Niggemann digs deep for first state title
Thunderbirds’ Erika Kisting places third, Fischer 13th
By Greg Seubert
Football isn’t the only successful fall athletics program these days at Amherst High School.
Just ask senior Alissa Niggemann, who won the girls’ Division 3 race Oct. 31 at the WIAA State Cross Country Meet in Wisconsin Rapids.
Not only did Niggemann win the race, but two of her competitors this season in the Central Wisconsin Conference, Iola-Scandinavia’s Erika Kisting and Marion’s Delaney Greene-Gretzinger the defending champion, placed third and fourth, respectively.
Meanwhile, another I-S runner, Leighten Fischer, came in 13th place.
Amherst, which qualified its girls’ team for the meet, finished 10th out of 16 teams.
Kisting, Fischer and Greene-Gretzinger were three of seven area runners that competed as individuals at the meet, held in cold, rainy conditions at The Ridges Golf Course.
Waupaca’s Mitchell Rotta placed 99th in the boys’ Division 2 race, Clintonville’s Kara Pyatskowit placed 11th in the girls’ Division 2 race, Amherst’s Seth Barnes finished 109th in the boys’ Division 3 race and Hortonville’s Hannah Lohrenz placed 37th in the girls’ Division 1 competition.
“It feels amazing, like a dream come true,” Niggemann said seconds after crossing the finish line in 19:00.4.
She trailed Westby’s Elena Schmidt for much of the race, but finally caught her with the finish line in sight.
“I was playing catch-up through most of the race,” she said. “I lost contact (with Schmidt) a few times, but something inside of me was just pushing me and I had to stay on her. I finally made the move with 200 left up the hill.”
Schmidt eventually settled for second place with a time of 19:01.25.
“Probably since sixth grade,” Niggemann said when asked how long she had been waiting for a shot at winning a state championship. “That was the first time I came and watched state. I wanted to win this kind of meet ever since then.”
Amherst qualified its girls’ team when Niggemann was a freshman in 2012. She finished 31st that year, but placed sixth as a sophomore and eighth last year as a junior.
“My freshman year, my goal was to just go to state and have fun with it,” she said. “My mileage from my freshman year to this year has increase by 20 miles a week. I was running 20 miles a week. This year, I’m averaging 40. It’s really a whole other level of training.”
The Falcons sent its girls’ team again this year and Amherst ended up finishing 10th out of 16 teams. Anja Werner, Lindsay Dose, Rebecca Ostrowski, Victoria Weier, Shayna Cisewski and Elizabeth Anderson also competed.
“That was another amazing way to end my senior year,” Niggemann said. “I couldn’t be any happier. I felt so comfortable at the start compared to the two years that I qualified as an individual.”
Niggemann’s win is Amherst’s first state championship at the meet since Salla Pulli, an exchange student from Finland, won the girls’ Division 3 race in 2000.
Now that her high school cross country season has ended, Niggemann has a big decision to make.
“I didn’t really start looking into colleges until this summer and just started applying,” she said. “No one’s come looking, but I’ve come looking. Some schools have offered me money. I have to make the decision if I want to continue cross-country skiing or running in college.”
Kisting, on the other hand, has two more years of cross country. She turned in a time of 19:12.18, while Fischer crossed the finish line in 20:00.75 in her third straight trip to state.
Fischer and Kisting placed 19th and 20th at state last year, while Fischer also finished 29th two years ago as a freshman.
“Last year, it was top 20,” Kisting said. “This year, top five was my goal. My plan was to stay up with Alissa and pass her up on the 2-mile. I wanted to widen my stride, downhill especially. No way can I beat her in the kick.”
“We couldn’t be prouder of Erika and Leighten,” I-S coach Tom Anderson said. “They have run consistently well all year with great attitude, effort and determination.”
A steady rain fell during all six races at the meet.
“With temperatures in the mid- to upper-40s and a cold, steady rain, conditions weren’t the greatest, but they just went out and ran their race,” Anderson said. “Thank goodness the D3 race was the first race of the day because the course got sloppy as the day went on.”
“It was very muddy and slick,” Kisting said. “You had no traction.”
“Erika’s third-place finish is the highest for an Iola-Scandinavia runner at state,” Anderson said. “She ran her typical strong race. She ran with the lead pack the whole race, but didn’t quite have enough at the end. She ran an incredible race.”
Fischer also had a solid outing in her third trip to state, according to Anderson.
“It was her best time of the season,” he said. “She was hoping to break 20 minutes and medal by placing in the top 10, but she, too, didn’t have anything else to give. She should also be very proud of her efforts. We certainly are proud of her.”
Times for other area runners at state were Greene-Gretzinger (19:17.14), Rotta (18:07.98), Pyatskowit ((19:32.65), Barnes (18:46.13) and Lohrenz (19:45.4).
Times and places for Amherst’s other runners were Werner (37th, 21:43.33); Dose (55th, 22:20.49); Ostrowski (65th, 22:44.65); Weier (86th, 23:23.67); Cisewski (92nd, 23:48.27); and Anderson (102nd, 24:24.14).
Now that her cross country season is over, Niggemann can turn her attention to the undefeated Amherst football team, which will host Southern Door at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6, in a Level 3 matchup of Division 5 teams.
She missed the Falcons’ two playoff wins over New Holstein and Winnebago Lutheran.
“I haven’t been there the last two games and I feel terrible, but I’m going to be there cheering,” she said. “I bring cowbells and signs. I’m a huge fan of Amherst football. I’m hoping they can go to state and win, too.”