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Panther Pause column: A championship culture

Jason Koele

St. Croix Central made the move to the Middle Border Conference two years ago with many questions. Were we ready to handle the elevated competition? Were we big enough, fast enough, and strong enough? A "big school" mentality, systemic approach to strength and conditioning, and a unified athletics department have all contributed to the success of our athletics this fall. From athletes, to coaches, to parents and community, we have all had a hand in the growth and development of our athletic culture.

This fall, St. Croix Central has demonstrated that we are not only able to compete within the dominant Middle Border Conference, but also the biggest stages of WIAA tournaments. The 2017-18 fall sports season has earned the status of the greatest in school history. It will be a fall that will transcend the test of time where generations will remember the inspiring performances of our athletes both female and male alike.

The success began with our girls golf team, led by coach Logan Kimberly, making it to the sectional level of competition for the first time in years. It was a tremendous finish to their season, led by a young core, which we anticipate being better next year.

Our golfers were followed by our girls volleyball team, led by coach Mindy Widiker, to their first conference title since 1997, first regional championship since 1999, and first sectional final appearance since 1999.

Our girls cross country team, led by coach Bill Emery, once again showed their strength finishing second in conference, earning their first ever sectional championship. They also qualified at state for the second year in a row, where they finished 7th as a team. Our boys cross country team, also led by Emery, shared similar success to the girls team. The boys team placed third in conference and captured second place at the sectional invitational. Like the girls team, they qualified for the second time in school history for state, since 2008.

Finally our boys' football team led by coach Tony DiSalvo finished an incredible season ending at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. The boys finished second in conference and made it to state for the second year in a row, capturing the state runner-up trophy after an extremely physical and hard fought game.

St. Croix Central has made its presence known at the state level! Only three other schools in the state have achieved the level of consistent success we have seen this fall. It is a feat that can only be contributed to the culture we teach and model for our athletes every day of the year. As we enter our winter and spring seasons, the Panthers look to continue their dominance of the Middle Border. Through the values we set for our athletes, we can move from a strong athletic culture to a championship culture throughout all sports and seasons. It is no longer a dream to reach the pinnacle of high school sports, but it is now woven into who we are and who we always strive to be.