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Cats send fresh faces to state

Wildcat sophomore Niko Zoller runs the anchor leg of the boys 4x800 meter relay at the WIAA Division 1 Track and Field Sectional at D.C. Everest High School Thursday, May 25. Zoller, freshman Payton Flood, sophomore Jared Syverson and senior Will Bohnert cut more than 13 seconds off their previous best time this season to finish third in 8 minutes, 12.07 seconds and qualify for this week's state meet in La Crosse. Photo courtesy Panu Zoller1 / 3
Wildcat sophomore Sarah Langlois, left, and New Richmond's Mallorie Brinkman go toe-to-toe down the stretch in the girls' 400 meter dash at the WIAA Division 1 Track and Field Regional in Superior Monday, May 22. Brinkman won the race in 1 minute, 0.75 seconds and Langlois was second in 1:01.2 to both advance to last Thursday's sectional. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram2 / 3
Wildcat senior Samuel Fritz runs to a second place time of 23.07 seconds in the 200 meter dash at the WIAA Division 1 Track and Field Regional in Superior Monday, May 22. Fritz went on to finish second at the sectional meet Thursday, May 25, in Wausau with a time of 22.59 seconds to qualify for this week's state meet in La Crosse. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram3 / 3

River Falls girls will send its 4x400-meter relay team to the WIAA State Track and Field Championships for the fifth straight season while a host of Wildcats will be making their state meet debut after qualifying Thursday, May 25, at the D.C. Everest Sectional in Wausau.

The girls 4x400-meter relay team of senior Alaina Syverson, senior Tessa Rayne, sophomore Sarah Langlois and freshman Emily Banitt qualified and Banitt earned a spot in the 100-meter dash while junior Sam Krueger advanced to state in the pole vault.

On the boys' side, the Cats' 4x800-meter relay team of freshman Payton Flood, sophomore Jared Syverson, senior Will Bohnert and sophomore Niko Zoller earned a spot at state while senior Sam Fritz advanced in the 200-meter dash.

Wildcat coaches Colleen Sowa and Matt Kumershek said the Cats left it all on the track last week trying to get to state.

"I couldn't be more proud of the girls team," Sowa said. "We had some ups and some downs at regionals and sectionals, but overall we left both meets feeling accomplished and proud of our efforts."

"The atmosphere and intensity of the sectional meet is above and beyond that of regionals," Kumershek said. "Thousandths of a second can determine whether athletes advance to state. Our coaches were proud of how our boys competed."

Syverson, Rayne, Langlois and Banitt will team up for the 4x400-meter relay after finishing second at the sectional meet with a time of four minutes, 2.15 seconds. The foursome advanced to sectionals by winning the regional title in Superior three days earlier in 4:04.19.

"Strong race from all four of them," Sowa said. "They have been training all season for this and they have been really connected as a team. They run for each other and for success as a whole, which is what a team relay is all about."

Syverson, Langlois and Rayne were part of last year's state qualifying 4x400 team that finished 14th while Syverson and Rayne were on the 2015 team that placed eighth. Freshman Sarah Schneckenberger and sophomore Elsa Putzier will serve as alternates to this year's squad.

Banitt also earned a spot at state with a third-place time of 13.09 seconds at the sectional.

"Even though she is a freshman, she has the mindset of a senior," Sowa said. "She knows how to focus and prepare for her races. I love that she brings a fierce spirit while competing."

Banitt came up just short of adding the 200-meter dash to her state resume by finishing fourth in 26.63 seconds.

Krueger tied her lifetime best in the pole vault by clearing 11 feet to qualify for her third state championship this school year. She was a member of the Wildcat volleyball team that advanced to state last fall and won her second straight state championship in the floor exercise at the state gymnastics meet in March.

"She was great to watch at sectionals," Sowa said. "She was having fun and laughing while pole vaulting. She didn't seem nervous, just happy to be there."

Langlois came up just short of qualifying in the 400-meter dash with a fourth place time of 59.56 seconds while Rayne was fifth in the 800-meter run in 2:22.89.

Bohnert is the only member of the Wildcats boys team with state meet experience after running on the Cats' 4x800 relay team that finished 18th at state a year ago. He teamed up with Jared Syverson, Flood and Zoller to post a third-place time of 8:12.07 at last Thursday's sectional.

"They had their best race of the season and responded well when the pressure was on and edged out (Eau Claire) North by a second," Kumershek said. "Hats off to our coaches Keven Syverson, Kari Deluca and Kristi Wagner for putting this squad together."

Senior Charlie Radosevich and junior Tyler Cernohous will serve as the 4x800 alternates at state.

After just missing the cut in the 100-meter dash, Fritz punched his first ticket to state in the 200-meter dash by placing second with a lifetime best time of 22.59 seconds. He finished fourth in the 100 in 11.39.

Fritz, junior Connor Hines, sophomore Jack Hines and freshman Stefan Klechefski also came up just short in the 4x100-meter relay despite setting a new school record of 43.38, just one-thousandth of a second behind the third place state qualifiers from Wausau West.

"While disappointed in missing the cut, the team ran a great race," Kumershek said.

Sophomore Jared Creen set a new lifetime best of 20-11.75 in the long jump but missed the cut by one spot while Connor Hines added a sixth-place jump of 20-8, also a lifetime best.

Bohnert just missed advancing in the 800-meter run with a fourth-place time of 2:06.35, while Radosevich was sixth in the race in 2:07.46.

"Will and Charlie had solid efforts in a very tight 800-meter race," Kumershek said. "We are grateful for the leadership and experience these guys and the rest of our seniors have given us this year."

The WIAA Division 1 State Track and Field Championships get underway at 4:30 p.m. Friday, June 2, at Veterans Memorial Stadium in La Crosse and continues at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 3.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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