There is plenty to look forward to for the 2019 Rhinelander High School track season as they return a number of their top athletes paired with a increased number of athletes and they also drop to Division 2 this season. The coaching staff and Hodag athletes are optimistic the change means more competitive success when it comes to WIAA playoff time.
The RHS track numbers continue to climb as they have approximately 60 athletes out for the start of the 2019 season. They also have a number of top returning experience and have plenty of competitive underclassmen eager to begin their indoor competition season. Last season the RHS boys' finished 5th in the GNC while the girls' placed 7th. Lakeland and Medford earned first and second in the conference in both the boys' and girls' division last season.
Rhinelander returns six all-conference athletes on the boys' side that includes a pair of sectional qualifiers; senior Josh Francisco and junior Peyton Erikson. Francisco placed seventh at sectionals in the 100-meter dash and Erikson finished sixth in the triple jump. The boys' will return a good portion of their team but will look to fill the void of hurdler Alex Monk who graduated.
Also returning is the boys' Great Northern Conference-champion team in the 4x100 which included Francisco, Anthony Kowalski, AJ Kopplin, and Nick Kriesel. Erikson also was GNC champ in the triple jump. While junior Drake also earned all-conference for the Hodags in triple jump and shot put.
Alex Olson will also be back for RHS after finished seventh in the discus in the GNC last season. Ben Sinclair, Chase Redmond, and Connor Lund will also be competing in the field events for the Hodags.
Along with Rhinelander’s experience they bring back they also have a number of freshman looking to make an early impact. In the sprint drills, freshman Caleb has made early strides and had the second best 40-yard dash average behind senior Francisco after the first few days of practice.
On the girls' side, Rhinelander lost their only all-conference athlete Lexie Rick along with sprinter Ellen Pagett to graduation. But just like the boys' side, the RHS girls' return a number of experienced athletes along paired with a number of underclassman for the upcoming season.
Sophomore Rebecca Lawrence returns after finishing fourth in the conference in the high jump with a height of 4-10. While in the girls’ throwing, Rhinelander returns everyone except Rick including Olivia Turgeon, Jackie Wells, and Shawna Will.
Lexi Morrison will compete in long distance and Isabella Anderson will return for sprints after finishing 11th in the GNC last year. Also returning will be Mattia Beske and Samantha Siefert. The girls' side also has a number of freshman including Sage Flory and Emma Germain who look to make an early impact on the team.
Rhinelander will kick off their 2019 indoor season on Thursday when they travel to Wisconsin Rapids for an invite. It will be a nice opening point to see where the team stands as they prepare for their outdoor season. RHS will have four indoor meets this season including the GNC Indoor at Northland Pines on March 26th.The Hodags first outdoor meet is slated for April 11th at Medford.
The Rhinelander High School baseball team raced out to a hot start to the season and found themselves at 9-0, before the tides turned and the late start to the season paired with doubleheaders took its toll on the team. The Hodags would fall back and finished third in the Great Northern Conference at 8-6 and would go 12-11 on the season overall to finish about .500.
Offensively Rhinelander was the second best GNC team averaging 6.1 runs per contest, behind Antigo who averaged 10.3 runs. Defense in the conference was led by the Robins who only allowed 1.5 runs per game, and RHS was runner-up allowing 3.4 per contest.
The Hodags started the season with four straight no-conference wins against Peshtigo, Crivitz, Stratford, and Wausau East. They then opened their GNC portion of their schedule on May 1st where they swept Northland Pines in a doubleheader. Just two days later they against swept a conference doubleheader against Medford.
On May 7th, it appeared as if Rhinelander would continue the streak as they cruised to a convincing 10-0 victory against Lakeland. But in the second game of the doubleheader proved to be different story, and the Hodags suffered their first loss of the season in a close 5-4 game.
Rhinelander would lose eight straight including doubleheaders against Mosinee, Wisconsin Rapids, and Antigo. RHS fell to Tomahawk on the road in the first game of the doubleheader before breaking the streak and shutting out the Hatchets 6-0. The Hodags managed to get through their 21-game schedule in only 28 days, with all conference doubleheaders.
Opening the WIAA Division 2 regionals as the No. 2 seed, Rhinelander took on Lakeland and would easily earn the 7-0 win to advance to the regional finals. But the Hodags were denied their first trip to sectionals since 2004 and fell by one-run to Mosinee, who would go on to qualify for state.
Throughout the season, the Hodags were led by a core group of seniors which included Brad Comer, Jacob DeMeyer, Brad Quade, Cole Spaulding, and Owen White who all earned all-conference recognition this season. Comer and DeMeyer both earned all-state recognition as well by the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association; DeMeyer earned first-team as an outfielder, while Comer was honorable mention infielder. Bryce Schickert was the only non-senior to earn GNC honors and was honorable mention pitching as a junior.
DeMeyer finished with the third best batting average in the conference at 0.475 and was tied for second with 10 hits. Teammates Comer and White also made the top of the GNC and each collected 15 hits in the GNC. Comer was also tied for first in RBI's in the conference with 15. Quade was also tied for first in the GNC with 15 individual runs scored.
While for conference pitching, Rhinelander finished third as a team with a 3.59 ERA. Schickert was third in strikeouts with 20 and fourth with a 2.49 ERA. Josh Randolph also made the top GNC list for strikeouts and finished with 16.
Looking ahead to 2019, the Hodags will lose several of their top players to graduation and will have many gaps to fill. They will return a number of pitchers including Schickert, Randolph, Liam Stevens, and Martin Hoger for next season. But the biggest question will be what players will step up at the plate next season as well as fill gaps in the infield as well as outfield.
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