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MCDONALD'S SWNEWS4U GAME OF THE WEEK (Prep Track and Field): SWC Conference Meet
Lancaster sweeps team titles at conference meet
Lancaster hand off
Lancaster's Semaj Venson hands off to Max Bedward during the 4x200 relay at Monday's WIAA Division 3 Lancaster Regional meet.

PREP TRACK & FIELD: SWAL Conference Meet

By A.J. Gates, Herald Independent

Lancaster sweeps team titles at Southwest Wisconsin Conference Meet

SPRING GREEN — Heading into the elimination portion of the 2024 track and field season there is a lot of excitement surrounding the Lancaster boys and girls teams; and for good reason.

Eight members of this year’s boys squad, and seven on the girls side, are looking to make a return trip to the WIAA State Championships after competing in La Crosse last June.

The girls in particular are hoping for similar results, looking to bring home another state track and field trophy after finishing as the division 3 state runners-up a year ago.

Leading the way for the Lancaster ladies is sure to be the 4x400 relay team, which returns all four members from last year’s second-place finish at state. They include senior Mallory Olmstead, junior Annie Martin, and sophomores Sophia Burr and Kylie Olmstead.

Mallory Olmstead, who battled injuries earlier this season, was actually a state qualifier last year in three events, finishing fourth in the 800 and sixth as a member of the 4x800 relay team. Younger sister Kylie, and Annie Martin were also members of last year’s 4x800 relay team, while Burr is the loan returner from last year’s 4x200 squad.

“Injuries are not fun to talk about, but they happen,” said coach Kyle Stiklestad. “We have had some major ones this year to our top athletes, which is not a good thing.”

“Mallory is back and starting to hit her stride,” Stiklestad added. “She is ready to go and will be a big part of our girls team.”

As for Kylie Olmstead, coach Stiklestad has been very impressed with her sophomore season, and expects more of the same come tournament time.

“Kylie has been making great strides in all of her races and is one of the fastest girls on our team at any distance,” Stiklestad said. “When she is on the track it is exciting to see.”

Also looking to make a return trip to the state meet is junior Megan Kreul, who placed third in the triple jump a year ago and was also a sectional qualifier in the long jump.

“Megan has been doing everything that is expected of her,” Stiklestad said. “The crazy thing is that because we have all gotten used to her abilities, her expectations would be other’s best meets ever. If it wasn’t for her own school record from last year, she would be breaking them again this year. She has more in the tank that we have not seen yet.”

Fellow junior Macie Galle is also poised to make a return trip to the state meet, where she placed ninth in the pole vault a year ago, and has made significant improvements since then.

“Macie has been having a great year,” Stiklestad said. “She reached the 11-foot milestone in the vault, but has also been a big addition to the sprint team. She was the female athlete of the meet at Sparky, which is one of the more difficult meets we go to with 27 teams this year.”

The only other returning state qualifier from a year ago is junior Maddie Nielsen, who was a member of last year’s 4x100 relay team.

On the boys side there is also a lot to be excited about, especially when looking at the speed this year’s Lancaster team has at its disposal. With that being said,  it does make one wonder if the Arrows will look to load up in the relay events, or keep their speedsters in the individual races.

“We look at what can potentially score at state and make our decisions based on that,” Stiklestad explained. “We should be in the mix for team points all the way through for boys and girls. The boys and girls relays are all fast this year and should make a lot of noise moving towards state,” he added.

At the top of that list are juniors Peyton Hale, Semaj Venson and Max Bedward, who teamed up with fellow junior Quinton Ploessl last season to finish second at state in the 4x200 and fourth in the 4x100 relay events. Hale and Ploessl were also members of last year’s state qualifying 4x400 relay team along with returners Brady Sperle and Michael Murphy.

Venson pulled off the unimaginable last season, qualifying for state in four events, where he also finished ninth in the 100 and 10th in the long jump.

While Venson has returned from an early-season injury, Ploessl has seen limited action this season, but looks to give it a go for another run at state.

“Semaj is back, but still dealing with some pain,” explained Stiklestad. “He will be good to go, but will have to manage his workload moving forward.”

“Other big injuries include Quinton Ploessl, who is still dealing with an injury that has really hurt our team, but he is resilient and will get a chance to prove himself,” the Lancaster coach added.

How to best utilize Hale and Bedward may be coach Stiklestad’s biggest conundrum, as both have been running exceptionally well in the open 100 and 200 this season, but would also be major contributors in the sprint relays.

“Peyton has been having a great year on the track. He won multiple events from the 100 to 400 and will be a big part of our team moving forward,” Stiklestad acknowledged.

Also looking to make a return trip to the state meet this season are seniors Connor Raisbeck and Jackson VanNatta, while junior Landon Budworth has been making a lot of noise in the pole vault this season after just missing out on a trip to La Crosse a year ago.

Raisbeck, who placed ninth at state last season in the discus, has had a solid season in both the discus and shot put this year, and should be considered one of the favorites to make it back to La Crosse.

The Arrows have a dynamic duo in the pole vault, where Budworth recently set a new school record by clearing 14’ at the Sparky Reynolds Memorial Invite, and VanNatta just recently cleared a person best 13’6” at last Tuesday’s SWC conference meet.

“Landon was on the verge of making state last year in the pole vault and used it as fuel for this year,” said coach Stiklestad. “Things lined up at Sparky and he set the school record at 14 feet.”

“Jackson is not far behind and PR’d at conference  and would be right at the old school record (13’9”) if it wasn’t for Landon’s big jump,” Stiklestad added.

The Lancaster boys and girls track and field teams both seem to be competing near or at their peak late in the season, as evident by their conference titles won Tuesday night in Spring Green.

With 162 points, the Lancaster boys finished 42 points ahead of second-place Dodgeville/Mineral Point to win the SWC title, while the girls did the same with 162.5 points, finishing 45.5 points in front of Dodgeville/Mineral Point.

“The conference meet was filled with amazing performances,” Stiklestad said. “Going in we knew we had a chance to win both, but were going to need some good performances.”

“Our kids showed up to compete and it just kept happening throughout the meet,” he added. “I am very proud of their commitment to the team and doing what it takes to win.”

To qualify for the WIAA State Championships, one must first be among the top four finishers in their event at the regional meet, then among the top four finishers in their event at sectionals. Extra qualifiers are awarded to those athletes or relays whose sectional performance ranks among the eight best of all sectional performances.

SWC Conference Meet
(from Tuesday, May 14, at Spring Green)
Team scores - 1. Lancaster 162; 2. Dodgeville/Mineral Point 120; 3. Platteville 112; 4. Prairie du Chien 76; 5. Richland Center 56; 6. River Valley 28.
Top finishers from Lancaster
100 - 1. Peyton Hale :11.50; 2. Max Bedward :11.61; 3. Semaj Venson :11.69. 200 - 1. Max Bedward :23.75; 3. Semaj Venson :24.05; 4. Peyton Hale :24.08. 400 - 1. Peyton Hale :51.76. 800 - 2. Marshall Harris 2:05.10; 6. Pol Fernandez 2:10.75. 4x100 - 1. (Brennen Gildersleeve, Sam Hollander, Aidan Hauk, Max Bedward) :45.24. 4x200 - 1. (Brennen Gildersleeve, Sam Hollander, Semaj Venson, Michael Murphy) 1:33.69. 4x400 - 4. (Michael Murphy, Quinton Ploessl, Brady Sperle, Nathan Koeller) 3:42.08. 4x800 - 1. (Marshall Harris, Brady Sperle, Nathan Koeller, Michael Murphy) 8:34.27. High jump - T2. Michael Murphy 6’0”; T5. Zach Hermsen 5’6”. Pole vault - 1. Jackson VanNatta 13’6”; 2. Landon Budworth 13’3”; 3. Jason Wolf 10’6”. Long jump - 4. Semaj Venson 19’10”; 6. Brennen Gildersleeve 18’11.5”. Triple jump - 5. Zach Hermsen 37’3.5”. Shot put - 3. Connor Raisbeck 43’3.5”. Discus - 1. Connor Raisbeck 141’0”; 2. Jayden Rice 130’8”; 5. T.J. Nelson 121’4”.
Team scores - 1. Lancaster 162.5; 2. Dodgeville/Mineral Point 117; 3. Prairie du Chien 102; 4. Platteville 82; 5. Richland Center 52.5; 6. River Valley 34.
Top finishers from Lancaster
100 - 2. Macie Galle :13.26; 3. Sosie Hoffman :13.58. 200 - 2. Macie Galle :27.74; 3. Sosie Hoffman :27.99; 4. Sophiea Burr :28.41. 400 - 3. Sophia Burr 1:02.83; 4. Mallory Olmstead 1:03.28. 800 - 1. Kylie Olmstead 2:25.43; 6. Brielle Schmitz 2:35.08. 1600 - 4. Sara McWilliams 5:51.13. 3200 - 3. Jenna Muench 13:09.88. 100 hurdles - 4. Lizzy Clauer :18.69. 300 hurdles - 5. Lizzy Clauer :54.60; 6. Ava Green :54.86. 4x100 - 2. (Lauren Reukauf, Angela Clauer, Rocky Venson, Rochelle Venson) :53.76. 4x200 - 1. (Sosie Hoffman, Angela Clauer, Rochcelle Venson, Kylie Olmstead) 1:52.02. 4x400 - 1. (Sophia Burr, Ava Green, Mallory Olmstead, Kylie Olmstead) 4:16.88. 4x800 - 2. (Mallory Olmstead, Sara McWilliams, Brielle Schmitz, Brianna Kirsch) 10:20.75. High jump - 1. Sophia Burr 5’3”; T6. Margo Dhyanchand 4’10”. Pole vault - 1. Macie Galle 10’6”; 4. Lauren Reukauf 8’6”. Triple jump - 1. Megan Kreul 36’0.25”. Shot put - 3. Ariana Hauck 31’11.5”. Discus - 1. Sophia Gruetzmacher 106’10”; 3. Ella Gruetzmacher 100’8”.