Varsity Cross Country · Westonka Cross Country Wraps Up Season

Beckett James, Josh Engesser, Laura Sunnarborg, and Michael Kurtz received the Hardest Worker awards at the White Hawks Cross Country banquet.

By Alicia Sunnarborg

The White Hawks cross country team concluded its season with a banquet Nov. 14 at Mound Westonka High School. After a successful season for both the girls and boys teams, many awards were given.

This year’s captains presided over the night, along with the team’s coaches. Captains were seniors Alec Van Gelder, Kate McGown and Sarah Malchow and sophomore Beckett James. Head coach of the White Hawks is Butch Humbert with assistants Jessica Rashleger and Sara Schwartz and strength coach John Wardlow.

Runner of the Year was the first award of the night, given to senior Alec Van Gelder for the boys and ninth-grader Laura Sunnarborg for the girls. This award is given to the runner who most consistently finishes in the top spot for the team. It is Sunnarborg’s third time claiming the honor.

The next award was Rookie of the Year. With many successes from newcomers in 2019, it was a tough decision. The accolade was given to seventh-graders Brooke Garlock and Gabby Callahan, who both competed well at the varsity level their first years in the program. Senior Connor Prok was another valued new member of the team to gain Rookie of the Year. The final honor went to the team’s new coach, Jessica Rashleger, who was a wonderful asset to the middle school team, along with a treasured resource to the junior varsity and varsity teams.

The Most Improved Award went in some cases to those who came a long way over the course of the season and to others who had improved since last year. This award was given to senior Robby Brustad, junior Derek Lloyd, sophomore Max Epsky and seventh-grader Gabby Callahan.

The Hardest Worker Award was given next, as with the other awards, based on a team vote and coach’s input. This honor was given to junior Michael Kurtz, sophomores Josh Engesser and James, and  Sunnarborg.

For those who have seen the movie McFarland USA, the Danny Diaz Award is a special one. It was taken home by four runners this year: seniors Olivia Duggan, Malchow and Prok, and sophomore Owen Paul.

The last award of the evening was the Commitment to Excellence. This award is based on points earned during the season for a number of criteria. Earning the distinction on the girls team were McGown and Malchow, sophomore Allison Soule, and Sunnarborg. Earning the Commitment to Excellence for the boys was junior Charlie Herder, sophomores Max Epsky, James, Lance Nemecek, and Paul, and freshman Ashton Demmer.

The team also celebrated their many successes, including Sunnarborg’s trip to state and seven All-Conference and three All-Conference Honorable Mention awards. Earning All-Conference were Sunnarborg, McGown and Soule for the girls, and senior Greg Laboulet, Van Gelder, Nemecek and James for the boys. Honorable Mention went to Garlock, ninth-grader Emily Wendorf and Engesser. The JV boys were conference champions with a perfect score, with Westonka runners taking the top five places.

Captains were named for next year, including Kurtz, Herder, James, Nemecek, Soule and Sunnarborg. The final award of the season will be announced next spring at the Scholarship Award Night for the “Going the Distance” award.

Congratulations to the White Hawks on, according to coach Humbert, a happy, healthy and successful season!