Oregon senior Yordanos Zelinski relied on his track background to provide him the finishing kick he needed to springboard him ahead of Stoughton senior rival Jayden Zywicki at the Verona Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 4, behind the high school in Stewart’s Woods.
Zelinski finished third overall out of 551 runners and was the champion in the eight-team Division 2 field with a time of 16 minutes, 25.2 seconds. He used his kick over the final 400-meters to finish 0.5 of a second ahead of Zywicki.
“He ran a really disciplined and smart race,” Oregon coach Erik Haakenson said of Zelinski. “In the final 400 meters Yordi turned on the jets and outsprinted them in the end.”
Zelinski ran with Verona senior Aidan Manning, Middleton senior Griffin Ward and Zywicki at the front for the first mile.
“He went out on that first mile and let them set the pace and ran a strategic race,” Haakenson said.
Manning and Ward broke away from the front pack going down a hill in the woods to Lisa’s Loop. In the final 600 meters, Manning overtook Ward on Lisa’s Loop sprinting down a hill to the finish.
Oregon took fourth out of eight Division 2 teams with 111 points. Madison La Follette won the Division 2 team title 45-68 over second-place Stoughton.
“It’s early in the season and sometimes people are not running their full squad or have injuries,” Haakenson said.
One Panther runner who made his debut after battling soreness in the season opener in Monroe is junior Leo Schleck. He took 14th out of all the Division 2 runners with a time of 18:14.3.
“Leo is getting used to racing,” Haakenson said. “It was a good start, but he’s looking forward to getting back to the 17-minutes.”
Junior teammate Wil Cram took 24th (18:44) and junior Quinton Bush placed 35th (19:17.8). Senior Odin Beck finished 37th to round out the top five for the Panthers with a time of 19:20.7.
Haakenson said 15 runners for the Panthers varsity and JV teams set personal-record times in the invite, including the top nine JV runners.
Two Badger West Conference teams the Panthers did finish ahead of are Baraboo and Fort Atkinson.
“It would have been nice to finish ahead of Stoughton,” Haakenson said.
Monroe won the Division 3 team championship with 55 points over New Glarus/Monticello.
“It looks like Monroe will be a tough contender for the conference title this year,” he said.