MPJ raises the bar

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton's Madeline Pflasterer-Jennerjohn broke the school record in the pole vault at sectionals last Thursday./Photo courtesy of Christopher Hujanen

As the hour grew later, a buzz began circulating around the track at Middleton High School last Thursday, and the crowd grew larger and larger.

Cardinals’ senior Madeline Pflasterer-Jennerjohn was putting on a show in the pole vault, and the last thing anyone wanted was to miss it.

First, “MPJ” cleared 10-feet even, then began increasing her leaps six inches at a time. When “MPJ” went up and over 11-6, she tied her own school record much to the delight of a now jam-packed pit.

The bar immediately went to 11-9, a mark “MPJ” had yet to reach during her brilliant Middleton career. But on this gorgeous May night, “MPJ” made history by going up and over this lofty height and sending the crowd into a frenzy.

In the matter of a few short seconds, “MPJ” set a new school record, won the Middleton Sectional, and now heads to this weekend’s state tournament with the fifth-best pole vault mark in the state.

“It’s a fun way to have my last meet here end up,” Pflasterer-Jennerhohn said. “I really enjoyed it.”

Pflasterer-Jennerjohn’s performance was the highlight of the night for a Middleton program that will be well-represented at the state meet, which will be held Friday and Saturday at UW-La Crosse.

Middleton’s girls were fourth at sectionals with 67 points, well behind champion Sun Prairie (141). But Middleton did send several athletes — who needed to finish in the top three at sectionals — to state.

Cardinals freshman Satori Tanin won the triple jump (36-1 ½) and junior Jennifer McGinnis was third (35-5 ½). Tanin is now seeded ninth at state and McGinnis is seeded 18th.

Middleton senior Betsy Hathaway was third in the pole vault at 10-3 and is seeded 17th at state.

The Cardinals also qualified all four of their relays for state.

Middleton’s 800-meter relay team of McGinnis, sophomore Hadley Braaten, senior Alyssa Lemirande and sophomore Tai Pritts was second at sectionals (1:44.46) and is seeded 13th at state. The 1,600-meter relay team of junior Juliana Castillo, Lemirande, junior Marie Mayers and Braaten was second at sectionals (4:02.03) and is seeded 14th at state.

The Cardinals’ 400-meter relay team of Hathaway, Pritts, senior Rachel Zander and Pflasterer-Jennerjohn was third at sectionals (50.62) and is seeded 22nd. And the 3,200-meter relay team of freshman Charlotte Buck, senior Madeline Ace, junior Margaret Patterson and junior Charlotte Sue was third at sectionals (9:48.33) and is seeded 20th at state.

“To get all four relays through, I couldn’t be more happy,” Middleton coach Cory Christnovich said. “All four had PRs (personal-records) and they picked a great time to do it. I think we’re on an upward trajectory.”

Middleton’s boys weren’t as happy.

The Cardinals, who finished second at the team state tournament last year, were second at sectionals. La Crosse Central won the meet with 94 points, followed by Middleton (71).

But the Cardinals qualified for state in just five events, a number they were hoping would be much greater.

“We had a lot of great performances,” Middleton coach Joe Line said. “Unfortunately, this was a great sectional and some of them didn’t get through. So I know our guys are disappointed that we didn’t get more people through to state.”

Middleton senior Gus Newcomb — who was third at state in the 1,600-meter run and fourth in the 3,200 last year — qualified for both events again. Newcomb was battling an illness and wasn’t at his best, but he finished third in both events and did enough to qualify for state again.

“Aerobically I’m stronger and I’m stronger all around,” said Newcomb, a University of Colorado recruit. “I’m going to try and treat it like any other race, but it’s going to be my last (high school) race, so it’s going to be a big deal.”

Cardinals junior Aaron Richardson won the long jump with a leap of 22-5 ¼ and is seeded sixth at state.

“I’m so happy for Aaron,” Line said. “He was unbelievable.”

Middleton’s 400-meter relay team of senior Anthony Gatlin, Richardson, freshman Joey Kean and senior Tre Turner was fourth (43.19) and is seeded 11th at state.

Sophomore Caleb Easton was fourth at sectionals, but received a special qualifying status because of his stellar time (4:23.14) and is now seeded eighth at state. And junior Jack Rader was fourth at sectionals (9:25.69), but also received special qualifying status and is seeded seventh at state.

After that, though, the Cardinals settled for a handful of fourth place finishes including Max Elliott in the shot put (48-5 ¼) and Louis Hinshaw in the pole vault (13-0). Both the 800-meter relay team of Kean, Gatlin, Richardson and Turner and the 3,200-meter relay team of freshman Braedon Gilles, junior Sam Jaeger, freshman Zach Leffel and senior Ryan Madoch were also fourth — one spot away from qualifying for state.

“It’s tough,” Line said. “But we’re going to go there (to state) and try to have some great performances.”

There’s no doubt the performance of the night was turned in by Pflasterer-Jennerjohn. Members of show business often talk about “leaving on a high note” and “MPJ” certainly did that.

Pflasterer-Jennerjohn was an all-state gymnast who won the uneven bars in March. Many of the same movements and techniques that helped “MPJ” shine in gymnastics have carried over to the track.

“MPJ” didn’t start pole vaulting until her sophomore year, when her personal-best mark was 9-6. Last year, “MPJ” qualified for state and settled for 17th individually. This year, she stands a terrific chance of reaching the podium, which is reserved for the top-six athletes in each event.

“I really didn’t expect any of this,” said “MPJ”, who will compete in track and field at UW-La Crosse beginning this fall. “My freshman year, I did gymnastics year round and didn't start doing the pole vault until I was a sophomore. But it’s been a blast.”

And never was it more enjoyable than at sectionals.

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