In what was described as a "guts race," prep runners from Hartland and Neenah booked trips to the Nike Cross Nationals, with their efforts Sunday in the Heartland Regional.
Both the Hartland Hustle and Neenah XC Club teams placed second in the windy conditions in Sioux Falls, S.D., and extended their successful seasons into December.
The Hartland girls squad finished fourth in Sioux Falls, S.D., and will hope for an at-large bid to join the boys in Portland.
Running for Arrowhead High School, the boys and girls on the Hartland team won WIAA state division one championships last month and embarked on their first extended season in the national competition.
The Neenah girls finished second to Arrowhead at state, but turned the tables over the 5K in Sioux Falls. Alison Parker led the Neenah team, with a ninth-place finish. The squad was just two points behind the Monticello team that won the regional.
Russ Sandvold, second in the WIAA state meet, ran third in the Heartland regional and continued the success that earned him runner of the year honors from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. His teammate, Kyle Lewin, finished ninth. Sandvold finished in 15:31, and Lewin 15:45.
Jackie Dubnicka paced the Hartland girls team, finishing ninth in 18:30. The girls scored 124 points, 18 behind the Neenah team.
Dan Held and Dwight Sandvold coach the Hartland squads, which are competing in the Nike Nationals for the first time. A top 10 finish for the boys in Portland is within reach, but will take a top performance from all seven runners.
“This is it for the guys,” Held said. “This is as stacked as they’re going to be for a long time."