By Alicia Sunnarborg
In a season full of changes, the banquet provided yet another first for the Westonka cross country team. Only varsity and junior varsity team members were allowed at the season wrap up, while parents were provided a Zoom invitation to watch the festivities online. Al and Alma’s was gracious enough to host the socially distanced event Nov. 2.
This year’s captains presided over the night, along with the team’s coaches. Captains were senior Charlie Herder, juniors Beckett James, Lance Nemecek and Alli Soule, and sophomore Laura Sunnarborg. Head coach of the White Hawks is Butch Humbert, with assistant Jessica Rashleger, yoga instructor Amy Velsor and strength coach John Wardlow.
Runner of the Year was the first award of the night, given to junior Lance Nemecek for the boys and sophomore Laura Sunnarborg for the girls. This is given to the runner who most consistently finishes in the top spot for the team. It is Sunnarborg’s fourth time claiming the honor.
The next award went to Rookie of the Year. Eighth-grader Audrey Kirscht was an easy choice on the girls side. A newcomer to Westonka, Kirscht made an immediate positive impact on the girls team. The boys had a number of rookies show their value, highlighted by junior Wyatt Carlson, and sophomores Ambrose Neumann and Jacob Trost.
The Most Improved awards were swept by the boys team this year, going to senior Derek Lloyd, junior Max Epsky, sophomore Ethan Garlock and ninth-grader Charlie Paul.
The White Hawk Award came next, given to leaders who are always looking out for their teammates. This honor was given to juniors Josh Engesser, Max Epsky and Lance Nemecek, and sophomore Laura Sunnarborg.
The Spirit Award, as with the other awards, was given based on a team vote and coach’s input. Receiving this year’s spirit awards were juniors Max Epksy and Alli Soule, sophomore Laura Sunnarborg, and ninth-grader Charlie Paul.
Coach Humbert noted the Heartbeat of the Team awards, which were given by the captains during this year’s Homecoming online pepfest. Ninth-grader Charlie Paul and eighth-grader Audrey Kirscht were announced as hard working teammates who always brought a positive attitude.
The team also thanked their seniors and their families, some who had been on the team their entire high school careers. Alex Brown, Jenna Brustad, Roman Fenzl, Charlie Herder, Derek Lloyd and Carly McGown will all be missed.
Other banquet news included conference announcements. A conference meet was not allowed this year, but awards were given instead by times from the last meet of the season. This was the White Hawks first season in a tough Wright County East Division conference. The girls team earned third place in the conference, and the boys placed fourth. Laura Sunnarborg was awarded All-Conference, while several members achieved Honorable Mention. Honorable mention for the girls were eighth-graders Gabby Callahan, Brooke Garlock and Audrey Kirscht. Juniors Josh Engesser, Max Epsky and Lance Nemecek took Honorable Mention for the boys.
Possibly the biggest achievement of the season was just completing it. Aside from a couple injuries, the team got through the season healthy and eligible to compete, amongst all the covid protocols. This was especially important for the smaller girls team. Westonka is looking forward to a hopefully more normal season in 2021, with both teams returning many strong runners.
According to Coach Humbert, “It was a strange season in many ways, but a good one, and I for one was very thankful we could be together so much in 2020!”