In his youth, McFarland’s Andrew Pahnke ran circles around his opponents on the soccer field. Now, he prefers to find his victories on the cross country track.
Pahnke, who has lived in the McFarland school district his entire life, explained he first picked up the sport after following in his older brother’s footsteps.
“My brother, who is two years older, was in cross country,” Pahnke explained. “So, I decided to try it when I got to high school and see how it went.”
With titles last year in both the individual conference and overall sectional races, as well as running to fifth place in the Division 2 state tournament, it is safe to say Pahnke has found a way to elevate himself above the rest of the pack.
More so than perfecting his physical technique, Pahnke’s feels it is his strong mindset that keeps him consistently finishing at the top of the leader board.
“Most of my preparation was done this past summer, just getting a really good base mileage and doing workouts throughout the season,” Pahnke said. “As we get closer (to the post season), it’s more about visualization, being really positive and imagining yourself doing well during these races. I think cross country is one of the most pure sports because the majority of people can get a technique down, but it takes a lot of mental strength to finish well.”
Despite his past successes, Pahnke has remained humble throughout his high school career. Rather than doting on what place he finished in each race, he prefers to talk about his teammates' progress and the camaraderie they share.
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“The team aspect of cross country is amazing,” he related. “I run with these guys literally every day, so you get to know them pretty well.
“That can be a good and a bad thing,” he added with a grin.
As the season marches closer to its finish, Pahnke’s co-head coach Andrew Garvey explained he is excited to see how his squad will match up against stiff competition from teams such as East Troy and Jefferson.
“These boys have put in the work over the summer and it’s shown each and every meet,” Garvey said. “We are hoping that we can maintain it this last week going into the sectionals and hopefully we get that extra meet to get opportunity to race at the state level.”
Following the conclusion of the season – hopefully not for another few weeks – Pahnke has his eyes set on running track in the spring. And beyond that, college.
“I’m not entire sure where I’m going to college yet,” Pahnke said. “I plan on running the Nike Midwest Regionals and another meet out in Sioux Falls. But, the priority right now is sectionals and state.”