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Aurora

Badger runners boast experience



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Thomas Pecha (far left) was the top Badger finisher at last Thursday's Palmyra-Eagle Invite. Big Foot's Michael Brody (fourth from left) and Badger's Gavin Denecke (far right) placed in the top 10.

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Swarthout (click for larger version)

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Sproul (click for larger version)
August 28, 2012 | 04:35 PM
Badger girls cross country fifth-year coach Stephani Reynolds is expecting her first child, a baby girl, in January.

But she is still running every day and excited to coach her other family, her team, this fall. With the atmosphere at Badger, juggling everything won't be a problem.

"It will be tough, but it's worth it," Reynolds said. "I love these girls, and I've been coaching them since seventh grade. We have good captains that are helping me out and doing a great job. They focus on the other girls, and they are leaders. They're like assistant coaches."

The three captains, Tristan Sproul, Taylor Ajamian and Anna Kase, lead a group of seven returners who helped lead the Lady Badgers to a Southern Lakes Conference title last season.

Aaryn Edge, a state qualifier last year, graduated and will run Division 2 track in college. Maria Dillman graduated, and Karina Reeves didn't return because she is focusing on basketball, Reynolds said. Otherwise, the Badgers bring back plenty of talent.

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"Four of our top five girls are back," Reynolds said. "There will be 10 girls switching in and out. It's kind of cool."

Along with the captains, top returners include Alex Swarthout, Alyssa Olsen, Shannon Geaslin and Molly Kleeman. Newcomers Stephanie Espinosa, Elle Adams, Julia Adams and Taylor Houghton will also contend for the five varsity spots.

Reynolds said the returners are all seasoned varsity runners. Also, she is pumped about the new faces.

"Elle ran varsity as a freshman but tried volleyball as a sophomore," Reynolds said. "It's really exciting because she's a great runner. Julia and Taylor really surprised me at our first meet."

In the summer, the team conducted runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Reynolds said she would drive through town and see the girls running on their own. The team's chemistry is perhaps its strongest asset.

"They are really team-oriented," Reynolds said. "They have been running together a long time. They have team sleepovers, and we did a team lock-in. They all know each other and are like sisters. We try and make it fun."

At the Palmyra-Eagle Invite Aug. 23, Swarthout, Espinosa, Sproul, Elle Adams and Geaslin were the top runners. They were all running times in the 17s and 18s, which is a good place to start, Reynolds said.

With all of its depth and experience, it's conference title or bust.

"We have a shot at conference," Reynolds said. "As long as we don't get injured and stay together as a team, we'll be good."

The boys and girls cross country teams travel to the Verona Invite Saturday.

Boys also loaded

Senior Tomas Pecha, who just missed state for the Badger boys cross country squad last year, ran as many as nine miles a day in the summer to prepare for the fall season. Pecha was one of a senior class of 14 kids who took it upon themselves to improve their times in the summer.

It's this kind of dedication that has 15th-year coach Mike Butscher ecstatic about the season.

"This is kind of our year," he said. "Depth is our strength. We are set up for a nice year. The guys logged a ton of miles on their own."

After losing only one key runner, Dan Sepe, Badger, who was third in the Southern Lakes last year, returns many four-year seniors, including all-conference performer Gavin Denecke, Jack Golitz, Zach Aspinall, Mitch Jensen, Mason Fellmuth and Michael Cordes.

Derrick Buntrock and Jacob Pierce are also back.

Key newcomers will include sophomore Alex Martinez, first-year runners Nick Trautner and Sam Carmona, and freshman Cody Sadikoff.

Butscher said Jake Besenhofer is injured right now but will contribute.

"Our top two or three guys will be there, but we are a team of flux," Butscher said. "Our four through eight guys will rotate."

Westosha Central has won the SLC the past three seasons, and Waterford is always good, Reynolds said.

"If we work hard, we have an excellent chance at winning conference," Reynolds said.

Butscher credited assistant coach Beau Roddy for his contributions.

"We're kind of co-coaches," Butscher said. "He's sparked a lot of energy with the young guys."

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