The high school track and field season begins in earnest today.
Less than seven weeks from now, area athletes will begin their road to the WIAA state meet with regional competitions May 20.
The track and field season annually produces some of the most inspiring stories of the school year.
Like Janesville Craig’s Peyton Sippy closing out her career last spring with Division 1 state titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters. Or Clinton’s boys 4x400-meter relay team taking seventh in the prelims but going on to win a state title one day later. Or Orfordville Parkview freshman Isaac Morris winning a wheelchair shot put title.
The season will be over seemingly in the blast of a starter’s pistol, but here are some story lines to keep an eye on over the next two months:
Parker’s Porter headlines returning city athletes
Ryann Porter not only reached the state meet for the first time as a sophomore last season, she finished on the podium.
Porter took fifth place in the 100 hurdles and almost medaled twice, taking eighth in the triple jump.
“Ryann was the team leader in points last season … and set the school record in the triple jump in 2018 with a jump of 37-6.5,” Parker head coach Mark Little said.
Little hopes the Vikings can move up the Big Eight Conference standings in his first year as the girls head coach. He also coaches girls cross country.
“We are working hard to add numbers to create the depth necessary to be a competitive team in the tough Big Eight,” he said. “Our team finished in sixth place in the conference meet in 2018. We would like to move up a few positions.”
Joining Porter in leading that charge will be seniors Brooke Graesslin and Tina Shelton.
Graesslin qualified for state in the 400 meters last year and in cross country this past fall.
Shelton missed most of last season due to injury but returns as the team’s top sprinter. Little said the Vikings will be careful with Shelton early in the season in hopes she’ll be at her best at the end.
Little also noted senior Sarah Varga will anchor the throws group, while Catie Gage and Rachel Howell will lead the distance runners.
Four boys athletes with state experience return for the Parker boys.
Seniors Brody Lippens and Casey Vanderlinden and junior John Dunn were part of the qualifying 4x100 relay team, and Dunn and Lippens also ran at state as part of the 4x200 team.
Von Olson is coming off a trip to state in the high jump.
Senior Luke Roca could be the next Parker boys pole vaulter to vie for a state berth.
Distance runners lead way for Craig
Craig may not have another two-time state champion, but it’s a safe bet the school will be well-represented in La Crosse in the distance races.
Senior Aaron Leverson and sophomore Bryan Bloomquist, a pair of state cross country qualifiers, lead the charge for the boys team.
Bloomquist finished 16th in the 3,200 last spring, while Leverson was 17th in the 800. Leverson, senior Zander Arena and junior Matthew Dillon were part of the qualifying 4x800 team, as well.
“Aaron’s done an awesome job in his four years with us, and he shined for us at Whitewater (in an indoor meet) a couple weeks ago, too,” Craig boys coach Jeff Deininger said. “Bloomquist, like Leverson, can do a wide variety of things and is in for another good season.
“Matt Dillon was a great story for us last year, just getting better and better, and Zander is another four-year guy for us. We expect that 4x8 team to do well again.”
The Craig girls sent both their 4x400 and 4x800 teams to state last year and return multiple runners from those teams—including juniors Ellie Lorenz and Rileigh Elgas and sophomores Clare Hulick and Mae Williams. Hulick also qualified for state individually in the 800 as a freshman last spring.
“We’ll rely on those returners coming back this spring,” Craig girls coach Brad Troeger said. “They’ve been looking really good early on.”
Craig senior Trevion Moore was the star of the sectional meet a year ago and returns as one of the state’s top boys hurdlers. He’s also the lone returner from the Cougars’ state-qualifying 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams.
“He’s one of the best hurdlers in the state of Wisconsin. He’s got the best start I’ve ever seen in my coaching years,” Deininger said. “In the high hurdles at state, he was leading through four hurdles. We expect him to carry that through this year.”
The Cougars have done well in putting together sprint relay teams lately, and they will try to do so again this year with several sophomores who pushed for spots on those teams as freshmen.
Junior Magnus Jenson leads the way on the field for the Craig boys in the throws.
On the girls side, senior Kersten Edwards will attempt to qualify for state in the high jump after taking fifth at sectionals last year.
And Troeger said Bryn McBride could be a freshman to watch on the track.