The Rhinelander High School girls' swim team made a big splash at the 50th WIAA Division 2 girls' state meet on Friday night. The Hodags finished fifth overall in the 38-team field at the UW Natatorium in Madson. Sophomore Malia Francis led the night for RHS and cruised to a pair of individual state titles.
Madison Edgewood would cruise to their fifth straight D2 title in a convincing fashion with 290 points, which was 126.5 points ahead of runner-up McFarland. The Crusaders also became only the second girls' swim and dive team to win five consecutive championships and won five events on the night including three all three relays. After Edgewood and McFarland was Ashwaubenon (141.50 points), Shorewood (125 points), and Rhinelander (118 points).
Francis had a standout night for the Hodags and would win D2 state titles in both the 100-yard butterfly and the 100-yard backstroke. Bu Rhinelander started the night podium finish in the 200-yard medley relay. The team of junior Lisa Kennedy, Francis, junior Makenna Winnicki, and sophomore Noelle St. Pierre finished 5th with a time of 1:49.08, bettering their seed time by 0.57 seconds. Edgewood would win the 200-medley relay with a blistering time of 1:44.51 which was 3.76 seconds better than their seeded time and set new D2 state record.
Francis led from start to finish in the 100-fly with an opening the first 50-yards at 26.35 seconds and clocked in with a winning time of 56.23 seconds. She beat out Ashwaubenon junior Hallory Domnick by 1.38 seconds. Francis finished 1.31 better than her seeded time and only 0.6 seconds off the current D2 record set in 2014 by Autumn Haebig of Grafton.
Than later in the meet Francis added her second D2 title in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 54.72 seconds, which was only 0.07 seconds off the state record. She cruised passed defending state champion Mara Freeman of McFarland by 0.96 seconds. It also marked RHS girls' swimming ninth title in school history. The last time girls' swimming clenched first in a state event was back in 2016 when Kiah Francis won the 200-IM and 100-breaststroke.
Winnicki would reach the podium again for Rhinelander after finishing fourth overall in the 500-yard freestyle. She shaved off 4.16 seconds off her seeded time, clocking at 5:15.55, a lifetime best. Winnicki also placed ninth in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:13.42.
In the 200-yard freestyle relay the Rhinelander group of Winnicki, Francis, Kennedy, and St. Pierre finished eighth overall with a time of 1:41.27. Lakeland finished sixth in the 200-yard freestyle relay, 0.77 seconds ahead of the Hodag's relay. Kennedy also added a 13th place finish in the 100-yard backstroke.
Rhinelander sat at second in the team standings with two events left, but was leaped after not having any entries in the 100-yard breaststroke and 400-freestyle relay.
The Hodags will look to have another successful season next year and will have a big advantage with returning all four state qualifiers. RHS will continue to train hard in the off season and will strive to add another GNC title as well as get back to the D2 WIAA state meet.
Although the 2019 Rhinelander Hig School cross country did not send any harriers to the WIAA Division 2 State Meet this season, they continue to progress and improve as a team which was especially evident in sectionals. The Hodags had several notable individual and team results this past season and here is a look at back at their successes and what to look forward to in 2020 with all 14 varsity runners returning under Coach M.J. Laggis.
Rhinelander opened their season with their home invite where the girls finished 5th and the boys placed 6th. For the RHS's next two meets both the boys and girls finished runner-up or third. At Mosinee both Rhinelander divisions finished third and at the non-conference invite at Stratfrod the girls were 2nd/6 and the boys added another third place finish.
One of the biggest invitationals the Hodags participate in every season is the annual Smiley Invite held at Tribute Golf Course in Wausau. This season was the 63rd annual, and Rhinelander girls finished 7th/8 in the Small Division of D1 schools and the boys were 10th/11. One of Rhinelander's top boy harriers, junior Jacob Weddle was sick but still battled through and finished 54th out of a field of 164 D1 runners.
Sophomore Cal Laggis was the Hodags top finisher in the boys' division and placed 32nd and fellow sophomore Jaden Beske was 49th. On the girls side junior Abbey Henrichs paced the RHS girls and was 21st in a field of 154 D1 harriers. Junior Ali DeNamur was right behind in 22nd. And sophomore Audrey Schiek was 38th, junior Ella Schiek finished 41st, and sophomore Sage Flory placed 48th.
After the Smiley Invite, Rhinelander was primarily back to full strength and went on another streak where they placed top-three in both the girls' and boys' divisions in their next four invites. Starting at Gartzke Flowage, the Hodags got their first look at where the GNC meet would take place in Polar, where the girls finished second and the boys placed in the five team event. From there, both teams earned third place finishes at the Charger Invite in Waupaca, which included a field of 10-teams.
Then at the Northland Pines Invite, both the girls and boys both won their divisions out of five teams. Both teams cruised to convincing wins which included all seven varsity runners placing in the top-12 on the boys side and all seven of the varsity girls recording top-17 finishes. Weddle led a 1-2 finish with teammate Laggis, both cracking the 18-minute mark. Beske finished fifth, junior Daniel Goldsworthy was eighth, junior JC Adams was 10th, freshman Nathanael Gibbs placed 11th, and junior David Gibbs finished 12th. Abbey Henrichs set the pace or the RHS girls’ and was fourth overall followed by Audrey Schiek in fifth, sophomore Emma Germain finished eighth, Flory was 12th, sophomore Megan Brown was 13th, and senior Valeria Dalka rounded out the varsity in 17th.
Rhinelander finished in the middle of the pack to follow in an invite at Edgewater. The lady Hodags were 5th/9 and the boys were also 5th/11. RHS was looking to make up some ground against Mosinee in the Great Northern Conference invite at Gartzke Flowage. But both the boys and girls harriers finished 5th/7 in the conference. Tomahawk boys edged Lakeland for the GNC title and Medford girls beat out Lakeland for the girls' title. RHS did show great improvement in promise as the battled a tough sectional at Edgewater in Tomahawk. The girls were 7th/16 and the boys’ finished 8th/16 but were unable to send any individuals to state. On the plus side the girls bumped up three positions from last season's section finish and the boys jumped spots ahead in sectionals compared to last year.
All 14 varsity runners who competed at both the GNC meet and sectionals will return next season in which 11 harriers dropped time, which could mean a break out season for 2020. The Hodags also had six of the seven harriers on the boys’ side of action set personal-best times this year. Coach Laggis and the RHS Cross Country team will continue to train hard in the off-season and are optimistic for what the future holds.
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