Tanin voted Middleton's top female athlete of 21st century

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By: 
Rob Reischel
From left, Alexis Thomas, Lauren Gunderson, Laura McGinnis, Krissy Marco, Jill Ries, Danielle Beckwith, Kasey Williams, Sitori Tanin, JoLyn Owen and Danielle Ohmen were voted Middleton's top-10 athletes of the 21st century./Photos by Mary Langenfeld

The task was daunting.

The Times-Tribune recently asked a 16-person panel to rank the best male and female athletes to pass through Middleton High School in the 21st century. Any athlete who competed in the 21st century was eligible to be nominated and their exploits across their entire career were considered, even if a portion of their playing days came in the 1990s.

The panel consisted of past and present coaches, local sportswriters and community members that have seen countless Middleton events.

There were no set criteria outlined. Beauty was in the eye of each beholder.

If one voter thought a multi-sport athlete with solid production across the board rated ahead of a one-sport athlete who excelled at their craft, that was their prerogative. If another voter prioritized team success, that was fine, too.

Nearly 60 boys and 60 girls were nominated for consideration, and after the votes were tabulated, each field was trimmed to a top-20.

Last week, the Times-Tribune presented the girls that finished between No. 11-20. The rest of the schedule will be as follows:

• July 16 — Girls No. 1-10

• July 23 — Boys No. 11-20

• July 30 — Boys No. 1-10

We hope you enjoy looking back at many of the athletes who have helped make Middleton athletics shine this century.

 

1. Sitori Tanin (basketball, track and field — 2020)

Middleton’s most accomplished and dominant athlete of the 21st century is also one of its most recent standouts.

Tanin led the Cardinals to the WIAA Division 1 state basketball tournament in both her junior and senior seasons. In track and field, Tanin qualified for state from 2017-2019.

Unfortunately for Tanin and the Cardinals, the state basketball tournament this winter and the entire track and field season this spring were canceled due to COVID-19.

Middleton girls basketball coach Jeff Kind has always said that Angie (Halbleib) Murphy, who graduated from MHS in 1993, is the best player he’s coached during his nearly three decades on the Cardinals’ sideline. But Kind said that the 6-foot-2 Tanin is certainly in the discussion for No. 2.

“Oh yeah, she’s definitely in that conversation,” Kind said. “Her physical tools and size and strength were so unique. She’s definitely the best rebounder we ever had.

“She was a good offensive player and really affected the game defensively, too. Then on top of it, she was just an outstanding kid, just a great kid to coach.”

Tanin, a University of Loyola recruit, had a sensational senior year on the hardwood.

Tanin led the Cardinals in scoring (14.6), rebounding (10.8) and assists (3.2). Tanin was also second in steals (1.7), shot 45.2% from the floor and 68.0% from the free throw line.

Tanin was named first-team all-state by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association. She was also named to the WBCA All-Star Game that was later canceled due to the ongoing pandemic.

“She worked really hard at getting better offensively,” Kind said of Tanin. “There’s still things she can improve on and she will in college, but she made huge strides. Then she was like a vacuum cleaner on the boards and averaged a double-double for the second straight year. She just had a great season.”

Tanin led Middleton to a 25-1 record that included a share of the Big Eight Conference title and a 20-game winning streak to finish the year. The Cardinals rallied for a thrilling 61-58 win over Madison Memorial in the sectional finals and reached the state tournament for the 12th time in school history and the ninth time since 2008.

Middleton headed to state as the No. 1 seed and was favored to win the first state title in school history. Just 19 hours before the Cardinals’ state semifinal game with Oconomowoc, though, the WIAA elected to cancel all remaining winter sports — which included the girls’ state basketball tournament.

“I was just about to fall asleep, and at first, I didn't really know what was happening,” Tanin said. “Right when they told me, I was kind of confused and couldn’t believe it. Then I called my Mom and started bawling on the phone.

“Then we just talked with each other and tried to make it a little more happy. We tried to make it a better memory.”

The rest of Tanin’s memories were extremely happy ones.

As a junior, Tanin was named first-team all-Big Eight after leading the Cardinals in scoring (13.2), rebounding (11.0), steals (2.2) and blocks (1.1), and finishing second in assists (2.0). She also led Middleton to the state championship game that season, where the Cardinals fell to Bay Port, 50-49.

As a sophomore, Tanin was named honorable-mention all-conference after leading the Cardinals in scoring (9.0), rebounding (5.3), steals (2.5) and blocks (2.5).

In track and field, Tanin placed seventh at state in the triple jump as a freshman with a personal-best leap of 37 feet, 2 ¼ inches.

As a sophomore, Tanin finished sixth at state in the triple jump with a leap of 36-11. Tanin also placed 12th in the high jump with a mark of 5-2.

“I have two more years, but this one was one (meet) to remember,” Tanin said. “Especially to get on the podium was a great experience.”

As a junior, Tanin was seeded 13th at state in the triple jump and finished 11th. All spring sports — including track and field — were then canceled during Tanin’s senior year.

“Sitori would have been a top finisher in multiple events,” Middleton girls coach Jay Schweitzer said of the 2020 track and field season. “She is just so talented. I feel like we could put her in any event and she would do well.”

For the most part, that’s exactly what happened throughout Tanin’s brilliant MHS career.

 

2. Laura McGinnis (track, volleyball, basketball — 2010)

McGinnis was a four-time letterwinner and a four-time state qualifier in track and field.

As a senior in 2010, McGinnis won the state title in the triple jump with a leap of 38 feet, 8 ¾ inches. Her mark in the triple jump set a school record that still stands today.

McGinnis was also on Middleton’s 400- and 800-meter relay teams that scored points at state, and she qualified for state in the long jump. Thanks in large part to McGinnis, the Cardinals finished eighth as a team at state in 2010.

“She was my No. 1 choice for her unbelievable athleticism and well-rounded abilities in several different sports,” former MHS track and field coach Tara Franklin said of McGinnis.

McGinnis also captured the Big Eight Conference long jump and triple jump as a senior, breaking a 23-year-old meet record and setting a personal record with a leap of 38 feet, 2 inches in the triple jump.

As a junior, she finished seventh in the triple jump at the state meet. She also ran on the 400-meter relay that was seventh and 800-meter relay that was eighth.

As a sophomore, McGinnis competed at state in the 400 relay (third), 800 relay (seventh) and 1,600 relay (fourth). She was also named the Big Eight’s ‘Most Outstanding Field Event Performer’ and led MHS to a team title at the conference meet and an eighth-place finish at state.

As a freshman, the Cardinals won the Big Eight title, were 10th at state, and McGinnis ran at state on the 800 relay that finished fifth. In all, McGinnis was a nine-time scorer at the state track and field meet.

McGinnis also won the 2009 Wisconsin Junior Olympic title in the triple jump and finished runner-up in the long jump. She went on to finish eighth in the triple jump at the 2009 USA Track & Field Junior Olympics.

She then enjoyed a stellar career at the University of Wisconsin.

“Laura was a powerhouse as a sprinter and a member of all of the sprint relay teams at the state meet during her junior and senior years,” Franklin said. “Laura also set the school record for the triple jump and it still stands. She was a very special teammate and athlete who was not only willing to do anything to help out the team, but individually pushed herself to excellence whenever she had the chance.”

McGinnis was also a first-team all-Big Eight Conference selection in volleyball as a senior when she had 236 kills and 255 digs. She helped the Cardinals reach the state semifinals as a senior in 2009 and the state quarterfinals in 2008.

“Laura McGinnis was a solid player with great work ethic and passion,” former Middleton girls volleyball coach Franco Marcos said. “She was a very coachable player.”

McGinnis also played basketball as a freshman. She contemplated going out for basketball as a sophomore and junior, before deciding to focus on other sports.

“She would have been a major difference maker,” girls basketball coach Jeff Kind said. “She would have helped make some really good teams even better.”

 

3. Alexis Thomas (golf, basketball — 2017)

Thomas was one of the best golfers to pass through MHS this century. She was also a four-year letterwinner in basketball and helped the Cardinals reach the WIAA Division 1 state semifinals in both 2015 and 2017.

On the golf course, Thomas was named the state’s co-Player of the Year by the Golf Coaches Association of Wisconsin in 2016. That season, Thomas finished second individually at the WIAA Division 1 state tournament and led the Cardinals to a runner-up team finish.

Thomas had an 18-hole average of 73.61 as a senior and was the Big Eight Conference’s Player of the Year. She also finished first at regionals and first at sectionals.

Thomas won 10 of the 16 tournaments she competed in that season, was second five times and third once.

“She is arguably the best girls’ golfer to come through MHS and it was an honor to be able to coach her,” Middleton girls golf coach Becky Halverson said.

As a junior, Thomas helped lead Middleton to the WIAA Division 1 state team championship. The Cardinals defeated Hartland Arrowhead by one stroke to win the crown.

Thomas finished fourth individually at state that year and was named first-team all-state by the GCAW.

As a sophomore, Thomas placed 17th individually at the state tournament and helped Middleton finish third as a team.

Thomas currently plays at North Dakota State.

“From her freshman year to her senior year she improved by eight strokes,” Halverson said of Thomas. “Alexis practiced her short game more than any other golfer I coached and it paid off. Alexis always kept things light and made everyone around her laugh. She was an absolute joy to be around.”

Thomas was almost as dominant on the basketball court.

As a senior in 2017, Thomas was named second-team all-Big Eight Conference and helped the Cardinals reach the state semifinals. She finished that season third on the team in scoring (10.6).

Thomas was also named second-team all-conference as a junior when she led Middleton in scoring at 14.5 points per game.

As a sophomore, Thomas was a key cog on a Cardinals’ team that reached the state semifinals. And as a freshman Thomas joined the varsity midway through the season and averaged 7.7 points per game.

Middleton went 86-17 overall and won three Big Eight Conference titles during the four years Thomas was on varsity.

“She hit some really big shots for us, really clutch shots,” Middleton girls basketball coach Jeff Kind said. “I think there’s a mentality that golfers have where they have to stand over those pressure putts and I think that makes a difference in other sports, too. There were a lot of times she was in those situations for us and she almost always delivered.”

 

4. Danielle Ohmen (track and field, basketball, cross country — 2002)

Ohmen set the school record in the high jump with a mark of 5 feet, 9 inches that still ranks ninth in state history.

Ohmen also qualified for state twice in the high jump. As a sophomore, Ohmen cleared 5 feet, 4 inches at state and finished third. As a senior, she was sixth with a leap of 5-2.

Ohmen was also a major part of Middleton’s relay teams.

She later had a stellar career at the University of Wisconsin.

“Danielle was another one of those special girls who really excelled on the basketball court and also in track and field,” former Middleton girls coach Tara Franklin said. “Danielle participated in not only relays, but worked the absolutely hardest at the high jump.”

Ohmen was also a three-year letterwinner and standout in basketball.

Ohmen was named second-team all-Big Eight Conference as both a junior and senior, and honorable-mention all-conference as a sophomore.

As a junior in 2001, Ohmen helped lead the Cardinals to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament, where they fell in the quarterfinals to Stevens Point. In that game, Ohmen grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds and added 10 points.

“There was an athlete,” Middleton girls basketball coach Jeff Kind said. “She was one of the best jumpers I ever had. Combine that with what she did in track and she deserves to be up there.”

Ohmen also competed in cross country.

 

5. Jill Ries (golf, softball, basketball — 2002)

Ries is one of the best golfers in school history and ranks among Middleton’s finest athletes of the 21st century. What also resonated, though, is that most considered Ries an even better person.

“Jill meant everything you possibly could to this program,” former Middleton coach Dewey Stendahl once said of Ries. “She’s a leader out here.

“She’s as dedicated and hard-working of a golfer as you’ll find. And she’s a great student-athlete. You can’t ask for much more than that.”

Becky Halverson, Middleton’s coach today and a former teammate of Ries, said: “Jill and I played together my senior year and she was awesome. I wish I had more years of eligibility to play on the same team as her.”

The Golf Coaches Association of Wisconsin named Ries the state’s Co-Player of the Year when she was a junior in 2000. She then finished as runner-up for that award as a senior in 2001.

Ries was named the Big Eight Conference’s Player of the Year each of her final three seasons at MHS. She also powered the Cardinals to the WIAA Division 1 state team tournament all four years she was in the program. Prior to Ries’ arrival, Middleton had qualified for state just once as a team in school history.

As a senior in 2001, Ries finished fourth individually at state and led Middleton to a second-place team finish. At the time, that was the best team finish in school history.

“I met a lot of great people and had a lot of fun these last four years,” Ries said after the state tournament her senior year. “I couldn't have thought of a better way to go out. I’ll miss it.”

Not as much as Middleton missed her.

As a junior in 2000, Ries was fourth individually at state and helped Middleton finish sixth as a team.

In 1999, Ries led Middleton to a third-place finish at team state. She was sixth individually at state that year and was named second-team all-state.

And as a freshman, Ries led the Cardinals to state for just the second time ever, where they finished eighth.

She went on to play for the University of Wisconsin.

Ries was also one of the finest defensive first basemen to ever play softball at Middleton. Ries was a solid offensive player, but her sublime defensive gifts helped her earn first-team all-Big Eight Conference honors as both a junior and a senior.

“Jill was just a great first baseman,” former Middleton coach Russ Shaub once said of Ries. “She fielded a lot of balls that weren’t thrown to her the greatest. Plus, she was just such a great kid and I think other coaches recognized how important she was to us.”

Ries also played basketball and was part of Middleton’s 2001 team that reached the state quarterfinals.

“She was one of those kids who didn’t have to be the star to be a big contributor,” Middleton girls basketball coach Jeff Kind said. “She was a really good teammate and a great kid to have on your team.”

 

6. Lauren Gunderson (soccer, basketball — 2008)

Gunderson was a four-year standout in both soccer and basketball.

Gunderson was the finest soccer goalie in school history and led Middleton to the state tournament each year from 2005-07. She also helped the Cardinals win the 2006 state title.

As a senior in 2008, Gunderson was named Wisconsin's girls player of the year by the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association. She was also the Middleton Times-Tribune’s Senior Female Athlete of the Year that season, as well as the Wisconsin State Journal’s All Area Player of the Year, The Capital Times’ Female Soccer Player of the Year and the Big Eight Conference’s Player of the Year.

Gunderson set school records in 2008 for fewest goals allowed in a season (four), goals against average (0.19), shutouts (17) and save percentage (.940). She also finished her career with a school-record 45 shutouts in 61 games.

Gunderson went 27-3-6 with 23 shutouts and a goals against average of 0.26 during her sophomore and junior seasons. And she finished her MHS career with a 42-4-10 record, posted 40 shutouts and a 0.25 goals-against average.

She also earned National Soccer Coaches Association of America/Adidas High School All-America honors as a senior, then played four years at the University of Wisconsin.

“Gundy was a mixture of competitiveness, athleticism, and technical skill,” former Middleton coach Ken Burghy said of Gunderson. “She continued to get better throughout her goalkeeping career at MHS. She was very quick and had great hands. But the qualities that set her apart were her desire to improve and her leadership by example. No one worked harder.”

Gunderson also had a terrific basketball career at MHS.

Gunderson was named honorable mention all-Big Eight Conference as a senior and a junior. She also came off the bench and led Middleton in scoring as a junior.

Gunderson and the Cardinals reached the WIAA Division 1 state tournament during her senior season in 2008. And during Gunderson’s four varsity seasons, MHS won two Big Eight Conference titles and was second once.

“She could have started for us, but she liked coming off the bench. She was like our Vinnie Johnson and she liked that role,” Middleton girls basketball coach Jeff Kind said, referring to the former Detroit Pistons standout. “I told her, ‘I wouldn’t mind starting you’ and she said, ‘I like this role,’ so that was just fine.

“She was just a really good player, a tough player. She was fun to coach.”

 

7. Kristin Marco (basketball, volleyball — 2002)

Marco was a four-year starter in basketball and a standout volleyball player, as well.

“Krissy was a gamer and refused to lose,” former MHS volleyball coach Franco Marcos said.

Indeed.

Marco was a starter on the basketball team from the second she walked into the program. She was named first-team all-Big Eight Conference each of her final three years, even though she missed a month of her senior year with a stress fracture.

Marco led the Cardinals to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament as a junior. That year, Middleton edged Baraboo, 39-38, in the sectional finals before falling in the state quarterfinals.

As a senior, Marco averaged 13.4 points per game, 4.0 assists, 3.0 steals and shot 80.0% from the free throw line. She also finished as the second-leading scorer in school history.

Marco then played four years at the University of Akron.

“We brought her up as a freshman, and I think by the end of the year, she was consistently scoring in double figures,” Middleton girls basketball coach Jeff Kind said. “Right from the start, she was a really good defensive player. She was probably one of the five best defensive players I’ve had.

“She was just a tremendous competitor. She had a toughness where she didn’t want to give an inch to anybody.”

Marco was also a terrific volleyball player who earned first-team all-Big Eight Conference honors as a senior and honorable-mention all-league honors as a junior.

As a senior, Marco had 167 kills, 130 digs and helped Middleton reach the WIAA Division 1 state semifinals.

“A lot of times basketball players use volleyball as a warm-up and just to stay in shape,” Marcos said. “But Krissy didn’t do that. One of the things that really impressed me was when she was at volleyball, volleyball was on her mind. She wasn’t thinking about basketball.”

 

8. JoLyn Owen (basketball, track and field, volleyball — 2008)

In the era of specialists, Owen competed in three sports and excelled at them all.

“She was a "scrappy" athlete no matter what she was doing,” former Middleton track and field coach Tara Franklin said. “I chalk that up to being the youngest with two older brothers.”

Owen led Middleton’s basketball team in scoring and rebounding as a senior in 2008 and was named first-team all-Big Eight Conference. She also powered the Cardinals to a share of the Big Eight Conference title and their first trip to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament in five years.

As a junior, Owen was named second-team all-Big Eight and helped the Cardinals claim a share of the conference title.

“She was like an undersized post,” Middleton girls basketball coach Jeff Kind said. “She wasn’t that big, but when we went to our dribble drive (offense), that totally fit her style of play. She could outrun any post in the conference and was really good at the back of the press.”

In track and field, Owen qualified for state as a junior in the high jump and the 400-meter relay. She later competed in track and field, as well as basketball at UW-Whitewater.

“Having known and taught her two older brothers and also JoLyn, it was so much fun to watch her during her four years of track and field,” Franklin said. “JoLyn was willing to tackle and try just about any event, which definitely paid off when she went to college and became a multi-event athlete at UW-Whitewater. She was an absolutely fun athlete to coach!”

Owen was also a key cog in Middleton’s volleyball program and posted 115 kills and 115 digs as a senior.

“JoLyn Owen was a very coachable player and always had a smile while getting the job done,” former Middleton coach Franco Marcos said. “JoLyn was very talented, very fast and she could jump out of the gym effortlessly!” 

 

9. Danielle Beckwith (swimming, basketball — 2008)

Beckwith is arguably the most accomplished MHS swimmer of the 21st century.

Beckwith set state high school records in the 800-yard freestyle and the 1,500 freestyle. She was part of Middleton’s WIAA Division 1 state championship 400 free relay team in 2004 and she was a two-time National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association All-American in the 400 freestyle (2004) and 200 medley relay (2005).

Beckwith won the 800 freestyle and the 800 freestyle relay titles at 2008 Speedo Sectional Meet while swimming for Badger Aquatics Club.

As a senior, Beckwith was second at state in the 200 freestyle, third in the 500 freestyle and was part of two relay teams that scored points. As a junior, Beckwith was second at state in the 500-yard freestyle, third in the 200 freestyle, and was part of two relay teams that had top-three finishes.

Beckwith also swam in four events at state as a sophomore and three as a freshman. She set the school record at Middleton in the 200-medley relay and the 400-free relay.

Middleton finished second as a team at the WIAA Division 1 state meet during Beckwith’s first three years in the program and third her senior year.

Beckwith later swam for the University of Wisconsin.

“Danielle’s a remarkable talent,” former Middleton coach Scott Schweickhardt once said. “Honestly, it’s a treat to coach a kid like her.”

Beckwith also played three years of varsity basketball.

Beckwith helped the Cardinals reach the WIAA Division 1 state tournament in 2008. She also helped Middleton win a share of the Big Eight Conference title in both 2007 and 2008.

“She was pretty polished offensively,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “She was really a great athlete.”

 

10. Kasey Williams (volleyball, basketball, softball — 2012)

Williams was a three-sport athlete whose greatest accomplishments came on the volleyball court.

Williams was a four-year starting setter who helped the Cardinals reach the WIAA Division 1 state tournament in both 2008 and 2009. Middleton also reached the sectional finals when Williams was a junior and a senior.

Williams holds the all-time assist record at MHS with 3,846. She had 894 assists in 2008, 985 assists in 2009, 1,052 assists in 2010 and 915 assists in 2011.

Williams was named first-team all-Big Eight Conference as a sophomore, junior and senior. She was also named second-team all-Big Eight as a freshman.

In addition, Williams was named honorable-mention all-state by the Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association All-State each of her last two seasons.

“Kasey Williams was the best player that I coached in my 23 years at Middleton High School,” former MHS coach Franco Marcos said. “Kasey always had a smile on her face and was loved by all. She was fun to coach. 

“Kasey cared about her teammates and also the coaching staff. She made sure that we had fun also. Kasey exemplified what a coachable student-athlete is.”

Williams was also a two-time letterwinner as a reserve guard in basketball.

Williams helped lead the Cardinals to a runner-up showing in the WIAA Division 1 state tournament in 2011. Middleton also advanced to the state quarterfinals when Williams was a sophomore.

“She’s another one who was a really good defender,” Middleton girls basketball coach Jeff Kind said.

Williams also played one year of softball.

 

THE NEXT 10

11. Loren Skibba (golf, track — 2016)

12. Molly Toon (volleyball — 2010)

13. Libby Torresani (gymnastics, track, swimming — 2011)

14. Amy Siedschlag (softball, basketball, volleyball — 2002)

15. Lindsey Solberg (golf — 2008)

16. Micaela Statz (gymnastics, diving — 2000)

17. Kayla Beckwith (swimming, track, basketball — 2009)

18. Grace Douglas (soccer, basketball — 2016)

19. Alyssa Lemirande (basketball, track — 2017)

20. Denitza Koleva (volleyball — 2003)

 

BEST OF THE REST

21.  Kirby Toon (volleyball — 2009)

22.  Leslie Oliversen (basketball, track — 2002)

23.  Kirsten Gunderson (soccer, basketball — 2012)

24.  Mika Passini (basketball, soccer — 2012)

25.  Darcy Dean (cross country, basketball, track and field — 2013)

26.  Gabriela Pierobon Mays (swimming — 2020)

27.  Kerry Gardner (basketball — 2011)

28.  Madeline Pflasterer-Jennerjohn (gymnastics, track and field — 2017)

29.  Liz McMahon (basketball, soccer — 2014)

30.  Nicole Motl (gymnastics, soccer — 2001)

31.  Heidi Hinners (golf — 2006)

32.  Leia Peterman (volleyball, soccer — 2014)

33.  Courtney Veerman (swimming, 2007)

34.  Leah Coyle (cross country, track and field — 2007)

35.  Hanna Docter (track — 2015)

36.  Sammy Vovos (soccer — 2008)

37.  Abby Webber (tennis, basketball, track and field — 2016)

38.  Maggie Bollig (cross country, track and field — 2009)

39.  Lauren Walz (track — 2004)

40.  Lindsey Buechner (basketball — 2004)

41.  Hannah Flottmeyer (basketball, volleyball — 2019)

42.  Bria Lemirande (basketball — 2017)

43.  Meghan Luebke (gymnastics, diving — 2000)

44.  Bobbi Patrick (cross country, track and field — 2015)

45.  Mia Zutz (swimming, soccer, 2006)

46.  Kelli Bahr (soccer — 2007)

47.  Rachael Eklund (basketball, volleyball — 2011)

48.  Kaisey Skibba (tennis — 2016)

49.  Amanda Sieja (basketball, track — 2002)

50.  Madeline Staples (basketball — 2012)

51.  Allison Van Heuklom (golf, softball — 2011)

52.  Berkeley Smith (swimming, basketball — 2020)

53.  Kate Meier (golf — 2020)

 

 

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