The Rhinelander High School boys' track team continues to rack up the hardware as it prepares for a big finish to the 2019 season.
The Hodags won three events Tuesday and collected 10 runner-up finishes as it cruised to a 49-point win over Northland Pines at the seven-team Hatchet Invitational in Tomahawk. Rhinelander's girls team had seven top-three finishes as it placed fourth in a seven-team field.
"I thought it was another great effort in this meet from everybody," coach Aaron Kraemer said. "You can definitely see at the end of the season here our two-meet weeks are starting to catch up with us a little bit. We're starting to get some aches and pains but, overall, I thought we stepped up to the challenge.
"We're getting to the point where we're starting to get that championship mentality where nothing but winning is good enough for us. A lot of kids are striving to win their events and tonight, we fared pretty well."
Rhinelander fared well in the boys' throwing events on Tuesday. Drake Martin led a 1-3-4 finish in the shot put for the Hodags with a toss of 43 feet, 8 inches. Alex Olson was third, followed by Connor Lund. Olson also won the discus with a toss of 115-9.
"We have a number of kids competing at a high level, and that's what shot and discus have been for us with Drake, Alex and Connor," Kraemer said. "I'm proud of how they are pushing each other.
"I'm proud of Alex. He's overcome some obstacles this year with some sickness. It's not easy to move a frame like his around in an agile sport like throwing shot and disc. He's doing very well and continues to get better. As a sophomore, winning a meet, that's always great."
Rhinelander's other win came in the 4x100 with a slightly different order. Caleb Olcikas ran the anchor leg in place of Anthony Kowalski in that event. Nick Kriesel, Josh Francisco, AJ Kopplin and Olcikas won with a time of 44.78 seconds.
It was also a different order in the 4x200 as Kriesel, Martin, Kopplin and Olcikas finished second with a time of 1:34.94.
Kraemer opted to let Kowalski run the sprint triple - competing in the 100, 200 and 400 meters Thursday. Kowalski was second in both the 200 and the 400 and third in the 100 behind teammate Josh Francisco. Northland Pines' Lochlan Siegmeier won all three events.
"We tried to put some athletes in some different open events to score points for us and to see how things would fare for conference," Kraemer noted. "Tonight was the test run and I thought it went pretty well. We had a few shaky handoffs in our relays, which is normal when you put new people in it. We'll continue to iron those things out moving into next week."
The Hodags had a number of standout performances in the hurdle event Tuesday, led by freshman Cole Worrall, who was the runner-up in both the 110 and 300 hurdle events.
"Cole's kind of taken the leadership role in those hurdle events. The thing I like about Cole is that he's understood at a very young age where he needs work and he's starting to fix a lot of the problems that he's had," Kraemer said. "Some of it takes time like building power and speed out of the blocks. It takes time for kids to grow into that. For him to be posting the times he is now, it's impressive. He's got very good technique and a very good hurdle rhythm and cadence that he's running the 110s with and 300s with."
Kraemer also cited junior Aryssa Zasada's technique as she turned in another strong performance. After placing third in the 100 hurdles last Friday at the Otto Bacher Invitational in Merrill, she followed it up with a runner-up performance Tuesday in Tomahawk.
"Aryssa, she just continues to get better in that 100 race," he said. "The 100-meter hurdles is so technical. You have to be really efficient running that race. The difference between her and the other girls that are running that is she had great form and great technical ability. She's efficient. She gets on the ground quickly and is able to power through the hurdles."
Will Swanson added a fifth-place run for the Hodags in the 110 hurdles. Morgan Johnson was fourth for the Hodag girls in the 300 hurdles and fifth in the 100 hurdles.
Going the distance
The Hodags scored a number of points with their distance runners on Tuesday. Konnor Kennedy, Jaden Beske and Daniel Goldsworthy finished fifth in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters, respectively. Tyler Olson, Goldsworthy, Kennedy and JC Adams had a third-place run in the 4x800 relay (9:19.89).
"I think that's the tightest-knit part of our team," Kraemer said. "We get PRs every meet for those kids and it isn't just mere seconds, it's a lot of time off their distance times. The boys' 4x8 team, when they're pressing that 9-minute mark, that's impressive for them. They continue to get better and improve."
Rhinelander also placed third in the girls' 4x800 with the team of Abby Krueger, Ambre Philippot, Lexi Morrison and Ellie Van Camp. Van Camp added a third-place finish for the Hodags in the 3,200 while Philippot was fifth in the 1,600.
Rhinelander added a runner-up finish in the 4x400 with the team of Daniel Ritchie, Tyler Olson, Calvin Schneider and Aden Bergman. Martin was second in both the long jump and triple jump while Schneider was the runner-up in the high jump.
The Hodags went 2-3-4 in the boys' 200 with Kowalski, Francisco and Kriesel. Francisco also took third in the long jump. Ritchie was fourth in the 400 and Kopplin took fifth in the high jump.
On the girls' side, Rebecca Lawrence cleared 5 feet once again and placed second in the high jump. Freshman Megan Brown was second in the 400 and fifth in the 100. Lily Bielefeldt added a fourth-place finish in the 200 and the Hodags took third in both the 4x100 and 4x200 relays. Lilli Bishop, Samantha Siefert, Mattia Beske and Lily Sneller made up the Hodag squad in the 4x100. It was Bielefeldt, Beske, Zasada and Delaney Chillemi for the Hodags in the 4x200.
Home sweet home
Rhinelander returns home today for a quadrangular meet at Mike Webster Stadium. Kraemer said he may tweak Rhinelander's lineup slight to keep some of his top athletes fresh for this Tuesday's Great Northern Conference meet at Lakeland.
"We're going to try, as much as we can, limit some of these athletes so as we go into that championship season, we make sure we are fresh," he said. "We're going to give everyone a chance to compete in their home meet and give every single kid a chance to showcase their talents."
Today's meet gets underway at 4 p.m.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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