Germantown senior cross-country runner Dylan Ayer has a firm grasp of history.
He knows the Warhawks' recent history of success on both the conference and state level is built on the hard work and dedication of many others who have gone before him.
Several who were around Saturday, Oct. 22, when Germantown earned a repeat berth to the WIAA state meet with a runner-up finish in the sectional at Lake Park Golf Course in Glendale.
They were supporting Ayer and his teammates in a strong show of loyalty and friendship — traits this year's team has done well to emulate.
"This is a validation of us as a strong team," Ayer said. "We know we're not the fastest guys or the most athletic, but what we have is great team spirit, the best in the conference. We work hard to improve as runners, but our first goal is always to make ourselves better teammates. If one guy makes a move in a race, we're so cohesive that we'll go with him. If he moves up, we all move up."
Coach Harris Jones said such unity has carried the Warhawks far this fall.
"This is the first (senior) group that I've carried through for all four years (as both a junior varsity and varsity coach)," he said. "To see such camaraderie and maturation is amazing. It's far more rewarding than any race results."
Germantown's boys will be joined at state by Warhawk sophomore Sami Stieve, who earned an individual berth with a second-place finish in sectional — an effort that led the Warhawks to a fourth-place team finish.
She was proud of how she competed, especially against Whitefish Bay's multi-time state track champion and sectional race winner Camille Davre, whom she considers a friend.
"I would love to beat her someday," Stieve said. "We talk during the race, and she motivates me, makes me want to run even harder. I think of everyone as competition, no matter what their ability. I love competing with people like her (Davre)."
"Stieve, who went to state with the team last season, shows great maturity and leadership skills for someone so young," said girls coach Nancy Pietrowiak.
"I understand her determination, leadership and work ethic," Pietrowiak added. "She just does everything to the best of her ability everyday. The focus that kid has. If we can get the kids to follow her next year and get a few more bodies out, we'll be in really good shape."
The Warhawk boys will toe the line at 1:10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, when the WIAA D1 boys state meet is held at The Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids, while Stieve will take off at 3:05 p.m. for the girls D1 competition.
Look to improve
Stieve said she was not happy with her 64th-place state finish last season and wants to dramatically improve upon on it, while Ayer said his squad would like to see if they could improve on their 12th-place effort of last season.
In the girls sectional race, there was a competitive group of about eight girls through the first 1½ miles before Davre went off and won in 18:37. Stieve took command of the rest of the front group and finished a strong second in 19:00.
Her efforts led the Warhawks to a 105-point effort as Bay (47) and Menomonee Falls (61) earned the state team berths.
"We knew it was going to be a long shot," Pietrowiak said. "There were about four teams with a shot (at state), and we needed to have everything go right, which they didn't today." Germantown had one runner drop out due to health issues.
Other runners for the Warhawks included McKenna Klopfer in 16th (20:22), Alyssa Goesch in 18th (20:31), Jennifer Lindgren 24th (20:50), Nicole Parmenter 45th (21:25) and Emily Bethhauser 47th (21:32).
The Warhawk boys scored 77 points for their second-place spot in the 11-team sectional field as North Shore Conference champion Homestead won with 65.
Ayer led the way on the challenging butquick 5,000-meter course with a fifth-place effort of 16:38. Fellow senior Evan Adair had a strong race, too, taking eighth in 16:53. Freshman Ben Schnoor continued his impressive season with an 11th-place effort of 16:57. Other scoring runners included seniors Jake Garvey in 26th (17:10) and Westin Feltz in 27th (17:11). Also running were sophomore Sean Drinan in 33rd (17:23) and senior Joe Biesel in 44th (17:36).
"We wanted to keep an eye on the Tosa (East) and (Milwaukee) King kids," Jones said. "You see those jerseys, you go with them. King packed up well early, but we did a good job of breaking it up."
He loves the leadership of the seniors and how well Schnoor has picked up things in his first year.
"He gets into very good position and has such great confidence," Jones said. "He has come on so well for us here at the end."
Now all that's left for the senior-dominated Warhawk boys is to think about the future and carrying on an important tradition.
Ayer thinks about the powerful group of freshmen and sophomores who will fill the spots vacated by his large senior class, and he swells with pride.
"I'll come back and watch and cheer them," he said. "The guys who came to watch us today saw the team that they built still looking good, and it'll be a great experience watching those younger runners carry that forward next year."