% from some nagging injuries,” said coach Susan Zaemisch, who is entering her 10th season at the helm in Stoughton. “She looks stronger both physically and mentally.”
Lawrence emerged as one of the Vikings’ top runners late last season. Owen packed on the miles in training by playing Ultimate Frisbee over the summer to prepare for the fall.
Stoughton could be in the mix for a Division 1 state berth. Two years ago, the Vikings finished 13th at state with three members of this season’s team — Jenny, Owen and Schneider.
The rest of the spots in the Vikings’ varsity lineup are up for grabs. Zaemisch said there are four freshmen and top returning junior varsity runners who could contend for the spots.
“Any given day, I will have one to three spots available for girls to go out and earn it,” she said. “I am super excited about that competition among the team.”
Stoughton opens the season at the Glenn Herold Invitational on Saturday in Watertown.