It’ll be a veteran Baraboo team that takes the track at Veterans Memorial Stadium in La Crosse this weekend.
Of the 11 Thunderbirds competing in the WIAA Division 1 state track and field meet on Friday and Saturday, eight are seniors, eight have competed in La Crosse before, and two have been on the state podium.
Those podium finishes came in the discus, with Josie Schaefer and Kelsey Judge placing first and sixth, respectively, in Division 1 last season. The seniors will be looking to get back up there when the discus competition begins at 4:30 p.m. on Friday.
Schaefer is the favorite to repeat with a qualifying throw of 165 feet, four inches, more than 32 feet ahead of second-place Natalie Mohring (133-01), of D.C. Everest. Judge will also be in the final group, using a sectional throw of 124-04 to tie for the seventh-best qualifying mark.
Last year, it took a throw of 162-00 for Schaefer to win the title, while Judge used a toss of 130-02 to take sixth.
“Obviously being on the podium again this year,” Judge said of her goal. “Just stay focused and really peak right now, that’d be great, 130 would be a good number for me.”
It’ll be the fourth state trip for Schaefer and the third for Judge, but the duo will be joined by a first-timer in Hannah Braun in the shot put on Saturday. Schaefer, Judge and Braun swept the shot put at the Middleton sectional last week, putting together the three best throws out of a 17-school meet.
“We’ll all be up there together and it’ll be fun to watch each other compete,” Judge said. “We’re pretty good with each other, we don’t fight or anything like that.”
Braun will be making her first trip to state after setting personal bests at regionals (36-09) and sectionals (37-06.5).
“I think the warm weather has really helped, and staying warm in between throws,” Braun said of her recent performances.
Judge, who will throw at Winona State University next year, will also be competing in the shot put at state for the first time after taking second in sectionals (38-08.75).
Schaefer, who won the sectional title with a throw of 46-05.75, is looking to improve upon her fourth-place finish from a season ago. The future University of Wisconsin track athlete will have to get past Ashwaubenon’s Erin Dunning, the defending state champion with a mark of 46.02.5. Those two have the top qualifying throws, as Schaefer went 46-05.75 at sectionals and Dunning posted a 45-02.5.
While Schaefer was expected to win sectionals, Baraboo’s 4x100-meter relay team was somewhat surprised when they crossed the line in first place in Middleton. The quartet of senior Kaylee Mueller, sophomore Jamie Runnels, senior Hannah Crowe and senior Emily Kieck put together a time of 50.24 to win the sectional title and earn a place in heat three at state.
“We were seeded fifth or sixth, and we knew with the times that we should make it (to state), but we didn’t think that we were going to get first at all,” Kieck said. “When I was crossing the finish line I was like ‘oh my gosh, that was not supposed to happen.’”
What made the difference?
“Getting Kaylee back, because we didn’t have her until sectionals,” Runnels said of Mueller, who competed in the 100-meter dash at state the last two seasons but missed the last three weeks of this year with an illness.
They’d like to run in Saturday’s finals, but their focus is time-based, with the goal of dipping under the 50-second mark on Friday.
The quartet brings plenty of experience to the track, as the same group competed in the 4x100-meter relay (14th, :50.05) and the 4x200-meter relay (16th, 1:45.20) at the 2016 state track meet. They admitted to being nervous going into last year, so it’ll be nice to be a little more relaxed this time around.
“I’m excited to be in La Crosse again,” Mueller said. “I love going up there, it’s fun.”
“To compete against the best track athletes that year and to end our season in La Crosse is pretty cool,” Kieck added.
Crowe said the 4x100 should have her ready to go for the 300-meter hurdles, which she qualified for with a school-record time of 46.80 seconds at sectionals.
“I’m been working to break it since sophomore year, so I finally did it and it was nice, it was a happy moment,” Crowe said. “I just needed to push myself and (coach Tom) Leaver kept telling me to (break it), and I finally listened.”
Crowe, who will run in heat three, finished 19th in the 300-meter hurdles last season (:48.25).
“I was in lane eight, and it was just a bad lane and every girl is super fast, so it didn’t go so well,” Crowe said. “But this year I think I’ll be less nervous and I’ll treat it like how hard I went at sectionals, so I think I’ll do okay.”
On the boys’ side, Kody Weiland and Kyle Weiland will have a busy couple of days, starting with the long jump at 4:30 p.m. on Friday. Kyle put together a sectional jump of 22-04, while Kody advanced with a qualifying mark of 44-02.75. The twins should have a shot at the podium, as Waukesha West’s Adam Lembke and Germantown’s Shon Pratcher were the lone athletes to go beyond 23 feet at sectionals.
They’ll each compete in a track event on Friday night, as Kody qualified with a time of 22.31 seconds in the 200-meter dash and Kyle used a school-record time of 39.01 seconds to advance in the 300-meter hurdles.
They’ll return at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday for the triple jump, where Kyle has a qualifying mark of 45-07 and Kody advanced with a 44-02.75 at sectionals.
The goal for both Kody and Kyle is to reach as many finals as they can and then look to take that next step and podium.
“Long and triple jump have been going pretty good for me this year, especially at sectionals and regionals,” Kyle said. “So I’m just hoping to do my best and make podium. That’s the final goal I guess, to make podium.”
For the Weilands, the weekend will cap off a senior year in which they burst onto the scene.
“Putting more work in the offseason and really listening to the coaches and what they had to say helped me,” Kody said. “Other years I didn’t do as much lifting in the offseason and stuff.”
At last season’s state meet, Kody placed 11th in the long jump (21-06.50) while Kyle took 17th in the 300-meter hurdles (:41.25) and was part of Baraboo’s 4x400-meter relay team that took 22nd (3:31.41).
“I went to state in the 300 hurdles last year and it didn’t play out very well,” Kyle said. “So this year I’m hoping to redeem myself in that especially.”
Unlike last year, they’ll be competing against each other in a pair of events this time around.
“Sophomore year I went in long jump, junior year I went in triple jump, so I kind of know what’s going on in those events but don’t really know what to expect in the 200 and 4x200,” Kody said. “Being in the same event (as Kyle) might help me, because I’m going to push myself to try to be better than Kyle.”
“We’re used to being at each other’s meets, so we can critique each other and see how we can get better,” Kyle added. “Getting that at state is going to be really good.”
The Weilands will join juniors Evan Vodak and Connor Grogan in the 4x200-meter relay after taking third at sectionals in a personal-best time of 1:29.83.
“Every time that we’ve ran together, it’s just been getting faster,” Grogan said, noting that the Weilands don’t run the relay in every meet due to their busy schedules. “So hopefully on Friday we can PR again.”
“Just ran as fast as we can and get it as low as we can,” Vodak added.
It’ll be the first state trip for Grogan, who sat out the track season last year, and Vodak, who is out for track for the first time.
“I have no expectations, but I hope it lives up to the hype,” Grogan said.
The T-Birds are looking to make their mark in La Crosse, but they’re also looking to enjoy themselves.
“Just have fun with it is what I’m going to do,” Braun said. “Made it to state, might as well have fun. And I get to throw with two of my really good friends, so I’m excited for that.”