Peyton Sippy was fit to be untied.
With about a quarter-mile to go in last month’s WIAA Division 1 state cross country meet at The Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids, the Janesville Craig senior noticed that her lead over second-place Kate Sperka of Muskego was less than it had been a quarter-mile before.
And then she noticed that her right shoe was untied.
“That’s the first time my spikes have ever come untied during a race, whether it was track or cross country,” Sippy told the Janesville Gazette. “I thought to myself, ‘I’m either going to win a state title without a shoe, or I’m about to lose my shoe and something bad is going to happen.’”
But the shoe wasn’t going anywhere. After all the early morning training sessions, the after-school workouts and the total devotion Sippy had given to running, it stayed right where it belonged.
And Sippy finished strong, winning the championship with a personal-best time of 18 minutes, 2 seconds. That wiped out the minor disappointment of her second-place sectional finish — which came a week after she won the Big Eight Conference title. Her performance also helped the Cougars finish fourth at state as a team.
As a result, Sippy has been named the Wisconsin State Journal/WisconsinPrepZone.com All-Area Athlete of the Year for girls cross country.
“Peyton Sippy is an amazing runner,” said Sun Prairie girls coach Matt Roe, whose top-ranked Cardinals won a repeat Division 1 team championship.
“We’ve seen her for four years. She’s a great competitor. You knew she would come up big. She always comes up big in the big races.”
Sippy — who frequently trains with 2017 Sun Prairie graduate Trista Pringle, now at the University of Wisconsin — is in the midst of making college visits and has yet to make her choice.
Sippy was joined on the first team by three Sun Prairie runners: Senior Katie Rose Blachowicz, who took third at state; sophomore Autumn Dushack (sixth) and freshman Kate Kopotic (ninth).
Wisconsin Dells, the Division 2 state team runner-up, placed sophomore Laura Beghin (second individually) and senior Taylor Campbell (fourth) on the first team, joined by Madison West senior Vivian Hacker (21st in Division 1).
Coach of the Year: With a slew of proven athletes returning from the 2016 state championship team, the Sun Prairie girls ran with targets on their backs all season. It was Roe’s job to make sure all the Cardinals maximized their potential, preparing them mentally and physically for the challenge.
It paid off, as the Cardinals placed their top five runners among the first 28 finishers and earned a repeat Division 1 state championship.
“We thought we had the best team, but the best team doesn’t always win,” Roe said after the race. “We had to have a good day, too, and we had both of those. We feel good about what we did.”
Athlete of the Year: Peyton Sippy, sr., Janesville Craig. Led from start to finish in the WIAA Division 1 state race, winning the individual championship in a personal-best 18 minutes, 2 seconds (5,000 meters) and leading the Cougars to a fourth-place team finish. Won the Big Eight Conference individual title in 18:10.
Katie Rose Blachowicz, sr., Sun Prairie: Capped her career with a third-place finish at Division 1 state (18:21) after finishing second to Sippy in the Big Eight meet (18:29). A steady leader for the Cardinals.
Autumn Dushack, so., Sun Prairie: Finished sixth at state (18:45) after taking third in the Big Eight meet (18:47).
Laura Beghin, so., Wisconsin Dells: Earned a second consecutive individual runner-up finish (behind Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau’s Dana Feyen) at Division 2 state, in 18:53. Won the South Central Conference race with the same time.
Kate Kopotic, fr., Sun Prairie: Finished ninth at individual state (19:10) after finishing sixth in the Big Eight meet (19:37).
Taylor Campbell, sr., Wisconsin Dells: Was fourth at state in 19:18. Finished second behind Beghin in the South Central meet (19:37).
Vivian Hacker, sr., Madison West: Took 21st at state in 19:26. Finished fourth in the Big Eight (18:48).
Kayli Buchli, sr., Lake Mills; Lauren Haas, fr., Fort Atkinson; Reagan Hoopes, jr., Waunakee; Claire Huggett, jr., Marshall; Mariah Linse, jr., Jefferson; Maddie Thompson, jr., Sun Prairie; Anna Wozniak, jr., Stoughton.
Andi Bowman, jr., Madison West; Katelyn Chadwick, fr., Poynette; Gianna Dugan, so., Marshall; Brooke Fair, fr., Lake Mills; Christi Forman, so., Waterloo; Makenzie Hottinger, fr., Jefferson; Lindsay Johnson, jr., Dodgeville/Mineral Point; Arianna Mansavage, sr., Fort Atkinson; Kaylan Marshall, sr., Sun Prairie; Maddie Martin, fr., DeForest; Hannah Ray, so., Sun Prairie; Lauren Shanks, so., Janesville Craig; Christine Svenningsen, sr., Madison La Follette; Lauren Winslow, fr., Lake Mills.