The Verona girls cross country team finished seventh out of 22 teams with 223 points at the 43rd Annual Verona Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 7.

The Wildcats’ sixth-place finish out of six Division 1 teams was a testament to the race’s competition level.

“This meet is kind of like hosting a party and you never get to eat any of the food,” Verona coach Dave Nelson said. “If you look at our meet results and the state meet results, it’s pretty similar. There are a couple teams that are really strong that weren’t here, but most importantly, we’re trying to be included in that conversation as a strong team in the state.”

Senior Abby Wampfler led the Wildcats in 31st place with a time of 20 minutes, 47.3 seconds on the 5,000-meter course. She started the race with a strong pace, something she hasn’t done much of in the past.

“The pace was aggressive. There were a lot of good teams and runners out there,” Wampfler said. “I think everyone on our team did really well and pushed it hard.”

Sophomore Payette Neess (38th, 20:56.7), senior Jamie Hogan (43rd, 21:08.1) and freshman Sotera Boado (45th, 21:09) all ran in a close pack for the Wildcats. Senior Colleen Quinn finished 66th (22:09.8).

Senior Lucinda Baaken (86th, 22:43.7) also competed for Verona.

“We wanted to be a little more aggressive on our home course,” Verona coach Dave Nelson said. “Knowing it so well can cause us to hesitate sometimes, but I thought some kids really got out hard. They learned how fast is too fast, and that way they can dial it back later. These early-season meets are for figuring out what pace works best for each runner.”

Madison West edged Onalaska 64-65 for the team title thanks in large part to three runners in the top seven. West sophomore Genevieve Nashold remained undefeated in her high school career with the win in 17 minutes, 39.5 seconds.

Verona will be compete in the SPASH Panther Invitational on Saturday at Standing Rocks County Park.

Sports editor Adam Feiner can be contacted at ungsportseditor@wcinet.com.