Rhinelander’s AJ Kopplin takes off on the anchor leg of the 4x100-meter relay after receiving the baton from teammate Josh Francisco during a WIAA Division 2 regional track meet at River Valley Bank Field in Minocqua Monday, May 20. The Hodags won the 4x100 relay and two other events on the way to a regional track championship. (Photos by Jeremy Mayo/River News)
Rhinelander’s Sage Flory, left, competes in the 200-meter dash during a WIAA Division 2 regional track meet at River Valley Bank Field in Minocqua Monday, May 20.
5/23/2019 7:30:00 AM Soaring to sectionals Rhinelander track wins boys' regional title, girls' squad advances three entires
MINOCQUA - The Rhinelander High School boys' track team entered Monday's WIAA Division 2 regional at Lakeland simply looking to send as many athletes as possible to sectionals. The Hodags did that, and picked up a nice bonus along the way.
The Hodags' winning streak reached six meets Tuesday as the boys' squad picked up the title in a nine-team D2 regional meet at River Valley Bank Field. The day included a group of 14 entries that finished in the top four and advanced to today's sectional round in Mosinee. Rhinelander finished eighth in a nine-team girls field and will send three entries to sectionals.
Coach Aaron Kraemer said the regional title was not the objective Monday, rather a byproduct of athletes performing their best while trying to advance in the state tournament series.
"I wanted them to focus on doing their best and not worry about winning the regional title," he said. "It's not that I didn't believe that we could win it, it's that I wanted them to focus on doing their best and getting through, and they did today."
As a result, the Hodags will have an armada of competitors today in Mosinee, led by its 4x100- and 4x200-meter relay teams, which won regional titles despite a couple of tense moments.
A poor exchange between the second and third legs of the 4x200 put the team behind the eight ball, and nearly disqualified it entirely from the tournament, but the Hodags rebounded as the team of Nick Kriesel, Josh Francisco, Caleb Olcikas and Anthony Kowalski won with a time of 1 minute, 34.26 seconds. Things went more smoothly in the 4x100 as Kriesel, Francisco, AJ Kopplin and Kowalski won the event with a time of 44.02.
"They didn't make it stress-free today in the 4x2," Kraemer said. "I tell them all time that because it's such a team race, that anything can happen. As a coach your heart breaks when you hear a baton hit the floor, your heart breaks when you when see a team DQ and it was very close for us in the 4x2 today for the boys. They ran into each other in the transition from second leg to the third leg, but we still won it. I don't know how they ended up pulling it out after that but they ended up winning it."
Just as was the case at the GNC meet, a load of points late in the long jump helped put Rhinelander over the top. Drake Martin and Peyton Erikson went 1-2 in the event, while Josh Francisco finished sixth to account for 21 of Rhinelander's 117-point total.
Martin won the long jump with a mark of 19 feet, 2 3/4 inches. Erikson wasn't far off at 19-1 1/4. Martin (41-7 3/4) also edged Erikson (41-6 1/2) in the triple jump as the two finished second and third overall.
"Those two boys, like I said, have been pushing each other all season," Kraemer said. "They knew that they were one and two (in the long jump), but Peyton still tried to jump his last jump to beat Drake. He was pretty close on his last jump, but no cigar. And even Drake jumped his last one too. The fact that they have each other to compete with is special in the long and the triple jump. When have somebody that's competing so closely for to compete with, you're obviously just gonna push each other to the next level."
Martin added a third field event to his sectional program with a fourth-place finish in the shot put, recording a personal-best throw of 45-11 3/4.
"To me, if there was a field MVP tonight, he would have been a field MVP," Kraemer said of the Hodag junior. "To make it through in three field events that's pretty special."
In addition to making up a big part of Rhinelander's sprint relay corps, Francisco, Kowalski and Kopplin also advanced in individual events. Francisco finished third in the 100, Kowalski was third in the 200 and Kopplin was fourth in the high jump. Kopplin was one of two Hodags to make it in the boys' high jump. Junior Calvin Schneider cleared 6-2 in the event to tie Northland Pines' Lochlan Siegmeier for the best mark of the night. Siegmeier won the tiebreaker over Schneider for the regional title based on total number of jumps.
"Calvin has been working extremely hard just to make sure that his run is consistent," Kraemer noted. "For him, it's all about the consistency of run and he had a great meet tonight. I don't expect anything different from him."
Freshman hurdler Cole Worrall qualified for sectionals with third-place finishes in both the 110 and 300 hurdles, joining Olcikas as the other freshman on the Hodag boys' sectional team.
"Cole is the ultimate competitor. He just wants to get better every single week and I'm just I'm so proud of his effort all season long," Kraemer said. "I'm very proud of him and I'm excited to see what he could do against even better competition at the end of this week on Thursday."
Sophomore Alex Olson qualified in discus with a toss of 114-8.
While the boys' sprinters have taken many of the headlines this year, the RHS girls' sprinters put together a fine day Monday, led by freshman Sage Flory. Flory barely missed qualifying for sectionals in the 100, finishing fifth in the finals before making it to sectionals with a fourth-place finish in the 4x100 with teammates Isabella Anderson, Megan Brown and Samantha Siefert. She came back later in the night and added the 200-meter dash to her sectional program with a fourth-place finish.
"We do not expect our girls 4x1 to go to sectionals today but I put the best team out there because I thought that we could do it," Kraemer said. "Megan Brown hasn't run that race for a while because we'd been focusing on trying to get her through in the 400 and I said, 'You know what I'm just going to take out 400 today and I'm going to put you in the 4x1 and 4x2 and let's see what we can do.'"
Rebecca Lawrence also qualified for sectionals. The sophomore high jumper finished fourth with a height of 4-10.
"For them to go along with along with Rebecca in the high jump - you know we get we thought Rebecca could get in - and Sage in the in the 200 that's a great showing for a girls team," Kraemer said. "To get 10 people down there, or a handful plus down there, to the sectional."
Now the task gets more difficult as 34 schools descend on Mosinee this afternoon for sectionals. There are 16 entrants in each event, only the top four will qualify for next week's state meet at UW-La Crosse.
The Hodag boys' 4x100 time was the fastest among the four regionals that feed into the Mosinee sectional and Rhinelander will be seeded first for this afternoon's event.
Schneider is seeded second behind Siegmeier in the high jump while Martin and Erikson are seeded third and fourth, respectively in the triple jump.
Despite the near mishap, the Hodags 4x200 relay is seeded seventh and are still slated to go off in today's fast heat.
"Sectionals is a funny thing," Kraemer said. "It's to make it the state and if you have the right mindset a lot of the times the right mindset puts you through. It's not necessarily the best athlete who's going to go, it's going to be the person with the best mindset the person who has the is the most technically sound."
Today's meet will be held at Veterans Memorial Field across from Mosinee High School. Field events will begin at 3 p.m.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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