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

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 Freshman 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 third time claiming the honor.

The next award went to 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 and like the other awards was based on a team vote and coach’s input. This honor was given to junior Michael Kurtz, sophomores Josh Engesser and Beckett James and freshman Laura 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, including seniors Olivia Duggan, Sarah Malchow and Connor 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 seniors Kate McGown and Sarah Malchow, sophomore Allison Soule and freshman Laura Sunnarborg. Earning the Commitment to Excellence for the boys were junior Charlie Herder, sophomores Max Epsky, Beckett James, Lance Nemecek and Owen Paul and freshman Ashton Demmer.

The team also celebrated its many successes, including Laura Sunnarborg’s trip to state and seven All Conference and three Honorable Mention awards. Earning All Conference were Laura Sunnarborg, Kate McGown and Allison Soule for the girls and senior Greg Laboulet, Alec Van Gelder, Lance Nemecek and Beckett James for the boys. Honorable Mention went to Brooke Garlock, freshman Emily Wendorf and Josh Engesser. The Junior Varsity boys were conference champions with a perfect score: Westonka runners took the top five places.

Captains were named for next year, including juniors Michael Kurtz and Charlie Herder, sophomores Beckett James, Lance Nemecek and Allison Soule and freshman Laura 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 what was according to coach Humbert a happy, healthy and successful season!

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