Verona girls cross country letterwinners

The Verona girls cross country team returns eight letterwinners from last season. They are front, from left, Kaya Ujikawa, Payette Neess, Emma Petta. In the back row are Lucinda Baaken, Jamie Hogan, Abby Wampfler and Anna Knueve. Not pictured is Leah Remiker.

Four of the top 10 teams at the Division 1 state meet last season hailed from the Big Eight Conference.

All four of those schools – Sun Prairie, Madison West, Janesville Craig and Madison Memorial – will all be strong once again according to Verona coach Dave Nelson. The individual state champion was West freshman Genevieve Nashold, who won with a time of 18:10 on the 5,000-meter course.

All things considered, the 2019 season appears to be another uphill climb for Verona.

“Our conference is easily the best in the state,” Nelson said. “Just trying to get in the top half is a big feat. But at the same time, if you’re good in the conference, you’re good in the state.”

The Wildcats’ goal is to crack the top five in the Big Eight, and will have a handful of chances to see where they stand among conference foes throughout the season.

“Sun Prairie has been awesome over the past few years. It looks like West has an opportunity to overtake them this year. Of course, Middleton, Craig, and Memorial are very strong as well.”

Verona did not have a state qualifier last season, as it finished seventh at the Big Eight Conference meet. The Wildcats return seven letterwinners from last year, including five seniors.

“We’ve got a nice senior class,” Nelson said. “We’ve had a couple girls running varsity for the fourth season.”

Leah Remiker qualified for the Division 1 state track and field meet last spring and is looking to close her cross country career strong as a senior. Colleen Quinn is in just her second year as a cross country runner, but Nelson has seen her improve over the summer.

Fellow seniors Abby Wampfler, Jamie Hogan and Lucinda Baaken are expected to contribute this fall, as well as junior Anna Knueve and sophomore Emma Petta. Nelson noted Sotero Boado and Lilly Hauski as freshmen that could contribute instantly.

“At this point, Abby Wampfler and Anna Knueve appear to be our frontrunners,” said Nelson, who is entering his 27th year at the helm. “Things can definitely change over the course of the season. We look to see great improvement from some of our underclassmen.”

Verona starts its season Saturday at the Glenn Herold Invitational in Watertown against 12 other teams, then hosts 24 teams Sept. 7, including Madison Memorial, Madison West, Middleton and Sun Prairie.

The Wildcats will compete twice against an all-Big Eight field at Rockport Park in Janesville – Sept. 17 in the Grade Level Challenge and the conference meet Oct. 19. Madison West will host sectionals.

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