It’s not how you start.

It’s how you finish.

That’s the mentality the McDonell cross country team takes each season, and this fall will be no different as the Macks will aim to be at their best when the meets matter most.

The Macks opened the season last Wednesday at the Boyceville Alumni Invitational, but as the team gets rolling, runners are at different points of their training with some further along than others.

But there is plenty of time for the Macks to settle in and gain time through training with the postseason almost two months away.

“We’ve just got to keep the kids not worrying about where they’re running now and just remember where we want to be when it matters most,” McDonell coach Marty Bushland said.

Both the boys and girls teams advanced to the Division 3 state championships a season ago and bring back runners from those respective groups.

The boys finished eighth as a team at state and return four runners that competed for the team in Wisconsin Rapids. Joe Thaler finished 48th, Caleb Thornton took 114th, Luke Newton finished 115th and Max Hauser was 116th as the quartet forms an experienced core. Sam Tokarski, Jake Siegenthaler, Ben Prissel, Drew Hunt and Jackson Bushman will battle for varsity spots while Dan Anderson finished 11th for the Macks at the season opener in Boyceville.

The boys won the Cloverbelt Conference championship a season ago and Bushland is hopeful the team can round into form by the Oct. 19 conference championship event hosted at Whispering Pines Golf Course in Cadott.

The girls team took 14th at state and also returns four runners from that team. Ellie Eckes, Ann David and Elise Bormann each earned all-conference accolades a season ago on the way to state, while Anna Geissler missed an all-conference position by one place. Ann David and Ellie Eckes finished 82nd and 94th, respectively, at the state championships while Geissler placed 115th and Bormann came home 122nd.

Aly Herr, Christie Abbe and Eva Bushman will vie to be the team’s fifth scoring runner at each meet and are runners Bushland believes can be solid runners.

McDonell finished second to Abbotsford/Colby a season ago and while Abby/Colby is expected to be strong again, Bushland is looking for his girls team to show improvement throughout the fall to be at its best at the right time, just as it was last year.

The Macks have a busy schedule in the month of September as the team will tinker with its lineup before hoping finding the best combination for the stretch run. The boys finished fifth as a team at the Boyceville invite, led by Thaler (seventh), Anderson (11th) and Newton (35th). The girls came home with a 12th-place finish at the event with Eckes (17th), Bormann (29th) and David (41st) leading the charge.

McDonell returns to the course on Tuesday at Loyal and the team has meets later in the month at Stanley-Boyd (Sept. 12), Rice Lake (Sept. 17), Cadott (Sept. 24) and Spencer (Sept. 26). The Macks will be back in Boyceville in late October for Division 3 sectionals on Oct. 26.

“It’s a small group again but what we have are good kids to work with,” Bushland said. “The cupboard is definitely not bare. I’m just hoping everybody makes progress like we have in the past and if that happens, we should be in the mix. That’s all you can ask for.”

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