Yordanos Zelinski

Oregon junior Yordanos Zelinski finished fifth in the WIAA Stoughton sectional with a time of 17 minutes, 28.5 seconds to qualify for state on Saturday, May 1, at Stoughton High School.

Oregon High School junior Yordanos Zelinski didn’t have the same zip in his legs he usually has on race day.

Still, Zelinski qualified for the WIAA alternate fall state meet as an individual after taking fifth place at the WIAA Stoughton sectional on Saturday, May 1. It’s his second state berth, and he finished the 5,000-meter course in 17 minutes, 28.5 seconds.

But he expected to do better.

“After that first mile, I just didn’t have it,” Zelinski said. “It wasn’t my best race, and I’m a little disappointed.”

Stoughton junior Jayden Zywicki surged by Zelinski at the 1.5-mile mark. Zywicki outkicked Evansville senior Riley Stillman over the final 160-meters for the sectional championship by about 2 seconds with a time of 16:42.

Oregon coach Erik Haakenson said every cross country athlete goes through such challenges.

“Every runner goes through the cycles of great races, average races and races they wish they would have done better,” he said. “I think this is just one of his races he (Zelinski) didn’t perform his best at. I think he’s still got it. It’s somewhere in there.”

Oregon senior Brenden Dieter took 13th (18:15.9) and junior Odin Beck placed 37th (19:33.5).

“Brenden had a solid race and he put his best foot forward to have a great sectional race as a senior,” Haakenson said.

Junior teammate John Ruth finished 43rd (19:56.3) and sophomore Quinton Bush placed 46tjh (20:03.4).

Oregon finished fifth with 144 points in the 14-team sectional.

Stoughton had all five runners finish in the top 21 to win the sectional team title with 63 points to qualify for state as a team for the first time since 2000. New Glarus/Monticello took second (75 points) to earn the final state team berth.

“I think the guys probably fell short of their expectation for themselves for the race,” Haakenson said. “Some of the guys on the team just didn’t have their best race today, unfortunately.”