On Friday April 10th at 8 o'clock sharp, the lights over Mike Webster Stadium and Stafford Field (Hodag Park) came on. No one took to the field, but this stood as a message to the players and students who have lost their Spring season and the rest of their school year, that we stand with them. Due to the COVID- 19 pandemic our Spring athletes and seniors of this year are missing out on the end of the 2019-2020 school year. All across Wisconsin, school districts lit up the fields for those students who couldn't be there. #BeTheLightWI was what spurred this movement. With the stay at home order being set to the end of the school year and school being cancelled for all Rhinelander students this brings us hope when there seems to be none.
To all of our seniors and athletes just know we are with you! Hodags united we stand!
The 2019-2020 Rhinelander High School boys' swim team had another stellar resume this season including dominating the Great Northern Conference as well as winning the WIAA Division 2 Wisconsin Rapids Sectional and competing at the WIAA State tournament. Here is a look back at their year and what to look forward to for the 2020-2021 season.
For the second straight year the Hodags went undefeated in the GNC and were able to break 100 points in all 10 of their conference duals to finish 10-0. RHS also hosted the GNC meet at the Heck Family Community Pool on Friday, February 7th. The Hodags recorded 417 points at the meet, marking the second-most ever scored in the conference meet. RHS dominated the field winning by over 132 points over runner-up Tomahawk and would win four events a well as have one top-three finish in all 11 races.
The Hodags depth proved to be the difference, and ten different RHS swimmers earned all-conference honors by placing in the top three in at least one event. And 12 Hodag swimmers reached the podium by earning top-six finishes. There strength was especially evident in their relay races where the Hodag A and B entries all placed in the top-four in the three races.
Senior Thaddeus Heck broke the conference record in the 100-yard breaststroke as part of his four top-four finishes on the evening. RHS was also narrowly missed beating conference records in the 200-freestyle and 200-medley relays. Heck took down the GNC title set by Lakeland's Tyler Teichmiller b a tenth of a second in his final high school race in their own pool. Senior Devon Gaber also earned all-GNC in all four of his events, highlighted by his win in the 100-yard freestyle.
Rhinelander would continue with their success at the WIAA Division 2 Sectionals in Wisconsin Rapids, where the Hodags earned their second straight sectional title out of 11 teams. RHS won two events on the day and bettered their seed time in all 21 entries and had 18 entires make the top-eight to win with 336 points, and Tomahawk was runner-up with 278 points.
The Hodags automatic state berths were the 200-freestyle relay where freshman Daniel Gillingham, Devon Gaber, junior Joseph Heck, and freshman Charlie Heck edged Lakeland with a time of 1:31.96. Thaddeus Heck had the other automatic ticket to state by winning the 100-yard breaststroke over Lakeland senior Tyler Teichmiller by 0.30 seconds (1:03.56).
RHS also advanced to state in the 200 medley relay (Joseph Heck, Thaddeus Heck, King, Devon Gaber) and the 400 freestyle relay (Gillingham, King, freshman Jack Antonuk, and Charlie Heck. Gaber advanced in the 50 and 100 freestyle and Joseph Heck also advanced in the 50 free. King (100-fly), Thaddeus Heck (100-breast), and Antonuk (200-IM) also advanced for the Hodags.
Although the Hodags had a strong showing in the GNC as well as at sectional, they did not produce the same state results like last season where they had two state champions, two runner-up finishes as well as two other podium finishes. This season RHS was unable to reach the podium in their nine entries and finishes 14th overall in Madison out of 33 teams. Lakeland finished 10th and Tomahawk placed 17th.
Rhinelander will lose three seniors to graduation; Thaddeus Heck, Devon Gaber, and David King. All three Hodag seniors played a large role in the success of not only individual events but relays as well. Although RHS will lose three leaders next season, they return plenty of talent and are optimistic of the upcoming season. Rhinelander will bring back seven all-conference including state swimmers; Joseph Heck, Charlie Heck, Daniel Gillingham, and Jack Antonuk. The Hodags will also return Jacob Schoppe, Gavin Osterman, Ashton Cole, Cooper Kovac, Billy Berwig, Marcus O'Malley, Eli Lundt, Daniel King, and Carter Caber.
The Hodags will be looking to earn another GNC title in 2020-2021 but will likely not have the same depth as they had this season after losing three of their top swimmers. Lakeland will lose two of their top swimmers to graduation; Brandon Boh and Tyler Teichmiller and Tomahawk will also lose Travis Phillips. Despite the loses Rhinelander will strive to be at the top of the conference again this upcoming season.
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