September 03, 2013 | 04:02 PMWEST BEND — The Badger Cross Country team got off to a strong start by finishing sixth in the tough 20-team Jamie Block Invite.
Coach Mike Butscher was impressed on how the team competed and also on how they worked together.
The freshmen ran a great first race," he said.
"This is one of our deeper freshman classes, but what has really impressed us is how hard these young guys are working.
They are inspiring the older runners through with their positive attitudes," he said.
Those veterans, who ran one of their strongest races in years, according to Butscher, were led by junior Alex Martinez who started his year with a personal record and an impressive second place finish in the loaded field.
The coach said Martinez ran a brilliant race with an even pace.
He started out in 15th place at the mile marker and moved up to second by the end.
"Alex is showing so much maturity as a runner and has earned everything he is getting as he has put in a lot of miles throughout the year," Bustcher said.
Another runner who has put in a lot of miles this past year and is off to a strong start, according to the coach, is sophomore Cody Sadikoff who finished as a medalist in the sophomore race with a finishing time of 17 minutes and 42 seconds.
Following Cody was a pack led by senior Gavin Denecke (17:57), junior Sam Carmona (17:59), and freshman medalist Will Hamilton (18:05), senior Nick Trautner (18:25), junior Jacob Bessenhofer (18:28), and senior Derrick Buntrock (17:33).
Up next for the Badgers is the Verona Invite Saturday.
"This is a great opportunity for Badger to see how it will measure up against the teams in their sectionals," Butscher said, noting that perennial power houses, Janesville Craig and Verona are in the meet.
"The men have aspirations of qualifying for team state and our going to have to run with those two teams if they want to achieve that dream," he said.
Looking at the season as a whole, Butscher is optimistic.
The Badgers return a strong cast of runners that finished second in conference and fourth in sectionals last year.
Leading the way for the Badgers are returning letter winners seniors Denecke, Buntrock, and Trautner; juniors returning letter winners include Martinez, Bessenhofer, Jake Pierce and Carmona, and sophomore Sadikoff.
Other reasons for optimism include the largest team ever with more than 50 on the team and a large and talented freshman squad.
"We have been happy with the men's effort throughout the year," he said. " Whether it was winter running or summer training, the guys have brought great energy.
They have high team goals and are working very hard to achieve these goals. We are very pleased with the boys attitude and effort in the first few practices."