Senior Aidan Manning paced the Verona Area boys cross country team to a first-place finish at the Glenn Herold Invitational Saturday, Aug. 28, at Watertown High School.

Manning finished first out of the 227-runner field — which included JV runners — with a time of 16 minutes, 37.7 seconds to lead Verona to the top score of 44 points in the team’s season opener.

Manning, like the rest of the runners, battled some early season heat to win the boys’ race by nearly 23 seconds.

“The first mile felt really easy,” Manning said. “It felt great to be back and just racing again. The first mile was just perfect, it felt so good. It was super exciting to be back.”

Madison West placed second with 55 points, while Stoughton took third with 98 points. Monona Grove and Waukesha South rounded out the top five with 137 and 141 points, respectively.

“It was pretty hot and humid today,” Manning said. “That definitely affects every runner. But, like I said, it affects every runner, so everyone has to deal with it.”

The Wildcats placed three runners inside the top 10.

Junior Blake Oleson clocked in at 17:19.1 to place third overall, while fellow junior Max Metcalf came in 10th with a time of 18:01.

Verona was rounded out by junior Ryan Cassidy (18:17.1) and sophomore Kaden Ratze (18:18.7) with placements of 14th and 16th, respectively.

“I’m proud,” Manning said. “The only way to go is up. It was a great benchmark.”

The Wildcat girls had just one runner inside the top 10, but finished with five racers in the top 20 to earn runner-up honors. Verona collected 81 points while Monona Grove took the top spot with 66 points.

Monona freshman Mackenzie Babcock dominated the field with a first-place time of 19:24.7. Watertown’s Jemma Habben clocked in second with a far-cry time of 20:52.6.

Verona’s Liz den Daas was one of five freshmen to place inside the top 10. Daas clocked in at 22:44.8 to place 10th overall in the 142-runner field. Senior Emma Petta finished 15th with a time of 23:12.2. Fellow senior Payette Neess crossed the finish line shortly after with a time of 23:21.8, good for 17th.

The Wildcat girls were rounded out by junior Sotera Boado (23:30.3) and sophomore Lexi Remiker (23:33.9) with finishes of 19th and 20th, respectively.

Email Jack Miller at jmiller or follow him on Twitter at @JohnClaudeMill.

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