With multi-time state track champion Camille Davre nursing a slight leg injury, veteran Whitefish bay cross-country coach Mike Miller decided it was time to take the pulse of the program at its own low-key but fun Vanden Avond Invitational at Kletzsch Park on Sept. 15.
And he found it to be healthy and in pretty good shape at this point, as freshman Maggie Keiper continued to impress, racing to a comfortable individual win in leading the Blue Dukes to the title in the seven-team event.
Furthermore, the balanced Blue Duke boys had David Potter finish a strong third as Bay also won that eight-team competition.
"She (Davre) sprained her ankle on Monday (Sept. 12), but she's recovered fairly quickly; she was even back to running by the end of the week," Miller said. "This was very encouraging, though. It gave Maggie a chance to run from the front, and she did a fantastic job. And taking into account last year's difficult conditions, she was 40 seconds faster than when Cami won that race.
"She just has a lot of confidence for a freshmen girl. She has a very cool disposition."
Miller was also impressed with the boys' efforts.
"That was a very nice performance," he said. "The kids did a nice job of pack running, and all those sophomores, they were about a minute faster than they were at last year's meet. They're really heading in the right direction. They ran aggressive and they ran smart."
Miller said that front group for the team averaged out to a 5:20 first mile, which was much better than the 5:45 they went out in at the Marshfield Columbus meet a few weeks ago. Miller said he can't remember the last time the Blue Dukes won both ends of the meet, which is named after the Blue Dukes' Hall of Fame cross-country and distance coach Richard Vanden Avond.
In the girls race, Keiper was clocked in 19:20 on the 5,000-meter Kletzsch Park course, a good 20 seconds ahead of the runner-up from Cedarburg. Her effort led Bay to a 42-point effort as Cedarburg was second with 66.
Other scoring runners for Bay included Ellie Hall in sixth (20:24), Josie Helf in seventh (20:25), Alexa Bartschat in 13th (21:02) and Julia Hall in 15th (21:06). Also running were Zoe Styler in 22nd (22:02) and Patricia Mathu in 25th (22:15).
Overall, Miller thought the race could have gone a little better, but he was not displeased at the effort. That included a one-two finish in the junior varsity race as freshman Anika Horowitz won in 22:07 and senior Fiona Joyce was second (22:27).
For the Blue Duke boys, depth was the key, as they put eight runners in the top 16. The 2015 state meet qualifying Potter ran a strong race in taking third in 16:42, while Noal Basil was sixth (17:14), Julian McCurdy eighth (17:16), Thomas Gonzales ninth (17:19) and Nathan Ebersole 11th (17:27) to round out the scoring runners.
Others competing included Eli Dyer in 12th (17:39), Joe Pencak in 14th (17:57) and Rhys Koch in 16th (18:03). With the exception of Pencak, all the Bay runners were underclassmen.
"The kids just competed much better than they had the last few weeks," Miller said. "It was much better and smarter racing. It was fun; it was a smaller meet so it had the feel of a dual meet between us and Nicolet."
Bay scored 37 points for the victory, and Nicolet was second with 47.
The Blue Dukes went one-two-three on the junior varsity side with Carl Youel, Ethan Morris and Baylor Leese leading the way.