WISCONSIN RAPIDS — Sun Prairie coach Matt Roe wasn’t concerned about best times entering Saturday’s WIAA Division 1 state girls cross country meet.

He was focused on his runners turning in their best races.

The top-ranked Cardinals did that. As a result, they defended their Division 1 state title on a windy, 37-degree day at The Ridges Golf Course.

Sun Prairie, led by senior Katie Rose Blachowicz’s third-place finish and sophomore Autumn Dushack’s seventh-place finish, placed its top five runners among the top 28 individuals overall. In the team scoring (eliminating individual qualifiers), the Cardinals had five of the top 21 finishers.

Sun Prairie totaled 57 points, finishing 17 points better than runner-up and second-ranked Muskego. Onalaska’s team of all freshmen was third with 174, just ahead of fourth-place Janesville Craig (177), which was led by individual champion Peyton Sippy.

“The girls all had good days,” Roe said. “We knew coming in that if we all had great performances we could definitely win this. We thought we had the best team, but the best team doesn’t always win. We had to have a good day, too, and we had both of those. We feel good about what we did.

“Most of the girls definitely had their best races. Everyone had their best efforts.”

Sun Prairie freshman Kate Kopotic finished 12th overall, junior Maddie Thompson was 24th and sophomore Hannah Ray placed 28th.

“The first time is always special, I guess,” Roe said about the Cardinals claiming their first title in program history last year. “Not that I’ve had such huge experience with this. This is No. 2. But it is still fantastic.

“The girls are excited, and that’s what it is really about, having fun together.”

Sippy, a senior who finished first in 18 minutes, 1.56 seconds on the 5,000-meter course, gained separation at about the 2-mile mark (about 3,200 meters), trailed by Muskego freshman Kate Sperka.

Sperka finished as runner-up in 18:05.97. Blachowicz, after finishing 29th last year, earned third in 18:20.65.

“I was very happy with my finish,” Blachowicz said. “I am happy with the improvement I made from last year. It is a big improvement.

“I’m so proud of my team. I’m going to get emotional; I just love them. I’m so proud to do great things together.”

Madison West, led by senior Vivian Hacker’s 21st-place finish, wound up ninth among 20 Division 1 teams and gave the Big Eight Conference the individual winner, three runners in the top seven and three teams in the top 10.

“The Big Eight is great,” Roe said. “Peyton Sippy is an amazing runner. We’ve seen her for four years. She’s a great competitor. … She always comes up big in the big races.”

Stoughton was 13th and Beaver Dam 19th.

Division 2

Sophomore Laura Beghin and senior Taylor Campbell finished second and fourth, respectively, and led second-ranked Wisconsin Dells to second place in the Division 2 race.

Top-ranked Freedom earned the title with 68 points. Wisconsin Dells totaled 98, followed by third-place Lake Mills (118) and fourth-place Jefferson (155).

Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau junior Dana Feyen defended her individual title, winning in 18:39.68.

“She is a very, very smart racer,” Beghin said about Feyen. “I knew she would make it a fair race.”

Beghin, who had a 18:52.95 clocking, was in a duel for second and finished strong to place as runner-up to Feyen for the second consecutive year.

“I wasn’t going from second to third this year, after finishing second last year,” Beghin said. “I wanted to give everything for these seniors this year. We (were) shooting to win this and I wasn’t going to let anyone down. We wanted to give it everything we had.”

Jefferson junior Mariah Linse finished sixth, while Lake Mills senior Kayli Buchli and freshman Lauren Winslow were 15th and 16th, respectively, for the third-ranked L-Cats.

McFarland was 16th as a team.

Division 3

Edgar sophomore Marissa Ellenbecker set a Division 3 record for the 5,000-meter distance, winning the race in 18:56.33.

Top-ranked Dodgeland totaled 56 points and was the team champion. Fourth-ranked Lancaster, led by runner-up Lydia Murphy, was second with 97 points and seventh-ranked Marshall earned third with 108.

Junior Claire Huggett led Marshall, finishing 14th, while sophomore Gianna Dugan was 25th.

“Our goal was to be in the top five,” Marshall coach Jeff Looze said. “They exceeded our expectations today. For the last four weeks, they have settled into their training. They were very relaxed today.”

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Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.