Ben Gauger/Lakeland Times

Brandt Beukema runs the 110 hurdles during regionals at Colby High School on Monday, May 22. Beukema has a seventh seed in the event at state.
Ben Gauger/Lakeland Times

Brandt Beukema runs the 110 hurdles during regionals at Colby High School on Monday, May 22. Beukema has a seventh seed in the event at state.
It's the final curtain call for two strong teams this weekend. At the state track meet, both Lakeland Union High School and Mercer High School will put everything on the line in hopes of a state title at the WIAA state track meet Friday and Saturday at UW-La Crosse.

The Thunderbirds are coming off a strong showing at a Division 2 sectional meet in Medford, taking the championship for the boys, along with a fourth place finish for the girls.

Mercer, from a Division 3 sectional meet in Colfax, will bring its defending state champion Sydney Thompson back into the fold.



Lakeland

The Thunderbirds will be sending 16 athletes to the state meet, eight boys and eight girls.

Kav FitzPatrick leads the way for the Thunderbird boys, competing in three events - the 800, 1600, and 4x800 relay.

FitzPatrick, a sectional champion in the 800 run, will be seeded 13th with his time of 2:00.96. In the 1600, which FitzPatrick took fourth in sectionals, he will be the 12th seed with 4:31.00

The 4x800 relay, sectional champions with 8:12.38 take the ninth seed at state, the team comprised of Noah Bodewes, Darius Diver, FitzPatrick and Kieran Mullen, with Jack Garcia and Travis Gee also traveling to the meet.

Bodewes and Diver took first and second, respectively, at sectionals in the 3,200-meter run. In La Crosse, the duo picked up the eighth and ninth seeds, with Bodewes time of 9:55.43 for eighth and Diver's 9:57.06 for ninth.

Mullen will also join FitzPatrick in the 800 run as the 16th seed with his time of 2:02.15.

Sectional champion Brant Beukema will run in both the 110 and 300 meter hurdles, winning the 300 and placing third in 110 at the sectional meet in Medford. Beukema's time of 15.03 seconds earned him a seventh seed for the 100, while taking an eighth seed in the 300 with a time of 40.09 seconds.

As the only Thunderbird boys' field participant at the state meet, Jake Rexroade takes the 12th seed in the high jump with his height of 6 feet, 2 inches from sectionals which earned him a second place finish in Medford.

For the girls, the Thunderbirds are just as plentiful.

Ashley Peterson will compete in three events - the 1600, 3200 and 4x800 relay.

Peterson, who finished second at sectionals in the 1600, takes the 11th seed with her time of 5:25.17. The freshman also finished in third in the 3200 where she'll be the 12th seed with 12:02.52.

The 4x800 relay - consisting of Peterson, Aubrey Anderson, Stephanie Balas, Lauren Schilling, Stephanie Mauzer and Maddie Nelson - took first at sectionals with 9:41.11, good for a fourth seed for the Thunderbirds, one of two top five seeds on either side.

Anderson takes the other, taking a third seed in the 800 meter run with her second place time of 2:18.04 at sectionals.

Anderson will also race as part of the 4x400 relay, along with Schilling, Carley Hintz, Stephanie Mauzer, Balas and Riley Mauzer. The team takes the 14th seed from their sectional time of 4:07.23, where they took fourth.

"I'm excited to see what's possible at state," head coach  Kevin FitzPatrick said. "I know some game plans have changed based on Sectionals. I believe we will have several T-Birds on the podium and perhaps even a state champion."

FitzPatrick credits his coaching staff for the team's journey to the state meet.

"Our kids are incredible, our parents believe in what were doing, and we have outstanding coaches. Our assistant coaches don't get enough credit for all they do," he said. "They put in a tremendous amount time and they treat every young man and woman on out team with the same care and compassion they would show their own children."



Mercer

But the Thunderbirds won't be the Northwoods' only representation in La Crosse. Mercer will send three of their own to the meet, including defending state champion Sydney Thompson.

Thompson will look to defend her title in the shot put, where she dominated the Colfax sectionals, her throw of 43 feet, 3 inches winning by seven feet. Thompson will be the top seed.

"Sydney is intent on defending her state championship in the shot put and is right on track to do that," head coach Bob Schenk said. "We have had some good practices and she is consistently over 43 feet."

In addition, she'll throw the discus as well, which Thompson also topped in Colfax. Her throw of 132 feet, 3 inches flew nearly 20 feet past second place.

"In the discus it will be very interesting due to the lack of practice we have had all year due to the weather but she seems to be peaking at the right time," Schenk said.

Aubrey Schoeneman will join Thompson in the shot put, where she finished in third at sectionals. Her throw of 36 feet, 2 and a half inches earned her the 11th seed at state.

"Aubrey is only a freshman and her goal is to beat the other two freshmen who are in the shot put," Schenk said. "She is very excited to be only the second freshman thrower from Mercer to make it to state and only my second ever."

The Tigers will send only one boy to the state meet as Tyler Bianga will also throw in the shot put. Bianga took second at sectionals with 48 feet, 2 inches, earning him an 11th seed.

"Tyler's goal is to get on the podium after a great season," Schenk said.

"He will have to be near his peak to get there but is very motivated to do it."

Schenk hopes to go out with a bang, stating that he will retire following the state meet.

"This is my last meet after almost 40 years of coaching volleyball and track. It is a real thrill and honor for me to have coached these kids and the thousands of others I have coached in volleyball and track. (I have) heart surgery in June, but I plan on sticking around and helping out my daughter Robyn (Schoeneman) with coaching track next year. Time to slow down and enjoy life."

The state meet will start at 9:30 a.m. today, with finals beginning on Saturday at 9:30 at UW-La Crosse.

Ben Gauger may be reached via email at bgauger@lakelandtimes.com.