While working at Community/NOW Newspapers in the suburban Milwaukee area for over 30 years, one of my great sports joys was covering the Mike Miller coached Whitefish Bay cross country program. I had cut my teeth with the Blue Dukes in the 1980s with the late Blue Duke coaching legend and Hall of Famer Richard Vanden Avond, who took great bites of the apple of life every chance he got and when the torch for that program was passed to the great photographer/runner/family man and coach Miller, I knew it was in good hands. He led the Blue Duke boys to a WIAA state team title behind Steve Markson in 2005 and won a coveted championship with the girls in 2008. The boys have remained solid throughout Miller's tenure, while the girls have become a powerhouse, a fixture in the top five at state. And expectations vaulted into the stratosphere in the fall of 2013 as the uber-talented Camille Davre started her freshman year. The daughter of Olympic speed-skaters, Davre had posted a head-turning time of of 5:08.83 as an eighth grader the previous summer at the prestigious Wisco Mile (still the meet's middle school record) and then had a spectacular coming out party for prep cross country in early September when she won the Arrowhead Invitational by three seconds over soon-to-be D2 state champion Morgan Florsheim of Shorewood in a sizzling 4,000-meter time of 14:15. She would take third at state CC two months later and would lead Bay to a runner-up team finish to a very formidable Arrowhead squad (arguably one of the best in state history). Davre remained strong throughout her high school cross country career, but as everybody knows, she would become dominant in track, when the warmer weather and the shorter distances allowed her to use her devastating speed to full advantage. Perhaps dominant is too small a word. Entering her senior track season of 2017, the Michigan commit Davre had won three straight D1 state 800 and 1,600 titles, taking down the legendary Suzy Favor Hamilton's 800 record in 2015. She also anchored the Bay 4 x 800 to a championship in 2015, a key component in the Blue Dukes first-ever state team crown (see post 25A for details). Now the question was, how did she want to finish things up? She had won the emerging elite 800 and finished fifth in the girls championship mile at the New Balance Nationals in February 2017 (an excellent 4:52.16 time), but times were not on her mind going into WIAA state track in La Crosse one last time on a beautiful, sunny weekend in early June. History was. I remember her telling me that Miller had emphasized to her "records are temporary but championships are forever." With that in mind, Davre knew if she could close out her spectacular career with three more track event crowns she would tie the all-time state record for championships won by an individual with 10 If she did that, she would join state Mt. Olympus (or Grand-Dad's Bluff if you prefer) figures Bonnie Draxler of Wrightstown, Jaclynn Kriegel of Florence and Elizabeth Pospyhalla and Tessa Thurs of Edgar in achieving that rare feat. Furthermore, she would be the first state D1 athlete to do it. So that's what she did, taking off for the distance trifecta of the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters. The tricky thing was though, she had rarely run the 3,200 while in high school. So to be sure she could do it, she tested herself in a high-level 3,200 early in May and gave herself a passing grade. As is typical for a situation like that for an athlete of her elite caliber, the worry was not about state but about the fast-moving WIAA sectional qualifying meet the week before with its very short rest times. But she passed that test too and set off for La Crosse with a calm heart. "The 800, 1,600 and 3,200, that's a lot of pressure," she told me in a state preview article I wrote for the terrific La Crosse Tribune, "but after the sectional, a lot of the pressure will be off. ...I'm excited about this weekend because La Crosse has always been one of my favorite places to run." And then she said something to me that was never, ever an issue for those who witnessed her powerful, flowing stride or her electrifying kicks to the finish. "I hope I can put in a good effort (today, meaning Friday's first day) and those two titles (the 800 and the 1,600) and then I'll do what I can do on the second day. "It'll (the 3,200) be my last race, my longest race, and I'll be able to soak it all in. I'll look to do my best." Which she did in emphatic and emotional fashion. She ran smart, tactical races on Friday, winning the 1,600 in 4:56.76 over Leah Neustedter of Brookfield Central (4:58.14) and then came back later in the day to claim the 800 with a clocking of 2:12.07, good enough to outlast Haleigh Reindl of Waterford (2:13.06). With those two titles, she became just the fifth female athlete to win four straight titles in two separate events, joining the likes of Kennedy Blahnik of Algoma, Draxler, Molly Seidl of University Lake School and Joanna Schultz of Holmen in doing so. After the crush of the press had left her following the 800, the second race of that first day, Davre took a deep breath, turned her head and said softly. "I think I need a little cry." In short, the finality of her amazing prep career was starting to settle in on her, revealing Davre to be pragmatic and accomplished but also very, very human. The next day, after she had that cry, she went out and before many, many family members and in front of a crowd that numbered well over 7,000, she went out and won a physical and grueling 3,200 meters, outlasting future cross country and track champion Peyton Sippy of Janesville Craig 10:53.67-10:55.81. With that, Davre had accomplished what she had set out to do and earned that historic 10th title of her career and she wanted to take in every second of the time she had left. "I was just thinking that these were my last laps in my high school career," she told me. "I just wanted to make them count. I counted each one as I got closer and closer to the finish. "I just wanted to soak it in. I was really happy that this race (the 3,200) was my last race, the longest race. "It gave me time." Time to think, and time to express gratitude. She thought about her support system, her Olympic speedskating parents who gave her her talent and helped foster it, and her grandparents who trundled her to high-level races throughout the country in her middle school years. Then there were her coaches and the Milwaukee Mustangs Track Club, all of whom helped her hone that talent. There were also her teammates past and present who seemed to be running with her every step of the way. And then there were the very worthy competitors, whom she has been dispatching with grace, will, respect and pure talent for the last four years. She congratulated various runners afterward and then moments later, smiled and waved to the UW-La Crosse crowd for the last time on the warm and windy day from the awards stand on the infield. Before entering the press pit, she and Sippy happily exchanged phone numbers. There she eventually spoke of all that gratitude and of the respect and effort that she learned was needed to be a success in this often difficult, sometimes tedious but always beautifully pure sport. "I just don't know many people who have had the support that I've had the last four years," she said. "I've been so lucky. I'm just so grateful." Davre chose running over soccer at the end of her freshman year. She had been playing soccer at a high level since she was a small child and the decision was not easy. But as as Miller, her track event and cross country coach for all four years said: "She's good at soccer, but she's a great runner. Davre eventually graduated from freshman phenom defeating talented elders in spectacular fashion (find the video of her freshman year 2014 1,600 victory over an obscenely talented field at the Benson Invitational in Wauwatosa for proof) to respected elder, winning races with elegance, speed and sublime grace. She even earned a WIAA Scholar/Athlete Award in 2017 for good measure. Not surprisingly, she has also developed fans outside of the distance fraternity. After her June 2 success in the 800 and 1,600 races, fellow North Shore stars David Dunlap and Dakari Williams of Nicolet came up to enthusiastically congratulate her, sharing a bond that only real champions can understand. Williams and Dunlap would go on to run the final two legs of the Knights' state championship 4x100 relay on Saturday, June 3. Later that day, Dunlap would also defend his 200 dash crown. Davre was happy to share the spotlight with Williams and Dunlap, and was honored that they took the time to congratulate her. "Some people now say they look up to me," she said. "This has all blended into one great moment where I'm saying good-bye to all these great experiences." Along with some great people. Mom Angela Davre found her first in the press pit. Then she later found her coaches. Long hugs and pictures filled with broad, genuine smiles followed. The final moments of a career filled with potential, potential that was fulfilled. Miller, who was one of those grabbing those long hugs, was melancholy but knows his memory now has an indelible imprint of what true greatness looks like. "The realization that she was finishing up these last few weeks sunk in hard," he said at the time. "That we won't have her around for much longer anymore. We've all enjoyed the ride and I hope we've all learned a lot. "I've really come to admire her because she's become such a good example for the sport and the program. She's imparted a certain work ethic, shown how to be a good teammate and really led by example." Davre said she couldn't do it any other way. "I knew it would all be over soon," she said. "It just didn't feel like it until now." "I just felt I owed it all to my coaches and teammates to do my best." For good measure, she won more coveted Wisco Mile a few weeks later with a still meet record of 4:50.56. Just one more memory in a vast trove of them, including races won, jaws dropped, people impressed, friends made, and potential fulfilled. "I've gotten so emotional these last few weeks," she told me at the time. "All the good memories of my teammates and coaches. This has all been such a good experience. "It's so special. I feel it in my heart." Years later, the feelings were amplified as in a text concerning this piece, she said: "I felt so much gratitude for the people who had supported me year after year. My coaches, teammates and parents were key to my success and I couldn't have had the career I had without them. "I really wanted to make those people proud." FOOTNOTE It's rare I make really close connections with the athletes I cover, wanting to maintain a level of objectivity, but as Davre got older and I got to know her and her mother better, I couldn't help but gain a serious admiration and respect of an athlete who knew her talent and did everything she could to maximize it. I also recognized that she had a good heart and a strong mind. I came to earn her trust and respect as well. But I was seriously surprised a week or two before that 2017 state meet to get a text from her asking me what was my shoe size. I couldn't possibly imagine why she would do that. At some point I think, I had told her I walk vigorously for exercise and I favor white New Balance 535s size 9 1/2 wide. I didn't give it much thought about her request until after the 3,200 on June 3 when much to my surprise and eventual laughter, she produced a New Balance shoe box with a pair of white size 9 1/2 535 walking shoes. I was completely floored and couldn't help but give her a hug of thanks for this amazing gift. She told me she had been thinking about it awhile and wanted to give me something back for all the coverage I had given her over the four last four years. It was a beautiful gesture and made both of us very happy because her smile was as wide and as bright as the sun when she saw my amazed expression. I got good use out of those shoes and kept them as an honored piece of career swag. When I texted Davre for this story in late March 2021 she was pleased when I told her that I still had them attaching a large smile emoji to her response. A remarkable young woman, still finding ways to impress and please with both her feet and her heart. ALGOMA WINS FIRST TITLE, GETS NO SLEEP Going into the 2017 season, the trophy case for the Algoma track program both boys and girls didn't have a lot of big time hardware to display for its 55-year history. That changed at the 2017 state test, as the girls, behind the high jump title of Elizabeth McClure (5-6), edged Edgar, 44-42, for their first WIAA state D3 team championship. “It’s our first trophy of any kind,” Wolves coach Steve Schmiling told Scott Venci of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “Quite honestly, I’m not sure what it all says yet. I have to let it all soak in yet. But I tell you what, there is not a time when those girls don’t work hard." Morgan Davister, who was second in the discus, fifth in the shot put and was part of the fourth place 4 x 100 relay was among the seven athletes Algoma had at the meet, all of whom contributed to the title. “It means a lot, it means our hard work is finally paying off,” Davister said to Venci. “We are a big team. We love each other. This just means so much to us, to come together and win it with seven girls. “I don’t think it has really set in, but when I try to go to bed tonight, I will be wide awake.” McClure would repeat as D3 high jump champion in 2018 as Algoma narrowly lost out on its bid for a repeat title to the Benton co-op. MIKULA HAS A MEET FOR SHELL LAKE And though Algoma stole the team spotlight in D3, it was the very busy Nicole Mikula of Shell Lake who grabbed the individual honors, as she claimed the long jump by a foot (18-4 3/4) and the 100 (12.86) and 200 (26.16) dashes. It was a strong end to the career of Mikula, who had earned three medals at the 2016 state meet, but none higher than a third. ARENDT GETS WELL IN A HURRY AND SETS TRIPLE JUMP RECORD The D1 triple jump record of 39-5 3/4 held by Le Ann Majerle of DC Everest stood for 26 years until Menomonee Falls' healthy and motivated Mikayla Robertson took it down in 2013 with an effort of 40-4. Four years later, Bloomer's Kyra Arendt, found herself motivated but wasn't sure if she was healthy. The then two-time state D2 champion in the triple jump injured her right hamstring during warm-ups before sectionals the week before state. She had to pull out of three other events but was able to carefully put together one quality triple jump at sectionals that earned her the fourth and final qualifying spot to state. "At sectionals, things were looking pretty bleak," she told Brendan Berg of The Chippewa Herald. But she rehabbed hard all week, made the trip to La Crosse with a heavily wrapped leg and hoped for the best during warm-ups. It turned out she had recovered quickly. "As soon as I started doing accelerators (in warm-ups) I just started smiling," she told Berg. "I knew I could get to top speed and I was really excited." She had reason to be, as after a first jump scratch on the 80-plus degree day, she wasted no time in taking down the 30-year old D2 record of state legend Hillary Hyland of Nekoosa by over eight inches with an effort of 39- 3/4. Then on her very next effort, she made real history, bouncing out to an all-classes record of 40-8 1/4. Arendt wasn't surprising herself with that record effort as earlier in May she had crossed the 40 foot barrier with a 40-2 1/2 showing at an invitational. "After the second jump when I had it in the 39s, I was like 'OK, it starts getting fun now, because I really don't have to worry about making finals, I can just go for it," she told Berg. With the championship, Arendt, the class valedictorian at Bloomer, entered another elite category, that of becoming a three-time titlist in one event. And then she became very motivated as she continued her track career at UW-Milwaukee in a spectacular way. She earned Horizon League indoor and outdoor field event freshman of the year honors in 2018, won the Horizon League indoor triple jump title in both 2019 and 2020 (the latter just before the pandemic shut everything down), won the league indoor long jump in 2020 and was named outstanding field event performer at the Horizon League indoor championships in 2020. She most recently won her third Horizon League indoor triple jump title in February of 2021. Arendt has also been named league athlete of the week five times and for good measure has earned all-league academic four times. AFTER GETTING A CHAIR, KLEISS-GARCIA RACES TO WINS And speaking of persevering, Madison La Follette freshman Audrey Kleiss-Garcia did not own a racing chair until April. But when she got it, she took to it like she was born to it. She wound up winning the wheelchair shot put, 100, 400 and 800 and would repeat as titlist in all four events in 2018. "My coaches and my parents worked hard to get me a chair and get me to practices," she told Jon Masson of the Wisconsin State Journal. "Here I am, winning titles. "It was absolutely amazing. I had so much fun." KEYZERS ALSO SETS RECORD IN BECOMING A THREE-TIME CHAMP Tess Keyzers of Little Chute also joined Arendt in going out with a three-peat in a D2 field event. She earned her third straight title in the shot put by over four feet and for good measure, broke her own year-old class record by over five inches with an imposing toss of 47-8 1/2 on her last effort. Keyzers is continuing her career at Minnesota in a big way and was 13th in the 2021 NCAA indoor DI championships in the weight throw. MIGHTY WOMEN MUST THROW LONG, SCHAEFER AND NOENNIG REMAIN IMPRESSIVE Josie Schaefer finished off her great career at Baraboo with a pair of impressive winning efforts in the D1 shot put (47-8) and the discus (163-8). In the discus, where she earned a repeat crown, everyone of the five throws she landed fair was a minimum of eight feet further than the best of runner-up Natalie Mohring of DC Everest. But in the shot put, she got a formidable challenge from Erin Dunning of DC Everest. Schaefer landed a first throw of 45-5 1/4 which held up until the fifth round, when Dunning landed a toss of 45-8 1/2. Then Dunning upped the ante' further with a final effort that crashed into the sand at 47-3 1/4. No matter, Schaefer, who ended her career with three total state titles, reared back and showed a champion's mettle in seizing her first shot put crown with that final throw of 47-8. And if the pressure was getting to her, she didn't let on when she joked afterward with Masson of the State Journal: "Now I can eat some Dippin' Dots (ice cream). I don't have to stay on the apple diet (anymore)." There's no telling how many apples or how much ice cream Schaefer is eating these days, but whatever her diet, it is still working, as she earned ninth in the shot put for Wisconsin in the 2021 NCAA D1 indoor track championships. In those same NCAA championships in 2021, Schaefer's former long time prep competitor and fellow three-time state champion from Hartford Samantha Noennig narrowly missed out on her third NCAA DI title. The Arizona graduate student earned a second in the shot put (58- 1/2), losing out only to Ohio State's Adelaide Aquilla (59- 5 1/2). Noennig recently transferred from Arizona State where she had won the NCAA indoor and outdoor shot titles in 2019. With her 2021 runner-up finish, Noennig claimed her fifth All-American honor. She is also pursuing a masters in public health at Arizona with an emphasis in maternal and child health. BROWN GETS A SHARE OF THE LONG JUMP RECORD When Jade Nolan of Milwaukee Madison set a new girls state long jump record of 19-8 1/2 in 2015 she did it over an imposing field that included two others who broke the coveted and rare as ice in the desert mark of 19 feet. Waukesha South freshman Armoni Brown was just a freshman in that competition. She finished more than two feet behind Nolan, missing out on the finals by an inch. Fast forward two years, as Brown grew and matured and tied Nolan's state mark in another deep field (Makayla Jackson of repeat D1 team champion Milwaukee King was over 19 feet at 19-1). Her mental toughness shone bright as the sun on that warm weekend, as she pulled out that state record 19-8 1/2 on her last effort. She had been a 1/4 of an inch behind Jackson before that final effort. Her senior year of 2018, Armoni repeated as long jump champ and was second in the triple jump. But her best efforts were recorded at sectional qualifying the week before as she sailed through the air with spectacular results. Both her long jump of 19-9 3/4 and triple jump of 40-8 currently sit as the third best showings in those respective events of all time. Brown went to Wisconsin and is enjoying a solid career for the Badgers. JACKSON LEADS KING TO REPEAT TITLE The near-miss to Brown in the long jump was the only let-down on the weekend for King's Jackson, as she had a hand in three other event wins in leading the now two-time D1 team champion Generals to a commanding 58 point performance, well-ahead of DI runner-up Sussex Hamilton (34). Jackson won the 100 dash with a 12.25 effort and then anchored King's winning teams in both the 4 x 200 (1:40.33) and 4 X 100 (48.61) relays. In the latter race, she had to hold off a determined effort from Manitowoc which was just .04 of a second behind in 48.65. Jackson had a strong senior 2018 season for King and then took her talents to NCAA DII Minnesota State-Mankato, where she continues to turn heads. In the 2021 Northern Sun indoor conference meet, she won the long jump and in the following NCAA indoor DII national championships, she was eighth in the 60-meter dash and 10th in the 200. W-B 4 x 4 QUEENS WIN D2 TEAM TITLE In 2016, the Wittenberg-Birnamwood sophomore quartet of Paige Norrbom, Kylie Linke, Emily Norrbom, and Maddy Pietz obliterated the D2 4 x 400 record. They would take it down again in 2018 with a still standing 3:54.94, but in 2017, as juniors, the Chargers were aiming at a bigger target, a state team title, and they got it. Behind another win in the 4 x 400 and a victory from Pietz in the open 400, W-B outlasted Catholic Memorial, 40-34, for the championship. Pietz also earned a second in the 200 dash behind D2 100 and 200 champ Ja'Cey Simmons of Milwaukee Lutheran. The team title got Chargers coach Mike Balliett thinking big. "This week at practice my assistants looked at (the meet qualifiers) and figured we had a chance to finish high," Balliett told Tim Johnson of the Wausau Daily Herald. "It definitely gives a different look at what we want to try and do next year I guess. We'll have a lot of these same girls back next year and hopefully we can get down here again if they stay healthy." Which is exactly what they did. HIRSBRUNNER MAKES HISTORY AND HAS SOME FUN FOR MONROE After winning the D2 300 low hurdles for Monroe in 2016, Monroe's Jordan Hirsbrunner wanted to make sure she wasn't just a one-hit wonder for her senior season of 2017. She also wanted to enjoy herself too. And she succeeded grandly on all fronts. She repeated as champion in the 300s, almost lapping the field by two seconds on the windy and warm day (44.2). Prior to that, she had claimed her first crown in the 100 high hurdles (15.28). She almost earned a third title, clearing 5-5 in the high jump, but lost out on misses to Mariah Hoepner of Altoona and Brianna Beining of Wrightstown. Hirsbrunner made sure to take a deep breath and look around at things carefully before that last 300 hurdle race. "There were a lot of thoughts running through my head," she told me for a story I wrote for the Wisconsin State Journal. "I just wanted to stay focused and enjoy the moment (to) think about my last few races in this jersey. This was a little bittersweet. "There was definitely some pressure this weekend. But you can't let it get to your head. You just have to run your race and don't take things so seriously. You have to have some fun out there. "Breath once in awhile." Monroe coach Matt Davis said that mental toughness was the key to Hirsbrunner's success. "She handles pressure better than anyone I've ever seen," he said. And that mental toughness has continued at Wisconsin as Hirsbrunner has become a successful pentathlete and heptathlete. She took second in the 2021 Big 10 indoor pentathlon throwing a personal best in the shot put of 44-3 1/2 along the way. She also qualified for the NCAA DI indoor championships that year in the event, earning 15th. EDGERTON GETS A RECORD BUT CATHOLIC MEMORIAL WINS A TITLE There was a serious game of one-upmanship going on between the Edgerton and Catholic Memorial D2 4 x 100 relays in 2016 and 2017. In the 2016 prelims, Edgerton posted the fastest time, but in the finals, the Crusaders' crew of Abby Finnegan, Tatum Straw, Josie Schrubbe and Kathleen Hirsch not only beat the Crimson Tide for the state championship, but set a new record to boot with a 49.03 time. Fast forward to 2017, as in the prelims of the D2 4 x 100 relay, the Edgerton crew of Marguerite Lawrence, Ashlyn Oren, Kathleen Reilly and Nikkia Johnson roared through the prelims on a powerful gust of motivation taking down Memorial's division record with a still-standing 48.69. But, just like the year before, the Crusaders would have the last laugh, as in the finals, the crew of Maddy Rondeau, Straw, Schrubbe and Hirsch would edge the Crimson Tide for the title, 48.91-49.06. The same Memorial quartet had also won the 4 x 200 title just a short time earlier. Oren, who would go on to have a record-setting state meet in 2018, took a glass half-full attitude towards the 4 x 100 defeat. "Whatever happens today, we still broke the state record," she told me. And they still have it. JAWORSKI KEEPS MOWING DOWN RECORDS After taking the state meet by storm in 2016 as a freshman including anchoring a state record 4 x 400 relay as well as setting a new record in the open 400, Wausau West's Brooke Jaworski didn't have a sophomore slump in 2017. She smashed her own 400 mark with a 53.71, won the 200 dash and anchored West's 4 x 400 to a fine fifth place finish in a still excellent 3:56.88. Jaworski would start thinking outside of the box in 2018, which would lead to one of the most amazing event transformations since Bradley Tech's Dezerea Bryant smashed and redesigned the state sprint records in 2011. FOR STUBLER, IT WAS ALL ABOUT THE TIMING Bianca Stubler of Sussex Hamilton was one hell of a 400 runner. She anchored the Chargers' powerhouse 4 x 400 for four straight years, including a spectacular title winning effort of 3:51.66 in her senior year of 2017. She also powered Hamilton to a state title in the 4 x 400 in 2015. But it's interesting to think about how even more amazing Stubler's career could have been if she had been born just a little later or a little earlier. For all her excellence in relays, Stubler could never quite bring home the gold in the open 400, claiming three consecutive seconds in the event (2015-17), including in 2017. And these were no ordinary champions she was losing to. Gabby Beauvais of Monona Grove set a record in the race in 2015, then Jaworski came along and broke Beauvais' mark in 2016 and then for good measure, as I noted in the previous segment, Jaworski went out and broke her own record again in 2017. Stubler got faster each year too, finishing up with a sparkling 54.58 clocking (fourth fastest of all time), to finish just behind Jaworski's still standing record of 53.71, but it just wasn't enough. But instead of getting frustrated, Stubler went to Wisconsin and continued to go faster, earning second-team indoor All-American honors in 2019 as part of the Badgers distance medley relay team. That year, she was also an NCAA preliminary qualifier in both the 400 hurdles and 4 x 400 relay. For good measure, she majored in the challenging field of physical therapy. Excellence denied, but still excellence attained. UP NEXT: Tinch essentially jumps to the moon, Bednarek continues to rewrite sprint record books making friends along the way, Schneider starts a great career in the hurdles, Dunkleberger leaps further still, Schubert and Wiberg dominate the wheelchair competition and Pillath goes out with a bang. And oh yes, a major change for me.