Editor’s note: This is the final story of a four-day series in which the Baraboo News Republic unveiled its top 10 sports stories of 2017, as selected by its editorial staff.
Going to the WIAA Division 1 state track and field meet as a defending champion is a bit of a different experience. There are more expectations, more eyes on you and your goals can go beyond winning a state title.
That was the case for Baraboo senior Josie Schaefer, who came away with her second consecutive state championship in the girls discus at UW-La Crosse on June 2.
Schaefer stepped up to the circle as the clear favorite, boasting a 32-foot seed advantage over her closest competitor, D.C. Everest’s Natalie Mohring. Every one of Schaefer’s five legal throws would’ve been good enough to secure the gold medal; her best launch of 163 feet, eight inches came on her third toss in trials.
Baraboo senior Kelsey Judge was fourth, stepping onto the awards podium with Schaefer, who said she felt pressure to pull off the repeat.
“It’s awesome. Everybody expected it to happen, and was like, ‘Can she do it?’ So it’s good to have it lifted off my shoulders,” she said. “I think everybody was expecting some farther throws, so that’s a little disappointing to know that they were disappointed. But I’m really excited to go out on top and be on the podium with Kelsey is a great way to end the high school discus career. So I can’t be too down about that.”
Schaefer said she also felt some pressure to beat the state meet record of 169-10 — she threw 171 feet at the WIAA regional at her home facility — but a steady tailwind got in the way.
“We had a crosswind in the first flight and it just turned right back around into a tailwind during my flight. But that’s for everybody,” she said. “Unfortunately you can only get that record here on this day, at this time, so that’s tough.”
After breezing to the state title in the discus, Schaefer had to fight for it a little more in the shot put less than 24 hours later. But she pulled off the double, claiming the Division 1 shot put title with a school record-tying throw of 47-8.
“I’m really excited; what a great way to go out,” Schaefer said after stepping off the podium. “I think it makes all the hard work worth it. ... To work all season, work through some not-so-great throws and come back and end up where the goal was at the beginning is the right way to go out I think.”
Schaefer joined Hartford Union’s Sam Noenning as the only Wisconsin athletes in the last seven years to win both Division 1 girls throwing events in the same year.
The shot put outcome was up in the air until the very last throw. Seeded first entering the day, Schaefer set the tone with a toss of 45-5¼ on her opening effort. That mark held until Ashwaubenon senior Erin Dunning, the defending state champion, tossed her fifth attempt 45-8½ to move into first place.
Schaefer, who was the runner-up to Dunning as a junior, couldn’t surpass that with her fifth throw, and Dunning extended her lead with a mark of 47-3¼ in her sixth and final attempt.
Schaefer got set for the final throw of her high school career, needing to approach her personal best in order to unseat the defending champion.
“We knew what we needed to fix, so I was confident going into that last one,” Schaefer said. “I’ve been in that situation a few times before, so thankfully I was kind of mentally prepared for that situation. I was just thinking about what I needed to do to get a nice throw out there.”
She did so and then some, matching her own school record with a throw of 47-8 to win her first shot put championship, and the third overall state title in her fourth trip to La Crosse.
“After my fifth throw, we were like ‘OK, my left arm is dropping; it’s got to be level,’ so we were doing some spins in the extra circle,” said Schaefer, who reached the awards podium six times in four years. “We got it figured out; it was feeling good. I knew this was what I needed to do to have a great throw. Then I just brought some adrenaline, had to do what I needed to do and I got it done today.”
Schaefer, who now competes for UW-Madison’s track and field team, finished her high school career with three state titles along with a total of six sectional titles.