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Prep boys track preview: Middleton shooting for seventh consecutive Big Eight title
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Prep boys track preview: Middleton shooting for seventh consecutive Big Eight title

From the Road to La Crosse: Read the coverage leading up to the 2019 WIAA state track and field meet series
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WIAA state boys track photo: Middleton's Caleb Easton and Michael Madoch

Middleton's Michael Madoch, right, after handing off to Caleb Easton to begin the 4th leg of the Division 1 4 X 400 Meter Relay. Day two of the WIAA State Track meet was held June 2, 2018 at Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex in LaCrosse. STEVE APPS, STATE JOURNAL

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

Shooting for seven: Coach Joe Line’s Middleton Cardinals are seeking what would be a seventh consecutive Big Eight Conference title. Prior to Middleton’s current run, no Big Eight team had ever won more than four titles in a row.

Sectional shift: Sun Prairie has relocated this year from the Verona sectional (competing against schools from the Madison and La Crosse-metro areas and Badger North Conference large schools) to the Lake Geneva Badger sectional (taking on the Janesville schools, Beloit Memorial and Madison La Follette from the Big Eight, and with Badger South and Southern Lakes programs).

New coach at West: Tom Kaufman has stepped down after coaching the Madison West program since 1976. Casey Green has moved into the head coaching role. However, Kaufman is staying on as an assistant, and Green says Kaufman “has laid the perfect foundation for future success.”

TEN TEAMS TO WATCH

Middleton: After taking an area-best 11th in the Division 1 state team race last year, the Cardinals are back for more in the Big Eight Conference. Coach Joe Line has proven experience, a deep lineup and talented newcomers. The Cardinals are led by senior distance standout Caleb Easton (who can also excel at middle distances) and senior sprinter Logan Prichard. Big years are expected from junior sprinter Joey Kean, captain Dylan Kalscheur in the discus and defending Big Eight 400 champ Eagan Peters-Michaud. “We have a lot of young talent that we need to mature in the track and field world,” Line said, including sophomore Josh Stormer, new to the track this year after playing lacrosse as a freshman.

Monona Grove: The Silver Eagles are the coaches’ pick to win what would be a third consecutive Badger South Conference title. Despite the return of 15 letterwinners, coach Brian Storms said a repeat could be a challenge due to the departure of 22 seniors, and MG will need younger athletes to contribute, “especially in sprints and jumps.” Monona Grove’s usual strong areas, throws and the pole vault, will again be among the best in the league, and the Silver Eagles have a deep distance crew.

Reedsburg: Coach Phil Hasler returns 22 letterwinners, led by three seniors who have school records (or improvement on their own current school records) in mind, along with spots on the state-meet podium. They are hurdler Jacob Dregney, jumper Nick Crary (school triple-jump record holder) and long jumper and sprinter Ethan Lee. Depth is good, but the Beavers will need to avoid injuries to challenge Waunakee in the Badger North Conference race.

Sun Prairie: Coach Doug Maughan’s Cardinals enjoyed a program-best runner-up finish in the Big Eight least year, but will have to deal with the graduation loss of several of that team’s top performers. The only returning state qualifier is senior pole vaulter Ryan Traut. But Sun Prairie returns a deep and powerful group of 2019 seniors, including sprinters and relay standouts Cooper Nelson, Jaharee Weah and Dominick Landphier. A talented distance crue is led by seniors Ash Francis and Adam Tess, and the team’s impressive depth will mean strong relay crews. The top thrower will be senior Emmanuel Mielke.

Verona: Coach Joff Pedretti returns a deep and diverse roster of experienced athletes, led by defending Big Eight pole vault champion Max Herkert, sprinters Jayden Joe-Wright (who ranks second on the school’s all-time list in the 200) and Mason Jordan, and throwers Jackson Acker, Ben Vandervest and Dylan Bourne. “Throws (will be) a big strength of ours this year (and) we have one of the deepest sprint crews in school history,” Pedretti said.

Lodi: After powering to a runner-up finish behind Rice Lake in the Division 2 state meet, the Blue Devils must deal with very heavy graduation losses, including All-Area Track Athlete of the Year Robby Hatch, who won both hurdles races, and 800 champ Tanner Maier. Back is Owen Jelinek, who led off the second-place 1,600 relay (3:23.31) but is the only Lodi returnee who competed at state last year. Still, the Blue Devils are a perennial frontrunner in the Capitol North Conference and could develop into a power again.

Monroe: The Cheesemakers tied for third in the final Division 2 state standings, with lots of help from strong relay crews. Monroe won the Division 2 800 relay (1:29.29) and took seventh in the 400 relay with a crew that included current seniors Anthany Hernandez and anchor Jordan Montgomery. Monroe also was second in the 1,600 relay with an all-senior crew, and took third in the 3,200 relay with a team that included current junior Jake Brower.

Cambridge: Coach Sean Currie led the Blue Jays to the Capitol South Conference title and the WIAA Division 3 championship last year, the program’s first state title since 1987. Graduation cost the Blue Jays six seniors, but 18 letterwinners return, including three state champions. “If we can develop and stay injury-free, we can make another run at another championship at state,” Currie said.

Waunakee: Graduation hit the Warriors relatively hard, with four state qualifiers departing, but senior Sawyer Maly is back to lead a suddenly thinned-out sprint group after running on the third-place 400 relay last year, and hurdler Nathan Mais is back after joining Maly on the relay. The Warriors return Triston Vogt and Cole Hinton in the middle distance and distance events, with throwers Cole Fetters and Christiaan Koopmans also returning. Waunakee often has the deepest roster in the Badger North Conference, and will rely on the development of newcomers to build its challenge for the Badger North title.

Oregon: The Panthers scored 15 points to finish 18th at state last year, although seniors scored nine of those points. The only returnees who competed at state last year are senior Carter Henderson and junior Matt Kissling, who ran the first two legs of the third-place 1,600 relay (3:22.44).

TEN ATHLETES TO WATCH

Donovan Ahrens, sr., Cambridge: Ran the second leg on the Division 3 state champion 400 relay team (:44.14), helping the Blue Jays earn the state team title.

Jacob Dregney, sr., Reedsburg: Holds the school record in the 110-mneter hurdles and is aiming for a spot on the state-meet podium this season.

Caleb Easton, sr., Middleton: Took second in the Division 1 state 1,600-meter run last year (4:12.11) and ninth in the 3,200 (9:26.45). Also ran on the third-place 3,200 relay (7:59.07) with now-senior Michael Madoch and now-juniors Braedon Gilles and Zach Leffel). Was named first-team All-Area in the 1,600 and will run next school year for the three-time defending NCAA champion Northern Arizona cross country program.

Carter Hendrickson, sr., Oregon: Ran a :53.58 indoor 400-meter dash at UW-Platteville last week. Led off the 1,600 relay that took third at Division 1 state last year (3:22.44).

Rudy Hommen, sr., Cambridge: Won the Division 1 state title in the 100-meter dash (11.26 seconds) and was named honorable mention all-area. Also a coaches’ all-state football player.

Max Loetscher, sr., Madison East: Finished eighth in the D1 state 3,200 run last year (9:19.46) and will battle Easton and other Big Eight standouts throughout the season and postseason. Will run next season at Cornell.

Riley Olson, sr., Cambridge: Won the WIAA Division 3 state title in the 300 hurdles (39.14 seconds), ran on the winning 800 relay and was named second-team all-area. Also a coaches’ all-state football player.

Andrew Pahnke, sr., McFarland: Took sixth in the 1,600 and 12th in the 3,200 at Division 2 state last year (4:24.76 and 9:46.61) and was named honorable mention all-area in both events.

Collin Schulz, jr., Lakeside Lutheran: Cleared 6 feet, 6 inches to win the Division 2 state high jump title and earn first-team All-Area status.

Michael Williams-Davis, sr., Monona Grove: Earned first-team All-Area honors in shot put and discus after taking fourth at Division 1 state in the shot put (56-1) and ninth in the discus (155-5).

KEY DATES

Conference meets

May 10: Big Eight at Monterey Stadium, Janesville; Trailways at Dodgeland

May 11: Rock Valley at McFarland

May 14: Badger North at Waunakee; Badger South at Oregon; South Central at Wisconsin Dells; Southwest Wisconsin at Lancaster.

WIAA meets

Regionals: May 20, various locations

Sectionals: May 23, various locations

State meet: Friday-Saturday, May 31-June 1, UW-La Crosse

CONFERENCE OUTLOOKS

BADGER NORTH

The lowdown: Reedsburg and Waunakee are picked by Badger North coaches as the league favorites, with challenges expected from Beaver Dam, Baraboo and DeForest.

Reedsburg coach Phil Hasler returns 22 letterwinners, led by three seniors who have school records (or improvement on their own current school records) in mind, along with spots on the state-meet podium. They are hurdler Jacob Dregney, jumper Nick Crary (school triple-jump record holder) and long jumper and sprinter Ethan Lee. Depth is good, but the Beavers will need to avoid injuries to challenge Waunakee in the league.

Graduation hit Waunakee hard, with four state qualifiers departing, but senior Sawyer Maly is back to lead a suddenly thinned-out sprint group after running on the third-place 400 relay last year, and hurdler Nathan Mais is back after joining Maly on the relay. The Warriors return Triston Vogt and Cole Hinton in the middle distance and distance events, with throwers Cole Fetters and Christiaan Koopmans also returning. Waunakee often has the deepest roster in the Badger North Conference, and will rely on the development of newcomers to build its challenge for the Badger North title.

Baraboo coach Tom Leaver expects his team to improve on last year’s fourth-place finish in the Badger North, led by junior Tyson Fry, the defending conference champ in the shot put, sophomore Jake Schaefer, who qualified for state as a freshman discus thrower, and middle distance senior Josh Hackbarth. … Portage coach Brad Meixner expects his Warriors to finish in the middle of the league pack behind a strong group of young sprinters led by sophomore Hunter Collins and senior distance runner Tyler Jones, who took sixth at state cross country last fall. … Sauk Prairie will focus its rebuilding efforts around a deep distance crew that includes Hudson Haas, Camden Desroches, Casey Vande Hey and Sam Beattie.

Beaver Dam coach Hans Gochenauer hopes to challenge for a top-half finish in the Badger North with a roster built around Marquette University recruit Cade Ferron, who was 11th in the Division 1 state 1,600 last year. The rest of the roster includes plenty of unharnessed and unproven talent. Co-captains Zach Schoenberger and Keagan Stofflet will head up the throwers, and Gavin Czarnecki gives the Beavers another strong distance runner.

BADGER SOUTH

The lowdown: Monona Grove is an overwhelming pick to win what would be a third consecutive Badger South Conference title, with Monroe and Oregon seen as top challengers.

Monona Grove returns 15 letterwinners, but coach Brian Storms said a title repeat could be a challenge due to the departure of 22 seniors. The coach said the Silver Eagles will need younger athletes to contribute, “especially in sprints and jumps.” MG’s usual strong areas, throws and the pole vault, will again be among the best in the league, and the Silver Eagles have a deep distance crew.

Stoughton: Coach Trevor Kramolis welcomes back 16 letterwinners, and hopes to make up for last year’s senior star power with excellent depth. “We have a lot of new, raw talent out this season already showing flashes of special talent,” Kramolis said. Potential standouts include Dwight Walker and Nathan Hutcherson in jurdles and jumps, Tom Sheehy, Adam Hobson, Quinn Arnott and Carter Keo in jumps, Alex Wicks in pole vault and Parker Flint in distance. “I see us competing for the top three of the Badger South,” the coach said.

Monroe: The Cheesemakers tied for third in the final Division 2 state standings, with lots of help from strong relay crews. Monroe won the Division 2 800 relay (1:29.29) and took seventh in the 400 relay with a crew that included current seniors Anthany Hernandez and anchor Jordan Montgomery. Monroe also was second in the 1,600 relay with an all-senior crew, and took third in the 3,200 relay with a team that included current junior Jake Brower.

Oregon returns eight letterwinners, led by senior middle distance and relays standout Carter Hendrickson, who will run for UW-Oshkosh next season, and junior speedster Matt Kissling. Returning are sprinters Blake Anderson (also a pole vaulter) and Ben Adams (also a high jumper). The top returning thrower is junior Adam Yates.

Watertown lost all four of its 2018 state qualifiers to graduation, but returns seven letterwinners led by thrower Tyler Bartz, distance runner Matthew Engel and high jumper Ty Jahnke.

Milton returns Cole Gilitzer, who earned a state-meet trip in the triple jump last year. He’ll be one of eight senior leaders on the Red Hawks’ roster. Senior Nick Patrick will lead in the distance events, and junior Kyle Hanauska will run sprints.

Madison Edgewood coach Jeff Gifford expects the Crusaders’ rebuilding program to continue moving forward, with only six letterwinners lost and 14 returning. However, the team still has only five seniors — although one of them will be distance standout Matt Gilles, a Division 2 state cross country qualifier last fall who missed the 2018 track and field season due to injury. Also back are distance sophomore Leo Richardson, Travis Drumm in the 200 and 400, Tommy Beyer in the middle distances and Alejandro Trinidad-Echeverria in the hurdles and jumps.

Fort Atkinson coach Dennis Schwedrsky has a young roster, with more than half the crew made up of first-year athletes. The runner to watch is senior Jeremiah Mansavage, a sectional qualifier last year in the 400 and 1,600.

BIG EIGHT CONFERENCE

The lowdown: Though there could be challengers, the sensible pick is a deep Middleton program that has won a Big Eight-record six consecutive conference titles.

Middleton coach Joe Line has proven experience, a deep lineup and talented newcomers — all the three ingredients that help a dynasty maintain its excellence. The six-time Big Eight champs are led by senior distance standout Caleb Easton (who can also excel at middle distances) and senior sprinter Logan Prichard. Big years are expected from junior sprinter Joey Kean, captain Dylan Kalscheur in the discus and defending Big Eight 400 champ Eagan Peters-Michaud. “We have a lot of young talent that we need to mature in the track and field world,” Line said, including sophomore Josh Stormer, new to the track this year after playing lacrosse as a freshman.

Verona returns a deep and diverse roster of experienced athletes, led by defending Big Eight pole vault champion Max Herkert, sprinters Jayden Joe-Wright (who ranks second on the school’s all-time list in the 200) and Mason Jordan, and throwers Jackson Acker, Ben Vandervest and Dylan Bourne. “Throws (will be) a big strength of ours this year (and) we have one of the deepest sprint crews in school history,” coach Joff Pedretti said.

Sun Prairie enjoyed a program-best runner-up finish in the Big Eight least year, but will have to deal with the graduation loss of several of that team’s top performers. Coach Doug Maughan’s only returning state qualifier is senior pole vaulter Ryan Traut. Don’t fret, though, as the Cardinals return a deep and powerful group of 2019 seniors, including sprinters and relay standouts Cooper Nelson, Jaharee Weah and Dominick Landphier. A talented distance crue is led by seniors Ash Francis and Adam Tess, and the team’s impressive depth will mean strong relay crews. The top thrower will be senior Emmanuel Mielke.

Madison Memorial coach Bill Richardson returns 18 letterwinners and is shooting for a top-three finish in a strong Big Eight. “We are returning several of the members of our relays that went to state last year and have a strong group of young athletes who are looking to fill the shoes of our departed seniors.” Senior sprinter Kaevon Buchanan, senior pole vaulter Peter Sorge and senior thrower Collin Kennedy will be leaders.

Madison West has a new head coach in Casey Green, marking the end of the Tom Kaufman era. West returns several standouts, including thrower Patrick Horvath, sprinters Kelvin and Kollins Opoku-Appoh and 400 runner Kaleb Kohn, hurdler Matias Laurila and a perennially strong crew of distance runners led by Ryan Reed.

Madison East coach Matthew Peters has standouts across the spectrum of events, led by distance runner Max Loetscher, junior Dakarai Clay, sprinters Xavier Madden and Jordan Shields, miler Henry Hansen and sophomore hurdler Nick Hildal.

Madison La Follette is blessed with a bevy of talent in the jumps. At the season-opening Nelson-Daniel Classic at UW-Whitewater, senior Ladell Cannon cleared 44 feet, 8 ½ inches to win the long jump and senior Moussa Ndiaye cleared 6-4 to win the high jump.

Janesville Parker returns a strong crew of sprinters and pole vaulters, led by seniors Luke Roca and Tyler Blum. Also in the mix are junior 400 runner Zack Schoville, sophomore distance runner Aiden Schuh, senior hurdler and long jumper Brody Lippens and sophomore high jumper Ke’shawn Pritchard.

Janesville Craig will be led by senior Trevion Moore, who ran into trouble in the 100 hurdles finals last year and finished 10th in :17.24 — after finishing in :14.66 in the preliminaries. Also back are senior 800 runner Aaron Leverson and sophomore miler Bryan Bloomquist.

Beloit Memorial will be led by senior sprinter and high jumper Lucas Laun-Smith, junior triple jumper Shelvin Garrett, senior sprinter Eric Bridges, junior middle distance runner Kobe Chandler and senior distance runner Rogelio Barrales.

CAPITOL

Cambridge won the Capitol South Conference title and went on to take the WIAA Division 3 state title last year, its first championship since 1976. Eighth-year coach Sean Currie returns three runners who won state titles as individuals or relay competitors last year, along with sophomores who performed well last year and “a couple talented freshman kids that should be highly competitive,” including distance runner Zach Huffman and jumper/sprinters Trey Colts and Peter Schmude.

Belleville/New Glarus lost its only state qualifier from last year to graduation (Dalton Fahey), but returns 11 letterwinners in what coach Willy Johnson predicts will be a “wide open” conference race.

Marshall is shooting to move into the top half of the deep Capitol South, as coach Eric Cobb says the team has lost only four letterwinners, with 12 back. Among the returnees are senior sprinter/thrower Ben Lusk, sophomore middle distance/hurdler Reese Collins and senior pole vaulter Noah Freeman.

Poynette, of the Capitol North, has a new head coach in Charlotte Reddeman, and only one senior in pole vaulter and sprinter Gabe Yelk. Other leaders will be Elias Ritzke in the 3,200, Brayden O’Connor in the sprints and long jump, Jake Buss in the high jump and hurdles and Christian Bault in the triple jump and relays.

AROUND THE AREA

McFarland co-head coach Mark Pankow returns 15 letterwinners, including a strong and deep distance crew. The leader of the distance runners is senior Andrew Pahnke, who took sixth in the 1,600 and 12th in the 3,200 at Division 2 state last year and took second in the WIAA Division 2 state cross country meet last fall. Pankow hopes the Spartans will develop depth in the sprints and field events to build a Rock Valley Conference challenger behind league favorite East Troy and top challengers Whitewater and Jefferson.

River Valley coach Kevin Billington lost the only athlete who competed in the sectional meet to graduation last year, so a rebuilding plan is in place. There are 13 letterwinners back, including many who competed for the varsity as freshmen and sophomores. Billington sees Platteville and Dodgeville/Mineral Point as the favorites in the Southwest Wisconsin Conference.

Johnson Creek coach Paula Constable said her team aims to move up from last year’s 13th-place finish (of 17 teams) in the Trailways Conference, but has lost seven seniors to graduation and has only three back. Only 12 athletes are on the roster, but newcomers such as freshman Skylor Griffiths (sprints and jumps), junior Sam Budig (sprints, jumps, pole vault), junior Lukas David (throws) and sophomore Leo Sabua (throws). Nick Hoffman took seventh in the shot put at conference last year.

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