Boys track team 11th at state

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MTT News's picture
Dave Lubach/For the Times-Tribune
Sam Jaeger (right) finished eighth at state in the 1,600-meter run./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

LA CROSSE — The momentum started in the fall when Middleton’s boys cross country team dominated the field to win the WIAA Division 1 state cross country title. It continued this past weekend at the WIAA state track and field championships.

Middleton’s distance athletes flooded the medal stand all weekend at Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex. Their success indicated that the Cardinals figure to continue rolling when school resumes next fall.

“I think it's just a testament to Middleton's program honestly,” said senior Jack Rader. “We've been strong for a number of years now. Our coaches are such a strong group of guys.”

Rader's third-place finish in the 3,200-meter run capped a successful weekend for the Cardinals, who finished 11th in the team standings with 21 points on the strength of its decorated distance runners.

“We knew we did some good things in cross country, so we thought why can't we in track?” said junior Michael Madoch, who placed 10th in the 800 at 1:57.47.

The 3,200 relay team kicked off the proceedings with a third-place finish in 7 minutes, 59.07 seconds, less than five seconds off the winning pace set by Kimberly. The team consisted of sophomores Braedon Gilles and Zach Leffel and juniors Madoch and Caleb Easton. All four were part of Middleton's lineup at Wisconsin Rapids when the Cardinals won the D1 state cross country championship in fall.

“We might be more dangerous next year,” said Middleton's distance and cross country coach Brian Finnel. “In the 4x800 we return everyone, and I think with the weather today (cool and windy on Saturday), we could have run a little bit faster. With Zach, it was his first time out here, and a lot of those guys are getting that opportunity. It's going to pay dividends next year, when we'll have a lot more experienced crew.”

Middleton's two individual medalists represented stories of recovery for both of the Cardinals.

Easton spent the start of the track season recovering from a knee injury sustained over the winter, interrupting his training and pushing him to physical therapy and a stationary bike for the early part of the season.

“I didn't have an indoor season, but I worked hard every day just being in training and coaching, knowing I'll be ready at the right time,” he said.

Whatever the strategy, it worked, as Easton finished the season on a strong note. After leading the Cardinals to a 1-2-3 finish in the 1,600 at sectionals, Easton entered the state final seeded seventh and went on to take second in 4:12.11 - 10 seconds better than his qualifying time. Teammate Sam Jaeger was eighth in 4:19.26 and Leffel  was 15th in 4:24.55. Each athlete achieved his PR time during the event.

“My freshman and sophomore years, I always got a little antsy about seeding,” Easton said. “It doesn't really matter what number is on your hip, what matters is what number you are up on the podium. I gave it my all and knew I had enough left in the tank.”

Rader provided Middleton's final redemption story in the 3,200 final.

The senior, who’s headed to William & Mary next year, had to withdraw from last year's state meet after suffering an Achilles' injury just days before the meet started. The recovery lingered into the cross country season, and he finally had a chance to compete in Wisconsin Rapids, where he served as Middleton's fifth runner.

Saturday, fully healthy, Rader knocked 21 seconds off his qualifying time to finish in 9:06.94 and earn a third-place medal.

“I can't even put it into words. I'm just so ecstatic right now,” Rader said. “This tops it all off. It's the best feeling I've ever had. My teammate Caleb was such a big help. Today would not have been possible without him motivating me through all the workouts.”

Middleton seniors Aaron Richardson and Thorne Powers also saw their prep careers end with state tournament appearances. Richardson qualified in three events — the 100, 200 and long jump — and Powers competed in the triple jump.

Richardson finished 13th in the 100 with a time of 11.02 (nearly a tenth of a second better than his qualifying time) and recorded a distance of 18-11.75 in the long jump, but did not qualify for the finals in either event. Powers was 17th in the triple jump at 42-1.75 and also did not qualify for the finals.

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