WISCONSIN RAPIDS — The Middleton boys cross country team’s first state championship came 25 years ago.
On Saturday, the top-ranked Cardinals marked that anniversary with their second WIAA Division 1 crown.
Junior Caleb Easton finished eighth overall, junior Michael Madoch was 10th and senior Sam Jaeger placed 11th in leading Middleton to first with 76 points at the Ridges Golf Course.
The Cardinals finished a whopping 101 points ahead of fourth-ranked runner-up Stevens Point. That was the largest margin of victory in a boys race of this classification size (large school, Class A or Division 1), according to a check of WIAA records.
“It has been 25 years; this is a big accomplishment for the whole program,” Middleton coach Brian Finnel said. “It’s been in the works for the last couple years. The team has been getting better and better. I felt we were confident coming into the meet. We knew teams were coming for us. They came out and tore it up today.
“To win by 101 points, that is insane.”
Middleton’s top three finishers also were the top area finishers in the 5,000-meter race won by Mequon Homestead junior Drew Bosley, who finished in 15 minutes, 39.87 seconds. Bosley, who was second last year behind then-senior Finn Gessner of Madison La Follette, poured it on in the latter stages and cruised in ahead of runner-up Wesley Schiek (15:45.15), an Oshkosh North senior.
Easton hoped to finish in the top five and was disappointed in his individual showing in the tough conditions, with temperatures in the high 30s and 16 mph winds.
“I felt pretty good for the first mile, mile and a quarter,” Easton said. “The hills took a lot more out of me than I’m used to. My eyes watered up and I got a little dizzy.”
Easton took solace in his improvement after finishing 39th last year. He was most excited about the Cardinals’ showing.
“There are no individuals on our team,” Easton said. “We have so much depth this year.”
Jaeger was thrilled with Middleton’s title after the third-place finish last year, fourth in 2015 and sixth in 2014.
“It really means a lot,” Jaeger said. “We’ve come so far. I’ve been on this team for four years and it’s amazing to see us all work together every single day and train through all the seasons and to work our way up from a top-10 team all the way to first. It’s really something else.”
Senior Jack Rader was 38th and sophomore Zach Leffel 61st for the Cardinals, whose top five finished among the top 38 in runners counting in the team scoring.
Monona Grove junior James Giftos finished 13th overall, junior Reed Anderson was 24th and senior Charlie Ellenbecker placed 25th as the Silver Eagles wound up fourth with 197 points in the 20-team field.
Sun Prairie — led by senior Joseph Kehoe (19th) and junior Ash Francis (21st) — was fifth with 203 points. Second-ranked Madison West, the team champion in 2016, finished sixth with 212.
Watertown senior William Kitzhaber ran to a 15th-place finish, while Madison La Follette senior Josh Frietag was 16th and Beaver Dam junior Cade Ferron 17th.
Top-ranked Valders totaled 60 points and earned the Division 2 team title, ahead of runner-up Dodgeville/Mineral Point, which had 99.
Senior Gerrit Baker and sophomore Henry Keith led third-ranked Dodgeville/Mineral Point, finishing 28th and 29th, respectively.
Lakeland senior Kavanaugh FitzPatrick was the individual winner in 15:52.88, with seniors Cody Meyer and Trevor Wenzel finishing 2-3 for Valders, which was second as a team in 2016.
Monroe senior Drake Ingold was the top area finisher, coming on strong over the final 800 meters and placing ninth in 16:33.44.
“My goal was to get in the top 10,” Ingold said. “I got ninth, which is good. I picked it up as the race went along.”
Among other individuals, Lodi senior Tanner Maier finished 11th and Deerfield/Cambridge senior Spencer Currie was 14th.
McFarland junior Andrew Pahnke was 12th, leading the fourth-ranked Spartans to a sixth-place team finish. Jefferson wound up seventh.
Durand ended top-ranked Darlington’s string of Division 3 team titles.
Third-ranked Durand, led by third-place finisher Isaac Wegner, claimed the championship with 79 points.
Darlington, which won the previous six titles, finished second with 104 points and was led by junior Payton Heinberg, who was sixth.
Onalaska Luther junior David Vannucchi defended his individual title, winning in 15:54.83.
New Glarus/Monticello finished 16th.