It turns out that the sky is still the limit for Wrightstown’s Bonnie Draxler.
The undisputed best female pole vaulter in Wisconsin history, she finished her record-setting prep track career with three more wins at the 2014 WIAA State Track meet, including a still all-time state best of 13-3 in the D2 pole vault to win the event by a preposterous three feet.
It was her fourth straight title in the event.
For good measure she added her fourth straight 400 dash title (56.16) and added her second consecutive 100 dash crown too (12.19).
And it turned out her summer was just heating up. She competed in the USATF Junior Nationals and took second in the vault with a then personal best of 13-11 3/4. That qualified her for the IAAF World Junior championships.
You could see all this coming. Draxler has always been a pro-active athlete refining and adapting her skills as a level 10 gymnast (she was a two-time club All-American in the sport) to the pole vault. She also received training at Green Bay’s AP Vaulters which worked with 2013 state D1 boys recordsetter Jake Wallenfang of Green Bay Preble who cleared 16 feet.
Draxler then headed out west to San Diego State and flew even higher. She was second-team NCAA D1 All-American in 2018 after earning honorable mention in 2017 and in 2019, she was first team All-American at both the NCAA indoor and outdoor meets, taking second in both meets. She set the school record with the 14-11 1/2 effort that took second in the NCAA indoor championships that year.
A true teammate, she also helped the Aztecs’ 4 x 100 relay take third in the Mountain West outdoor meet (45.25). For her 2019 efforts, Draxler earned USTFCCCA West Region Field Athlete of the Year honors.
Now a recruiting coordinator for the college athletic recruiting network NCSA, Draxler is training on her own for a shot in the pole vault at the Olympic Trials in 2021. She was ninth in the USA Outdoor championships in 2019 as a warm-up.
Described as “determined” by coaches, Draxler has the tools to go much higher still, according to her event coach at San Diego State Richard Fox.
“She has the self-discipline to follow through and work on the small aspects of her craft, being a true student of the sport,” Fox told Kyle Betz of The Daily Aztec.
Oh and by the way, with 10 individual WIAA state titles she is one of just five female athletes to have reached that very elite society of excellence.
The only other members of this club are Elizabeth Pospyhalla and Tessa Thurs of Edgar, Draxler, Jaclynn Kriegel of Florence and the young woman listed just below, who was just getting started in 2014.
DAVRE PASSES A BIG EARLY TEST
Everyone involved in the powerful girls distance running community around the North Shore suburbs of Milwaukee knew about Whitefish Bay’s Camille Davre as she began her freshman year of 2013-14.
With talent in abundance, she had the potential to be an elite of the elites. She began with a splashy win in the fall in the powerhouse Arrowhead cross country invitational, won the North Shore Conference title in leading the Blue Dukes to still another league championship (they’ve dominated the NSC for close to two decades) and finished third in state.
But everyone was waiting for track, where this 800 and 1,600 runner without peer would go on to have a career for the ages (more on that later).
Davre arrived at a most interesting time in girls distance running, especially in the Milwaukee area, as powerful seniors such as 2013 state D1 cross country champion Elizabeth Flatley of Brookfield Central, eventual 2014 state track 3,200 champ Natalie Schudrowitz of Tosa East, 4 x 800 relay state recordholder Jessica Parker of Neenah and D3 dynamo Isabel Seidel of University Lake School (the mighty Molly’s accomplished little sister) all had impeccable, battle-tested credentials.
No, Davre, who had fallen to Parker in a close 1,600 at the state indoor meet in early April, would have to prove herself first before she would be taken into their company.
And she did, in one of the greatest girls regular season races of all time.
The Dan Benson Sr. Invitational sponsored by Wauwatosa West has been going on forever, named after the late Tosa West coaching legend (he was still around to see this particular race) and its organizers always tried to have a spotlight event each year.
The field for the girls 1,600 in the May 2 event on a dank, damp Friday afternoon fit the bill perfectly, as it included Davre, Flatley, Schrudowitz, Isabel Seidel and Davre’s very capable senior teammate Sara Coffey.
No one backed down in this race. Schrudowitz set a fast pace for the first two laps before Flatley took off at the top of the third lap. But she couldn’t break free, and just then, at the third turn of the bell lap, Davre let loose with what would become her trademark and completely unstoppable kick.
No one could keep up with her amazing 66-second last lap as she led a dizzying series of swift times across the line in a then state honor roll leading 4:54.08 time. Flatley gamely held up for second in an otherwise quick 4:57.45.
As I wrote back in 2014, those two finishes were only the tip of the iceberg in this remarkable race, as any of the next three runners would have won almost any other girls 1,600 contested that season outside of the state meet.
Schudrowitz, who would have an All-American and All Ivy League career at Brown, was third (5:01.11), while Seidel, who win the state D3 1,600 and 3,200 titles later that spring was fourth (5:02.04) and Coffey was fifth in a personal best of 5:08.32.
An exhausted Seidel turned to Davre as everyone was trying to catch their breath and asked “What was your time?”
When Davre told her, Seidel’s eyes went wide and she asked again incredulously “What did you run?!?”
There were smiles across the infield as coaches checked their watches and gave each other high fives in amazement.
Davre, who admitted to feeling “intimidated” by the field told me at the time: “I knew I had to give it my all. These were mature runners and so everyone went out pretty smart, trying to conserve energy.
“The plan was to just follow as closely as I could and then use my kick.”
It was plan used many times over to great success over the next three seasons. She began her run of four straight WIAA D1 state 800 and 1,600 titles later that spring and also helped the 4 x 400 relay to a then school record third place finish for good measure.
Her coach Mike Miller, who helped her along all four seasons of track and CC, knew what he was looking at that amazing day in Tosa.
“Just a beautiful runner,” he said quietly.
No one argued with him.
BLAHNIK FINISHES HER TWIN 4-PEAT
In her victory lap of 2014, thrower extraordinaire Kennedy Blahnik of Algoma went out with a bang, she broke her own D3 discus record by seven feet with a throw of 161-5, which is still the divisional class record. She won the division by 37 feet and was the all-classes best by close to 13 feet. She had thrown an even better 168-5 in sectional qualifying.
In the shot put, she also finished off her four-peat in fine fashion. She could not quite reach her divisional record of 49-1 1/2 that she reached in 2013, but still claimed the title with a fine toss of 48-8, winning by more than eight feet. Again, she was an all classes best by more than three feet.
With her double four-peat she entered a small elite of athletes to have done so, including Davre, Draxler, Molly Seidel, and Joanna Schultz of Holmen. For her efforts, she was named the 2014 Wisconsin Track Coaches Association Female Track Athlete of the Year and claimed her third-straight Gatorade Wisconsin Girls Track Athlete of the Year Award.
Blahnik recently finished up a solid career at Wisconsin, where she was a Big 10 Conference placewinner in both the shot and discus and also twice competed in NCAA West Division Preliminary Round competition. She was also a two time Big 10 Distinguished Scholar and two time academic All-American.
DISTANCES WERE DEEP THIS YEAR
And Davre was hardly the only interesting distance story this year. There were many that merited mention.
Take for instance what happened in D2. Tall sophomore Morgan Florsheim of Shorewood had won the state cross country championship in the fall ahead of 4-11 junior Amy Davis of Madison Edgewood, who led the Crusaders to the team title.
But Davis was a a prime example of what Shakespeare would say (loosely paraphrased): “Though she be small, she is fierce.”
In La Crosse, she dominated a deep D2 3,200 field on Friday in a very quick 10:26.36 time as seven runners would break 11 minutes (including runner-up Florsheim in 10:36.29 and D3 state CC champ Delaney Sinnen of Random Lake who was seventh in 10:58.29).
Davis completed her double with a tough 4:56.63 time in the 1,600 on Saturday that again just edged Florsheim. But that came came much later in the day than anticipated as the weather was back with a vengeance in La Crosse this day, and a nasty looking system stalled just a few miles away from Memorial Stadium. It provided a quick burst of storms early just an hour or so after the start of Saturday’s finals which forced a delay.
And though the worst of the storms passed relatively quickly and most of the day was dry, WIAA officials held up the meet for six hours because the storm cell was not moving very quickly and they thought it could hit at any moment. The meet finally resumed at about 4:30 p.m. and did not conclude to until after 11 p.m.
But that didn’t deter the kids in the least.
As for Davis, she would win state CC the following fall, and in the spring of 2015, she would repeat her 1,600 title only to lose her 3,200 crown to another tall powerhouse Alicia Monson of Amery.
Monson burst onto the track scene in 2015 after taking just 12th in the 1,600 and 17th and last in the 800 in 2014 and she and Davis would eventually go on to become a very dynamic duo for Wisconsin women’s track and cross country teams (more on that later).
And besides those two, there was the curious case of Brittany Davis of the D3 Benton/Scales Mound/Shullsburg co-op.
A STATE CHAMP NOT FROM WISCONSIN?
Davis won the 2014 D3 400 and then dominated the 800, and also helped the team’s 4 x 400 to a fifth place finish. In 2015 she would go on to set a still standing class record in the 800 of 2:13.11.
Fine achievements for someone who didn’t live in Wisconsin at the time.
Davis is a native of Scales Mound, Illinois. Scales Mound is about 20 minutes from the Wisconsin border and had about 64 students in 2015. It had been part of a co-op with equally small Wisconsin border schools Benton and Shullsburg for a few years when she arrived on the scene in 2012.
According to a fine piece written by the Wisconsin State Journal’s Chris Caporale in 2015, each school provided about 30 percent of the team and about two-thirds of the Scales Mound class of 2015 went out for track in 2015.
Benton was where the co-op was located though none of the schools had a track at the time. Davis said she didn’t mind the travel as she went out for the team all four years and said enjoyed meeting up with the other girls on the team.
She also told Caporale that she liked the challenge of competing against athletes from different state.
“To get better,” she said. “You really have to put yourself in a position where your competition is going to be greater.”
KURTENBACH TAKES ON A NEW CHALLENGE
Khia Kurtenbach was a fine state level swimmer for the Germantown girls team all four years of her high school career, but in preparing for a career of academic excellence at the University of Chicago and needing a distraction, she took the advice of a close friend and went out for track in the spring of her senior year of 2014.
An interesting idea, but remember Kurtenbach at this point in her life had already done a half-marathon (13.1 miles) for fun with her Mom.
She surprised herself in an astonishing way, qualifying for state in 2014 in the D1 3,200 and taking third in the event behind Schudrowitz. She was also part of the Warhawks’ state qualifying 4 x 800 relay.
At Chicago, and NCAA DIII school, she went out for swimming but fell in love with running and so switched from swimming to cross country her sophomore year and also joined the track team.
“I ended up loving track,” Kurtenbach told FloTrack. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, where has this sport been my entire life? I love track so much.’”
It proved to be a very wise decision. She overcame injuries and used her strong swimming base to become a five-time NCAA DIII All-American in track in 2016 and 2017 (twice in the indoor 3,000) and climbed high on he school’s all-time lists for the 5,000 and 10,000 meters.
And she was figuring out cross country too. She had already earned All-American honors twice in the sport when in November 2017, she found herself at the end of the NCAA DIII national meet in Elsah, Ill., all alone in first and a national champion.
She told my former editor JR Radcliffe of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a story that year, that the title was an amazing reward after fighting through several injuries. She thanked her coaches and teammates for teaching her how to race and to persevere.
“There were days I was frustrated about it,” she told Radcliffe, “and I definitely would not have been able to achieve this win if I didn’t have teammates and friends and family and coaches there on the bad days as well as the good days. I definitely want to thank them for that for supporting me and still believing in me (even) when I was frustrated.”
And now, the molecular engineering graduate and academic All-American who on her UC track bio was described as “smart, talented, dedicated, and an amazing teammate and friend,” is making huge headway in the world.
She was a National Merit Scholar in high school, a member of he Society of Women Engineers at UC, has written papers for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and wants to help scientists commercialize their research in order to develop impactful technologies.
Talent, heart and imagination, a hard to beat combination!
RIGGINS AND GULLEY DO IT AGAIN FOR KT
Their were three athletes who helped the Kenosha Tremper girls win the 2013 D1 team title. In 2014, it took only two as Danielle Riggins and ToNaya Gulley rewrote record books and led the Trojans to a second consecutive crown.
The duo showed stamina and maximized their finishes as Tremper scored 48 points to beat Greater Metro Conference champion Brookfield East (40) for the title.
And along the way, Riggins, who would become a junior college All-American at Iowa Central Community College, would make a serious bit of history, as early in those re-started late afternoon finals she erased Elexis Fuller-Stewart of Bradley Tech’s three year old record in the 100 high hurdles with a sizzling 13.67 effort.
It was not a surprise, as Riggins had matched Fuller-Stewart’s previous standard with her sectional qualifying time of 13.89 the previous week.
In doing so, Riggins pulled along the fastest field of 100 hurdlers in history up to that point, as runner-up and teammate Gulley (14.16), along with Danielle Kohlway of Holmen (14.37), Melissa Kirchoff of Franklin (14.94) and Jen Anderson of Bay Port (14.97) all broke 15 seconds.
Riggins didn’t have time to celebrate as she came right back in the next event and swept past the 100 dash field in a quick 11.85 time. Those efforts gave Tremper a quick 28 points and a big jump on the D1 field before anyone had had a chance to dry off their seats at Memorial Stadium.
Then it was Gulley’s turn, as she held off Kohlway in a thrilling race to win the 300 hurdles, 44.29-44.33. Riggins then put the final cap on the team title, when she blew away the field in the 200 dash with an amazing time of 23.99.
Riggins would go on to Iowa Central where she won both the 2016 NJCAA national title in the 60 indoor hurdles (8.5) and the 100 outdoor hurdles (13.5) as Iowa Central won team honors in both meets.
Meanwhile, Gulley competed and studied for the University of Memphis. She is currently studying for a master’s degree in leadership studies.
*Riggins and Gulley weren’t the only track talents in Kenosha from 2013-15 as Riggins beat Kenosha Bradford’s Jackie Baldwin in both the 100 and 200 dashes. Unfortunately in 2015, Baldwin was second in both dashes again as she fell to Gabby Beauvais of Monona Grove.
But also in 2015, Baldwin did lead off the Red Devils’ state championship 4 x 200 relay which turned in one of the fastest times in state history (1:39.4). She went on to graduate from Jacksonville State University, and along the way had a spectacular track career, winning seven Atlantic Sun Conference indoor titles (60 and 200 dashes, 4 x 400 relay) and five outdoor titles (100 and 200 dashes, 4 x 100 relay). She also participated in the NCAA outdoor nationals.
SABIN AND NOENNIG THROW LONG
Slinger and Hartford are communities that share a border in the northern part of Washington County neighboring Germantown and Milwaukee. Their high schools are fierce rivals and they are also in the habit of producing remarkably strong young women.
Such was the case about five-six years ago, when Sam Noennig of Hartford and Kiley Sabin of Slinger went at each other hammer and tongs.
Sabin, two years older, won the 2013 state D1 shot put title as Noennig finished 20th as a freshman. But Noennig had already figured out the discus, and when Sabin took second in that event in 2013, Noennig was right behind her in third.
In 2014, Sabin repeated her D1 shot put title by winning by close to four feet with an effort of 45-3 3/4 while the sophomore Noennig improved to ninth.
But in the discus that year, the sophomore Noennig turned the tables on Sabin and won the first of two championships with a throw of 148-11, beating the runner-up Sabin by 10 feet.
Sabin wasn’t bothered by that, heading off to Minnesota where she was a three -time NCAA D1 All-American in the shot put and broke the school record in the event several times. She was also a many-time All Big 10 and Academic All-American with a degree in physiology.
Meanwhile, Noennig would go on to win the D1 discus and shot put in 2015 before running into the juggernaut that is Josie Schaefer of Baraboo her senior year of 2016 (more on Schaefer later).
And she too was not bothered by coming up short her senior year, as she headed west to Arizona State where her career got off to a crazy good start before being slowed by the COVID 19 pandemic earlier this spring.
Still just a red-shirt junior, Noenning is already a four-time All-American after winning 2019 NCAA national indoor and outdoor championships in the shot put where she showed she had a flair for the dramatic, winning both titles on her final throws and setting personal bests with each toss (outdoor best 59-6 1/4).
Can hardly wait to see what she does next!
DUAL SPORT THREAT KOSTOWICZ GOES OUT BIG
Taking second to Sabin in that 2014 D1 shot put was 6-2 senior Stephanie Kostowicz of Oak Creek. She was a multi-time state qualifier in track and the D1 shot put was her last high school event on that long, long finals Saturday. They had just finished warm-ups when the weather turned and the delay ensued which left her damp and uncomfortable due to her warmups getting soaked.
But no matter, she hit her best throw of 41-7 early in the finals good for her first state track medal, a fine reward for a four-year high school athlete.
“The discus the day before did not go the way I wanted so I was fortunate to have another event to go to,” Kostowicz told me, “but on Saturday I got a good first throw in. That usually doesn’t happen; it’s usually a scratch, and so I felt good the whole series.
“My best one was the first of the finals, and it held up. I got on the podium, which is is something I thought I’d never experience (in track). I’ve been out for track all four years, so this is great. Just the way I wanted to go out in an Oak Creek uniform.”
People would have remembered her anyway, because Kostowicz was a bit better known as the all-state forward who led the Knight girls to their first WIAA state basketball championship earlier that spring.
Then she went to UW-Milwaukee and became that rarest of people, a successful two-sport athlete at a D1 scholarship institution. In basketball, she finished her Panther career in the all-time top 10 in scoring with 1,529 points as well as being the career blocks leader. Her senior class set a school record for wins with 72 and she was first-team All-Horizon League once and second-team twice.
In track, she finished in the top three at Horizon League meets five times in shot put and discus and left UWM as the school recordholder in the shot put, breaking the mark several times including in her senior year Horizon League outdoor meet third place finish.
She played professional basketball in Greece, leading her team in scoring in the 2018-019 season and also came back to play professionally for the Wisconsin GLO this past year.
I loved covering this dynamic young woman for NOW Newspapers and I am so impressed at the drive she has shown since.
RELAY STREAKS END SUCCESSFULLY
Three D1 relay streaks ended in 2014 too, as Milwaukee King claimed its third straight 4 x 100, La Crosse Logan its third consecutive 4 x 200 and state recordholder Neenah its fourth straight 4 x 800.
For Neenah, it marked the fourth straight title in the event for sisters Jennifer and Jessica Parker while older sister Alison Parker (who had also won the 2011 800 title) and Claire Knaus, both of whom had graduated a year earlier, had won three straight crowns during the streak. Jessica Parker had also won the 1,600 in 2013.
All three of the Parker sisters went on to compete at Marquette. Alison became an eight-time All Big East Conference performer, also earning several all-academic honors and being named team captain while Jessica set the school 800 record and was a three-time All-Big East selection. Jennifer was also a three-time All-Big East choice and is in Marquette’s top 10 all-time in six events.
Neenah still holds the state 4 x 800 record at 9:00.42.
For Milwaukee King, this marked the third straight relay crown for Jaia Howard, Sydnee Matthew and Alexis Redd-Triggs. Matthew competed at Bowling Green and DePaul, setting a DePaul record in the pentathlon.
And for Logan, this last title marked the third straight crowns for Chloe Malin and Tore Washa.
Sometimes in this project I have overlooked someone from a previous year and have to double back to make up for my mistake.
Such is the remarkable case of distance runner Breanna Colbenson-Sieracki. She won the D3 1,600 and 3,200 titles in 2013 for Spring Valley. She then went on to run at NCAA DII Minnesota Duluth where she had a sensational track career earning eight All-American honors in both indoor and outdoor national meets. These races included the distance medley relay, the 3,000, 3,000 steeplechase, 5,000 and 10,000 meters. She was also a three-time All-American in cross country, finishing seventh in the 2016 meet.
Colbenson-Sieracki was also the NCAA Division II Central Region Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year her senior season.
A farm girl growing up and in adulthood, she was the youngest of four on her family’s 300 head dairy cow spread and after graduating Duluth, she kept running and in February 2019 did something most amazing.
She qualified for the American team and then she won the individual title in the North American/Central American/Caribbean cross country championships in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Colbenson-Sieracki had earned a berth on the US team at the USA Track Cross Country National Championships in Florida while running professionally for Team USA Minnesota based in Minneapolis.
The curious thing was, she had qualified as the fifth runner on a six-woman team so winning the race was not her main goal, just representing herself and her country well were her initial aims.
But according to a piece by Jennifer Coyne in Dairy Star, she was still with the lead pack at 6,000 meters and finished the 10,000-meter race in first in 36:34, three seconds ahead of a runner from Canada.
“I never thought winning was a possibility,” she told Coyne. “It was a remarkable feeling, and I don’t think a child at Christmas could be more excited. It’s always been a goal of mine to wear USA across my chest and hold up the American flag. … I didn’t expect to reach that so soon.”
She would love to wear those letters again and will continue training for a shot at the 2021 Olympic Trials.
UP NEXT: Moehn has a meet for the ages, Wisco’s Brown makes history again, Fountain takes down an old record, West’s Hacker makes his Dad (and several uncles and cousins) proud, Grafton’s Huertas sets two D2 records, and Zander, Lau and Miehe rewrite D3 distance records.