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No state entries for New Richmond track team

Senior Emily Kukacka has become one of New Richmond’s top field athletes this season.1 / 2
New Richmond’s Dominic Ficociello had an outstanding senior track season, including winning the Middle Border Conference championship in the 100 meters. 2 / 2

Judy Weiss has been coaching girls track since 1974. She even pre-dates the WIAA girls state track meet.

But she’s never seen a year when New Richmond hasn’t had at least one athlete qualify for the WIAA State Track and Field Championships, until this year.

The Tigers weren’t able to get any of their entries to place in the top three in their event at the WIAA Division 1 sectional meet at Stevens Point last Friday.

There were just five New Richmond events that advanced through last Tuesday’s Division 1 regional meet at Rice Lake to reach the sectional level.

The highest hopes for a state entrant this year was the 3,200 meter relay team of Jack Utzman, Erik Gilkison, Brennan Roby and Bailey Wilson. They won the regional championship in 8:26, looking quite convincing despite the cold, wet conditions. Their time wasn’t much worse at the sectional, 8:30, but they finished in sixth place, 15 seconds behind the final state qualifier.

The best performance of the sectional meet for the Tigers came from the girls 1,600 meter relay team of Peyton Olien, Abby Blader, Hanna Weinzerl and Maddie Kelly. This quartet had taken fourth at the regional meet in 4:15.26. They put up an incredible effort in trying to get to state. They ran with the top four the entire race. The final lap became an individual battle between Kelly and Eau Claire Memorial’s Ali Glassbrenner, who was the sectional champion in the open 400. Kelly, who was the Tigers’ only entry at state last year, ran a 59-second split, but Glassbrenner was able to edge past her by a half-step at the finish line. Memorial finished in 4:06.93. The Tigers crossed in 4:07.42, an eight second improvement upon their regional meet time.

“They all ran beautifully. You couldn’t ask for more,” Weiss said of her relay team. “Maddie ran her best split ever. Abby ran the best race of her life.”

Also competing in individual events at the sectional meet were Utzman, Emily Kukacka and Zach Schoepke.

Utzman finished in third place in the 3,200 meters at the regional meet in 10:19, behind a pair of Eau Claire Memorial runners. The top three runners at the sectional meet pulled away from the pack early, with the third state qualifier finishing in 9:49. Utzman saw he wasn’t going to compete at that level and slightly backed off on his pace, finishing seventh in 10:38.

Schoepke advanced to the sectional meet by placing fourth at the regional in the triple jump, with a leap of 40 feet, 4 inches. He wasn’t able to replicate that jump at sectionals, taking eighth with a distance of 38 feet, 10 inches.

Kukacka qualified for sectionals by taking third place in theh high jump at the regional meet, where she cleared the bar at 4 feet, 10 inches. She cleared three heights at the sectional meet, but wasn’t able to clear 4-10 this time. That left her in eighth place.

Kukacka, Kelly and Blader were the only Tiger seniors competing at the sectional meet. Weiss and Tiger boys coach Roger Reuvers said they hope the sectional experience the Tigers got this season will help those athletes to be able to make the step up to being state-level athletes next year.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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