It was history in the making for Coach Aaron Kraemer and the Rhinelander High School boys' track team on Tuesday night at the Great Northern Conference meet held at River Valley Bank Field at Lakeland High School. The Hodags boys showed their depth and used a pair of wins along with 13 top-three finishes to earn their first conference title since 1967 and Coach Kraemer earned conference coach of the year.
The RHS boys' edged Medford by 17 points for the team title finishing with 142 points and snapped the 52 year streak without a title and also ended Lakeland's nine year GNC title streak. Northland Pines placed third with 111.5 points and Lakeland was fourth with 105.5 points followed by Mosinee, Tomahawk, and Antigo. Last season the Rhinelander boys' finished fifth in the GNC and showed determination and perseverance that turned the 2019 into such a success.
As the night progressed, the Hodags knew it would be a battle to the end especially going into the final three events where RHS held a 12-point lead. Medford was seeded 1-2 in the 3,200 and Rhinelander would need to add enough points in the long jump and 4x400 relay to fend of the Raiders.
RHS did just that by finished 2-4-5 in the long jump and adding a fourth place finish in 4x400 as well as fourth in the 4x800 relay. Junior Peyton Erikson finished runner-up in the long jump at 19 feet, 8.5 inches. Lakeland junior Vincent Strong set a personal record and won at 19-11. Junior Drake Martin finished fourth (19-1.5) and senior Josh Francisco was ninth in prelims and had an impressive 18-3 finals jump to place fifth place.
It also gave RHS a 29-point advantage going into the 3,200 where the Raiders made up 12 points by finishing 1-3 led by senior Derek Rudolph (10:27.22) while freshman teammate Joey Sullivan finished third. Tomahawk sophomore Drew Bolder finished runner-up.
Rhinelander also showcased their depth in their sprinting events and won both the 4x100 relay and 4x200 relay. First the team of Nick Kriesel, Martin, AJ Kopplin, and Caleb Olcikas edged Medford by 0.46 seconds to win the 4x200 with a time of 1:33.96. And only a few minutes later in the 4x100, Kriesel,Francisco, Kopplin, and Olcikas beat out Mosinee by 0.12 seconds to win with a time of 44.55 seconds.
The Hodags also had early success and add more points in the 100 and 200 meter dashes where they had three sprinters qualify for the finals in each event.RHS went 2-3-8 in the 100-meter and 2-3-7 in the 200. Northland Pinesenior Lochlan Siegmeier won both the 100 and 200. Francisco was runner-up in the 100 (11.47 seconds) and set a personal record in the 200 with a time of 23.20 seconds to finish third. Senior Anthony Kowalski was second in the 200 (23.15) and third in the 100 (11.47). Olcikas was seventh in the 200 (24.46) and Kriesel was eighth (11.95) in the 100.
Along with the points in the long jump, Rhinelander added more points in triple jump, high jump,discus, and hurdles. Erikson and Martin went 2-3 in the triple jump. And Kopplin and junior Calvin Schneider went 3-4 in the high jump. Siegmeier also won the high jump, clearing 6'2".
Sophomore Alex Olson added a fourth place finish in the boys' discus and Martin finished fifth in the shot put. Freshman Cole Worrall also had a solid night for RHS setting personal records in both the 110 (2nd;16.65 seconds) and 300 hurdles (3rd; 45.12 seconds).
On the girls' side of action, Rhinelander finished seventh overall in the GNC standings. Medford girls' won the conference race with 188 points to beat out Mosinee by 27 points. The lady Hodags also added a few all-conference finishes from sophomore Rebecca Lawrence and junior Aryssa Zasada.
Lawrence had a personal best and cleared 5'2" the high jump but fell in a tiebreaker with Emily Wicklund of Mosinee based on number of attepts to finish third. Northland Pines junior Jacqueline Smith won, clearing 5'3". While Zasada finished third in the 100-meter hurdle finals with a time of 18.34 seconds.
RHS 4x100 relay team of Isabella Anderson, Sage Flory, Samantha Siefert, and Lily Sneller placed fourth. While the girls' 4x800 charted fifth and the 4x200 and 4x400 relay teams both placed sixth. Flory added a seventh place finish in the 100 and charted eighth in the 200. Fellow freshman Megan Brown came in seventh in the 400.
Freshman Emma Germain was fifth in the triple jump and eighth in the 400. While Delaney Chillemi and Zasada went 6-8 in the 300 hurdles.And junior Morgan Johnson finished seventh in the 100 hurdles behind Zasada.
The RHS track team will be back at Lakeland on Monday at 4:00PM when they compete at the WIAA Regional meet where they will face their GNC rivals along with Stratford and Wittenberg-Birnamwood.