Three years gone from high school and now running for Michigan, the WIAA state track accomplishments of Whitefish Bay distance running superstar Camille Davre are a dazzling legacy of individual achievement.
Four straight 800 titles (including a now broken record in 2015), four straight 1,600 championships against impressive fields and a tie for the state record in overall championships won with 10.
But when she is asked about the marvelous events of early June 2015, which included three more wins in La Crosse, among them breaking the record of a giant, it was what happened late Saturday afternoon on the infield of Memorial Stadium in La Crosse that Davre brings into focus first, happily hoisting that hard won D1 team championship trophy with Blue Duke teammates Reilly Koch and Kaitlyn Jackson.
It may have been the most sublime and most unexpected moment of her high school athletic career she told me recently.
“I remember feeling so proud of the whole team and feeling so grateful to be around such amazing teammates and coaches,” she said.
After her much-hyped and spectacular freshman year of 2013-2014 when Davre took down a large number of accomplished high-profile seniors en route to her first 800 and 1,600 titles, it was safe to say heading into her sophomore year that Davre was very much a known quantity.
She adjusted well to the new advanced 5,000 meter length for girls cross country in the fall of 2014 and led the Blue Dukes with a fourth place individual finish in the annual state test.
Come the spring track season of 2015, Davre was ready for new challenges and would succeed grandly confiding in a state legend and then taking that legend’s most hallowed record.
That “legend” was arguably the biggest (and now most complicated for reasons entirely unrelated to running) in all Wisconsin girls track history, Suzy Favor Hamilton. From the early 1980s through 2000, Favor-Hamilton posted preposterous times, created amazing records, won championships galore, and created an enormous legacy at Stevens Point High School, the University of Wisconsin and on the international stage.
She was a multi-time NCAA and national champion who had the Big 10 Conference female track athlete of the year award named after her (no longer so) and competed in three Olympics.
But life got messy for Ms. Favor-Hamilton due to the mental illness that ran in her family. It has been well-documented and further details can be found in the following candid 2019 blog post on the trials and costs of dealing with fame and bi-polar disorder:
Safe to say, hers is a cautionary tale and should tell everyone that even the strongest among us have doubts, difficulties and challenges with our mental health and that we should always seek out help when despair looks to overwhelm us.
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) hotline number is 800-826-3632. Don’t be afraid to use it if needed.
But back in June 2015 just months away from the publication of her explosive memoir Fast Girl, Favor Hamilton was nothing but a supportive mentor of her eventual usurper Davre as the pair even spoke before the meet about Davre’s goal of taking down her mentor’s fabled 30-year old record in the 800 (2:09.88).
“I was worried I was being selfish (about putting so much energy into one race),” Davre said, “but I also knew I had the potential to do something special and I followed my gut instinct. I also talked to Suzy and she was the one who told me that I should go for it (the record).
“I felt like I had a lot to prove.”
But before that could happen, there were other matters on the check list. First up on Friday was repeating her 1,600 title which Davre did, running a smartly calibrated tactical race over 2014 state CC runner-up Aubrey Roberts of Eau Claire Memorial, 4:56.12 to 4:56.84.
Then came her moment to enter the history books, as with Favor Hamilton’s encouragement pushing her along, she dominated the 800 by 3.5 seconds, pushing hard through the finish line and getting he job done, creating a new mountaintop in the event with a 2:09.22 clocking.
“There was a lot of pressure,” Davre told me shortly after the race. “I knew I could do it, so in that last 200 I just tried to put it all out there. This is such a good feeling.
“I was like ‘Are you kidding? No!’ Then I was really, really happy because this was something I really wanted.”
And in a lovely grace note to the whole effort, Favor Hamilton later tweeted out congratulations to Davre.
With Davre’s main goals largely in hand, came the more quixiotic idea of Bay winning the team title. Coach Ben Van Male and his staff had spoken of the possibility amongst themselves but kept it quiet from the athletes, and heading into Saturday’s finals, things were looking good. The Davre anchored 4 x 800 was a top two seed and better, the busy sprinter Jackson had qualified well in the 100, 200 and 400 dashes.
And things played out as the coaches had hoped. Davre anchored Bay’s 4 x 800 relay team that included Koch, Josie Helf and Kylee Kennedy to a thrilling state championship of their own.
She got the stick within shouting distance of both Waukesha West and Middleton, about 20 meters back, pulled into second on the bell lap, and using that patented, much feared kick of hers pulled away off the final turn in a victorious 9:14.12.
It was a great moment for Reilly, the only senior on the unit, who had earned a point of her own behind Davre’s record in the open 800.
“At last,” Reilly shouted. “Last season, we had an unfortunate incident (a fall during the race) and it didn’t work out so we we really wanted to redeem ourselves.
“It was all a matter of going 110 percent.”
At that point, Bay had 31 points and was in the thick of the team race with Middleton, and sprint heavy Monona Grove and Kenosha Bradford.
That left it up to the mentally tough Jackson. She knew she would have a hard time beating powerhouses like Grove’s Gabby Beauvais and Bradford’s Jackie Baldwin, so she just set about to running tactically and finishing as well as she could in each race.
Her mantra was “No pressure, no diamonds.”
Jackson’s response created a diamond-laden moment for the Blue Dukes, as she finished fourth in the 100 and third in both the 200 and 400 (Beauvais would score a sweep in all three events including a record in the 400).
Those 17 combined points Jackson earned were more than enough for Bay to earn that first surprising title in program history, 48-39, over Middleton.
And though Van Male tried to keep the pressure of that possibility off the girls as much as he could, his Bay charges, being the brainy types (the school is a leading college track high school in Wisconsin) figured it out.
“We knew going in that we had a chance,” said Jackson. “(But) running the 100, 200 and 400 is super difficult and tough to do, but I just had to run to the best of my abilities and power through.”
Van Male knew he had the right person in Jackson to get the job done.
“We figured that Kaitlyn had to average a top three finish in all her races (which she did). …She had a lot on her plate.”
For Davre, five years into the future now, she looks at that weekend as some of the most fun she’s had competing in her life.
“(We were) just going about business as usual doing the best we could,” she told me recently. “When we won as a team I was (happily) surprised.”
BEAUVAIS GETS HER TRIPLE CROWN
Gabby Beauvais of Monona Grove had earned an impressive seven state medals in the D1 sprints and long jump in three years heading into her senior season of 2015, but none higher than the seconds she had claimed in the 100 her sophomore year of 2013 and the long jump in 2014.
She had also never entered the 400 dash in the WIAA state series prior to her senior year, and had not really threatened a state record in any event either
But 2015 was a breakthrough season for Ms. Beauvais. Titles, records, everything was to be hers and she did it almost entirely on what would have been graduation on finals Saturday.
In what was to be a most amazing day ever in the state D1 girls long jump, Beauvais got her day off to spectacular start when took down Brittany Rusch of Wausau East’s 21-year old record of 18-11 1/2 with a 19-1 1/2 first jump effort.
She was the first Wisconsin female athlete in history to go over 19 feet in the state meet (there have been many other 19 footers and Sharon Dollins of Janesville Parker even went 20-6 feet back in 1980, but never had anyone officially done it under the bright championship lights before).
But all Beauvais did was prove to be an inspiration to others, because before she could blink, both Angel Malone of Milwaukee Riverside (19-2 1/2) and Jade Nolan of Milwaukee Madison (19-8 1/2) went past her freshly minted state mark.
But no matter, her strong third place finish just added fuel to her fire.
Beauvais claimed her first state title in the 100 (12.31) and then in her second surprising effort of the day, she took down Hannah Rohde of Waukesha West’s two-year old state standard in the 400 (54.92) with a 54.82 showing.
And if she hadn’t already clinched WISTCA state athlete of the year honors (which she won easily), she went out and finished up her state trifecta with a win in the 200 (24.31 after running a quick 23.91 in trials).
“I didn’t even know I had set a record (in the 400), so that was cool,” said Beauvais to the Wisconsin State Journal‘s Art Kabelowsky. “I knew I could run a competitive time, but to break the record, I was happy with that.”
She noted that she had added the 400 as “an afterthought,” and laughed at how completely frantic her sunny, Saturday was.
“I was very busy,” Beauvais said to Kabelowsky in a manner of understatement.
Beauvais would head off to Central Michigan University where surprisingly, the afterthought of the 400 became her bread and butter. She became a three-time Mid American Conference champion (twice in the 400) for the Chippewas including claiming MAC outstanding performer of the meet at the 2019 indoor championships.
She was also an All-MAC academic performer graduating with a degree in integrative public relations. Beauvais was off to a strong start in her post-graduate year of 2020 at Oregon as she had run the 400 leg on the Ducks NCAA qualifying distance medley relay.
But that was before COVID shut everything in the sports world down in March.
WILIAMS ALSO GETS A TRIPLE IN D2
Central Michigan spent a fair amount of time recruiting in the suburban Madison area in 2015 and 2016 and got much to show for it. Not only did they bring the mighty Beauvais across the Lake Michigan pond, but also Nadia Williams of Mount Horeb.
Williams also won three WIAA D2 titles in 2015, claiming the 100 (12.71) and 200 dashes (25.85) and also chased the skies in the long jump with an excellent championship effort of 18-9 1/4. The win in the 200 was her second consecutive crown.
Mount Horeb moved up to D1 in Williams’ senior year of 2016 and in the sturdier competition, the best Williams could do was a second in the long jump. But her talent was impressive (she actually went a fourth best all-time 19-9 in the long jump at regionals) and Central Michigan offered her a scholarship.
The Chippewas turned to be very glad they did.
She was an impact performer right from the start becoming a regular on the Mid-American Conference podium in the sprints (she has swift bests of 11.75 in the 100 dash 23.74 in the 200), relays and particularly the long jump
Williams became the first Central Michigan women to earn indoor first team NCAA All-American honors in 13 years in 2019 when she placed sixth in the indoor long jump, winning her first Mid-American title along the way. She claimed second-team All-American honors in the outdoor later that spring and set a school outdoor record in the long jump with an effort of 21-5 1/2, again netting the league title.
In the abbreviated 2020 indoor season, she repeated as Mid-American Conference champ in the long jump and qualified for the NCAA meet again. She also set the school indoor long jump record with a 21-1 1/4 effort.
Williams, like all athletes who had qualified for the indoor nationals, was later named All-American again by the NCAA after the spring championship season was canceled by COVID.
She is the first three-time All-American for the Central Michigan women’s program and according to CMU director of track & field/cross country Jenny Swieton, that is all due to Williams’ internal drive.
“Her goals didn’t stop at All-American last year,” said Swieton in a release from CMU. “She was like, ‘OK, now I want to break the school record again; now I want to jump 22 feet; I want to win NCAAs.’
“There’s always something more and I think that’s what’s really awesome about her, it just made her more motivated to reach even higher. That’s why she’s so successful. That internal fire that motivates you.”
Who knows with that energy what Williams would have done if she had been able to complete her 2020 season?
KOHLWAY’S PATIENCE PAYS OFF
Holmen’s Danielle Kohlwey is a patient woman, except when it comes to hurdling and love.
Kohlway, a three time state medalist in the 100 and 300 hurdles in 2013 and 2014, needed to wait until Kenosha Tremper’s unstoppable duo of Danielle Riggins and ToNaya Gulley graduated before she could step to the top of the podium in 2015.
She did so impressively, claiming the D1 titles in the 100 highs (14.85) and 300 lows (44.44).
It turned out to be just the beginning for Kohlwey as she headed way up north to NCAA DII Minnesota-Duluth where on the shores of Lake Superior she expanded her horizons broadly, qualifying for the outdoor nationals all four years and the indoor meet three times.
And like in high school, patience paid off, as after steadily climbing up the ladder of success she reached elite status status her junior season of 2018 and never looked back.
In the next four combined indoor and outdoor seasons, Kohlwey won eight Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference titles (NSIC) in the hurdles and the 200 dash and earned all-American status six times.
She reached the mountaintop in the NCAA DII indoor meet in 2019 when she won the national title in the 60 hurdles, becoming just the third Duluth woman to earn an NCAA track title. She then finished third in the 100 hurdles at the outdoor meet for the second straight season after recording the fastest time in the preliminaries.
Remarkably, Kohlwey has been able to achieve all this while battling tendonitis in both knees and some back pain most of that 2019 senior year.
Kohlwey was named NSIC Outdoor Track of the Athlete of the year in 2019 and was named Duluth’s senior female athlete of the year. It had been a marvelous senior year for Kohlwey, having gotten married in October of 2018 and then graduating on May 11, 2019 with a degree in marketing an graphic design.
The NSIC outdoor meet was the same day as her graduation, but officials put Kohlwey and a couple of other track athletes near the front of the queue so they could grab their diplomas and then slip into some spikes.
To no one’s surprise, Kohlwey made that day even more perfect by winning two more league titles. She left with four UMD school records including a very impressive 13.26 in the 100 high hurdles.
Kohlwey told Jon Nowacki of the Duluth News Tribune that she has been surprised by all the success.
“It was always a goal and a dream of mine to win a national title,” she said to Nowacki. “So it was really cool when it really happened. I just run every race the best I can and whatever happens is going to happen.
“…I’m just there to do what I can, do what I love.”
MONSON RISES AND RISES IN THE DISTANCES
There were others who were saying the same thing.
Amy Davis of Madison Edgewood won the D2 1,600 and 3,200 in dominating fashion in 2014, then she went out a few months later and buried the field in the D2 cross country meet.
But finishing a strong third in that CC final was a tall, powerful blonde from Amery named Alicia Monson. She had not really been a factor in her two state track races in 2014, but she was clearly building towards something.
It would be a pattern that she would repeat in college.
Monson had a great winter of training in 2014-15 and then came out and turned heads in La Crosse in June 2015, pushing the 4-11 Davis hard in a great D2 1,600 final. Davis repeated as champion with an excellent all-classes best of 4:53.17 which she needed to beat Monson’s hard-charging 4:55.32 (a time that turned out to be the second best time in La Crosse that weekend).
Then on Saturday, Davis opened her day anchoring the Crusaders winning 4 x 800 relay team, but then Monson came back later in the day in the 3,200 and made her name known. Monson not only overwhelmed Davis, the 2014 state D2 CC champ, but also 2013 state D2 CC champ Morgan Florsheim of Shorewood, with one of the fastest 3,200s in state history (10:26.86).
Davis was a distant second in a still very fine 10:46.21.
And from that point on, Monson was a force to be reckoned with.
She simply overpowered the D2 state field in cross country in the fall of 2015 virtually lapping the field with a 34 second win and then repeated as state D2 3,200 track champ the following spring.
Monson then went to Wisconsin and like in high school, it took her a little time to figure things out, but when she did in her junior year of 2018-19, the result was remarkable. In the end, she would join with her former rival Davis to become one of the most dynamic in-state talent pairings in Wisconsin women’s track and CC history.
Monson is a two-time Big 10 Conference champion in cross country (2018 and 2019), and a two-time NCAA All-American in the sport, having earned fourth in 2018 and second in 2019.
In track, she won the NCAA indoor 5,000-meter title in 2019 and is a four time All-American. She also won Big 10 indoor titles in the 3,000 and 5,000 that year and in the shortened 2020 season she defended her conference 5,000 meter crown.
In 2019, Monson was named the Big 10 2019 indoor athlete of the year as well as the Great Lakes Region Track Athlete of the Year and she holds both the Wisconsin and Big 10 record for the 3,000 (8:45.97). She has earned national athlete of the week honors for both cross country and indoor track and has claimed numerous Big 10 and national All-Academic honors too.
For her efforts, Davis, was a three-time All-American in track and twice all-region in cross country. None of this should be surprising, as her father Barry Davis was an Olympic wrestler and her mother Nan an All-American distance runner.
As for Monson, she was already thinking about going professional this year when the COVID pandemic hit and wiped out the NCAA championship spring season for all sports.
The NCAA jumped in and gave member schools an opportunity to extend eligibility for athletes who were affected by the pandemic. In the Big 10, some member schools extended their benefits, Wisconsin did not and encouraged the seniors who were affected to graduate and move on with their lives.
Monson, who did not get a chance to defend her NCAA indoor 5,000 title this spring, did just that as she told Theresa Juva Brown of DyeStat this summer.
“Before the announcement, I had been thinking about either taking the extra year or turning professional,” Monson told Juna Brown.
“The announcement that Wisconsin seniors would not get eligibility back was tough to hear, but I was okay with it because it simply made my decision more concrete.”
Monson recently signed with Total Sports US, an athlete managment agency who will help her gain sponsorships and plan races when they resume.
Her eyes are on some professional races before taking a shot at the rescheduled US Olympic Track Trials in 2021.
“Even though these are weird times, I’m excited for what’s next,” Monson told Juva Brown. “I’m taking each day as a chance to reset, find motivation, enjoy those around me, and get ready for the year ahead.”
HIEDEMAN ALSO PLAYS A LITTLE HOOPS
Caught up in the wash of that astounding 2015 D1 long jump was fourth place finisher Natisha Hiedeman of Green Bay Southwest, whose effort of 18-7 1/2 would have won all but a tiny handful of state titles in the event over the past 40 plus years.
Hiedeman was state triple jump champion in 2014 (38-5 3/4) and for good measure was also a WIAA state qualifier for very good Trojans’ tennis teams.
But her real sport is basketball. In 2019, she completed a record-setting All-American career for the Marquette women leading the Golden Eagles to multiple NCAA tournament berths as well as three straight Big East Conference championships (2016-2019).
Hiedeman was Big East Player of the Year for 2018-19 and named All-American that season. She is the Golden Eagles’ all time leader in 3-point goals made (301) and is third on the all-time scoring list (1,913 points), and just for good measure, she was drafted in the second round of the WNBA draft by the Minnesota Lynx and is currently playing for the Connecticut Sun.
BOHN FINISHES THE FOUR-PEAT
There were many moving parts in the Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs four-year run of championships in the D3 4 x 800 relay as a total of eight runners got at least one gold medal in that time and Melanie Schneider was on the last three, including the still standing mark of 9:31.47 set in 2013.
But the only person to be on all four of those title-winning quartets and the only anchor the Ledgers’ ever had in that time was Liz Bohn. Such was the case in 2015, when Springs claimed the last of those titles turning in a 9:34.67 time to edge Oshkosh Lourdes (9:36.16).
She also finished second in the 800 behind Brittany Davis of Benton/Scales Mound/Shullsburg’s still standing D3 mark of 2:13.11. Behind those efforts, the Ledgers finished second in the D3 team standings for the second time in three years as Cuba City pulled out a 53-44 triumph.
Bohn wound being an academic ace at both South Dakota and later Wisconsin. At South Dakota, she was a member of a school record 4 x 800 relay and a member of the Summit League Conference championship cross country team. Bohn was also part of the Summit League’s List of Academic Excellence majoring kinesiology and sport science major.
Bohn then transferred to Wisconsin, still running hard and switching her major to rehabilitation psychology (pre-occupational therapy).
CUBA CITY AND LAKESIDE LUTHERAN RELAYS REPEAT
Cuba City nailed down that D3 title behind its third straight title in the 4 x 200 relay as Shay Lierman and Kaitlyn Kaiser collected their third straight gold medals on the unit with a time of 1:45.47. It was the Cubans fastest time in their three-year title run.
Lierman would go on to set a school record in the heptathlon at Upper Iowa University.
*Also in D3, Alexandra Hutchison of Marshfield Columbus Catholic won both the 100 and 200 dashes taking down the 200 D3 record in the preliminaries with a time of 24.91. It was her second straight title in the event and she would claim still another in 2016. Her D3 200 record still stands.
Hutchison went on to compete for the Winona State (Minnesota) women’s track team, earning many Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference academic honors.
Meanwhile, in D2, Lakeside Lutheran won its third straight 4 x 200 title with a 1:43.28 clocking as Lydia Ulrich and two-time 100 hurdles champ Meghan Pingel earned their third straight championships in the event.
Lutheran’s time in 2015 was, like Cuba City’s, the fastest effort in it’s three-year run of titles. Ulrich ran track at UW-Stevens Point and recently became an intern and a coach for the Pointers. Meanwhile, Pingel earned a D1 basketball scholarship to UW-Green Bay and became a solid starting guard for the Phoenix.
GRANT TAKES DOWN TALBOT
This 2015 girls meet was indeed busy, as back in D2, Mikaela Grant set a new class record of 43.63 in the 300 low hurdles in the preliminaries. She then went out and edged Aquinas’ Pamela Fuchsel, 45.03 to 45.1 for her second straight title on Saturday.
In breaking the division 2 record, Grant took down the 13-year old mark of state track legend Melissa Talbot of Freedom (44.03). She was also second to Williams of Mount Horeb in the long jump with an 18-2 1/4 effort. Grant, it would turn out, would benefit greatly in 2016 with Williams’ move into D1 competition.
LUBNER HURDLES ALONG TO A TRIPLE CROWN
In her freshmen year D3 state meet of 2014, Reedsville hurdler Faith Lubner had the best and worst of experiences. She finished dead last in the heats of the 100 high hurdles and failed to advance to the finals but in the 300 lows, she went to the top of the world by edging fellow frosh Macey Wirkus of Edgar (yes, the Wildcats had not totally gone away after their five-year run of team titles from 2009-13), by a 45.15 to 45.19 whisper.
She would become far more consistent in succeeding years starting in 2015, as Lubner claimed both hurdle crowns first in the 100s (15.72) and then with a repeat championship in the 300s (45.05). For good measure, she joined the long jump fun with an impressive D3 winning effort of 18-2 1/4.
Lubner would eventually go on to join the exclusive “four titles in one event” club in the 300 hurdles in 2017 and would join the three-crown sorority in the 100 highs the same year.
She would wind up at St. Cloud State in Minnesota, where she would become an All Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference performer in both the pentathlon (indoor) and the heptathlon (outdoor) as well as earn several academic all-league honors.
UP NEXT: Hofacker and Freedom have a meet, the mystique of the 4 x 200 relay just grows larger, Simpson dominates the sprints, Brown and Wisco end their run well, Van Lanen goes long in the weights, and an influential freshmen named Bednarek says “Hello” in a big way.