Kallie Volk (No. 129) of Three Lakes makes her way through traffic during the Division 3 race at The Ridges Golf Course.
Kallie Volk (No. 129) of Three Lakes makes her way through traffic during the Division 3 race at The Ridges Golf Course.
Steeped in tradition and rich in history, the WIAA State Cross Country Meet was held last Saturday at the Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids.

For this race, 980 cross country runners earned the right to toe the line. The State meet began in 1913 and, while there have been many changes to rules and distances, one thing remains constant — this race is the pinnacle of high school distance racing in Wisconsin.

One week ago, eight Sectional meets took place, with the top two teams and the top five runners who were not members of the two teams advancing to State competition.

Three Lakes freshman Kallie Volk earned the honor of racing in the Division 3 girls’ race, along with 147 of the best harriers from around the state. She was assigned to Lane 25 with the other four medalists from our Sectional, including Edgar’s Marrissa Ellenbecker, a two-time State champion.

During the night, a light snow had fallen in Wisconsin Rapids, making for wet conditions for the racers. With temperatures hovering in the 30s, runners would have to make uniform adjustments to accommodate the cold weather.

“As the gun sounded at 1:20 p.m. signaling the start of the Division 3 race, Kallie knew exactly what she would need to do. Going off the line, she had a perfect start, tucking in with the front runners,” said coach Laurie Levandoski. “By the time Kallie reached the first mile, she had slipped to an unfamiliar position behind more than 20 runners.”

Levandoski said that spectators lined the race course, often three or four people deep. With thousands of fans cheering for their athletes, the volume on the course was deafening.

“Even though her sister, two-time State qualifier Kortnie Volk, had talked to Kallie about this aspect of the meet, nothing can prepare a young runner for the noise level as spectators ‘chase the race’,” said the coach.

“Early on, Kallie struggled to hear her breathing and get into a rhythm. This made it difficult for the freshman to find her pace. By the second mile, Volk had slipped further behind the pack. Kallie finished in 54th place with a time of 21:07, still well ahead of two-thirds of the other runners in our Sectional.”

While disappointed in her finish, Volk will take valuable race experience with her into the next cross country season.

“After earning medals in every meet she has run since joining cross country in sixth grade, it is clear that she will be likely to have other State meet races in her future,” said Levandoski.