All-County boys cross country: Union Grove runners lead the pack
There’s something special going on with the Union Grove High School boys cross country team these days.
The Broncos have their second straight All-Racine County Runner of the Year with Marcus Johnson, who follows the graduated Kevin Hall. And in the last two seasons, seven Broncos have been honored on the first team.
“I would say we’re in a nice place right now,” said Union Grove coach Mike Mikula, who is in his fifth season at the school. “We’re pretty blessed to have had the talent we’ve had the last couple of years in regards to the boys side and the girls side.
Runner of the Year
“I’m not too well versed on the history of Union Grove, but I do know it had been a while since they had a runner of the year, let alone two years in a row. It’s really a nice thing for the school.”
Johnson and Hunter Reich earned first-team honors for the second straight season. They have been joined on the first team by teammate Jake Matuszek, who switched to cross country after playing football for three years.
Also making a repeat appearance on the first team is Connor Zach of Waterford.
Here are profiles on the first-team runners, as selected the county coaches:
SCHOOL: Union Grove
NOTABLE: Johnson ran a personal-best time of 16:34 this season. He finished sixth in Southern Lakes Conference meet and earned first-team All-SLC honors. He was fourth at sub-sectional and 12th at the sectional, which qualified him for state for the first time in his career. Johnson finished 51st out of 114 runners.
QUOTABLE: “Marcus was our No. 1 runner all season,” Union Grove coach Mike Mikula said. “His hard work paid off in his off-season training. Marcus has run varsity all four years for Union Grove. He was our team captain this year. On a personal note, I have told Marcus’ dad on different occasions how proud we were as a team to have had him run for us. My hope is for my son, when he reaches high school, to embody the same traits that Marcus Johnson has shown us.”
SCHOOL: Union Grove
NOTABLE: Reich ran a personal-best time of 16:51. He finished seventh in Southern Lakes Conference and earned first-team All-SLC honors. He finished seventh at sub-sectional, and sectionals meets. Reich qualified for the state meet for the first time and placed 52nd out of 114 runners.
QUOTABLE: “Hunter was our No. 2 runner all season, and without a doubt, had his best season,” Union Grove coach Mike Mikula said. “His competitiveness and hard work will be surely missed, not to mention his consistency of being one of our top runners all four seasons.”
NOTABLE: Zach made the most out of a shortened season during which he only ran four races — one 2.5-mile race and three 5K races. In all three 5K races, he ran in the 16’s (minutes). His fastest time, 16:52, was at the SLC Conference Relays. His final race at Waterford’s sub-sectional was his most impressive, Waterford coach Nate Schreiber said, as he ran a 16:57 after a two-week layoff due to being quarantined.
QUOTABLE: “Connor had a terrific four-year career for Waterford,” Schreiber said. “Every year he continued to improve. I’m most impressed with Connor’s ability to navigate through a number of obstacles this year. He was never able to get into any rhythm, which is vital to a distance runner. The fact that he ran all three 5k’s under 17 minutes is a testament to his athleticism and mental toughness.”
NOTABLE: Muffick made, “a tremendous commitment to summer training in preparation for his final year running cross country for Waterford,” coach Nate Schreiber said. His time of 17:29 at his first 5K of the season marked over a minute improvement from his junior year. He ran consistently in the mid 17s the entire season, with his fastest, 17:11, at the Waterford sub-sectional.
QUOTABLE: “Logan set the example for what it means to be committed and determined to prepare for a cross country season — both mentally and physically,” Schreiber said. “It has been an honor to coach Logan and see him develop as a successful distance runner and young man. His drive to improve pushed all of his teammates to get better.”
SCHOOL: Union Grove
NOTABLE: In his first and only season, Jake ran a personal best of a 17:19. Matuszek finished eighth in the Southern Lakes Conference, and 10th in sub-sectionals to qualify for sectionals.
QUOTABLE: “Jake was our No. 3 runner all season,” Union Grove coach Mike Mikula said. “His first three seasons he played football, and easily made a smooth transition to cross country. One can only imagine, if Jake had been out all four years for this sport, the impact he would have had. We were glad he shared his talents this season to make an impactful presence to our team.”
NOTABLE: Cabaltera joined the cross country team as a senior after the soccer season was canceled. He started with a time of 18:08 at the Duck Pond M&M Meet in Walworth, a non-high school meet. In his next event, The Ranger, another non-school event held at UW-Parkside, Cabaltera finished in 17:47. Cabaltera finished fifth at the Southeast Conference meet in 17:22. He was second at the sub-sectional in 17:36. At the sectional, he struggled during the last 500 meters with a hamstring injury and finished 26th (18:18).
QUOTABLE: “After the cross country season was completed, Mikey ran three other cross-country races,” Case coach Matt DeWitt said. “His culminating event was running a best-ever time of 17:20, at the AAU Junior Olympics Championships Dec. 5 in Tallahassee, Fla.
NOTABLE: Healthy for the first time in his high high school career after dealing with patellar tendinitis and his left Achilles tendon, Phillips was within two positions of qualifying for the WIAA Division 1 Tournament after placing 14th at the South Milwaukee Sectional in 17:45. He also placed seventh at the Southeast Conference Tournament at South Milwaukee in 17:34.
QUOTABLE: “He put in the time during the summer to be competitive in every race,” Park coach Glenn Schultz said. “In sectionals, he was in the top five most of the race. I’m proud of his dedication and his perseverance and his competitive spirit. He stuck it out after not being healthy for basically three years. He really made sure he was healthy for his senior year.”