When the Milwaukee Bradley Tech girls won their first of what would eventually be four WIAA state track titles in 1996, the Trojans laid down what would eventually be an impossible to follow path of speed, speed and more speed.
They won by only one point over Middleton, but that was deceptive, as their 4 x 100 meter relay was a prohibitive favorite but couldn’t get the stick around in the final.
Still, behind a title from the 4 x 200 relay anchored by Kelly Cooper and Cooper’s runner-up finish in the 200, the Trojans had carried on a Milwaukee City Conference trend of being quick to the finish line.
That trend had formally gotten rolling with Olympian Esther Jones of Bay View, and state record-holders Andrea Lee of Riverside and Dana Collins of Marshall who combined to win six of seven D1 100 dash titles between them from 1986-1992 as well as a number of other sprint and sprint relay crowns.
They were following the vapor trails of Diane Lemmitt of Milwaukee West who in 1981 set the 100 dash record at 11.84 seconds. It was a mark so imposing that it would not be moved for an impressive 28 years when fellow City Conference lightning bolts Tasha Allen of Milwaukee North and Bradley Tech legend Dezerea Bryant both ran 11.76 in the trials in 2009.
Bryant would then spend the next two years with her teammates writing and rewriting every Wisconsin girls sprint record in sight (more on her later).
Before the rise of Tech, which was a strong presence on the state track scene through 2012 behind coaches Ron Temple, Ray Goral and Ken Williams, only Milwaukee Custer in 1976, Milwaukee Riverside in 1986 and a Collins-led Marshall team in 1990 had won state girls track titles out of the City Conference.
Even Tech knew frustration as in the Trojans first sensational late 1990s run at state glory in La Crosse, the Trojans had to settle for silver runner-up trophies in 1994, 1997, 1998 and 1999.
Still, in that time, they would reset and own both the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 WIAA state records. The Trojans slipped into the shadows for a few years, but little more than a decade later they would explode onto the scene again in a dramatic way, amplifying and setting into concrete a quartet of national level state sprint records that remain unchallenged to this day.
In short, the Tech women of that time would redefine what I alluded to earlier as “collective gasps of disbelief.” More on them in a later post.
STRENGTH IS A VIRTUE
Also at that time, strong young women with great levers were making themselves heard too, particularly in the discus. Prior to 1990, the discus record for Wisconsin girls was held by Cindy Lensmire of Marathon at 145-10. Her mark had sat there unchallenged since 1981. The shot put record was even older as Julie Myers of Fond du Lac tossed 45-9 3/4 in 1980.
Then in 1990, the legendary Julie Beck of Tomah nudged the shot mark precisely two inches to 45-11 3/4 but then, just because she could, she totally demolished the discus record, adding over 13 feet to the mark to 159-4.
Her imposing discus mark sat unchallenged through most of the 1990s, until two powerful young women arrived on the scene in 1997. Sophomore Jill Pedretti of Verona had set the stage with a stunning 163-3 sectional throw in the discus, almost four feet further than Beck’s official mark.
But at state, Menomonie junior Diane Slinden who had tossed a good but not shocking throw of 134-2 in sectional qualifying, was the one who would pull off the stunner. She not only beat Pedretti, but she also took down Beck’s official state meet record with an effort of 160-11.
Pedretti, who would go on to have a great career at North Carolina, got her revenge the following year, beating Slinden by four feet with a toss of 158-11 and also claimed the shot put.
Then in 1999, for good measure, Pedretti added close to nine feet to Slinden’s state discus mark with an imposing 169-10 effort, which still stands as the official Wisconsin girls record. A few weeks later, she would add nearly five feet to that with a booming effort of 174-1 at Junior Nationals in Texas.
It would stand as the longest throw in state history for 17 years.
Pedretti, however, could not repeat as state shot champ in 1999 as another tower of power sophomore Jenny Prochazka of Sussex Hamilton beat her for the title by seven inches.
Prochazka, also a standout basketball player, was no fluke, as in 2000 she took down Beck’s 10-year shot put standard with a mark of 46- 1/4 and would finish off her trifecta of titles by claiming the 2001 crown too.
REUSSER AND KRIEGEL DOMINATE
The list of female athletes who would win the same event four times in a career also grew by two in this time. Jaclynn Kriegel of Florence simply overwhelmed the D3 sprint competition in the late 1990s. She won four 200 dash crowns from 1995-98 and for good measure, claimed three long jump titles, two 100 dash championships and also helped the Bobcats 4 x 200 relay win a gold medal too in 1996.
She had a hand in all 40 of Florence’s D3 state team championship total of 40 points in 1996, winning the 100, 200 and the long jump. The 4 x 200 relay victory gave the Bobcats a two-point win over Cochrane-Fountain City. When Kriegel graduated, she held the D3 long jump record, which would last 11 years.
Ironically, it was fellow Florence athlete Aileen Lemanski who would be the one to take down Kriegel’s D3 long jump record in 2007. She too was just getting warmed up when she did that (more on her in a later post).
Around the same time Kriegel was running away with D3 sprints, Liz Reusser of Middleton was doing the same thing to D1 distance running. The two-time state cross country champ, would win the 3,200 four times from 1996-99, would claim the 1,600 in both in 1997 and 1998 and would help the Cardinals’ 4 x 800 relay teams take home titles in 1996 and 1998 too. Her best 3,200 was an outstanding 10:31.82 in 1998.
Reusser was the one who led the charge as Middleton won state team titles in both 1997 and 1998, turning back great Milwaukee Tech squads in both instances. Both she and Kriegel are in the WISTCA Hall of Fame, Kriegel being inducted in 2005 and Reusser in 2006.
The Whippets would display great team balance in the late 1990s by winning WIAA D2 team titles in 1997 and 1999 and earning runner-up honors in 1998 and 2000 under Hall of Fame coach Mark Maas who was an early believer in relay power.
Others would follow his example not too long afterwards.
Whitewater won the 1997 championship on the strength of titles in the 4 x 100, 4 x 200 and 4 x 400 relays. Ellen and Erica Findlay. Ellen Nosek and Fy Fy Okocha made up both the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relays. Nosek was also on the winning 4 x 400.
In 1999, the championship was claimed on the back of a win in the 4 x 400 relay as Nosek was on that quartet too. Whitewater was also third in both the 4 x 800 and 4 x 200, and second in the 4 x 100.
Were in abundance in the mid-late 1990s on the girls side. Before the ascendance of Milwaukee Tech, Beloit girls dominated D1 sprint relays for a good chunk of the mid-90s, claiming the 4 x 200 1993-95 behind the efforts of Latreese Cannon and Nakeesha Brown who were part of all three efforts. Brown was also on title winning efforts for the Purple Knights’ 4 x 100 teams in 1992 and 1993 as was Cannon in 1993.
*Another relay titan in that time was Mount Horeb/Barneveld as three athletes had a huge hand in the Vikings’ success from 1993-96. Rachel Anderson, who would win three 300 D2 low hurdle titles (1993, 1995-96) was also part of three victorious 4 x 800 teams (1994-96), as well as championship 4 x 200 (1993) and 4 x 400 (1995) relay quartets. Anderson got help in that time from teammate Lena Van Haren, who along with winning three 800 crowns (1994-95 and 1997) also helped out on those 1994 and 1996 4 x 800 crews as well as on that 1995 4 x 400. Joy Sutter was also part of all three 4 x 800 title teams.
The 1995 4 x 800 relay set a D2 division mark.
Not surprisingly, the Vikings would tie Sauk Prairie for the 1996 state D2 team title after being runner-up in 1993 and 1995.
*Dot Bunnell of Hilbert was on three D3 championship 4 x 400 relay teams (1992, 94-95) as well as a title-winning 4 x 200 team in 1992. She also won open 800 titles in 1994 and 95 and a 400 championship in 1993 for a total of seven crowns. Hilbert won the D3 state team championship in 1995 and was runner-up 1994.
*Brooke Stelzer was the leader of Cadott’s 1994 and 1997 D3 team champions winning an open 400 title. She would win 400 crowns in 1994, 1996-1997, as well as being part of championship 4 x 400 relay teams in 1996 and 1997 and also winning the 100 dash in 1997.
*As Lisa Townsend of Elk Mound dominated the D3 jumps in the early 1990s, Lisa Kincaid of Palmyra Eagle did the same in D2 jumps in the mid-1990s, taking the long jump three times (1994-96) and the triple jump twice (1994-95).
*April Beard of Winneconne would take the D2 400 dash from 1994-96, while Christina Clark of Madison La Follette would also take the D1 400 thrice from 1998-2000.
*Rachel Earney of Cochrane-Fountain City won the D3 3,200 titles in 1996 and 1997, beating her sister Selena for the 3,200 crown in 1997. But also in 1997, Selena won the 1,600 and then came back in 1998 to take both the 1,600 and 3,200 championships. CFC would finish as D3 team runner-ups in both 1996 and 1997.
*Angie Bruecker of Seymour was a fine hurdler in the mid-1990s, winning three D1 titles, including 300 low crowns in 1996 and 1997 and the 100 highs in 1997. Her claim to fame came in the prelims of the 1997 300 race where she set an amazing new state mark of 43.46. It would be a record that would have some legs as it would stick around 16 years until Valerie Thames of Milwaukee Riverside turned in a 43.04 in 2013.
*The same went for Amanda Perruchoud of Brillion. She won the 1996 100 highs and the 300 low hurdles, the only state track titles in her career. But she too made an impression. Her 14.99 effort in the 100s would set and remain D3 class record until the great Megan Rennhack of Dodgeland would break it with a 14.63 showing in 2008, a long 12 years later.
So, the 1990s closed with a burst of energy and excitement in Wisconsin state track, but now it and La Crosse were embarking on a new century, one full of great changes, with great speed and great strength following close behind.
NEXT UP: WISAA joins the party, Andrew Rock makes his name known (and it wouldn’t be the last time either), Vincent boys start to move up and girls fly high in the pole vault.