By Brian Kalish

October 31, 2019

WAUSAU–Most people know Ryan Hartman, a senior at Wausau West, as a dominant force in cross country and track.

What most people probably don’t know is that Hartman is also a dominant force on the dance floor.

“Have you ever gone by a car dealership and seen one of those inflatable flailing things? Ryan’s been known to bust out some moves like that from time to time,” said West coach Jason Myers.

Hartman has had plenty of reason to put on his dancing shoes and celebrate this fall.

Not only did he win six of his eight meets in 2019, Hartman was crowned the Wisconsin Valley Conference individual cross country champion on Oct. 19 in Merrill.

He added a runner-up finish at the sectional meet at Standing Rocks Park in Stevens Point on Oct. 26 to punch his ticket to state.

The WIAA state cross country meet will be held at The Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids on Saturday, and Hartman figures to be among the challengers for the Division 1 title.

He’ll be joined at state by D.C. Everest senior Zach Brandenburg and Mckenna Taylor of Wausau East.

Hartman ranks as one of the best runners to ever compete at Wausau West, and he’ll get a chance to further cement his legacy with a strong finish at state.

“In track this last spring, he set our school record in the two mile, so in the 50-year history of our school, he’s the fastest young man we’ve ever coached in track, as far as distance events,” said Myers. “In that frame of reference, he stands by himself.  When it comes to cross country, he’s probably in the top three that we’ve had here. Based on how he finishes this weekend at the state meet, he could potentially be the best cross country runner we’ve had.”

That’s a pretty weighty statement, considering that Hartman didn’t start running competitively until his sophomore year. 

At that time, Hartman wasn’t sure if cross country was the right sport for him.

“Going into my first season of cross country, I remember thinking, I can’t run three miles, like, that’s a lot,” Hartman said. “But then I was able to run three miles and run them pretty quickly.”

While Hartman has natural ability (and then some), his success has not come without a lot of hard work. Entering his senior year, Hartman and his coaches developed a program for training over the summer, which included putting on a lot of miles.  

That regimen has paid off.

“We drew up a plan for this summer,” Hartman said. “We got together with the team for some morning runs so we could kind of do them together.  But then the other days I ran by myself. I got up to more miles than I do during the season, just to kind of build that aerobic base. I’d do long runs of 11 or 12 miles and then a few more base days of seven or eight miles.”

“It’s a success equation of taking the ability, putting in the will and the effort behind it and the commitment to excellence,” Myers said.  “It’s been a heck of a lot of fun to be a part of it.”

Hartman might have a little extra motivation at state after finishing second in the sectional race, where he was edged out of the top spot by Hortonville’s Jake Krause.  

Krause beat out Hartman by just two and a half seconds.

“It was definitely a battle that entire race,” Hartman said. “It was good to have someone there pushing me.  There was a pack of about ten of us in the first mile, but then we kind of started to separate. (Krause) kind of took off at the two mile, but I knew I just had to keep him close. I kind of gained my ground back with like 400 to go, but then he passed me again with probably 75 meters left.  He had a great kick to beat me, but I think that keeps me hungry for the state meet and shows me that I’ve got something to prove.”

Hartman’s state berth has earned him a lot of recognition from fellow students at Wausau West.  And while he’s excited for Saturday’s race, none of the accolades he’s received so far are going to his head.

He’s staying focused on the race.

Hartman said the course in Rapids is as tough as anything he as run this season.  But he is familiar with The Ridges, having run there twice previously. 

And when it’s all said and done on Saturday, Hartman, who is looking to continue running at the collegiate level, can rest assured that he’s left a significant impression on the cross country program at Wausau West– one that goes beyond his accomplishments in the races themselves.

“I think Ryan’s legacy is that hard work pays off,” said co-head coach Rachel Tordsen. “But he’s also one of the most humble kids. He’s not a kid who goes around and talks about himself and how amazing he is all the time. I think his teammates really truly respect him and admire him, but they also just like him as a person.  So I think he has left a huge legacy for our team.”