Members of the 2A state champion Winnebago girl’s cross-country team pose with trophies earned this past season.

By Doug Schroder
Coming into the 2019 season the Winnebago High School girl’s cross country team wanted to pay homage to all of the Winnebago teams, coaches and runners who came before them. From the first state champion in Doug Drogemuller when he won Class 1A in 1976, to the first team to win a state title from Winnebago when the boys took Class 1A in 1978, to the first girl’s team to win a Class 1A state title in 1989, and then do it again in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. The team this year even patterned their uniforms after the ones worn by the girl’s teams that won the first six titles.
Early in the season Coach Joe Erb put a quote on his whiteboard that he left up almost all year hoping the girls would look at it, read it and think about it.
“A champion does not become a champion when they win an event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years preparing for it. The championship moment therefore is a reflection of the championship character.”
Erb repeatedly told the girls during workouts that they were preparing for the championship moment with their championship character.
The girls brought that championship character to Detweiler Park in Peoria on Saturday, Nov. 9 when they won in convincing manner 63-144 over second-place Monticello, the only team to beat the Indians all year.
The total team time of one hour, 29 minutes for Winnebago was better than that of the 2A champion Lisle Benet.
Four runners for Winnebago finished in the top 25, earning them all-state honors; Natalia Martino (6th), Kaylee Woolery (10th), Katie Erb (24th) and Grace Erb (25th). Marrissa Roggensack just missed all-state honors by coming in 26th place. Only 24 seconds separated all five Winnebago runners.
The team returned to Winnebago Saturday evening where the Win-Bur-Sew Fire Department, Winnebago Police Department, and other well-wishers in vehicles escorted the team bus into town. An assembly was held at the high school gym where all 12 first place trophies were displayed on two tables. A third table was set up in the center to display this years trophy and the other trophies earned by the team over the course of this season. Athletic Director Will Hartje made an opening statement about the team before turning the microphone over to coaches Joe and Janet Erb. Joe spoke of the season, then each member of the team got up and made a short statement on what this championship moment meant to them.
Without a senior in the lineup and only one junior in Martino, Winnebago stands a very good chance of adding to their state championship trophies in the next few years.
This was the 50th year for the state cross-country championship meets at Detweiler Park in Peoria. In a book made for the occasion it was written when it comes to dynasties with the small school girl’s cross country it begins and ends with Winnebago. No other small school team has been able to come close to what Winnebago has done.

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