It's been about 20 years or so since the halcyon days of the Menomonee Falls girls cross-country program of Val Niese and the Rouse sisters and all those who made the program a great success.
Maybe a renewal of those days is starting to come about as the Indians, behind three strong young frontrunners have been starting to make a name for themselves in quiet way this fall.
That resurgence reached a high point Sept. 30, when the Indians put three runners in the top seven and surged to a second place finish in the Fond du Lac Relays on a soggy Rolling Meadows Golf Course.
"Going into this season, I knew we were going to have the frontrunners," said coach Tom Shannon, "but as we all know, the key to any good cross-country team is its four and five runners, and we're working on that. We were even missing our fifth runner (Maggie Grant) because of an injury. We know that we have work to do in front of us, but this is my third year of coaching (with the girls team), and I know we haven't been in the top three or five of meets in a long, long time."
Meanwhile, Germantown sophomore Sami Stieve won her third race of the year at Fond du Lac in leading the Warhawks to a fourth-place finish, finishing the 5,000-meter course at the Rolling Meadows in 19:07, tying her school record from earlier this season.
"The weather was nice and cool, but the course was wet and soft, so we were very pleased with the times and performances of our athlete," said coach Nancy Pietrowiak. "We were expecting much better times at this meet, and we know that they will translate into strong performances in the weeks to come. Our younger athletes are seeing the largest improvements, but our varsity athletes are closing in on personal best times."
Falls scored 81 points for its spot in the 11-team meet while Germantown closed with 124. Stevens Point won with 52.
As noted, Falls' frontrunners did the trick, as 2015 state qualifier Kylee Wunschel was third in 19:51 to lead the Falls' way while Eileen Tocco was fifth (19:51) and Emma Weber seventh (19:55). Other runners for the Indians included Amber Kivisto in 29th (20:59), Olivia Robinson in 41st (21:19) and Emily Poffinbarger in 52nd (22:00).
Shannon liked the overall effort and was particularly pleased with Kivisto, who passed several runners in the stretch.
He is greatly encouraged as the Indians look towards the stretch run, which includes the Greater Metro Conference meet and the WIAA sectional.
"We're really building toward those meets," he said. "We think we have some good opportunities there." Shannon also noted that the current surge is just not a one- or two-class wonder, that the eighth-grade group is also strong and has potential to help the team next year.
For Germantown, Stieve won her individual title by 11 seconds over a Stevens Point competitor. She got scoring help from Alyssa Goesch in 18th (20:36), McKenna Klopfer in 30th (20:59), Jennifer Lindgren in 31st (21:04) and Molly Baus in 51st (21:59). Other runners included Emily Bethhauser in 56th (21:13), Nicole Parmenter in 60th (22:24) and Ally Snyder in 62nd (22:42). Stieve and Parmenter ran personal best times while the others ran season bests.
In the junior varsity race, freshman Lauren Young paced the Warhawks. She and Alyssa Winklbauer, Kayla Lippincott, Sophia Kurszewski, Claire Chmielewski, Kaylee Fulton, Madison Beschta, and Jaycie Kuczynski all had personal-best performances, while several others had season-best times. Pietrowiak is also looking for a strong season-ending push.
"We will need to see strong improvements at the conference and (WIAA) sectional meets if we are to place well," she said. "Our conference and sectional meets will be very competitive."