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ATHLETES OF THE WEEK: Payton Heinberg/Felipe Llinares
Senior standouts lead Darlington CC, Hillmen soccer to conference titles
Payton Heinberg-2
Darlington senior Payton Heinberg a second-striaght individual SWAL cross country title to lead the Redbirds to a 10th straight conference championship

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Athlete of the Week is a web-only feature that will publish each Thursday throughout the calendar year.


Felipe Llinares, MF, Sr., Platteville/Lancaster boys soccer

     Senior midfielder Felipe Llinares had the touch last week. The Spanish exchange student had a hand in both Platteville/Lancaster goals in last Thursday’s 2–0 victory over Dodgeville/Mineral Point that helped the Hillmen clinch the outright Southwest Wisconsin Conference title. Llinares is this week’s Mast Water Technology Athlete of the Week.

     Llinares got Platteville/Lancaster off to a quick start, scoring just 19 seconds into Thursday’s win. He later assisted on freshman Kaydan Addie’s goal at the 18:20 mark of the first half. The Hillmen finished the regular season 7–7–3 overall, and 5–0–3 in the SWC, a half game ahead of River Valley (5–1–2).

     Llinares also assisted on Platteville/Lancaster’s lone goal in a 1–1 tie against Richland Center last Tuessday. Playing a man down for the final 62 minutes, Llinares set up senior Tyler Graney’s game-tying goal early in the second half.

     Platteville/Lancaster opens the WIAA Division 3 playoffs today against fourth-seeded Sugar River at Verona High School.          


Payton Heinberg, Jr., Darlington boys cross country

     Darlington junior Payton Heinberg won the boys’ individual title for the second straight year with 16:47, finishing 30 seconds ahead of teammate Tanner Evenstad (17:17), to lead the Redbirds to a 10th-straight Southwest Wisconsin Activities League championship. Darlington had the first, third, fifth and 14th-placed finishers to cruise to the title ahead of Southwestern/Cuba City/Benton, 25–48. 


HONORABLE MENTION (in alphabetical order):

Donovan Blevins, Sr., WR/DB, Platteville football

     Blevins caught six passes for 74 yards and a touchdown, including a pair of key fourth down conversions, in Friday’s 25–17 victory over Lancaster. Blevins turned a screen pass on 4th-and-13 into an 18-yard touchdown in the first quarter. He also caught a 10-yard pass on 4th-and-8 deep in Lancaster territory midway through the fourth quarter to set up Ethan Bernhardt’s go-ahead 2-yard touchdown run touchdown with 6:54 left in the game. Blevins is Platteville’s single-season school record holder with 17 TDs and 1,057 receiving yards. He is three catches away from tying Jesse Baker’s single-season school record of 54 catches, and he is closing in on all of Platteville’s career records.

Emma Lawrence, Sr., MH, Benton volleyball

     Lawrence smashed a match-high 23 kills along with a team-high 27 digs and six blocks to lead the Zephyrs to a 25–17, 25–23, 25–23 sweep of the third-ranked and previously unbeaten River Ridge (20–1, 11–1 SRW) last Tuesday night to earn a share of the Six Rivers West title. 


Kristin Muench, Fr., Lancaster girls cross country

     The freshman finished third in last Thursday’s Southwest Wisconsin Conference cross country championships with a time of 21:47 to form a potent 1-2 punch with two-time SWC champion Lydia Murphy to lead the Lancaster girls to the SWC title.


Madison Rizner, Sr., MH, Iowa–Grant volleyball

     Rizner had 14 kills, four blocks and 15 digs to lead the Hornets to a 25–10, 25–22, 25–20 victory over Prairie du Chien last Tuesday night. She then had a team-high 17 digs in Thursday’s regular season finale sweep of Lancaster, 25–13, 25–14, 25–3. The Hornets (31–8) finished second-place in the Southwest Wisconsin Conference at 8–2.


Mckenzie Vaassen, Sr., MH, Cuba City volleyball

     Vasssen had six kills, three blocks, three aces and a team-high 15 digs to lead SWAL champion Cuba City to a  25–21, 25–19, 25–13 sweep of Iowa–Grant last Tuesday night. Vaassen then had a team-high seven aces in Thursday’s 25–11, 25–11, 25–9 sweep of Fennimore last  Thursday to close out the conference season with a perfect 12–0 record.