In 2018 the Osceola Chieftain cross country team left the Sectional meet at St. Croix Central as girls and boys team champions. Osceola retuned the bulk of their runners for the 2019 season. If the Chieftains snuck up on anyone last year they wouldn’t be able to do it again. They had a bullseye on their backs as the team to take down.
Fast forward one year and Osceola did it again. Once again the meet was hosted by St. Croix Central and again both the girls and boys teams earned the top spot among the 15 hopeful schools thus punching their ticket to State this Saturday in Wisconsin Rapids. Hayward was the second place girls team and St. Croix Central placed second on the boys’ side with both teams also qualifying for State.
“What a great day for the Osceola cross country program,” Osceola coach Rachael Robinson said. “Both (girls and boys) teams took home the Sectional title and earned a trip to State by utilizing their depth. All seven runners impacted the overall results. They have worked extremely hard for this moment.”
The Osceola girls dominated the 5,000 meter race in nearly perfect running conditions on the 5,000 meter course. Freshman Rachel Ulrich led the race from start to finish crossing the finish line in 19:23.1 to outdo the other 94 varsity runners.
“Our whole team has put a lot of heart and effort in this year and I am so thrilled that it is showing in our results,” Ulrich said. “We are really happy to be representing Osceola at State and I am especially excited to have this amazing experience as a freshman.”
Junior Lauren Ellefson, coming back from nagging injuries, had perhaps her best race of the season. Ellefson was ran a strong race and kept picking off some of the top runners as she neared the finish line, eventually placing second behind Ulrich.
“Rachel Ulrich and Lauren Ellefson may have made Osceola history,” Robinson said. “Finishing one-two at the Sectional meet for the Chiefs has probably never been done. I am so proud of their composure and determination.”
All Osceola runners ran well with Chloe Backlund (10th overall), Alli Fogelberg (13th), Caroline Gearin (16th), Shaylee Feske (19th) and Tia Foster (29th) all contributing to the win. The Chieftains finished 39 points ahead of second place Hayward. Gearin is the only senior among the Osceola tournament team.
The Osceola boys had a battle with the host St. Croix Central Panthers. SCC had the meet’s top finisher as well as the third and 13th place runners. Osceola countered with Quinn McDonald (4th), Nick Kremer (11th) and Kolten Heimbach (12th) in their first three spots. With two scoring runners left from each team SCC held a 10 point lead over the Chieftains. Osceola’s fourth runner Sean Rogers made up the difference with his 15th place finish giving the Chieftains a one point lead with one runner to score. OHS runner Zach Solsrud cemented the win and the Sectional title with a 17th place finish, 10 points better than his SCC counterpart. David Olson (20th) and Jacob Hall (22nd) also had excellent races for Osceola in the field of 95 runners.
“We knew things were going to be tough going in to the race,” Rogers said. “As defending champs, there was definitely a target on our backs. Luckily we have a great amount of depth to lean on allowing us to drive down other teams’ scores. When you have trust in your teammates like we do, you know you just have to go out and execute, just like we’ve done in the past. I’d like to think that’s the ‘Osceola Way.’”
Osceola has little time to enjoy the success. One more week of practice and it is off to the dream meet for all runners, the State competition in Wisconsin Rapids.