‘We ran for Evan’: Middleton Cross Country team crosses finish line together as tribute to late teammate

WEST ALLIS, Wis. – Medals, placements and personal records didn’t matter for Middleton Boys Cross Country runners at their meet Thursday night. They went into their race in West Allis with one goal: to honor their teammate Evan Kratochwill.

Kratochwill is one of three high school seniors, along with Jack Miller and Simon Bilessi, who were killed when a driver rear-ended their car Saturday. In the days past, occasions such as soccer games and homecoming events have become tributes to the students.

Kratochwill ran cross country at Middleton High School.

“He loved cross country. He loved being part of the team,” said his teammate and fellow senior Aayush Mohan. “He came to practice with just a good spirit.”

The junior varsity 5000 M race started with a few moments of silence for Kratochwill. His teammates would like to turn back time before Saturdays’ crash.

“He was just overall a great guy,” teammate Ethan Mladucky said.

“All three guys, everyone knew them at our school,” teammate Griffin Ward said. “I think one of their major mottos was living life to the fullest.”

Things on the team can feel empty without Kratochwill, a guy who would make sure to bond with anyone standing or running alone.

“That’s again such a special, unique characteristic and personality he had,” Coach Brian Finnel said.

Kratochwill’s teammates decided to follow in his footsteps, running alongside each other in a sport that can feel solitary.

“We all ran the JV race, so one team, a unified front,” Finnel said. “We all ran together.”

They couldn’t turn back time, but maybe they could beat it.

“Evan’s PR was 19:43. We wanted to honor him by running that, having everyone run that, even the varsity guys who weren’t supposed to race tonight,” said Braden Novak, the teammate who came up with the idea. “Evan would’ve been running today. He was going to shoot for that top time. I thought if we did it it’d be a great way to honor him.”

“It felt so powerful just running in one big pack,” Ward said. “I turned around because I was facing the pack, and I just saw the whole team. I wish I could imagine Evan right there next to us. It was so impactful.”

More than a dozen Middleton cross country runners crossed the finish line together at right around 19:43.

“I think he would’ve really loved that,” Mohan said. “We share that love for him.”

“It felt like family. We’re a big team,” Mladucky said. “We came all together just to support Evan. He’s with us here in our hearts.”

In a team huddle after the race, Finnel thanked his team.

“I know we made some sacrifices, for time, medals, places, but it didn’t matter,” he said. “We ran for Evan today.”

The loss of Miller and Bilessi weighed heavy on students’ hearts, too.

“Evan, Jack, Simon, we love and miss you,” Novak said. “You’ll be in our hearts forever.”