This week marks the start of the high school cross country season, and many of the top girls runners from last season on two of Door County’s teams are back to bolster their respective schools in 2023.
The Pioneer girls, who last year placed runner-up to Peshtigo in the Packerland Conference Championships, didn’t graduate any of their top runners.
Annie Kapolnek is back for her fourth season as head coach with her list of top returning girls runners including seniors Bea Dramm and Jolene Luedtke and junior Naomi Rikkola. All three finished in the top 10 at the 2022 conference meet with Dramm recording the top finish in fifth.
Though the Pioneers return experienced runners, Kapolnek said they are low on numbers, and she is the most concerned about keeping everyone healthy. Kapolnek said she looks forward to seeing the team striving to do better at each practice and workout.
“We have the opportunity to practice at Whitefish Dunes State Park, so it’s pretty great everyday, honestly,” she said. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”
In addition to winning the Packerland title this year, Kapolnek said another team goal is to advance from the Division 3 Sectional to state.
“Valders is in our sectional, and they’re always a strong team,” she said.
“They took third at state last year and only lost one senior. It should be a fun year.”
The Clippers return most of their girls runners from last season’s varsity team, which placed third in the Packerland Conference.
Leanne Pinkert returns for her seventh season as head coach with her list of top returning girls runners including seniors Julia Kurek, Mikayla Laluzerne, Jade Tomberlin and Alexis Olson, and sophomore Claire Quaderer.
Kurek had the Clippers’ top individual finish at last year’s Packerland meet by placing 10th. Pinkert said she hopes the success team members had competing in track and field this spring will continue with cross country as the team seeks to to improve from last season.
But with only eight girls, Pinkert said everyone will need to stay healthy.
“Injury or illness could take a big toll,” she said.