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Redbirds run to top long overdue
Times photo: Mark Nesbitt Darlington sophomore Kent Miehe runs up a hill. Miehe took ninth place at the Darlington Invite to help the Redbirds win the title.
DARLINGTON - Darlington cross country coach Arnie Miehe knew it had been a long time coming for the Redbirds at the Darlington Invitational.

Monroe had two of the top five runners, but it wasn't enough to overtake Darlinton who won the invitational by clipping Waukesha North, 69-72 for the title on Saturday. The last time Darlington won the invite was in 1998.

"To win by that much is just icing on the cake," Darlington sophomore Kent Miehe said, who finished ninth with a time of 18 minutes, 20 seconds and was one of three Redbirds in the top 10. "We knew it would be Monroe, us and Waukesha North. We had run strong last year and we just wanted to repeat this year. We knew it would be within two or three points."

Monroe sophomore Joel Henry finished fourth with a time of 17:52 and sophomore Luke Peterson was fifth (18:05) to lead the Cheesemakers to a fourth place finish as a team. Monroe junior Dylan Starck, who is the Cheesemakers' top runner, missed his second straight meet with a hip injury.

"I wanted to get top five," Henry said. "I didn't want to let Monroe down and all the fans watching. We were missing Starck so I wanted to step up."

Monroe boys cross country coach Dave Hirsbrunner said he was pleased with how well the Cheesemakers ran.

"Coming in considering we didn't have our No. 1 runner, it's pretty nice to know," Hirsbrunner said of Henry and Peterson's top-five performances. "This was way better than I expected (of the team's finish). With Starck we would have gained 34 points at least and with 54 points we would have won it."

Darlington junior Connor Roche, who suffered a pulled tendon on the outside of his right foot that sidelined him for most of the track season last spring, finished seventh (18:11), sophomore Michael Sinclair took 10th (18:25) and senior Jordan Heinberg was 20th (18:45).

"There was no doubt in my mind," Roche said about coming back from the injury. "It's great to get back into it. I had a great race today. I still have to work on my finishes."

Arnie Miehe whose Redbirds qualified for the Division 3 state meet as a team last year, look to be on track again.

"I thought we could be in the mix," Miehe said. "I'm pleased to find out that we are on the top of the mix for now."

Peterson made a big jump for the Cheesemakers by finishing 15 places ahead of his performance in last year's Darlington Invite.

"My main goal today was to beat Darlington's top runner and I did that," Peterson said.

Hirsbrunner said Peterson is still getting in shape and battling a cold.

Monroe senior Brandon Mortimer finished 22nd (18:48) and freshman Steve Christiansen took 27th and just missed breaking 19 minutes, finishing in 19:01. Fellow freshman Payton Hoesly rounded out the top five Cheesemaker runners as he finished 39th (19:48).

Albany sophomore Reece Whitehead finished 11th (18:26), junior Drew Mather took 13th (18:30) and senior Tyler Conley was 30th (19:18) to propel the Comets to a sixth place finish. Pecatonica-Argyle junior Chris James took 24th (18:53) and sophomore Wyatt Massey was 32nd (19:26) to lead the Vikings to an eighth place finish.

The Cheesemakers had two sophomores and three freshmen in their top six.

Hirsbrunner said the most important aspect for the young core of runners is learning how to race.

"There is so much strategy to racing," he said. "Some people just think you go out there and run. What we lack in experience, we make up in heart."

Hirsbrunner said Starck may be back to run in the Madison West Invitational on Thursday.

"If not then he will definitely be back for the Badger Challenge," he said.