Cross-country runner makes history


Christian Patzka poses with his second place medal and trophy as he became an All-America for the second time in Lansing, Michigan on Saturday Nov. 19.

Nick Walczak, Assistant Men’s Sports Journalist

The UW-Whitewater men’s cross-country season has come to a close after yet another successful campaign. The runners took first in three out of their five regular season meets and earned second place at the WIAC championship meet. The team also traveled to Minnesota and ran away with first place finish in the regional meet. For the fifth time in program history, the team finished within the top 10 at the national championship meet.

Whitewater sophomore, Christian Patzka won the individual title at regionals and then continued on to make history, earning second place at nationals, the highest finish for a cross-country runner in Warhawk history. Patzka was also named an All-American for the second time.

“We had a good year. It’s time for a little rest and to get ready for track. Obviously going to Nationals again, finishing in the top 10 teams is awesome. And Christian was a national runner up, he was basically in the hunt to win the race. So that’s the highest finish we’ve ever had anybody individually, so it was outstanding,” said head coach Jeff Miller. 

The national meet took place at a snowy Michigan golf course where Patzka ran a time of 24:40.0, just 2.5 seconds slower than the national champion, Alex Phillip from John Carroll University. Patzka’s time is the tenth fastest recorded at a national meet in Whitewater’s history.

“I still find it cool that I kind of surprise myself sometimes,” said Patzka. “To finish national runner-up after getting 23rd last year, is definitely a huge accomplishment that I am very thankful for. I did not expect second. I expected maybe top five as the race played out.”

Fellow runner and sophomore Gunner Schlender also claimed his second All-American nod. His time of 25:30.8 was fast enough to earn him a top 30 finish at the national meet for the second consecutive season. 

Junior Justin Krause and freshman Dan Anderson both finished in the top half of the nearly 300 runner heat, posting times under 26:30.

Sophomores Nick Harden and Chris Allen also helped the team finish in the top 10 by both posting sub 27:00 times.

“Christian and Gunner are our top two runners and were all Americans and outstanding guys.  They’re leading our team. Justin Krause, our third runner, has kind of been a leader of the team. He does a lot of organizational stuff. So, his leadership was really crucial to help our younger guys know what they had to do,” said Miller. “Those three guys were very instrumental, and they’ve all been in nationals. They all have been in big meets and they know what it’s like…Then we had a couple other guys step up. Dan Anderson ran really well and Nick Harden and Chris Allen, those three were very solid. And it was really very much a team effort.”

The team found a lot of success throughout the year and especially to end the year. However, none of them are satisfied and most of the runners, including coach Miller, are gearing up to get the track season started. Patzka is one of the guys already hungry for next season’s competition.

“Next year with everyone getting a year stronger and us returning nearly everyone along with hopefully getting some new freshman or transfers, if all goes well, I would definitely say a good goal would be top four to get a trophy [nationally],” said Patzka. “We would love to bring home Whitewater’s first cross-country trophy next year and individually of course, being the top returner, I would like to win an individual title.”

This team is exciting. With nearly everyone returning, there is no reason to think that Whitewater’s cross-country team won’t have this sort of success for years to come. The bar is going to be raised and expectations will be higher but it is nothing this young, yet very experienced group of men can’t handle. Keep an eye out for your favorite runners as the track season starts Dec. 10 with the annual Warhawk intersquad/alumni meet at Kachel Fieldhouse on UW-Whitewater’s campus.