The Hamilton cross-country program is slowly becoming one of the better running schools in the area, and at the Mukwonago sectional on Oct. 22, the building continued with an upward trend. Rachel Jeffers and Michael Swope qualified for their second straight state meet with strong races and will be joined next week by Evan Selin.
Jeffers won the girls race with a time of 18 minutes, 41.54 seconds. The senior finished over eight seconds faster than Pewaukee's Zoe Goodmanson, the second-place finisher.
"I did not think I would be out front," Jeffers said. "I was kind of like, 'Oh, I'm up front now, what do I do now?' It was really, really confidence boosting coming into the final K and there was no one around me."
Jeffers was 31st at last year's state meet but hopes for at least a top-15 performance in 2016.
"I think she performs better when she's up against that competition," Hamilton coach Stephen Schmidt said. "She loves to step up to that competition. She loves the challenge, and she's not easily intimidated by other runners. She actually runs better in a situation like Zoe in the race than she would if there wasn't someone like that. She rises to the occasion for sure."
The girls were fourth out of 12; Waukesha West and Arrowhead advanced as teams. Rachel Passow placed 15th overall for HHS in 19:34.50 and was followed by Isabel Seay's 16th-place finish (19:39.30). Megan Jansett took 26th (20:09.25), Carolyn Troutman came in 38th (21:02.53), Riley Swope was 40th (21:06.33) and Ella Vanharen placed 44th (21:10.01).
Michael Swope and Selin helped the boys to a third-place finish, behind Arrowhead and Waukesha North.
"We had a lot of PRs today; it was just a tough sectional to get out of," Schmidt said. "Without question, if we would shift to a number of other sectionals in the state, we would easily qualify. We could qualify with not even our whole varsity team. But this part of the state and the teams and how cross-country here is. Girls especially, I think we had four or five out of seven ran personal-best times, and we're still always off. We were a ranked team the entire season, the girls team was."
Hamilton started a running camp last summer and has grown its program numbers over the years.
"A lot of our success is based on pure statistics with the number of kids out," Schmidt said. "The bigger the team, the more opportunity to have to kind of tap into the talent that's in the building. I always joke there's a state-winning cross-country team in our building every year. We've just got to get them out for cross-country, that's the tough part. You lose them to soccer, you lose them to volleyball, these other sports. Part of that program is to try and get kids interested at running at a younger age."
Swope's time of 16:21.79 was good enough for sixth place. Selin followed with a time of 16:39.97 and finished 10th.
"(Selin) ran 17 flat last year," Schmidt said. "He looked so good last week finishing second at conference. He looked like he was ready to take that next step, and he has. Now he's definitely going to be one of these guys that'll be in the front every race pretty much."
Brian Wiedenfeld was 14th (16:48.92), Gavin Kuhlenbeck placed 18th (17:00.04), Nicholas Schmidt took 28th (17:18.20), Peyton Feudner finished 30th (17:19.74) and Garret Staab came in 34th (17:25.74).
Swope was pleased with advancing to state for the second time but hoped the team would have gotten through.
"It went pretty well," Swope said. "I PRd by a ton of seconds, so I was pretty happy about that. I was where I wanted to be today, and I think Evan was where he wanted to be, so it went pretty well. Waukesha North just brought their A game, and we can't do anything about it. Overall, I'm happy about it; we just can't do anything about it."
Swope was 70th at the 2015 state meet.
"Since I ran it last year, I know my game plan into it," Swope said. "I have Evan with me, which is the best feeling in the world to have a teammate right there. Last year I went alone, and I didn't have anyone there, but now I do. I feel more comfortable with at least a teammate with me. I feel like that's going to benefit me even more with just knowing what I'm going to do and just knowing that a teammate is there with me."
Selin, a sophomore, is one of many promising underclassmen for the Chargers.
"Next year we're definitely going to be putting in more work, more miles, (getting) faster," Selin said. "Everyone on the team is going to be a little more mature. I think it's going to be good."
The state meet takes place Oct. 29 at Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids.