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Bulldogs look to state runners to lead young team

Carlton's Erika Fox, Esko's Carle Helberg and South Ridge's Gracelynn Otis lead the girls' 1600-meter race at the April 2 Polar League indoor meet at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Otis won the race with a pass in the final 400 meters. Dave Harwig/

The Polar League track season is just underway, and local teams are finding time under the cold early spring weather for their first meets of the season.

The Carlton Bulldogs are led by second-year coach Matt Peterson — and the Bulldogs have plenty of talent back this season after a successful campaign a year ago.

“We did send people to state and we had people who did fairly well there,” Peterson said. “We are excited for the season ahead, even though for the most part we will be very young.”

Junior Erika Fox, who burned up the ski trails in the area this past winter in Nordic skiing, should be considered a favorite in the section and possibly in the state in the one- and two-mile runs. Fox qualified last year in the 3200 meters as a sophomore and Peterson likes her chances.

“Erika is an extremely hard worker,” Peterson said. “She should be a favorite to do very well again this year.”

The girls team has a number of very talented performers. Junior Brittany Hillstrom took third place in the state last year in the 800 meters and, like Fox, is a heavy favorite to do well this season.

“She also made it to state in cross country so she has had a very good season already,” Peterson said. “We are excited about what she might accomplish.”

Sophomore sprinter Millie Groth hurt her ACL during basketball season — and that’s a huge loss for the Bulldogs, as she qualified for sections in the open 100 and 200 meters as well as the long jump.  

“We will miss Millie for sure, but her sister (senior) Amanda is out for the team and was a great volleyball player and fine athlete in her own right,” Peterson said.

The track coach also has high hopes for senior Ashley Anderson, who played basketball and came out for the team last year for the first time as a junior, participating in the weight events.

On the boys side, the team will be led by senior Efren Morales-Cruz.

“It was great to see Efren come out this year. He is a great kid, a good athlete and a real inspiration to our team,” Peterson said.

The boys team has a number of players doing double duty with the baseball program, so practice time is a bit chaotic, but juniors Isaiah Wallace and Mark Matlock will combine with junior Sam Macor to give the Bulldog boys a talented core.

“Isaiah played football and we know he’s a good athlete, Mark is going to help us and you can’t ask for a better young man than Sam Macor,” Peterson said. “He is in everything. He’s a 4.0-plus student, he’s in the school plays, he’s a coach’s dream and he’s the kind of kid you want to build a program around.”

The Bulldogs boast close to 50 athletes in their program in grades 7-12, numbers Peterson is happy to see.

“We are young, but we feel good about where the numbers are headed,” he said. “They are very strong for a school our size.”

The team has had two preliminary meets already, with the indoor “Little Jackets” meet at the University of Wisconsin-Superior the most recent last Tuesday. The team is scheduled to take part in a Polar League meet Tuesday, April 19, at Esko if the weather holds.

“We know the early part of the season is going to be cold but we’ll get out there and compete,” Peterson said. “I’m really excited to see how the kids perform.”