Sweet repeat for Middleton swimmers

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Rob Reischel
Middleton’s boys swimming and diving team celebrated a second straight state championship last Saturday./Photo submitted

WAUKESHA — Caden Van Buren and his pals on Middleton’s boys swimming and diving team began crunching the numbers late Saturday afternoon. And the positive results had the Cardinals’ salivating.

You see, Middleton coach Wes Lagerhausen had promised to pay for dinner if Middleton won the WIAA Division 1 state meet by at least 100 points. And midway through the meet held at the Waukesha South Natatorium, it looked like Lagerhausen would be breaking out his plastic.

“Halfway through the meet it was like, ‘Can we do it? Can we get food?’ ” said Van Buren, one of Middleton’s sensational sophomores. “All this team wants is food.”

Well, that’s not entirely true.

The Cardinals crave both food and state titles. On this day, they were thrilled to head home with the latter.

Middleton notched three first place finishes, had four second place showings and ran away with its second consecutive state title. The Cardinals finished with 273 points to easily outdistance runner-up Madison Memorial (178).

Middleton posted the largest margin of victory since 2016, when Madison Memorial won the meet by 112 points over runner-up Madison West. The Cardinals also won the third state title in school history, all coming since 2020.

About the only thing Middleton didn't achieve was that free meal from Lagerhausen, after winning the meet by 95 points.

“We’ll get together at a later date and I will do something fun for them,” Lagerhausen promised.

It’s hard to imagine Saturday being much more fun for the Cardinals.

Per usual, Middleton’s sensational sophomore class led the way.

Sophomore Sam Wolf was first in the 200-yard individual medley and second in the 100-yard freestyle. He was also part of Middleton’s 200-yard medley relay and 400-yard freestyle relay teams that were both first.

“Sam’s an incredible athlete and an incredible teammate,” Lagerhausen said. “He works hard, he’s great around the other guys and he has high goals. These were those high goals today and he reached them.”

Sophomore Max Carter was part of Middleton’s two first place relay teams — the 200-medley and the 400-freestyle. Carter was also second in the 100 backstroke and sixth in the 50-yard freestyle.

“It was a great day,” Carter said. “I was really proud of how our two medleys swam. Everybody swam the best they ever have relay wise. That was also kind of an internal moment like we’re all here to do really well today.”

And Van Buren was part of Middleton’s championship 200-yard medley relay team and the Cardinals’ second-place 200-yard freestyle relay team. He was also second in the 100-yard butterfly and seventh in the 50-yard freestyle.

“I absolutely understand and love and acknowledge that I’m pretty blessed to have been a part of this (sophomore) class,” said Lagerhausen, who just finished his second season as Middleton’s head coach. “But like any game that anybody plays, if you’re dealt a good hand you can still mess it up.

“So the biggest thing I try to do is know the hand that I’ve been dealt and make sure that I do what it takes to continue to win and develop them as human beings and athletes in the pool. And it’s been going really well.”

That’s putting it mildly.

A year ago, Middleton won the state title by 77 points over Arrowhead. The Cardinals lost several standouts from that team, yet still won state by an even greater margin this year.

“A lot of guys stepped up and made it feel just like last year,” Wolf said. “It was a lot of fun.”

Middleton had a lot of fun from the start.

The Cardinals got a lift early when sophomore diver Bosten Boid placed ninth several hours before the swimming portion of the meet began. When the rest of the Cardinals hit the water, they were more than ready.

Middleton kicked off its day in style as the 200-yard medley relay team of Carter, Van Buren, Wolf, and senior Cowan Vitense set a new state record and cruised to first place.

The Cardinals’ quartet finished in 1:30.61, more than two seconds ahead of Sun Prairie East’s foursome (1:32.83). That also toppled the previous state mark of 1:30.83 held by a Madison West quartet in 2019.

“Everybody was stoked,” Wolf said of beginning the meet with a state record. “That was the goal going into the meet. It was a great way to start the meet. It gave us a lot of momentum.”

Vitense swam the anchor leg in that relay, and his split of 21.57 seconds was integral in Middleton setting a new state record.

“Cowan went crazy on that relay. He was amazing,” Van Buren said of Vitense. “That got us off to a great start. We were all very happy with that race.”

Middleton senior Jackson Esteves, who was seeded eighth, then exceeded his seed and placed fifth in the 200-yard freestyle. Esteves finished in 1:40.38, more than three seconds faster than his seed time (1:43.39).

Wolf then continued his big day when he won the 200-yard individual medley in 1:47.97, more than 3 seconds faster than runner-up Jack Paull of Franklin (1:51.32). That was the seventh fastest time in state history.

“Last year I finished third, and I’d like to say I was the favorite with some of last year’s seniors gone,” Wolf said. “So I was really excited to do that one. It was really fun. I was really happy with it.”

Carter and Van Buren then made waves in the 50-yard freestyle, where both bettered their seeds by one spot. Carter finished sixth in 21:07, while Van Buren was seventh (21:15).

MHS sophomore Ben Cutler Heiderscheit was 15th (21.64) and Vitense added a 19th place finish (21.93).

“It was a good swim. I swam really well in that race,” Carter said. “I don’t know what I would have done different, so I’m really happy with sixth. I’ll take it.”

Van Buren followed that by sprinting to a second place finish in the 100-yard butterfly in 49.71 seconds. Senior Tony Peters was ninth (51.81) and Vitense was 10th (51.82).

“I hit the water and all the preparation, my kick count, my stroke count, all that stuff that I’ve done all year to build up to this moment, I just basically threw it out and went for it,” said Van Buren, who was also an integral part of Middleton’s state championship volleyball team last November. “I missed every turn and I thought it was the most sloppy of my races today, but it still turned out OK.”

Wolf was the top seed in the 100-yard freestyle, but settled for second. Wolf’s time of 44.80 was substantially better than his qualifying time of 45.51, but he was edged by DC Everest senior David Mayer (44.29) for the state title. Cutler Heiderscheit added a 10th place finish (47:29).

“You always want to win,” Wolf said. “That’s always the goal. But David is a great dude, great swimmer. Senior. I’m really happy for him. He had a great race.”

Esteves followed with a tremendous fourth place finish in the 500-yard freestyle, where his time of 4:33.77 was nearly seven seconds faster than his qualifying time (4:40.51).

Middleton’s 200-yard freestyle relay team then gave a memorable performance.

The Cardinals had altered their relays after sectionals, loading up the 200-medley and the 400-freestyle to ensure those quartets brought home state titles. That left them scrambling a bit at the 200-freestyle, but the Cardinals’ foursome of Van Buren, Cutler Heiderscheit, Vitense and Esteves had a brilliant race.

That quartet finished second in 1:25.44, just 0.12 seconds behind a Brookfield Central/East relay team. Middleton led until the final 25 meters, when the Brookfield co-op made a late charge.

“I was so pleased with that one,” Van Buren said. “I think that was the one we were unsure of, but I thought Ben had a really good split for us.

“Then Jackson brought it home for us right after his 500 free, which I don’t know how the distance swimmers do that. I thought that race might have been one of my favorite races just because we needed that. I was very pleased with that.”

Carter followed with a second place finish in the 100-yard backstroke, finishing in 49.25 seconds, just 0.17 behind Franklin’s Mason Bruhn (49.08). Carter, who was top seed in that race, eclipsed his qualifying time of 50.32 by more than a second. So there was no disappointment afterwards.

“I’m totally fine with second place and dropping a second off my time,” Carter said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better race. The guy I was racing there, he’s really good, too. He got me.”

Middleton then finished the meet like it started — with a bang.

The Cardinals’ quartet of Esteves, Cutler Heiderscheit, Carter and Wolf won the 400-yard freestyle relay in 3:04.50, nearly three seconds faster than runner-up Arrowhead. Middleton’s time was also the fifth fastest in state history.

“The final relay was so much fun,” Wolf said. “I think we had the meet secured by then, so we were just trying to go out with another win, trying to feel good.”

They did exactly that.

“We tried to bring gold home for our senior Jackson (Esteves),” Carter said. “That’s the Middleton relay. We like to have fun on that one.”

Middleton had a remarkable amount of fun at state for the second straight year. And with a sophomore class that’s among the best the state has seen in several years, the fun figures to continue.

Since the WIAA went to two divisions in 1993, just two Division 1 schools have at least four straight state titles. Madison Memorial won six in a row from 2011-16, while Homestead won four straight from 1998-2001.

With Middleton’s sensational group of sophomores leading the way, the Cardinals could be poised to join those historic groups.

“I’d be lying if I said our goal next year wouldn’t be to do it again,” Lagerhausen said. “We’re not going to be the same team and we’re going to have to make up ground. But just like we did this year, I’m sure that we’ll find ways to do so next year.”

Carter agreed with his head coach.

“I would say that our goal is to get back and do it again next year,” Carter said. “We’re going to try and work our butts off and do it again.

“I wouldn’t take any other teammates. Like, to have this good of a sophomore class … it gets me excited that I’m going to be teammates with these guys for a few more years. We’re just excited about this one and ready to chase another.”

And eventually get that free meal from Lagerhausen.




1, Middleton, 273; 2, Madison Memorial, 178; 3, Arrowhead, 177; 4, Brookfield Central/East, 138; 5, D.C. Everest, 136.5; 6, Sun Prairie East, 132; 7, Hudson, 126; 8, Franklin, 120; 9, Madison West, 119; 10, West Bend West/East, 99; 11, Verona Area, 90; 12, Muskego, 81; 12, Waukesha South/Catholic Memorial, 81; 14, Neenah, 62; 15, Sun Prairie West, 51; 16, Menomonee Falls/Hamilton, 45; 17, Badger Co-op, 37; 18, Oregon, 33; 19, Waunakee, 31; 20, Waukesha West/Mukwonago, 30; 20, Racine Case Co-op, 30; 22, Hartford Union/Slinger, 29; 23, Beloit Memorial, 28; 23, Homestead, 28; 25, Kenosha Tremper, 22; Sheboygan North/Kohler, 19; 27, Oshkosh North Co-op, 16; 27, Milwaukee King Co-op, 16; 29, Burlington Co-op, 14; 29, Chippewa Falls/McDonell Catholic, 14; 29, Appleton West Co-op, 14; 32, Eau Claire Memorial/North, 13; 33, Marquette University, 13; 34, Kenosha Indian Trail, 8; 35, Marshfield, 6; 36, Sheboygan South/Falls, 4; 36, Wauwatosa West/East, 4; 38, New Berlin West/Eisenhower, 3; 39, Stevens Point, 2.5; 40, La Crosse Logan Co-op, 1.



1-meter diving: 9, Bosten Boid, 335.85.

200 Yard Medley Relay: 1, Middleton — Max Carter, Sam Wolf, Caden Van Buren, Cowan Vitense, 1:30.61.

200 Yard Freestyle: 5, Jackson Esteves, 1:40.38.

200-yard IM: 1, Sam Wolf, 1:47.97;

50-yard freestyle: 6, Max Carter, 21:07; 7, Caden Van Buren, 21:15; 15, Ben Cutler Heiderscheit, 21.64; 19, Cowan Vitense, 21.93.

100-yard butterfly: 2, Caden Van Buren, 49.71; 9, Tony Peters, 51.81; 10, Cowan Vitense, 51.82.

100-yard freestyle: 2, Sam Wolf, 44.80; 10, Ben Cutler Heiderscheit, 47.29.

500 freestyle: 4, Jackson Esteves, 4:33.77.

200-yard freestyle relay: 2, Middleton — Caden Van Buren, Ben Cutler Heiderscheit, Cowan Vitense, Jackson Esteves, 1:25.44.

100-yard backstroke: 2, Max Carter, 49.25.

400-yard freestyle relay: 1, Middleton — Jackson Esteves, Ben Cutler Heiderscheit, Max Carter, Sam Wolf, 3:04.50.

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