The 2016-2017 Rhinelander High School boys' swimming team overcame some difficult challenges throughout the season, and was still able to qualify for the WIAA State Meet in four different events. Despite the adversity faced the Hodags proved they are here to battle and the future looks bright.
Rhinelander boys' swimmers were the 2015-2016 Great Northern Conference champions, but were unable to repeat their title after finishing fifth overall in the conference at 2-8. Lakeland and Shawano took the top two positions in the GNC.
It was already proving to be a challenging season, after the Hodags graduated roughly half of their GNC championship team. Rhinelander stayed optimistic and tried their best to fill a full lineup, but would end up three swimmers short and battled with nine swimmers which took its toll early in the season.
The first stretch of the season, proved to be a struggle for the Hodags, who won more events in their first two meets against Antigo and Tomahawk, but would still fall short of winning. At the end of November RHS fell 98-72 to the Robins and December, 1st they lost 94-76 to the Hatchets. And the Hodags would follow a week late with a tough loss to Lakeland.
Rhinelander's two conference wins in the 2016-2017 season both came over Medford. The Raiders were the lone GNC team to finish without a win in the conference. The first win came mid-December where RHS won 99-63. The second win didn’t come until after the pertussis outbreak at the end of January where the Hodags defeated the Raiders 115-49.
Another huge issue the RHS boys' swim team faced was the time that had to be taken off due to whooping cough, which affected a majority of the winter sports at RHS. So Coach Lindsay Byrka and the coaching staff had to come with a new training plan to prepare the Hodags for WIAA sectionals. But the Hodags pushed through and went against the odds and not only had successful swims at sectionals, but four events did well enough to qualify the 2017 WIAA State Swim Meet.
So instead of undergoing some of their most rigorous training over winter break, the Hodags season was put on hold where they were unable to practice or compete. Rhinelander finally returned to action on January, 7th for an invite in Ashwaubenon. Due to the cancellations the Hodags' final weeks consisted of several meets with two that were scheduled back-to-back.
But despite being drained from a tough makeup schedule, the Hodags took on the challenge and saved some of their best swims for the WIAA sectionals held at UW-Stevens Point and for the WIAA State Meet held in Madison.
On February, 11th Rhinelander would have an impressive showing at sectionals and finished 5th out of 15 total teams at the Division 2 sectionals and they were also the third best GNC school on the day.
Sophomore Nolan Francis who have a hand in all four state qualifying events include two individual events; the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 butterfly. The most notable win in sectionals for Francis proved to be the 200-IM where he became the first swimmer in RHS history to break the two-minute barrier.
Francis along with Thaddeus Heck, Martin Hoger, and David King finished second in the 200-medley relay with a time of 1 minute, 45.28 seconds which proved to be enough to advance to state. And Russell Benoy, Hoger, Devon Gaber, and Francis placed fifth at 1:45.01. Luckily the Hodags made the cutoff by 0.09 seconds and would add another event to thei 2017 state list.
And on February, 17th the RHS boys' swim team would finish 16th overall out of 31 teams at the WIAA Division 2 State swimming meet at the UW-Madison Natatorium.
Leading the way was sophomore Nolan Francis, who finished in sixth-place in both the 100-yard butterfly and the 200-yard individual medley. Rhinelander's 200 medley relay team finished 12th place at state and the 200 freestyle relay team was disqualified for an early exchange.
In the process, Francis was able to break his own school record in the 200 IM, and clocked in with a time of 1 minute, 59.08 seconds, which is set at the WIAA Stevens Point sectionals. He also had a personal best in the fly at 53.84 seconds. It also marked RHS's first boys' podium finish since 2009.
Looking ahead to 2017-2018 season, Rhinelander will return eight of their nine swimmers. The only loss was exchange student Vlad Gorodoja, who joined the team late in the season. Rhinelander is hoping to increase their numbers to fill a full lineup, but regardless of what happens, the Hodags will battle and look for another successful season.
Like several other winter RHS sports, the Rhinelander/Antigo girls' hockey team had several obstacles in their way for the 2016-2017 season which impacted their overall results. Northern Edge finished the year 4-15-0 overall and 2-6 in the Great Northern Conference standings under head Coach Kevin Sandstrom.
It also marked the first time in five seasons the Edge fell below .500. The Edge finished fourth in the Great Northern Conference, only finishing ahead of Medford who went without a win at 0-8.
Along with not competing in over a month span due to the pertussis outbreak after winter break, Northern Edge girls' hockey also faced several players having concussions throughout the season. Rhinelander/Antigo also had a difficult time filling the scoring voids of Katie Detert and Lindsey Steger, who were 1st and 3rd all-time scorers for the Edge.
Northern Edge had a rocky start to their 2016-2017 season, where they lost seven straight contests to start the season that was broken apart by the month of no games. Despite the losses they are some hard fought battles against some top teams including a 3-1 loss on the road against Waupaca.
The Edge charted their first win of the year over Medford on the road at the end of January. Northern Edge outshot the Raiders 34-31 and was able to earn the 6-4 GNC win to give them momentum. Rhinelander/Antigo also spread their scoring out, charting two goals per period.
Junior Kourtney Carrico and freshman Jade Forster each scored two goals in the win over Medford. And Payton Bunnell and Ellen Padgett each added one as well.
Just two games later, the Edge also earned a 3-1 non-conference win over the Icebergs of Stoughton on the road. Despite the Icebergs outshooting Rhinelander/Antigo 38-22 in the contest, the Edge was able to convert more shots tallying one goal per period. Padgett, Alicia Turunen, and Abby Oettinger all recorded goals in the win.
Out of Northern Edges' 25 GNC goals this season, 22 of them came against Medford. The Edge would improve each contest against the Raiders throughout the year and earned 9-2 and 7-1 victories nearing the end of the season.
Northern Edges' team offense only averaged 1.8 goals per game in the GNC, while Northland Pine led the conference with 6.1 goals per game, and Waupaca wasn't far behind averaging 5.1 per contest. Rhinelander/Antigo was also shutout in a total of 10 games this season.
The Edge had no individual scorers or assist leaders make the top of the GNC list and struggled converting power plays on the year at only 9.7%.Waupaca led the GNC converting 37.9% of power plays.
Throughout the year, the Edge only finished with 29 goals throughout 19 games. Carrico led Northern Edge this season with 9 goals, 3 assists. Freshman Turunen and Forster each added five goals apiece. Oettinger finished with 1 goal, 4 assists. And Padgett added 2 goals, 2 assists while Chelsea Newby recorded 2 goals and 1 assist as well.
Defense improved for the Edge throughout the year, where they finished 3rd in the GNC in team kill percentage at 88.5%. Waupaca led the GNC with a 100% penalty kill. Northern Edge finished 4th in the conference in goals against average at 4.1 per game. Lakeland/Tomahawk swept the goals against average with all-conference goalie Erin Sparks who allowed 1.47 goals per game.
Senior goalie Shea Petersen anchored Northern Edges' defense and was 4th in the GNC with a 4.00 goals against average with the 3rd best individual save percentage at 88.5%. Sparks led the GNC with an impressive 94.6% save percentage.
Overall Petersens' save percentage went up to 89.0% if you included non-conference games while she averaged facing 41.2 shots per game. In her efforts to close her senior year, Petersen received second-team all-GNC.
Rhinelander/Antigo will lose four seniors to graduation looking ahead to next season, including Petersen, Newby, Sethany Sass, and junior Oettinger who will be graduating early. But will return seven solid juniors who made up a majority of the teams’ top scorers as well as several underclassmen with varsity expereice making the future look bright for Northern Edge.
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