Middleton's Top 10 sports moments of 2017

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Middleton's girls swimming and diving team won a second straight state title in 2017./File photo

The years pass and the athletes change.

But things seem to stay the same when it comes to athletics at Middleton High School.

Conference championships are par for the course. State titles are commonplace throughout the athletic department.

It was more of the same in 2017 for one of the elite athletic programs in the state.

Here’s one person’s opinion of the top-10 Middleton sports stories of 2017.

 

1. Girls swimmers enjoy sweet repeat

After completing a thoroughly dominant season, Middleton’s girls swimming and diving team found itself in the unfamiliar role of underdog heading into the WIAA Division 1 state meet in early November.

According to a pre-race “mock meet” based on seedings from sectionals, Middleton was tabbed to finish second at meet, something that didn’t sit well with the Cardinals.

“Going into this year we did read articles about how we weren’t supposed to win and how we were seeded second by eight points,” sophomore Gabriela Pierobon Mays said. “I think that’s when we turned around and we were like, ‘All right, we’re the underdogs now and we love being underdogs.’ ”

Motivated by that slight, the Cardinals dominated the state meet from start to finish and rolled to their second consecutive state championship at the UW Natatorium.

Middleton won the meet’s opening event, the 200-yard medley relay, and never looked back.

“We knew what it was like,” Middleton coach Lauren Cabalka said. “A lot of these girls were here when we got second (in 2015). They were here last year when we won. They know what it feels like and they know what it takes. We just rode on some leadership that was outstanding and we had girls step up and swim like I’ve never seen them swim before.”

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Swim Coach Association (WISCA) gave Cedarburg the edge over Middleton based on the seedings before the meet.

“Going in as underdogs we really were more calm, but we were really confident in our abilities,” Pierobon Mays said. “We just wanted to go out there and we wanted to race and compete. Every single person in every single race could move up except for our relays. So that was just our goal for everyone to move up and score points and we did. It’s pretty amazing how much of a jump we had from the seeds to the finals.”

Middleton finished with 313.50 points, well ahead of runner-up and pre-race favorite Cedarburg with 242. Hartland Arrowhead was third with 189 points and Verona/Mount Horeb was fourth with 176.

“It is so unreal,” junior Hannah Aegerter said. “Going into this meet we were not seeded to win and we just came into it with just such a high attitude. We were like, ‘We know what we can do so let’s prove it.’ We all swam like we should have, we all felt super great throughout the meet, we kept up our attitude super high, and it was just really fun.”

Added senior Caroline Hippen: “We came in as underdogs and to win by that big of a margin is pretty remarkable.”

Though Middleton only captured one individual event, the Cardinals showed off their depth by dominating the relays and accumulating 15 podium finishes in the meet.

“That’s been our story for three years,” Cabalka said. “That is what I’m most proud of when I coach this team that we have depth that other teams don’t. You don’t have to come out and win everything, but, if you’ve got a solid group of girls that are committed to the same goals and they’re going to do whatever they can to move up wherever they can, then they’re going to come out like that.”

The Cardinals repeatedly finished far above their seeds throughout the meet.

Gabriela Pierobon Mays won the 100-yard butterfly in 55.04 despite being seeded fifth, and was also third in the 100-yard backstroke in 55.27.

The Cardinals also won two of the three relay events.

Chiara Pierobon Mays, freshman Ally Silvestri, Gabriela Pierobon Mays, and sophomore Berkley Smith won the 200-yard medley relay in 1:42.92.

“That’s actually the first time I think we’ve won our medley relay,” Gabriela Pierobon Mays said. “That was amazing, especially swimming with my sister. It was really amazing that I could share that with her before she leaves.”

The foursome of junior Cora Mack, Smith, Aegerter, and Hippen won the 200-yard freestyle relay in 1:34.65. Hippen swam anchor and helped the Cardinals pull away down the stretch.

“I love swimming anchor,” Hippen said. “You’ve got to get up and go. I’m definitely pleased with it and how my team swam as well. They got me that little edge so I definitely couldn’t have done it without them.”

“We’ve gone undefeated in the 200 free throughout this whole season so that was super awesome to continue that year and continue the one from last year too with our 200 free,” Aegerter said.

Middleton’s 400 freestyle relay of Aegerter, Hippen, Mack, and Gabriela Pierobon Mays added a second-place finish in 3:25.16.

Senior diver Eleanor Mackey opened the meet with a sixth-place finish (434.05 points), which far exceeded her No. 12 seed.

Aegerter and Hippen placed fourth and fifth in the 200-yard freestyle in 1:51.25 and 1:51.85, respectively. Junior Makenna Licking added an 11th-place finish in 1:54.34.

Freshman Ally Silvestri and sophomore Alex Anagnostopoulos were fourth and fifth in the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:03.71 and 1:04.55, respectively. Silvestri was also seventh in the 200-yard individual medley in 2:07.24.

Junior Makenna Licking was seventh in the 500-yard freestyle in 5:07.70; Smith was 10th in the 50-yard freestyle in 24.22; and Chiara Pierobon Mays was 15th in the 100 backstroke in 58.82.

A host of swimmers made the podium while competing in the second heat including Hippen, who was seeded 12th (52.97) and finished fifth in the 100-yard freestyle in 51.79; junior Emily Keebler, who was seeded 13th (2:09.59) and finished sixth in the 200-yard individual medley in 2:07.18; and Mack, who was seeded 13th (24.47) and finished sixth in the 50-yard freestyle in 23.90 and seeded ninth (52.94) and finished sixth in the 100-yard freestyle in 51.90.

“We got some personal bests which was great, but we also got season bests which was amazing and everyone was swimming happy, fun and we were all just behind each other,” Gabriela Pierobon Mays said. “I’m happy for everyone.”

 

2. Boys cross country team hoists gold

Caleb Easton crunched the numbers in his head.

As Middleton’s boys cross country standout totaled the results from the WIAA Division 1 state meet in late August, Easton figured the Cardinals would be exiting Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids with a championship trophy.

It wasn’t until those results were officially posted, though, that Easton and his teammates could breath a giant sigh of relief.

“I think really the highlight was when we saw the scores and saw that we won,” Easton said. “It was just a great time.”

And a great performance.

Middleton finished with just 76 points to easily outdistance runner-up Stevens Point (177). South Milwaukee (191), Monona Grove (197) and Sun Prairie (203) rounded out the top-five.

Middleton won its first state title since 1992. And the Cardinals’ 101-point margin of victory was the largest in state history at any level.

“I knew when all our guys had finished we had won and that there was some distance,” Middleton coach Brian Finnel said. “So we were all smiles and feeling confident.

“But when that scoreboard showed SPASH was second and that we were first, we all were going nuts. There was a large contingency of Middleton fans there and that was pretty darn cool to see lots of people cheering.”

There was a lot to cheer about.

Easton was fourth individually among runners that had teams at state. Easton finished the hilly, challenging three-mile course in 16 minutes, 2.01 seconds.

Junior Michael Madoch was sixth in 16:06.06, while senior Caleb Easton finished seventh (16:07.47). Senior Jack Rader battled through an Achilles’ injury and finished 21st (16:39.16) and sophomore Zach Leffel was 38th (16:48.69).

“Our depth is, simply put, sensational,” Finnel said. “Terrific guys who work very hard.”

Easton had a solid race, finishing eighth among all 189 runners and fourth among team participants.

Easton was in 11th place after the first mile and 10th after the second. But Easton kept working his way up on the demanding course.

“I think the cold weather took a toll,” Easton said. “I started to feel not too good on the hills and lost a little bit on the rolling hills falling back. I think I would have definitely liked to do even better, but it was good.”

Madoch and Jaeger both had outstanding performances, as well.

Madoch was in 40th place after one mile and 21st place after two miles, before closing with a bang and finishing 10th among all runners. Jaeger was in 18th place at the one- and two-mile mark, then also closed strong and placed 11th among all runners.

“Michael and Sam had wonderful performances,” Finnel said. “I think what's most impressive with their races is the final mile. Both were together at about 20th place at the two mile and closed very hard. To go from almost the 20th position to 10th and 11th is fantastic and really helped to lower the team score.”

Middleton also got a huge boost from the return of Rader.

Rader suffered an Achilles’ injury late in the track and field season in June, and ran in just two races prior to state. But Rader was cleared and gave a memorable performance in his final high school race.

“After the conference race (Oct. 14), I really thought my season was over,” Rader said. “I couldn’t finish that day and really thought I might be done.

“But I was wearing a boot and doing (physical therapy) and started feeling a lot better last week. Honestly, it was kind of a miracle.”

Leffel had a strong race, as well. Leffel was in 41st place after one mile, 42nd at two miles and settled for 61st place among all runners.

“Zach got out and stayed near Jack for the most part and I think this was a great strategy so he had someone to key off of,” Finnel said. “I know (Leffel) faded a little bit in the last mile, but he expended his energy well throughout the race. I'd rather have that than a super big kick in the last 50-100 meters. He gave it his all today and that was what we needed as a team.”

Middleton sophomores Braedon Gilles and Egan Johnson both had terrific races, as well, even though their scores weren’t counted.

Gilles was 42nd among team participants and 69th among all runners. Johnson was 45th in the team race and 72nd among all runners.

“Braedon and Egan have worked together now for four races in a row and they push and pull each other,” Finnel said. “Saturday was no different as they were together until the very end. Both got out smart, not too aggressive, but not conservative either. Both finished pretty close to where they were at in the mile.”

Middleton loses just two of its top-10 runners to graduation. So naturally, talk of a repeat began almost immediately.

“We started talking about it right after the race,” Easton said.

Finnel agreed.

“I think we can start talking repeat already,” Finnel said. “We will lose Sam and Jack, however I think the depth is still there.”

And the while the future looks remarkably bright, the Cardinals were going to savor this title for quite some time.

“It was an amazing day for our program,” Finnel said.

Added Rader: “When they did the countdown on the big board, it was just magical. That image is so fresh in my mind, it was just awesome. Honestly, there’s no better way to go out than this.”

 

3. Girls basketball team reaches state semifinals

Bria Lemirande, in control of so many games throughout her career at Middleton, found one thing she couldn’t control at the WIAA Division 1 girls state basketball tournament.

Her emotions.

Lemirande, one of five seniors on the Cardinals’ roster and the team’s four-year starting point guard, saw her career end after a 49-47 overtime loss to De Pere in a WIAA Division 1 girls basketball state semifinal game at the Resch Center.

“It’s a really bad feeling,” Lemirande said through tears that rendered her speechless earlier in the postgame press conference. “I just feel like we had the potential to go all the way this year. Falling short, it’s not how I wanted it to end.”

Middleton had a chance to win the game in regulation and tie the game in overtime, but couldn’t connect. With the game knotted, 41-41, with 9.1 seconds left in regulation, Bria Lemirande couldn’t score in the lane and Alyssa Lemirande’s runner just before the buzzer bounced off the front of the rim.

“We wanted to get into the lane and we did get a couple pretty good shots,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “That’s the way we practice it is to get a shot and have enough time to get a rebound shot, and we did. Unfortunately, neither one fell.”

In overtime, Olivia DeCleene hit one of two free throws to give De Pere a 49-47 lead with 40.3 seconds remaining. With 7 seconds to go, Alyssa Lemirande missed a lean-in jumper. The Cardinals retained possession and inbounded the ball from the side.

Alexis Thomas got the ball inside to Halle White, who put up a hook shot in the lane with 2.5 seconds left. The ball hit the back of the rim and bounced off, and nobody could control the rebound before the horn.

Middleton ended the year 23-4. DePere finished the season 25-3 after falling in the state championship game to Appleton West last Saturday.

“We pride ourselves on defense,” first-year De Pere coach Jeremy Boileau said. “At the beginning of the year, we wanted to be known as a defensive program, because that’s what wins games and that’s what wins championships. To see the game end with a stop, there couldn’t be any better way to win a game.”

The Cardinals had been held to fewer than 60 points only twice all season — and never less than 56 — and had averaged 72.6 during a seven-game winning streak that carried them to state. But Middleton couldn’t solve the Redbirds’ defense and was limited to 30.2% shooting.

“We didn’t get many open looks the first half,” Kind said. “The times we did score, we managed to get into the lane, but they were doing a great job of keeping us out of the lane. That’s a big part of our game when we’re facing a man-to-man defense. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit for the tenacity with which they played.”

Bria Lemirande led the Cardinals with 13 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Alyssa Lemirande added 10 points and six rebounds and White pulled down 10 rebounds.

Annie Schneider paced De Pere with 13 points and seven rebounds.

The loss was a disappointing final chapter for a sensational senior class. Overall, though, the group achieved a remarkable level of success.

In the four years the seniors were in the program, the Cardinals won three Big Eight Conference titles and went 86-17 overall (.835). Bria Lemirande finished as Middleton’s second all-time leading scorer with 1,223 points. She also collected more that 500 career rebounds, had more than 350 career assists and 250 career steals.

“It was a special class,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “Beyond the obvious statistical contributions, they were a joy to coach. They had a passion for the game and really enjoyed playing and competing. 

“The whole group of seniors had great attitudes, were great teammates and developed into strong leaders. They left their mark on the program winning three conference championships and making two state tournament appearances.

“It will obviously be tough to replace their scoring and defense, but hopefully their legacy will live on through the example they set for the players who played with them the past few years.”

 

4. Murphy, Eady shine

One was Batman. The other was Robin.

It’s rare when Middleton’s boys basketball program has one NCAA Division 1 recruit during a season. Last winter, the Cardinals had two.

Senior forward Tyree Eady, who’s playing at North Dakota State today, was named first-team all-state by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association. Eady finished his career as Middleton’s all-time leading scorer (1,349) and also set a new school record for career steals (178).

Senior point guard Storm Murphy, now playing at Wofford, was named honorable-mention all-state by the WBCA. Murphy finished his career with 1,094 points and became the school’s all-time leader in assists with 280.

Together, they helped Middleton post a 19-6 record and finish third in the Big Eight Conference at 13-5.

“Storm’s like one of my brothers and we’ve been together pretty much our whole lives,” Eady said. “He looks at me out there and I’m smiling. I look at him and he’s smiling. We’re just having a good time out there.”

Eady was named first-team all-Big Eight Conference for a second straight year. Eady led the Big Eight in scoring at 22.6 points per game, shot 54.2% from the field (168-of-310) and 77.7% from the free throw line (115-of-148).

Eady also averaged 5.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game.

If opponents tried going with a smaller, quicker player on the 6-foot-5 Eady, he punished them inside or simply shot over them. If foes tried going with a bigger defender, Eady’s quickness was typically too much to handle.

“Tyree is a complete scorer,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said. “He can shoot the three, get to the rim and get to the free throw line.

“Sometimes people say ‘natural scorer,’ but there's no such thing. No one becomes a great scorer without putting in an extraordinary amount of time and effort.”

Murphy’s numbers — on and off the court — were equally impressive.

Murphy was also named first-team all-conference for the second straight season. Murphy averaged 19.9 points per game, which was the third-highest total in the conference, and led the Cardinals with 4.8 assists per game.

In addition, Murphy averaged 2.0 steals and 2.9 rebounds per game, shot 76.7% from the free throw line and 40.6% on three-pointers (58-of-143).

Murphy was a deadly long-range shooter who could also blow by foes and attack the rim.

“Storm has an amazing skill set and probably has the most passion of any player I've ever had,” Bavery said. “Sometimes that passion gets him in a little trouble on the court so we have to reel it in, but it comes from a place of loving the game and loving to compete.”

In addition, both were standout students that shined on and off the court.

“Both of them don't miss classes and they are engaged when they are in class,” Bavery said. “You can't be a great athlete, a scholarship athlete, without having the academic piece being a high priority.

“They are two incredible kids who are the role models you want younger community members and students to look up to.”

 

5. Football team has big year

Middleton’s football team had another terrific season.

The Cardinals went 8-1 in the Big Eight Conference and finished second to Division 1 state runner-up Sun Prairie. Middleton also finished 9-2 overall.

But the Cardinals were all disappointed after falling to Madison West, 30-27, in the second round of the WIAA Division 1 playoffs. Middleton was the No. 2 seed and hosted the third-seeded Regents.

But West senior quarterback Keishawn Shanklin scored on fourth-and-goal from 1-yard out with just 20 seconds left in the game to propel the Regents to a shocking win. Middleton, which defeated West, 36-0, during the regular season, had its eight-game winning streak snapped.

“We’re disappointed … but I find myself much more sad than anything,” Middleton coach Tim Simon said. “I just wanted so bad for these kids to get one or two more games. I can’t speak for the rest of my staff, but personally, I’m just really sad.”

Shanklin’s last second touchdown capped a thrilling game in which there were seven lead changes.

Middleton senior running back James Pabst, who closed the season with a bang, had 198 rushing yards on just 11 carries (18.0 average) and two touchdowns. Fellow senior running back Dion Huff also had 100 yards and two touchdowns as the Cardinals rolled up 297 rushing yards as a team.

But West’s dynamic duo of Shanklin and senior running back Jaden Stephens was just as potent. Shanklin ran for 145 yards on 29 carries (5.0), threw for 105 yards and had two total touchdowns. Stephens ran for 91 yards and had three touchdowns.

“(West) did a really good job keeping the ball in Stephens’ or Shanklin’s hands,” Simon said. “Those are two really special athletes. With Shanklin, his running is the scary part. He didn't hurt us with his arm as much as he did with his feet.”

Shanklin’s final dagger was the most painful.

Huff’s 4-yard touchdown with 3:17 remaining gave Middleton a 27-23 lead and put the Cardinals’ fate back in the hands of a defense that had been dominant most of the year. On this night, though, Middleton never could solve the Regents’ offensive attack.

West began on its own 27 and quickly faced a fourth-and-5. But Shanklin hit senior fullback Armoni Warfield for 8 yards to keep the drive alive.

West was aided by a personal foul penalty on the drive. And Shanklin later hit sophomore wideout Ezra Thompson for 14 yards to the Cardinals’ 6.

Middleton’s defense stiffened, forcing West into a fourth-and-goal from the 1. But on the biggest play of the year for both teams, Shanklin swept off the right edge and scored from 1-yard out.

In all, it was another great year for Middleton football.

The Cardinals placed 17 players on the all-Big Eight Conference team. Middleton rolled off eight straight wins at one point.

But the season-ending loss to West stung for a long time.

“It was just a heartbreaker, a heart breaking loss,” Simon said. “To lose with them scoring with just seconds on the clock, it rips your heart out. As coaches, we just feel so bad for the kids.”

 

6. Boys spikers reach state again

Middleton’s boys volleyball team set a goal of “Play on Saturday” for the 2017 season. That meant a trip to the state semifinals.

And though the Cardinals came up one match short of reaching that plateau at the WIAA boys state volleyball tournament, the crop of departing seniors vowed to do anything possible to help next year's team attain that elusive level.

“What coach said after the match is our seniors from last year, there were four of them in the crowd (Friday),” said senior libero and captain Thomas Robson, a four-year varsity player. “The seniors will be on the underclassmen. We've built that kind of program and we're always going to help each other get to the next level. That's what these seniors will do.”

Robson's senior season ended with a 3-0 sweep by third-seeded Kaukauna by scores of 25-22, 25-16, 25-20. The loss continued a frustrating run at Wisconsin Lutheran College for the Cardinals (33-7), who suffered their fifth straight ouster in the state quarterfinals. 

In 10 appearances at state, the Cardinals have an all-time record of 2-10, with their last win coming in 2008. Middleton arrived this year optimistic about ending that losing streak, but never could get over the hump against the Ghosts (29-7), who advanced to the title match before falling 3-0 to Milwaukee Marquette.

Kaukauna's forward tandem of Ben Brochtrup and Austyn Bella dominated play at the net, combining for 26 kills, while Middleton recorded just one block all night. Casey McKean led Middleton with 10 kills, Brian Vergenz had nine and Eagan Peters-Michaud had eight.

“We wanted to attack the middle,” said Middleton coach Ben White. “To be able to do that you have to be able to pass. High school volleyball is pretty simple. It's a serving, passing game and they served tougher than we did, and kept us out of our offense.”

The loss meant White had to address another dejected locker room following a run the Cardinals didn't want to see end.

“It's hard to go in there and have the same talk you've had the past years. Thomas (Robson) is probably going to be sick of hearing me say the same thing,” said White, who has 378 victories in 17 seasons at Middleton. “But Thomas is the winningest player in school history. This year we set the school record for most wins in a season (33), so you've got to be pretty proud of that. 

“We can't be too disappointed about everything we did this year, but as a senior it's the finality of it. There's no ‘lets go back to practice tomorrow and fix things.’ It's done.”

While the disappointment lingered, White and his players already were finding silver linings in what was an otherwise astounding season. The Cardinals set the school record for most wins in a season, won another Big Eight Conference championship and claimed elite tournament titles in Racine and at Wauwatosa East.

“You've got to look at the positives,” White said. “This senior class had a heck of a career and they keep setting the bar higher.”

Senior setter Andrew Lepage, who finished the match with 32 assists and was a three-year starter who shared captaincy with Robson and senior Carson Blair, also chose to look at the bigger picture.

“We talked about how one match doesn't define our season,” Lepage said. “It was a good run. We did what we could to get here. We just didn't win.”

 

7. HTL team finishes second

Middleton's Home Talent League team gave its fans a summer to remember.

The 29ers went 14-2 and won the Northern Section's Eastern Division.

Middleton rolled through the first three rounds of the playoffs and reached the Final Four. And the 29ers finished second overall after going 2-1 in the Final Four's round robin format.

Stoughton won the league championship after defeating all three of its Final Four foes.

“From us starting in basically March, working out once a week to try to get ready for the season, I'm proud of the way these guys worked all year,” said Middleton manager Brandon Hellenbrand, whose team went 19-3 overall. “Overall, fantastic year. I can't ask for anything more.”

In addition to the 29ers' stellar record, they put up some eye-popping stats.

Middleton outscored its opponents, 221-63, over the entirety of the season. Nine players batted over .300 and the 29ers finished with a .334 team batting average, which tied for first in the league. 

Middleton’s 10 home runs tied for second in the league. The 29ers had double-digit runs in 10 games. Middleton also hurled five shutouts and had a staff ERA of 2.86.

Two losses midway through the year lit a fire under the 29ers, and they finished the year by going 8-1 and outscoring opponents 97-18 in those games. The lone loss came to eventual champion Stoughton. 

“We hit a little hiccup in the middle of the year where we lost the two games in the row,” Hellenbrand said. “For them to bounce back and get this thing to the Final Four, I’m really, really proud of these guys.”

Drew Farrell ranked among the league's top pitchers.

For example, in the final postseason game of the year, Middleton needed a win over Dodgeville and had to hope for a Stoughton loss. Well, Farrell certainly did his part.

Farrell went the distance and led the 29ers to a 7-0 win over Dodgeville. Unfortunately for Middleton, Stoughton defeated Montello, 5-4, to win its first HTL title since 1986. Stoughton finished the HTL Final Four a perfect 3-0, while Middleton was 2-1.

Farrell was nearly flawless and needed just 88 pitches for the complete game, two-hit shutout. Farrell retired 23 consecutive Dodgeville batters at one point, and only six balls left the infield all day. 

"(Drew) was back on it. He came out today and dominated again,” Middleton manager Brandon Hellenbrand said. “When you’ve got a guy like (Drew) on the mound, it's easier for everybody. Fantastic job at the end of the day by him.”

Farrell was pretty pleased with his final outing. 

“After the first inning I settled down, I located my pitches,” Farrell said. “The defense played great today.”

Overall, Farrell was content with the way the team ended the year. 

“I'm glad we went out with a bang,” Farrell said. “It was great to get our one home game (in the championship series) and win it for our fans.”

 

7. HTL team finishes second

Middleton's Home Talent League team gave its fans a summer to remember.

The 29ers went 14-2 and won the Northern Section's Eastern Division.

Middleton rolled through the first three rounds of the playoffs and reached the Final Four. And the 29ers finished second overall after going 2-1 in the Final Four's round robin format.

Stoughton won the league championship after defeating all three of its Final Four foes.

“From us starting in basically March, working out once a week to try to get ready for the season, I'm proud of the way these guys worked all year,” said Middleton manager Brandon Hellenbrand, whose team went 19-3 overall. “Overall, fantastic year. I can't ask for anything more.”

In addition to the 29ers' stellar record, they put up some eye-popping stats.

Middleton outscored its opponents, 221-63, over the entirety of the season. Nine players batted over .300 and the 29ers finished with a .334 team batting average, which tied for first in the league.

Middleton’s 10 home runs tied for second in the league. The 29ers had double-digit runs in 10 games. Middleton also hurled five shutouts and had a staff ERA of 2.86.

Two losses midway through the year lit a fire under the 29ers, and they finished the year by going 8-1 and outscoring opponents 97-18 in those games. The lone loss came to eventual champion Stoughton.

“We hit a little hiccup in the middle of the year where we lost the two games in the row,” Hellenbrand said. “For them to bounce back and get this thing to the Final Four, I’m really, really proud of these guys.”

Drew Farrell ranked among the league's top pitchers.

For example, in the final postseason game of the year, Middleton needed a win over Dodgeville and had to hope for a Stoughton loss. Well, Farrell certainly did his part.

Farrell went the distance and led the 29ers to a 7-0 win over Dodgeville. Unfortunately for Middleton, Stoughton defeated Montello, 5-4, to win its first HTL title since 1986. Stoughton finished the HTL Final Four a perfect 3-0, while Middleton was 2-1.

Farrell was nearly flawless and needed just 88 pitches for the complete game, two-hit shutout. Farrell retired 23 consecutive Dodgeville batters at one point, and only six balls left the infield all day.

"(Drew) was back on it. He came out today and dominated again,” Middleton manager Brandon Hellenbrand said. “When you’ve got a guy like (Drew) on the mound, it's easier for everybody. Fantastic job at the end of the day by him.”

Farrell was pretty pleased with his final outing.

“After the first inning I settled down, I located my pitches,” Farrell said. “The defense played great today.”

Overall, Farrell was content with the way the team ended the year.

“I'm glad we went out with a bang,” Farrell said. “It was great to get our one home game (in the championship series) and win it for our fans.”

 

8. Girls golfers eighth at state

They would have liked to play better.

They would have loved to challenge for a top-five finish for a fifth straight year and end their memorable season on a high.
That didn't happen for Middleton’s girls golf team at the WIAA Division 1 state tournament in October.

The Cardinals posted a two-day total of 700 and finished in eighth place, 70 shots behind Arrowhead, which repeated as champions.

But as Cardinals’ senior standout Payton Hodson reflected on the tournament just moments after it ended, she was giddy about the season that had just concluded.

“I’m so proud of my teammates, no matter what place we ended up in,” Hodson said. “We all just wanted to have fun and kill it in our last rounds together. No matter how it ended up, it’s a great finish to our season.”

Macro — not micro.

That’s how Hodson and many of the Cardinals chose to look at their season. While the ending wasn’t perfect, in many ways, the year was.

“At the beginning of the year, we didn’t even know if we’d make it to state,” Middleton coach Becky Halverson said. “Coming into state, we definitely had some high hopes and really hoped to be in the top-five. But we got here. There are a lot of teams that would love to be here. I just have to remind the girls of that.”

Sophomore Kate Meier agreed.

“It was a really good season overall,” Meier said. “All of us grew close to each other. It’s going to be hard to see the seniors leave, but we’ll always look back and say we had a great season.”

The Cardinals certainly did that.

Middleton won the Big Eight Conference dual meet season and the conference’s postseason tournament. The Cardinals also were regional and sectional champions and qualified for state for the 17th time in program history.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the program on a whole and the year we had,” Halverson said. “There’s a lot to be proud of.”

Middleton knew challenging Arrowhead — which won the 2016 state title by 51 shots and this year’s crown by 27 strokes over Milton — might be an impossible task. But the Cardinals thought they could compete with several of the other schools and make a run at a top-five finish.

The Cardinals shot 351 on the first day, though, and found themselves in seventh place.

“I think it was the combination of nerves and maybe a little stress,” Meier said. “But I’m very proud of the girls.”

Added Halverson: “I definitely think some of it had to do with nerves. State tournament, you’re always going to have some nerves. We just had a little more nerves because we had so many girls that have never experienced this before. And it’s hard to prepare for that.”

The weather turned nasty during the second round, with rains falling on golfers throughout their back nines. Middleton never could find its groove, shot 349 and slipped from seventh to eighth.

“Obviously we would have liked to play better,” Halverson said. “But the girls gave it all they have and you can’t ask for more than that. They had fun. It just wasn’t their time. I don’t know what more to say.”

Hodson finished her career in style, shooting a final round 74 and vaulting into fifth place individually at 154 overall. Hodson’s day included three birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey.

Meier shot a pair of 84s, finished at 168 and tied for 23rd individually. Grace Peterson shot 181 and finished in a tie for 41st, while Makenzie Hodson shot a 96 on the final day.

“I could not be more proud or happy with our team,” Hodson said. “It was our goal the entire season to make it to state. Just great memories.”

 

9. Meicher second at state

The 2017 WIAA Division 1 state wrestling championships had just ended. And already, Middleton standout sophomore Kevin Meicher was looking forward, not back.

Meicher, who won a state championship as a freshman, couldn’t pull off a repeat in February at the UW Kohl Center.

Meicher reached the state finals at 138 pounds, but dropped a 4-0 decision to Sun Prairie’s Drew Scharenbrock. Afterwards, Meicher was already plotting how to turn the loss into a positive.

“I think of this as motivation for next year and the year after that and trying to win two more (state titles),” Meicher said.

Meicher and Scharenbrock — rivals in the Big Eight Conference — had met twice during the regular season, with Scharenbrock winning both matches. Scharenbrock took control of the championship match with a first period takedown and never let Meicher get anything going.

“He wanted to be a four-time state champ,” Middleton coach Kent Weiler said of Meicher. “Last year we said you had to win one to be a four-timer and this year was the same thing, you had to win two. He had a great tournament, a great season. He wrestled well all the way up to this match.

“We wrestle a schedule that puts our guys in front of some of the best guys in the state for a reason. So when we come here, we can be in a position to win. Unfortunately, in a situation like this, there’s always going to be a loser and today we came out on that end of it.”

Meicher, who took second at sectionals the previous week, had a tough path back to the finals. But Meicher put together another stellar tournament to put himself in position to capture another title.

In the preliminary round, Meicher pinned Appleton North sophomore Ian Laatsch in 5:39. Meicher executed a first-period takedown for 2-0 lead and extended that advantage to 7-0 in the second period before scoring a pin in the third period.

Then in the quarterfinals, Meicher pinned Oak Creek sophomore Joey Colla in 1:59. Meicher took Colla down early, then rode him out and pinned him just before the first-period buzzer.

“My first day went well with two pins,” Meicher said. “I came in with a good approach and got it done.”

In the semifinals, Meicher defeated New Richmond senior Bryce Younger 10-6.

That set up a Meicher-Scharenbrock championship match that many had forecasted.

Scharenbrock took an early 2-0 lead with his first period takedown, forcing Meicher to wrestle from behind.

“Every match, you’ve always got to get that first takedown to open up the match,” Scharenbrock said. “That was huge.”

After a scoreless second period, Scharenbrock notched another takedown with 25 seconds left in third period to ice the match.

“Since I wrestled him twice I knew what to expect, what he was going to do,” Meicher said. “I thought I was ready, but he was ready, too. It was a good fight.

“I knew it was going to be low-scoring and I wouldn’t do anything different. I tried to work through as many ways as I could to score points. He got on more shots than I did. I didn’t get many.

“I thought I knew what to do against Drew in the finals, but I came up with nothing.”

Meicher finished the year with a 48-5 record and is now 91-8 in his two years at MHS. Scharenbrock, who was fourth at state at 120 pounds in 2016, ended the season 48-2.

“(Scharenbrock) took more shots,” Weiler said. “He was more the aggressor than we were.

“What did Kevin learn from the match? He works hard. He’s a competitor. He knows what he needs to do already. I don’t think he needs to change anything a whole lot. He worked really hard in the offseason and all the way through.

“There’s some heartbreak there. Drew’s a good kid. He’s a good wrestler. He beat us today. He beat us three times. I don’t know where they’ll be in the future in the coming weights. But I’m sure that Kevin’s going to want to get a shot at him if he can.”

 

10. Boys swimmers shine at state

Middleton’s boys swimming and diving team picked a good time to get its groove back.

A week after a mediocre performance at their sectional meet, the Cardinals came through with an eighth-place finish at the WIAA Division 1 state swimming and diving championship at the University of Wisconsin Natatorium in February.

“It was a fast state meet,” Middleton coach Danny Lynam said. “The guys dropped times pretty much across the board. They all stepped up. We had a little bit of a flat sectional meet and they really kind of found that spark here. They really got after it.”

Junior Michael Draves led the way individually for Middleton with a second-place finish in the 500-yard freestyle and a fourth-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle.

Top-seeded Waukesha South/Catholic Memorial won the meet with 246 points. Six-time defending champ Madison Memorial, which finished third at the sectional meet behind Madison West and Middleton, settled for second with 216 points.

Madison West took fifth with 174 points. The Cardinals finished with 131 points.

Draves finished the 500 in 4 minutes, 33.52 seconds, more than five seconds better than his sectional time, but was beaten out by top-seeded John Acevedo of Waukesha South/Catholic Memorial, who finished in 4:30.12.

“I swam a lot against (Acevedo) at club swimming all the time,” Draves said. “I know how he swims and I know he’s very good. I knew it was going to be a challenge, but I definitely wanted to try my best to take him down. I gave it my all and it was a good time. I’m happy with it.”

Cardinals’ sophomore Andrew Martin added an 11th-place finish in the 500 in 4:50.42, nearly five seconds better than his sectional qualifying time.

Draves finished the 200 in 1:40.87, more than a second better than his qualifying time, but lost a duel with Acevedo by 0.07 in a battle for second-place behind Danny Larson of Wauwatosa West/East in the final heat.

“It was about the pace I wanted to take it out in which was all good,” Draves said. “I just kept building and building off of what I was doing which was all good.

“That last 50 I tried to use that final burst of speed to catch (Acevedo) because I think I was catching him at the end. I was just hoping I would get him and I think if I would have had just one or two more yards it might have been close.”

“It was a great swim for (Draves),” added Lynam. “He swam his own race. A lot of times in the 200, guys will go out after each other and burn out in the first 100. He sat back and was right where he needed to be.”

Draves, who competed for the Badger Aquatics Club prior to joining the Cardinals last season, said it has been an adjustment going from swimming for a club to competing for a high school.

“I know a lot of these guys that are winning the races and getting the top finishes,” Draves said. “It’s a different atmosphere. You go from having a bunch of guys on one team that are your teammates then they kind of branch out to all of these different high schools. So it’s different because all of a sudden they go from being your best teammate to being a rival. It’s a lot of fun racing.”

The 200-yard medley relay team of sophomore Archer Parkin, senior Tommy McGovern, senior Isaac Hanson and freshman Nate Lamers finished fourth in a school record 1:35.57.

“The 200 medley relay dropped time at sectionals where they had a great swim and they repeated it again,” Lynam said. “It was great they were able to come back and do that.

“We had a lot of guys on that relay that had great swims. Everything kind of came together for them. Good exchanges, good walls. We were able to beat our team record last weekend and we were able to beat it again this weekend.”

Hanson said the first time the group swam together was at the conference meet.

“We knew that would be a really good relay,” Hanson said. “It was a really good bonding experience with those guys. I got to know them a lot better because we swam together that many meets in a row. It was really good to go out on a team record.”

The 400-yard freestyle relay team of Lamers, Hanson, senior Gunnar Kunsch and Draves just missed the podium with a seventh-place finish in 3:12.12.

“We dropped about a second (from sectionals),” Lynam said. “It was a great way to finish the season for us. We ended up shaving off a little more time, which is always good to see.”

The 200-yard freestyle relay of Kunsch, senior Max Hollfelder, McGovern and Draves placed ninth in 1:28.35.

Individually, sophomore Archer Parkin was 11th in the 50-yard freestyle in 21.90 and 12th in the 100-yard backstroke in 53.72.

Senior Luke Delaney was 12th in the 100-yard butterfly in 52.25. Freshman Nathan Kim was 14th in the 200-yard individual medley in 1:58.35.

Hanson finished 15th in the 100-yard butterfly in 52.62. Lamers was 17th in the 100-yard freestyle in 48.60 and 20th in the 100-yard backstroke in 54.73.

And junior Sam Young was 17th in the 200 individual medley in 1:59.23.

“We should have the depth to fill in the gaps for next year,” Lynam said. “It should be a lot of fun next year after all we’ve learned from this year.”

 

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