Despite Fons' absence, Franklin runners look to compete
Many other experienced athletes return
Franklin - With the health status of two-time defending WIAA state individual champion Allie Fons still up in the air, the Franklin girls cross country team will still be looking to make hay with a veteran squad.
The Sabers, who were fifth of 19 teams at the challenging River Falls Extreme Invitational on Aug. 22, will build around 18 of its top 20 times from last year from a squad that won the Southeast Conference title and earned a historic berth in the WIAA State Meet.
"The team is eager to qualify again, run better at state, and to repeat as SEC champions," said Sabers' coach Regina Schindel. "They have a lot of fun together and love sharing summer workouts with each other. It is a great running culture that has begun to grow in Franklin. They even had two middle schoolers join in at the summer runs."
Schindel is in her seventh year and will be helped by assistants Megan Gock, Chris Krolick and Susan Barry. Barry was the distance coach at Franklin 15 years ago and is back coaching now that her daughter's back in college.
Injury brings question
A major question is Fons, who is a junior this fall. She suffered an injury in spring in track and is still recuperating. Schindel categorized her status for this season as "up in the air." She won conference, WIAA sectional and WIAA state races by large margins as she led the Sabers to their first state meet berth in 20 years. She also finished 15th in the Footlocker Nationals.
Aside from her, the Sabers will return senior all-conference selections Jenny Eickhorst, Monica Sweet and Katie Carlino.
Schindel is counting on experience and depth to make up for Fons' potential absence this season, including a strong core who have run varsity the last three years - seniors Eickhorst and co-captains Katelyn Salzburger and Emma Klein, and juniors Sweet, Carlino (another co-captain) and Madeline Gierach.
Gierach is an experienced all-conference runner whose family just moved to Franklin from Mt. Zion, Ill.
Other letter winners include junior Katie Powers, sophomore Melanie Hansen and senior Michelle Fedran. All told, Franklin returns six of its top seven and nine of its first 11.
Freshmen bolster roster
Top newcomers include freshman Jensen Ritzow, who broke Fon's middle school 800-meter record, and Brenda Sweet, the younger sister to Monica, who ran some fast times in middle school.
Schindel noted that the preparation has been strong as Monica Sweet, Carlino and others have been running daily at the high school as well as weightlifting. Further, nine athletes attended the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater cross country camp as well as 15 who attended the Sabers' own camp in June.
"With the injury to Fons, we will all have to move up in races and work together to take charge at meets," said Schindel. "If the girls remain focused and positive, they will still have a great competitive season. Our depth still ranks us tops in conference and sectionals even without our tenacious state champion."
Tremper a top foe
Schindel said that Kenosha Tremper will pose a serious threat to Franklin in the Southeast Conference race.
Carlino was 13th and Hansen 26th to pace the Sabers at the River Falls Extreme meet. The team took a seven-hour bus ride to get the race and the two-loop course distance was not measured, although the runners had to cross a stream three times, running through the water for up to 30 meters on two of the crossings and then just across and up a steep muddy embankment at the third crossing. Runners frequently had to help each other get over tough portions.
Ritzow finished 19th, moving past 82 runners over the last 2.5 miles of the course (159 total runners), while Salzburger was 40th, and Monica Sweet 42nd, finishing well despite straining her Achilles when her foot got stuck under a rock.
Other varsity finishers included Brenda Sweet (78th), Eickhorst (84th), Gierach (100th), Klein (102nd) and sophomore Paige Bobos (104th). More than 159 girls ran the varsity race.
Abby Schreiter was 13th in the junior varsity race.
Franklin is at the Homestead Highlander Invite at Tendick Park in Saukville at 4 p.m. Aug. 31.
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