I sincerely hope Cordell Tinch takes a deep breath, finds his focus and will be able to call Coffeyville Community College in Kansas home, at least for a time, because the immensely talented former Bay Port product, state champion and record-setter has the potential to be amazing on the national stage.
I, and likely many others, hope that he wants that too.
Because wherever he has gone, he has succeeded, but just not for long enough to leave a truly lasting mark. He was a football and track star at Bay Port and his 2017 WIAA state track meet is truly the stuff of legend and maybe one of the best of all time.
Competing in every jump except the pole vault as well as the 110 high hurdles, Tinch very nearly came out with four WIAA championships, as it was, his performances were dizzying and marked with high drama.
His dual with future state and Big 10 Conference champion James Carter of Oak Creek in the D1 long and triple jumps were the stuff of Hollywood scripts. In the long jump, Carter landed two jumps out of the gate over 23 feet with a best of 23-6, which wins about 90-95 percent of the time at state. Tinch, on the other hand, landed four jumps in the 22-foot range before bypassing 23 feet all-together on his final two efforts, landing a winning effort of 24-2 1/2 on his fifth jump and just for fun adding another 24-footer on his final try.
To put that in perspective, Tinch, with those two jumps, became only the third person to land a 24 foot jump at the state meet ever. The only others were Marcus Jenkins of Bradley Tech in 2008 (24-4) and the late legend Larry Franklin of Madison Central, whose 25- 1/2 has been unassailable since 1965.
Carter finished in second, while 2016 champ Shon Pratcher Jr. of Germantown, who landed an astounding wind-aided 24-3 1/2 at the North Shore Conference championships a few weeks before state, could do no better than third, despite landing three jumps better than his winning 2016 effort of 23- 1 3/4. His best this day was still a superior 23-4 1/4.
In fact, this was without a doubt, the best long jump field in state history. It took a leap of over 23 feet to earn a top six medal. Wisconsin Rapids’ Isaiah Westfall had to hit 23 feet even to claim that sixth and final podium spot. It was a leap, to put it in proper perspective, which would have won every state title but one from 1895 to 1952.
Pratcher is now a senior at Western Carolina University and is finishing out his track career on an excellent note having won the Southern Conference Indoor track title in the long jump in February 2021 with an effort of 23-9 1/2.
Also in the state D1 long jump in 2017, a total of 11 competitors went over 22 feet, a distance that medals about 99 percent of the time at the WIAA state meet. So pity poor Kyle Weiland of Baraboo, who flew an excellent 22-3 3/4 and didn’t even make the top 10 finals!
Tinch and Carter’s other match-up in the triple jump proved to be even more dramatic in its execution and was record setting in its conclusion. Tinch, who had qualified third for state out of sectional (Carter was first), had nudged his way into the finals with a final trials effort of 44-4 while Carter came out of the prelims with a fine 46-10.
But just like his long jump, Tinch saved the best for last. He got into second with a 46-8 on his first effort in the finals, and then took off for the far reaches of nearby Minnesota when he claimed the state title and took down Josh Dixon of Cedarburg’s nine-year old record of 49- 1/4 with a 49- 2 1/4 showing on his last effort.
Carter did his best, but his 48-6 1/2 last gasp hop, skip and very long jump came up just short. And again, to put that in perspective, with that effort, Carter would have won every state title since the event’s inception, except Dixon’s previous 2012 record. It would have even beaten the original standard of 48-6 1/4 set in 1983 by one of the Mt. Rushmore’s of Wisconsin track excellence Olympic champion Ken Harrison of Brookfield Central!
How much confidence did Tinch have going into those final rounds? Just consider his comments to Scott Venci of the Green Bay Press Gazette afterward about his duel with Carter.
“It was tough, with this head wind we had,” he told Venci. “We were all complaining about it. But everybody was putting up good numbers, and right before the last jump, I walked over to the guy leading (Carter) and said, ‘Hey, you don’t mind if I put one out there for you to have to chase down, do you?’”
Chutzpah to be sure, but he backed it up!
Even Tinch’s near-misses in 2017 were remarkable. In the high jump, he finished second with a height of 6-8 to two-time champ Jack Herkert of Verona and in the 110 high hurdles, he posted the fastest time in the trials with a 14.29 showing only to come up just .03 short of another state title when he lost to West Allis Central’s Kelvon Johnson (14.56) in a blanket finish that saw the first four finishers all hit the line within .08 of a second of one another.
He carried that spectacular track season over to a sensational fall of 2017 football season, where he was the leading receiver for the high-octane Pirates’ offense (which averaged nearly 47 points a game), finishing with 70 catches for 964 yards and nine TDs. In Bay Port’s wild 57-51 overtime win over Stevens Point in a WIAA level 2 playoff game, Tinch even returned a kickoff for a TD.
Tinch had all kinds of NCAA D1 schools bidding for his services and opted on a combination track and football scholarship to Minnesota, but then that’s when everything fell apart. He incurred not one but two athletic code violations during the school year, the second one during the track season, which eliminated him from defending his two state championships, possibly winning four events like he narrowly missed out on 2017, and maybe carving his name into history with even more records.
All anyone could say was “What if he had stayed eligible?”
Not surprisingly, Minnesota dropped out of the picture, but still Tinch was a hot property and wound up at Kansas where he had a spectacular 2019 season, where he tied for highest individual point honors after he won the 110 high hurdles (13.72), becoming the first Jayhawk in Big 12 history to win the event. He was also third in the high jump and seventh in the long jump.
At the NCAA West Preliminary meet, Tinch ran the second fastest 110 high hurdles time with a PR of 13.63, the third fastest in school history. In the Big 12 indoor conference meet, he turned in a third place effort with the third best effort in school history as he recorded an impressive personal best of 7-2 1/4.
But it wasn’t to last at Kansas either and so, he is now at Coffeyville. I hope he settles down, does well in his studies and maybe he can find a way back to the big time, because his talent is amazingly big time and worthy of all to see.
Good luck, sir.
SCHUBERT IS A 10-TIME WHEELCHAIR CHAMP
Marquette’s Joe Schubert was born with spina bifida, which has necessitated the need of a wheelchair but that has never impaired his competitive zeal. In fact, it inspired the wheelchair athlete immensely, as he finished off his high school career in 2017 on the highest note possible, claiming his fourth straight 100 and 400-meter state track titles and his second straight 800 crown.
He was the first four-time event boys champion since the great Richland Center high jumper Paul Annear earned his fourth straight D2 title in 2008. Schubert’s 10 overall championships actually eclipses the all-time state boys able-bodied record of nine held by the great Brown Deer sprinter Justin Austin.
And in a true competitor’s fashion, he finished 2017 with his all-time best time in both the 100 (18.16) and the 400 (1:04.52). In fact, in the 400, he bettered his time each year and he won all three of his 2017 races going away.
Having also played wheelchair basketball since fourth grade with the Milwaukee Junior Bucks, Schubert has always seen himself as an athlete and not a statistic.
“People think, ‘Oh people in wheelchairs, they get a chance to play basketball and they get a chance to race track,'” Schubert told my friend Mark Stewart of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2016. “I think of it from a completely different side. I say people in wheelchairs can do just as many things as people outside of wheelchairs, and do other things, for example play wheelchair basketball, that people without wheelchairs don’t do.”
And his father, also Joe, felt the same way.
“He’s blessed,” said Dad to Stewart in that same terrific 2016 article. “Despite everything he’s very healthy and very optimistic. We never worried about a thing. That’s amazing. It wasn’t ever bad. It was just different.”
BEDNAREK MAKES A FRIEND AND GOES EVEN FASTER
In 2017, Rice Lake’s Kenny Bednarek was still a year away from totally rewriting the state sprint record book, but he was still making strong impressions on people. He had won his first two state titles as a sophomore in 2016, including setting a new D2 record in the 400. In the 200, it was much harder, as he edged River Valley’s Kyle Thomas by .005 for the title.
But instead of viewing Thomas as a rival to fear and be wary of, Bednarek embraced him as a friend, and the feeling was very mutual. Thomas would go on to win D2 state 100 dash titles in 2016 and 2017 (Bednarek did not enter those events those years) before he and Bednarek would stage one last dazzling showstopper in the 2017 D2 state 200 final on a warm and windy day in La Crosse.
And the race would be a virtual repeat of that photo-finish 2016 200 final. In another “if you blink you’ll miss it” style final, Bednarek rallied to edge the English transplant Thomas, 21.61-21.62, with the crowd roaring in their ears.
At first, Bednarek could not believe he had pulled it off. The pair were laughing and joking in the press pit afterwards answering questions and Bednarek noted to me in all sincerity “Honestly, I thought he (Thomas) had it.”
Thomas was gracious in defeat, noting to me in my story for the Wisconsin State Journal: “What can I say? He’s got that great 400 strength at the end.”
That much was no exaggeration, as about an hour-and-a-half earlier in the day, Bednarek had made history when he took down Bryan Jones of Nicolet’s 27-year all-classes record of 47.12 with a truly spectacular 46.82 effort that won the D2 finals race by close to two seconds. In doing so, he broke his own one-year old D2 record, a formidable 47.42, by more than half-a-second.
Thomas, whose family first moved to America when he was in fourth grade, went back to England when he was in eighth grade and then came back to Spring Green in time for high school, said he fell in love with American track, noting that he would have probably been playing soccer or rugby had the family stayed in England.
“I love this sport so much,” Thomas told my friend Jon Masson of the Wisconsin State Journal in a piece after sectional qualifying. “It’s been so good running here. It’s great to run in Wisconsin.”
And he was very glad he had made a friend in Bednarek.
“It’s been a privilege these last few years getting to know such a great track star like Kenny,” Thomas told me at state. “…As a person, if I had to lose to anyone, I was glad it was him. He’s such a hard worker.”
In 2018, Bednarek would work even harder and let all America know what Thomas and many others already knew.
That he was a true star about to become truly incadescent in brightness.
MY APOLOGIES TO BEN GUCINSKI, WHO FLEW VERY HIGH IN 2016
In my haste to make up for my five month absence from this blog recently, I neglected one enormous milestone of the 2016 boys D2 meet (chapter 26B).
Let me address that here.
Up until 2016, Jason Smith of Milwaukee Juneau had been the only high jumper in Wisconsin history to clear seven feet at the WIAA state meet, doing it back in 1992 (I witnessed it from the far corner of the track and then let the roar of the crowd wash over as they watched history be made).
The ludicrously talented future NFL star David Greenwood of Park Falls actually owns the highest jump in state history, done at an indoor meet in 1979 at 7-1 3/4 while the terrific Matt Fisher of Green Bay East cleared 7-0 in an indoor meet in 2006.
Enter one Ben Gucinski of Fox Valley Lutheran in Appleton, who had only taken up high jumping his sophomore year. He proved a quick study, finishing second in the D2 state meet as a junior in 2015 at 6-6, but then life took a bit of a U-turn on him, as he needed to have back surgery that same year to deal with a birth defect.
“I have a birth defect and my vertebrae were never fully fused,” Gucinski told Fox 11 News Joshua Moser at state in 2017. “I didn’t even realize it, but over-extension and high jump is one of the worst things you can possibly do for it, so bending and over-extension caused it to crack. I wasn’t supposed to jump this year at all, but finally all of the hard work I have put in has been acknowledged.”
Yes, it did. He recovered quickly, cleared 6-8 to win the sectional title and then took off for the stratosphere at the 2017 state meet, joining Smith in that elusive “7-foot at state” club, when he took down the 21-year old record of 6-11 held by former Bulgarian AFS student Ivan Varbanov who attended Amery in 1995.
Gucinski wound up clearing an all-classes state best of 7-1, popping off the pit in amazement. He was still exuberant several minutes later when he spoke to Moser.
“I don’t think this day could have gone any better,” Gucinski told Moser. “I did not picture this day going like this. I was nervous I was just hoping to get over 6’6 or 6’8 to get first. I did not picture getting 7’1. It’s just the best way I think I could end my high school career.”
His coach was stunned too.
“That’s what track and field is all about, pushing those records higher and higher,” FVL track coach Isaiah Degner told Moser. “You wonder how far it can go. Ben raised the bar a little higher today and I’m going to spend the rest of my career trying to get another kid up there, too.”
Gucinski would go on to have a solid track career at Minnesota even representing the track team as part of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (in an ironic turn, Green Bay East’s Fisher is third all-time on the Minnesota high jump list at 7-4 1/2). Like so many other senior athletes, his senior season ended when the pandemic hit in March 2020. He could have chosen to accept the NCAA’s offer of another year of eligibility but instead finished up his schooling with a degree in marketing (emphasis on leadership and communication) and entered the business world looking to make an impact just as great as the one he had in track.
ZASTROW GOES HIGHER IN THE VAULT AND HAACKE ALSO BREAKS A D3 RECORD
The DIII boys competition was led by a pair of massive overachievers.
Simply put, these were guys who thought breaking imposing records was the bare minimum they could achieve
To start off, in 2016, Spencer’s Noah Zastrow finished second in the D3 pole vault with an effort of 14-6. In 2017, he would make history when he would break Bryan Klister of Lena/St. Thomas Aquinas’s seven-year old division record by an inch with an effort of 15-4. He won the division by close to two feet (22 inches to be precise) and then continued his upward trajectory at NCAA DIII UW-Stout.
In three short years starting in 2018, Zastrow has earned four NCAA All-American honors, making a major breakthrough between 2019 and 2020, when he improved by well over a foot. Just before the pandemic shut everything down in February 2020, Zastrow destroyed the WIAC league indoor record with an effort of 17-8 1/4, which broke his own school record by close to six inches. It was the best indoor effort by either a DII or DIII athlete that year. Not surprising, he was a finalist for national DIII field event athlete of the year.
He was named team captain for 2021 and has picked up where he left off. In five meets before the end of March, he set four facilities records and again led the nation with an effort of 17-8 1/2. And for good measure, the mechanical engineering major was named an Academic All-American in 2019 and district all-academic in 2020.
Then there was two-time discus champion Caiden Haake of Alma/Pepin who set a new D3 record with an effort of 181-0. In doing so, he took down the five year old record of Zach Blahnik of Algoma (175-6). Haake, who had already broken the mark with his last throw in the prelims (179-5), set his still there standard on the second throw of the finals. He beat defending state track athlete of the year Josh Pillath of Coleman by close to 24 feet, but Pillath would find little reason to complain at the end of the day (set later entry).
The record had been his goal, Haake told John Casper Jr., of the La Crosse Tribune.
“My first couple throws weren’t good,” Haake said to Casper. “I wasn’t relaxed. I was happy I was able to get that before the end of the (prelims) so I didn’t have to sit on a bad throw. I was happy getting out there and getting out of the way.”
In repeating that championship and setting the record, Haake concluded a dizzying movie-quality athletic school year. One that has few comparisons in Wisconsin.
For the football team that reached level 3 of the state D7 playoffs in the fall, he rushed for 1,704 yards, scored 35 TDs, sacked the quarterback 15 times and was named all-state both on offense and defense. Then in the winter, just for fun, he averaged 29 points and 11 rebounds a game for the 20-5 basketball team that won the Dairyland Conference title.
Long-time Alma/Pepin multi-sport coach Loren Mueller called Haake the best all-around athlete he had seen in 32 years and probably knew that that was an understatement when he told Casper Jr. that the future Winona State football player was “Definitely one of a kind. He’s a special one.”
DUNKLEBERGER WAITS UNTIL THE LAST MOMENT TO SET A RECORD
Lake Mills junior Ben Dunkleberger needed to wait awhile on his last effort for the “go’ signal from the judge in the D2 triple jump but then he made it worth everyone’s while as he popped a 47-foot even effort that took down the six-year old record of Ben Schreib of Greendale Martin Luther by two inches.
It was the second straight title in the event for Dunkleberger who would later go on to win the long jump by over a foot with a 23 foot effort
“I really didn’t have any pressure on me, because I already had a solid jump in (46-4 1/4 which would have already won it,),” he told me in an article for the Wisconsin State Journal, “but I had to wait on that last one.
“It felt good, but it was kind of hard to see where the state record stake was (in the pit). I got pretty anxious waiting, but then it proved to be worth the wait.”
The great weekend in La Crosse was part of a spectacular junior year for Dunkleberger, who was a spread option quarterback for a L-Cats football team that reached level 3 in the WIAA state playoffs and a was a “glue guy” on Lake Mills state tourney qualifying basketball team.
“It’s been a heck of a year,” he said.
And it would get better for him as a senior.
AFTER MAKING AN IMPRESSION IN 2016, DUNLAP FINDS ANOTHER GEAR
Nicolet state D1 400 recordholder and honored Wisconsin sprinter Bryan Jones knows a good sprinter when he sees one.
He saw one in fellow Nicolet speed blur David Dunlap.
In 2016, Dunlap edged Milwaukee Marshall’s Bryant Brown in the 200 for a state title after falling to Brown in the 100. Bryant himself was still succeeding as of 2020, winning the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference indoor 60-meter dash for Minnesota State.
As for Dunlap, in 2016, he also anchored the Knights’ 4 x 200 relay to a crazy fast fourth place finish in that remarkable race that was won by an eyelash when Brookfield East’s Drew Bullen rallied the Spartans to victory after seemingly starting his leg in West Salem.
After the meet, Jones called Dunlap “a very fluid athlete,” but “with a lot of room to grow.”
Turns out, Dunlap grew just as much as Jones thought he could.
In 2017, Dunlap kept finding one gear after another. In that gusty North Shore Conference meet in May where Germantown’s Pratcher went over 24 feet in the long jump, the powers that be had the smarts to turn the sprints into the wind, and with that backing, Dunlap rewrote NSC recordbooks ahead of fast fields. He turned in a 10.58 100, a 21.32 200 and anchored the 4 x 100 that included Kamari Clayton, John Ford and Dakari Williams to another league record of 41.65.
Dunlap and his teammates found his way back to state a few weeks later, where the winds weren’t nearly that favorable but the times were nearly that quick. Dunlap could not quite find his way to the front in the 100 again, settling for third in 11.09 as Waunakee’s L. O. Johnson won in 10.99. But in the 4 x 100, Dunlap showed a champion’s mettle anchoring the Knights to victory in another blistering finish hitting the line first in a very quick 41.89 just ahead of both Muskego (41.98) and Oak Creek (42.04).
Dunlap then capped his career by repeating as 200 champ, finishing well ahead of two-time 400 champ Jose Guzman of Ashwaubenon, with a winning effort of 21.84. His legacy at sprint happy Nicolet, alongside the likes of all-time 100 and 200 great BJ Tucker as well as Jones, was secure.
And not two years later, Dunlap was augmenting and bolstering his credentials at Iowa Central Community College in a way Jones had to admire.
Dunlap had broadened his scope, turning into a 200/400 man. He played a role on Iowa Central’s title-winning distance medley relay and runner-up 4 x 400 at the 2019 National Junior College Athletic Association indoor national championships and then at the NJCAA outdoor meet that same year was part of the third place 4 x 100 relay which turned in a very quick 39.41 time. He also ran a wind-aided 20.56 200 at those same outdoor championships.
Then in 2020, just before the pandemic hit, Dunlap helped the Iowa Central win the national NJCAA title in the distance medley relay again while also taking fifth in the 200 (21.1).
All that success caught the eye of national track and cross country power Northern Arizona University where as of the spring 2021, Dunlap is now part of the Lumberjacks’ track program.
As Jones was quick to notice, great sprinters can recognize one another pretty well, especially ones that are still growing.
SMART SCHNEIDER MAKES AN IMPRESSION
Eau Claire Memorial’s Drake Schneider was a member of the National Honor Society with a 3.85 GPA when he graduated in 2017.
It turned out he was a pretty good hurdler too and carried both his brains and his talent to Bozeman, Montana and Montana State where he is majoring in the cutting edge field of financial engineering.
And winning a few titles along the way. Schneider finished up his high school career on a solid note at the 2017 state meet. He was seventh in the 110 high hurdles and was part of that crazy good long jump field where he took seventh again with a school record of 22-10 1/4.
But he saved his best effort for last in the 300 intermediate hurdles, showing great consistency along the way. He led all qualifiers by a wide margin in the prelims with a school record 38.05 effort, but in the finals, things got considerably more interesting, as he had to hold off high hurdle champ Johnson of West Allis Central by just .06 of a second for the title with another clocking of 38.05.
After that it was off to Montana, where Schneider made a big splash right away for the Bobcats as a freshman in 2018, winning the 400 intermediate hurdles at the Big Sky Conference outdoor meet and also running a leg on the victorious 4 x 400 relay. In his sophomore year of 2019, he was on the winning 4 x 4 again at the Big Sky Indoor meet and was third in the 400 and then at the Big Sky Outdoor a couple of months later, Schneider showed he had not lost his sense of drama.
There, he defended his 400 hurdles holding off Southern Utah’s Devon Montgomery by .01 of a second with a school record 51.27 effort.
It also turned out to be a family best, as his Dad had been a solid collegiate hurdler himself with a PR of 51.44.
“For me right now, that’s a bigger deal that I get to say I’m finally faster than my dad,” Schneider told Frank Gogola of 406 Montana Sports. “So, that’s a really proud moment for me.”
He also illuminated in clear terms the challenge for any defending champion in any sport to return to the top of the podium.
“I think running from the front with a big target on your back is the scariest thing because you’re expected to win and you know everybody is looking at you to be the one to get beat,” he told Gogola. “…but I also had to come in with some confidence because I was the defending champ, so you can’t come in too scared.”
It turned out the repeat hurdle title and family best was only part of the equation for Schneider in 2019, who made the Big Sky All-Academic team every semester through 2020. He was also named an academic All-American in 2018-19 too.
He was third in the Big Sky Indoor 200 and 400 dashes before the pandemic closed things down in 2020, and as of April 2021, he was closing in on bettering that school and family best 400 hurdle time, turning in a time of 51.37.
PSICIHULIS SEIZES A MOMENT AND GUZMAN MAKES HISTORY
In those 2017 finals, the Kettle Moraine 4 x 400 relay team just could not bear to watch as anchor leg Ben Psicihulis took the stick, well behind the leaders in the last race of the meet.
Jack Chard said he had to look away, and Chris Marshall was watching the crowd rather than the race.
Psicihulis took the stick from third runner Sam DeLany who had gotten bumped while taking the baton a lap earlier, but had maintained his form and strength to give Psicihulis a chance at glory.
Still, it was hard to look for everyone.
“I didn’t want to watch the race,” Marshall told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s JR Radcliffe.
But he had confidence in Psicihulis.
“…I see my buddies (in the crowd) get wide-eyed, and I’m thinking Ben’s got this,” Marshall added. “Once he closes, it’s over.”
And it was true. The Lasers had the top sectional time going into state and had recorded the top prelim time on Friday, but were in fourth when Psicihulis took the stick. He was motivated to do better by his runner-up finish in the 400 to Ashwaubenon’s Guzman.
He made up ground like crazy, but it wasn’t until the final straight that he felt he had a chance.
“With about 80 meters left when I got two strides away from (the anchor runner of Wilmot), that’s when I fully thought I could get him,” Psicihulis told Radcliffe.
And that he did, as the Lasers’ turned in a top 50 all-time effort of 3:18.1 to edge Wilmot’s 3:18.39.
That thrilling moment of glory lifted Psicihulis to even greater heights when he went on to run track at Minnesota the following fall and proved himself a very capable relay runner. In his freshman season of 2018, he earned second-team NCAA Indoor All-American honors as part of the Golden Gophers’ 4 x 400 relay. That team ran a time of 3:05.52 at the Big 10 Conference meet, the second-best time in program history.
In his sophomore year outdoor campaign of 2019, he ran on season best 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relay squads and in 2020 was part of a Golden Gophers’ 4 x 400 relay that had qualified for the NCAA indoor championships just before the COVID pandemic shut down sports everywhere. He also earned All-Academic Big 10 that spring.
Ashwaubenon’s Guzman made a bit of history in 2017 too when he repeated as D1 400 champ with a clocking of 47.89. In doing so, he became the first D1 boy to do that in the event since Arrowhead’s Steve Sarsfield in 1986-87.
Guzman’s time was just a touch slower than the 47.53 he ran in 2016. Unfortunately for him, however, injuries in 2018 prevented him from trying for a three-peat.
There have been only three 400 state three-peats in the La Crosse era. Two were turned in by a pair of D3 runners, the great Ryan Truschinski of Marshall (1991-93) and current D3 recordholder Tom Helstern of Shell Lake (2008-10).
The other was by Bednarek in D2, but that was still a very quick year away.
PILLATH’S SECOND ACT AS GOOD AS HIS FIRST
As I hinted, Pillath’s 2017 season for Coleman was better than his 2016 campaign.
And that is saying something, because his 2016 spring included D3 individual championships in the 110 high hurdles and the high jump, a tie for the state D3 team championship with Wild Rose and state athlete of the year honors (see state track in La Crosse post 26B for details).
How was 2017 better for Pillath?
He swept both the 110 high (14.95) and the 300 intermediate hurdles (38.76) in dominating fashion and was also second to the mighty Haake of Alma/Pepin in the discus, as the Cougars edged Rosholt for the outright team title, 43-39.
Sprinter Gunnar Patz was the other half of the Cougar’s championship equation, as he clinched that outright team title for Coleman when he claimed third in the 200 dash. Earlier in the day, he had taken second in the 100. Rosholt went on to win the meet’s final event, the 4 x 400 by over two seconds, but it was not enough.
According to Venci, writing for the Green Bay Press Gazette, Patz may have earned the bigger half of the big gold trophy simply for his courage. He had also qualified for state in the triple jump, but a knee injury suffered in sectionals forced him and his coaches to make a tactical decision and withdraw from the event at state.
“That really sucked,” Patz told Venci, “…but I knew it was the best decision for myself to get out of that.”
And in the end, he and Pillath had a grand time on top of the podium at the end of the day celebrating a second straight team title.
“To head out of our last sporting event as seniors, winning the big trophy, that means more than anything,” Pillath said to Venci.
APPLETON XAVIER AND KIMBERLY WIN STATE TEAM TITLES
Xavier claimed its first D2 state team title and Kimberly edged Oak Creek, 41-40, for its initial D1 crown using two vastly different templates to do so.
In D2, the Hawks used a strong distance corps to beat Bednarek-led Rice Lake, 44-37, for the championship. Luke Bailey won the 3,200 (9:12.78) and was third in the 1,600 on Friday and then on Saturday, Nathan Broullire won a thriller in the 800 by .02 of a second over Shorewood’s Edgardo Valdes, 1:55.26-1:55.28 to provide the clinching points. Sprinter Daniel Brendel also was a big help, finishing second to Bednarek’s record-setting effort in the 400 and then coming back to take fifth in the 200.
Meanwhile, the Papermakers had just won the third of fourth straight D1 football titles the previous fall behind a powerful offense and were starting to utilize the muscle of those massive linemen in the shot put and discus rings.
They were the key elements in edging a deep and balanced Oak Creek team, 41-40, for the championship. Boyd Dietzen won the discus in a huge upset with an effort of 184-11, edging Oregon’s Austin Glynn (181-4) for the title after Glynn had turned in a massive 209-9 toss at the Mississippi Valley Conference meet just a few weeks earlier. That effort earned Glynn Gatorade State Athlete of the Year honors for Wisconsin.
As for Kimberly, Dietzen got support in the discus from Logan McCormack who was third. In the shot put, they helped out again, as Dietzen was fourth and Logan Bruss sixth to provide eight more big points.
Still, it was tight going into Saturday afternoon’s finals and DJ Stewart got an important third in the 300 hurdles, to give Kimberly just enough lift to get past Oak Creek. There were links back to football there too with Stewart as he had rushed for 108 yards and two TDs in the Papermakers’ state title win over Franklin the previous fall.
But how maddeningly close were the Knights to edging Kimberly and claiming their own first state team title?
Try .04 of a second, the difference between second place Kettle Moraine’s Psicihulis (48.40) and Creek’s third place Ryan Potter (48.44) in the 400 finals on Saturday afternoon.
Potter would get a chance to wash away those frustrations in the 2018 4 x 400, as he anchored the Knights to victory in that race.
BOSLEY AND STONE LAY FOUNDATIONS FOR FUTURE (VERY BIG) SUCCESS
Making a little noise at state in 2017 were a pair of talented sophomores in disparate disciplines who would both go on to very big things in the near future.
Long and lithe Homestead distance ace Drew Bosley anchored a state runner-up 4 x 800 in 2016 as a freshman and was fifth in the 3,200 too. He lifted his game in the fall, taking a surprising second in the state cross country meet, and in the spring track season, he would take sixth in the 3,200 (9:17.82) with a faster time than he ran in 2016. He was also 10th in his first state 1,600.
Bosley would have a transformative summer of 2017 and then become absolutely dominant for the rest of his prep career.
Meanwhile, long-limbed and powerfully built Andrew Stone of Fond du Lac became that rare freshman to make finals in a weight event in 2016, earning seventh in the shot put with an impressive toss of 55-1. He was also 15th in the discus that year.
As a sophomore in 2017, he too lifted his game substantially, falling to Oregon’s Glynn (62-3 1/2) by just 2-1/2 inches in the shot with a runner-up toss of 62-1 and also earning a sixth place medal in the discus (162-2).
Stone too would simply become better and better with a 2019 senior season that would border on the realm of myth.
Something to look forward to indeed.
UP NEXT: Jaworski transforms the 300 hurdles, Pietz and Wittenberg-Birnamwood go out on a high note in D2, Oren takes the D2 long jump to new lengths, Waukesha West distance girls lead D1 gold trophy run and Lawrence hurdles the Benton co-op to a thrilling D3 championship.