By Cassidy Scherzer, Current Staff
A West cross country runner leaves everyone in the dust as he now ranks as the second fastest ninth grader in the history of both West Bend High Schools.
Ethan Hackman will run at the state cross country meet on Saturday at Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids to finish off a history making season.
Hackman placed first individual at the Oct. 22 sectional cross country meet at Heritage Trails County Park in Slinger with a time of 17:22, allowing him to move on to run at Wisconsin Rapids.
“I’m proud of myself that I was able to make it to state as a freshman and I’m happy to have a good start (to my high school career),” Hackman said.
Every year, varsity cross country athletes compete in the sectional 5k race in order to try and earn a spot at the state meet the following weekend. The two teams that score the best, along with the fastest five individuals outside of the two teams, will move on to run at state. The state meet will contain the fastest runners from each sectional throughout Wisconsin.
Hackman officially joined the West boys team in summer along with 14 other ninth graders. The West team is large with a total of 36 members. The boys compete with one another to hold one of the seven varsity places. Hackman ran varsity as soon as the season began and as the season progressed, so did Hackman. He quickly began consistently finishing in first place for his team at races.
“I feel I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am. I started coming to summer running with (the West boys cross country team) two years ago throughout middle school and always try my best at practice,” Hackman said.
Hackman continually improved his times and accomplished many achievements. On Oct. 15 he earned First Team All Conference where he placed fifth at the North Shore Conference race running a time of 16:58. On Oct. 6 he set a new personal lifetime record of 16:51 at the Wisconsin Lutheran Cross Country Invitational.
That time made him the second fastest West Bend ninth grader ever for a 5k race. His time lies .6 seconds behind the top mark set by Luke Guttormson in 2014.
Within sports, teammates spend a large amount of time together over the course of the season and act as a big support system for one another. Hackman found this to be true on the West team.
“My teammates are very supportive of me and they seem nothing but happy for me. I’m excited we are all so close,” Hackman said.
Often sports teams hold tension as a result of the naturally competitive nature of the team. Although this may be the case on all teams at some point in time, Hackman found that his teammates had overwhelmingly positive reactions to his improvements and successes over the course of the season.
“I’ve been a teammate of Ethan’s since third grade,” ninth grader Drew Gundrum said. “I feel very proud of Ethan and how far he has come since then. It’s really cool to see his growth.”
Hackman has been an inspiration to many around him, including his older teammates.
“I’m just proud of Ethan for what he’s done this year and for what he’s brought to the team because without him we’d be lost,” said Brady Davidson, the team’s senior captain. “We wouldn’t have him to pull the team forward. We love him. He’s a good kid.”
Although Hackman is a ninth grader and just started high school cross country this year, he has been running for a large portion of his life.
“I started running in third or fourth grade with the Spartan Running Club because I was forced to by my parents,” he said. “I don’t mind it that much now.”
Considering he is still young, Hackman is not sure about whether he will continue to do cross country in the future at college.
“I don’t have actual plans set yet, but I do want to keep running after high school,” Hackman said. “I think it would be really cool. Also being able to compare my times would be fun. Hopefully I will keep progressing as I keep doing cross country the next three years of high school.”
Hackman is not the only West individual that will be running at Wisconsin Rapids this weekend. West senior captain Nathan Butters will be racing as well. Butters finished as fifth individual at the sectional race with a time of 17:51. The West boys as a team finished in third place to finish out their season.
(Top image: Ethan Hackman and Nathan Butters, left, compete during the Oct. 22 state sectional cross country meet at Heritage Trails County Park in Slinger. Photos courtesy of Butters.)