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Prep girls track preview: Sun Prairie appears ready to go the distance in Big Eight race once again
PREP GIRLS TRACK AND FIELD | SEASON PREVIEW

Prep girls track preview: Sun Prairie appears ready to go the distance in Big Eight race once again

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Prep girls track photo: Monona Grove's Ali Dorn

Monona Grove's Ali Dorn, right, finished first in the WIAA Division 1 100-meter dash last June in La Crosse. The 2018 All-Area Athlete of the Year in girls track is battling an injury suffered during volleyball season, currently going through physical therapy with the hope of returning later in the season.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

Big-name injuries: Monona Grove senior Ali Dorn, who won the WIAA Division 1 state championship in the 100 and earned runner-up finishes in the 200 and 400, suffered a knee injury during volleyball season and is still recovering, coach Sharon Fritz said. “She is currently doing physical therapy and is still a participating member of our team,” Fritz said. Dorn has committed to run at the University of Wisconsin. Also, Janesville Parker senior Julia Hartwig, who took third at state in the shot put and fifth in discus last year, will likely miss the season due to an injury suffered during basketball season.

Battle in the South: The Badger South Conference, always a knock-down, drag-out battle, will bring more of the same this season. The league has tightened up considerably with the graduation of standout Alexis Jackson from Oregon’s reigning league champions, and the injury suffered by Monona Grove leader Ali Dorn. “There are potentially five teams that could contend for the conference title,” said Watertown coach Christopher Mertens, whose Lady Goslings finished second last year in their first-ever Badger South meet. “Watertown should be one of those teams.”

Dropping to Division 2: For the first time, Portage will compete as a Division 2 school in this year’s WIAA tournament series. After competing in the Division 1 Middleton sectional last year, this year the Warriors will compete in the Richland Center regional and East Troy sectional. Also, Sun Prairie has been shifted to the Lake Geneva Badger sectional in Division 1, instead of the Madison-area sectional.

TEAMS TO WATCH

Sun Prairie: Coach Doug Maughan’s program draws nothing but respect from coaches in the Big Eight, having won the last two league championships and nine of the last 11. For one thing, the Cardinals should have the best distance crew around, following last fall’s runner-up performance in the WIAA Division 1 state meet. The distance and middle-distance crew is led by senior Maddie Thompson, a University of Minnesota recruit, but others such as Lauren Bruemmer, Claire Darmstadter, Autumn Dushack, Amber Hodges, Kate Kopotic, Hanna Ray and Dani Thompson will pile up the points. Top sprinters will be seniors Jile Garwo, Samantha Kreft, Ashley O’Connell (also a top pole vaulter) and sophomore Skye Lindsey. Sophomore Brooke Crosby will lead the hurdle crew.

Monona Grove: With a first-place in the 100 and runner-up finishes in the 200 and 400, now-senior Ali Dorn scored 26 points for the Silver Eagles in the Division 1 state meet — all of Monona Grove’s points, and enough for a fifth-place tie with La Follette in the team standings. Dorn is on the mend from a knee injury, but the rest of the senior lineup is deep: Payton Jenks-Recker was the leadoff runner on last year’s 3,200 relay, other top sprinters will be Kailey DeVault and Dayna Johnson, top jumpers will be Brianna Edmonston, Caleigh Lueder and Kayt Smith, and the distance crew should be led by Rachel Yundt. Other top performers should be juniors Jaydee Christiansen, Vanessa Thomas and Abby Capaert and sophomores Teal Coil-Otto and school 3,200 record-holder Peighton Nelson.

Madison Memorial: Coach Drew Slempkes’ team was a consistent runner-up last year, taking second in the Big Eight and WIAA regional and sectional races. Nineteen Spartans athletes qualified for the Division 1 state meet. Six individuals who qualified for state return among 23 letterwinners. Returning state qualifiers are thrower Reette Thorns and Cynthia Rosales, sprinters Grace Korger and Jenai Miller and middle distance runners Hayley Gaines and Gabri Gaines. Charlotte Sweet is back in the sprints and pole vault, and captains Malia Bissen, Alyana Enemuoh, Elle Kinne, Mikaela Miller and Kaylie Podvin will provide leadership.

Middleton: The Cardinals have a record number of athletes out for track — 112 athletes — and coach Cory Christnovich’s team is looking to move up from last year’s fourth-place Big Eight finish. Last year’s team MVP, junior middle-distance standout Hadley Braaten, returns along with senior jumper/sprinter Jen McGinnis and sophomore jumper and hurdler Sitori Tanin, who turned heads in her first year of track and field competition last year. Also back are senior sprinters Autumn Delaney, Clara Cownie and Juliana Castillo and junior sprinter Tai Pritts. Other leaders will be sophomore Charlotte Buck and seniors Iris Ohlrogge and Margaret Patterson in distances and senior Marie Mayers in hurdles. Senior middle distance standout Erika Rader returns to the team after spending last spring at the Wisconsin Conserve School.

Monroe: Coach Eric Jubeck hopes to steer his Cheesemakers toward the top of the talent-packed Badger South field. “We have an opportunity to compete for the conference championship,” Jubeck said. Senior Cammi Ganshert will lead the way after taking second in the Division 2 state 200 dash last year. Cassi Gersbach scored 30 points in the conference meet as a sophomore last year, taking second in the triple jump, long jump and 300 hurdles. Senior Faith Koester won the conference high jump (5-2) last year, Emma Sanders ran on the fourth-place 800 relay and junior Chloe Bunker qualified for state in the shot put.

Oregon: The Panthers won the Badger South title last year, their first conference championship in 21 years, but lost superstar hurdler Alexis Jackson to graduation and the University of Wisconsin, and senior sprinter Scarlet Egwuonwu to a year studying abroad in the Eastern European nation of Moldova. Back are senior sprinter Alexis Karls, junior sprinter Jenna Sharkus, senior distance runner Lauren Beauchaine, junior middle-distance runners Izzie Peterson and Liz Uhl and sophomore Halle Bush. Junior Isabella Egwuonwu, Scarlet’s sister, returns in the hurdles, along with sophomore Isabella Nowka.

Waunakee: Last year, the Warriors won a repeat Badger North Conference title and qualified 13 individuals to the WIAA Division 1 state meet. Of those 2018 state qualifiers, only one was a senior. “Waunakee will be the favorite until someone else proves otherwise,” DeForest coach C.K. Smith said. “They get a ton of talent each spring and typically don’t have any holes in their lineup.”

Madison La Follette: The Lancers return senior jumper Kiara Lee, who won the triple jump and took second in the long jump at Division 1 state last year, helping the Lancers tie Monona Grove for fifth place in the team standings. Though the Lancers’ other top jumper, Tyra Turner, has graduated, La Follette returns state qualifiers Ayona Johnson (throws) and senior Kaytlin Eder and junior Kayla Hollis (relays).

Jefferson: Coach Doug Siegert’s defending Rock Valley Conference champions (and fourth-place team finisher in Division 2) appear poised for a repeat run in the conference, despite the graduation of Emily Stendel, now a thrower at the University of Minnesota. Senior Mariah Linse returns after taking sixth in the Division 2 state 3,200 last year. Sophomores Makenzie Hottinger and Ahna Kammer ran in the state 3,200 relay last year, and sophomore Josie Peterson qualified in the long jump. Olivia Ganser returns after making state in the triple jumpKayla Kloss qualified for state as a junior thrower and is back this year.

Johnson Creek: Coach Paula Constable’s team returns a strong crew with state-meet experience — led by junior Hannah Constable, who won the Division 3 state title in the 800 and finished third in the 400 last year. She also ran on the 800 relay team that set a Trailways Conference record. Other returning leaders are senior Taylor Hallam (a state qualifier in the 300 hurdles and a UW-Parkside recruit), senior Kittana Kulig (who ran at state in the sixth-place 1,600 relay, along with Hallam, junior Mateah Roehl and Constable). Roehl has added the pole vault to her repertoire this year. The Bluejays have 13 athletes this season — not many by comparison to larger schools, but a big jump over last year’s seven athletes.

ATHLETES TO WATCH

Hannah Constable, jr., Johnson Creek: Won a repeat WIAA Division 3 state championship in the 800-meter run last season, with a time of 2:16.68 that was better than any of the times recorded in Divisions 1 or 2 at state. Also ran to third in the 400 (:56.99) and anchored the sixth-place 1,600 relay (4:10.90). A first-team All-Area pick in the 800.

Kiara Donnell, sr., Belleville/New Glarus: The sprinter earned unanimous Performer of the Year honors in the Capitol South Conference this year, qualifying for Division 2 state state in the 100-meter dash (:12.77).

Ali Dorn, sr., Monona Grove: The reigning State Journal All-Area Athlete of the Year in track and field. Dorn won the Division 1 championship in the 100 dash (12.26 seconds) and took second in the 200 (:25.10) and 400 (:54.78). She was named first-team all-area in all three events.

Cammi Ganshert, sr., Monroe: The Division 2 runner-up in the 200 last year (:26.02), Ganshert also finished fifth in the 100 (:12.73) and ran on the fourth-place 800 relay (1:46.03), joined by now-senior Emma Sanders. Ganshert has made the state podium seven times and scored 34 points in previous state meets, coach Eric Jubeck said.

Mackenzie Heyroth, sr., Lodi: Ran to second place at Division 2 state in the 100-meter hurdles (:15.12), took fourth in the 300 hurdles (:46.14) and led off the Blue Devils’ fifth-place 1,600 relay team (4:02.33), joined by now-senior returnees Hannah Busser, Isabelle Clary and Rhianna Walzer.

Reagan Hoopes, jr., Waunakee: Finished seventh in the 3,200 (11:13.39) and ninth in the 1,600 (5:05.81) at Division 1 state.

Kiara Lee, sr., Madison La Follette: Won the Division 1 state title in the triple jump (40-¼) and took second in the long jump (18-11¼). Was named first-team all-area in both events.

Sophee Mink, sr., DeForest: The Division 1 state runner-up and all-area first-team performer in the high jump last year, clearing 5-6.

Maeve O’Driscoll, jr., Madison Edgewood: Returns after running on the Crusaders’ Division 2 state champion 3,200 relay crew (9:25.40), along with senior Kaitlyn Barth. O’Driscoll also finished fifth in the 400 (:59.02).

Leah Remiker, jr., Verona: The reigning Division 1 state champion in the 800 (2:18.35) and a second-team all-area pick in the event.

Maddie Thompson, sr., Sun Prairie: The University of Minnesota recruit finished ninth at state cross country last fall, two spots behind sophomore teammate Katie Kopotic. She took 16th in the Division 1 state meet in the 1,600 last year and leads a very deep crew of Cardinals distance and middle-distance runners.

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 postseason

Regionals: May 20.

Sectionals: May 23.

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

CONFERENCE OUTLOOKS

BADGER NORTH

Baraboo, under second-year coach Nicholas Geiger, returns 21 letterwinners and lost only two to graduation last season. As a result, the Thunderbirds are expected to challenge Waunakee, Beaver Dam and Mount Horeb for a top-three spot in the Badger North. Eight seniors will provide leadership across the array of events, including state discus qualifier Alexis Johnson and sectional sprinter Chloe Uphoff. Juniors Jennier Arias (sprints, jumps) and Molly Stewart (distance) will contribute, and sophomore Jordan Buelow qualified for the sectional in the 100 dash last year.

Beaver Dam coach Hans Gochenauer has a wealth of talent in running events, and the emergence of potentially powerful contributors in the field events could spell the difference between a top-half finish in the Badger North Conference and a challenge to league favorite Waunakee. “I feel like this is the first year where the ball is really starting to roll down the hill now,” the coach said. Captains are juniors Sydney Hocker, Jessica Dray, Yocelyne Hernandez and sophomore Angelique Vega. Junior Jada Donaldson, a UW-Milwaukee basketball commit, has switched from distances to sprints this year, to help boost team scoring potential.

DeForest returns 15 letterwinners under 19th-year coach C.K. Smith. The leader will be Sophee Mink, who could compete for a Badger North triple crown as she won the triple jump last year and took second in the high jump and long jump. “Our season success all comes down to staying healthy and consistent improvement,” Smith said.

Mount Horeb hopes to challenge for a top-three finish in the league, behind a distance crew that qualified for state in cross country last fall, led by sophomore Anna Ollendick. Sophomore Emily Fountas could emerge in the middle distances. Junior Elise Goetzinger qualified for state in the high jump last year.

Sauk Prairie coach Andy Sherman returns 16 letterwinners, including jumper/sprinters Samantha Marx, Olivia Smith, Carina Meixelsperger and Kiersten Kobussen, and pole vaulters Audrey Pape and Grace Williams.

Portage coach Brad Meixner hopes his Warriors can improve on last year’s seventh-place finish in the Badger North. Among the 15 returning letterwinners are sophomores Makenna Bisch, Genna Garrigan and Emma Kreuziger, all of whom qualified for sectionals in relay races last year.

Waunakee, the two-time defending conference champ (and reigning cross country champ), returns six athletes who competed in the state meet last year: Distance runners Reagan Hoops and Riley Armstrong, sprinters Sarah Bova, Chloe Larsen and Monique Thole and hurdler Hayley Krysinski. Top jumpers are Kiana Schmitt and Jocelyn Meinholz, Hailey Christianson will lead the pole vaulters and Natalie Phebus will lead the throwers.

BADGER SOUTH

Monona Grove: With a first-place in the 100 and runner-up finishes in the 200 and 400, now-senior Ali Dorn scored 26 points for the Silver Eagles in the Division 1 state meet — all of Monona Grove’s points, and enough for a fifth-place tie with La Follette in the team standings. Dorn is on the mend from a knee injury, but the rest of the senior lineup is deep: Payton Jenks-Recker was the leadoff runner on last year’s 3,200 relay, other top sprinters will be Kailey DeVault and Dayna Johnson, top jumpers will be Brianna Edmonston, Caleigh Lueder and Kayt Smith, and the distance crew should be led by Rachel Yundt. Other top performers should be juniors Jaydee Christiansen, Vanessa Thomas and Abby Capaert and sophomores Teal Coil-Otto and school 3,200 record-holder Peighton Nelson.

Oregon won the Badger South title last year, the Panthers’ first conference championship in 21 years, but lost superstar hurdler Alexis Jackson to graduation and the University of Wisconsin, and senior sprinter Scarlet Egwuonwu to a year studying abroad in the Eastern European nation of Moldova. Back are senior sprinter Alexis Karls, junior sprinter Jenna Sharkus, senior distance runner Lauren Beauchaine, junior middle-distance runners Izzie Peterson and Liz Uhl and sophomore Halle Bush. Junior Isabella Egwuonwu, Scarlet’s sister, returns in the hurdles, along with sophomore Isabella Nowka.

Monroe coach Eric Jubeck hopes to steer his Cheesemakers toward the top of the talent-packed Badger South field. “We have an opportunity to compete for the conference championship,” Jubeck said. Senior Cammi Ganshert will lead the way after taking second in the Division 2 state 200 dash last year. Cassi Gersbach scored 30 points in the conference meet as a sophomore last year, taking second in the triple jump, long jump and 300 hurdles. Senior Faith Koester won the conference high jump (5-2) last year, Emma Sanders ran on the fourth-place 800 relay and junior Chloe Bunker qualified for state in the shot put.

Watertown, last year’s conference runner-up under coach Chris Mertens, returns two of last year’s four state-meet qualifiers among 16 returning letterwinners. The state qualifiers were junior throwers Rachel Moldenhauer (the reigning Badger South runner-up in the shot put) and Olivia Mattke. Leading the sprinting/jumping crews will be junior Johnaycia Holmes, Olivia Otto, Madison Holley and Megan Woodward and sophomore Teya Maas. Top distance runners will be seniors Sheridan Dettmann and Marissa Wackett. Also back are senior hurdler Daijah Bolden and senior pole vaulter Olivia Lueck.

Stoughton coach Deanna Arnold saw the Vikings get a big boost to their sprint and jump lineup when Peighton Trieloff and Hannah Wirag switched to track from the girls soccer team. However, top discus thrower Chloe Silbaugh decided not to come out this year. Plenty of returnees are back from last year’s seventh-place finisher, including state qualifiers Alex Ashworth, Grace Jenny, Ellie Trieloff and Abby Kittleson in the 3,200 relay, sectional qualifiers Gina Owen (1,600) and Margaret Ross (3,200), and top pole vaulter Micah Zaemisch. “We have a young team, but also have strong upperclassmen leaders,” Arnold said. “We are hoping to place in the top three at conference.”

Milton coach Matt Lee’s team returns state high jump qualifier Katie Chesebro and fellow senior jumper Marilla Smith, sophomore sprinter/jumper Lindsey Heitsman and senior jumper Sophie Randall. Junior jumper Hannah Warosh also should contribute.

Madison Edgewood returns an experienced group of proven performers, but coach Gary Thornton’s squad will need youngsters and newcomers to step right up and contribute if the Crusaders want to challenge the league leaders in team competition. The 3,200 relay crew won state last year and returns senior Kaitlyn Barth and junior Maeve O’Driscoll — who is last year’s top returning point scorer. Both also enjoyed success and gained big-meet experience with the Division 2 state champion Edgewood girls swimming team. Also back are senior sprinter Aarika de Macedo, senior jumper Alex Richter and Emily Schauer, junior hurdler Hannah Kolpien, junior distance runner Emily Maiers and sophomores Sydney Olson and Joelle Browne. Early noise could come from freshman sprinters Nakita Lebbe, Brokelle Ternus and Megan Marshall.

Fort Atkinson has a smaller lineup this year, after taking last in the conference meet in 2018, but veteran coach Dennis Schwedrsky said “we have some highly motivated juniors and seniors who should provide excellent leadership.” Among the returnees are 2018 Division 1 sectional qualifiers Jenna Lovejoy in distances, Lauren Bilau (the school record-holder in the pole vault), Brooke Hartwig in distances, Olivia Koch in throws, and Maddie Hansen and Ashley Hannam in jumps.

BIG EIGHT

Sun Prairie draws nothing but respect from coaches in the Big Eight, having won the last two league championships and nine of the last 11. For one thing, coach Doug Maughan’s team should be expected to have the best distance crew around, following last fall’s dominant performance in the WIAA Division 1 state meet. The distance and middle-distance crew is led by senior Maddie Thompson, a University of Minnesota recruit, but others such as Lauren Bruemmer, Claire Darmstadter, Autumn Dushack, Amber Hodges, Kate Kopotic, Hanna Ray and Dani Thompson will pile up the points. Top sprinters will be seniors Jile Garwo, Samantha Kreft, Ashley O’Connell (also a top pole vaulter) and sophomore Skye Lindsey. Sophomore Brooke Crosby will lead the hurdle crew.

Madison Memorial coach Drew Slempkes was a consistent runner-up last year, taking second in the Big Eight and WIAA regional and sectional races. Nineteen Spartans athletes qualified for the Division 1 state meet. Six individuals who qualified for state return among 23 letterwinners. Returning state qualifiers are thrower Reette Thorns and Cynthia Rosales, sprinters Grace Korger and Jenai Miller and middle distance runners Hayley Gaines and Gabri Gaines. Charlotte Sweet is back in the sprints and pole vault, and captains Malia Bissen, Alyana Enemuoh, Elle Kinne, Mikaela Miller and Kaylie Podvin will provide leadership.

Middleton has a record number of athletes out for track — 112 athletes — and coach Cory Christnovich’s team is looking to move up from last year’s fourth-place Big Eight finish. Last year’s team MVP, junior middle-distance standout Hadley Braaten, returns along with senior jumper/sprinter Jen McGinnis and sophomore jumper and hurdler Sitori Tanin, who turned heads in her first year of track and field competition last year. Also back are senior sprinters Autumn Delaney, Clara Cownie and Juliana Castillo and junior sprinter Tai Pritts. Other leaders will be sophomore Charlotte Buck and seniors Iris Ohlrogge and Margaret Patterson in distances and senior Marie Mayers in hurdles. Senior middle distance standout Erika Rader returns to the team after spending last spring at the Wisconsin Conserve School.

Madison La Follette returns senior jumper Kiara Lee, who won the triple jump and took second in the long jump at Division 1 state last year, helping the Lancers tie Monona Grove for fifth place in the team standings. Though the Lancers’ other top jumper, Tyra Turner, has graduated, La Follette returns state qualifiers Ayona Johnson (throws) and senior Kaytlin Eder and junior Kayla Hollis (relays).

Madison West is a monster in the making, with three of the state’s most impressive freshmen lining up to lead the distance events for coach Casey Green’s Regents. The list is led, of course, by Genevieve Nashold, who won the WIAA Division 1 individual cross country title by more than 16 seconds last fall. Also expected to make a big splash are Cecily Greblo (27th at state cross country) and Rosa Greblo. Senior Andi Bowman and Ella Kunstman also return, and Green said Bowman “has a chance to have a huge season.” Green also expects big things from Emma Peterson (hurdles and sprints), Carson Drury (800 and high jump), Kristina Rohrer (800) and Grayson Funk (throws).

Janesville Parker has a new head coach in Mark Little, and is led by Ryann Porter , who led the team in points last year, set a school record in the triple jump and qualified for state in that event and the 100 hurdles. Also back is the versatile Brooke Graesslin, who in the past has qualified for state track in the 400 and state cross country. Tina Shelton missed almost all of last season with an injury, and will take a slow approach to the start of this season, but is expected to contribute late. Pole vaulter Taylor Grams qualified for state last year. Little expects that Julia Hartwig, who took third at state in the shot put and fifth in discus last year, will likely miss the season due to an injury suffered during basketball season.

AROUND THE AREA

Poynette coach Charlotte Reddeman returns six athletes from last year, but five are only sophomores. The only senior is Tilly Peterson. However, Reddeman said “we have a good group of freshmen coming in, hopefully providing a bit more depth.” Leaders should be junior middle-distance runner Abby Marquardt and senior Katelyn Chadwick (a state qualifier in the 1,600), and sophomore jumpers/sprinters Megan Reddeman (also a pole vaulter) and Jessica Bruchs. Reddeman hopes the Pumas can finish in the middle of the Capitol North Conference pack, chasing favorites Lodi and Lakeside Lutheran.

Marshall coach Eric Cobb is hopeful that his Cardinals can challenge for a Capitol South title this year, led by senior Claire Huggett in the 800 and 1,600, sophomore Mya Andrews in the hurdles and jumps, senior Anahi Bonilla in the sprints and junior Gianna Dugan in distances.

Belleville/New Glarus will be led by senior sprinter Kiara Donnell, the unanimous Capitol South Performer of the Year last season. She is one of six seniors on the Sugar River Raiders’ roster, and the team has 17 letterwinners back from last year’s fifth-place finisher. “On any given day, any of the Capitol South teams could win,” coach Willy Johnson said.

Evansville coach Greg Vossekuil enters his second year with a very young lineup led by junior McKenzie Fillner, who ran to 15th in the Division 2 state 1,600. Goals are to finish in the top half of the Rock Valley Conference and send at least two performers to state. Jefferson is the league favorite, with a challenge expected from Edgerton. Freshman distance runner Madeline Stuart and sophomore hurdler Fiona Hermanson should contribute.

River Valley coach Kevin Billington advanced two relays and two individuals to sectional competition last year, after a sixth-place finish in the Southwest Wisconsin Conference. The crew has eight returning letterwinners, and the roster has grown from 19 athletes to 26. Platteville and Dodgeville/Mineral Point are seen as the favorites in the SWC.

Johnson Creek coach Paula Constable’s team returns a strong crew with state-meet experience — led by junior Hannah Constable, the coach's daughter, who won the Division 3 state title in the 800 and finished third in the 400 last year. She also ran on the 800 relay team that set a Trailways Conference record. Other returning leaders are senior Taylor Hallam (a state qualifier in the 300 hurdles and a UW-Parkside recruit), senior Kittana Kulig (who ran at state in the sixth-place 1,600 relay, along with Hallam, junior Mateah Roehl and Constable). Roehl has added the pole vault to her repertoire this year. The Bluejays have 13 athletes this season — not many by comparison to larger schools, but a big jump over last year’s seven athletes.

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