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Skibba steals the show

Aryn Skibba realizes she probably won’t be 100% this season.

But Middleton’s standout gymnast has discovered she can still perform at a remarkably high level.

Last Saturday’s Middleton Invitational was certainly proof of that.

Skibba, who has battled a back injury all year, posted a 37.70 score in the all-around competition and ran away with that title. Skibba’s huge day helped the Cardinals score a season-high 140.05 points and capture the nine-team Invite.

Skibba, who was sixth at state in the all-around last year, posted the best score of her stellar Middleton career.

“I was very surprised with my performance,” Skibba said. “I was spot on with everything and stuck everything.

“I’ve been working really hard and I’m glad I can see it pay off. I’m happy with everything that happened at that meet, not just my personal scores but the team score as well.”

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Swimmers third at Big 8 meet

Madison Memorial, which has won four of the last five state championships, appears to be in a league of its own again this winter.

Madison West might be a notch above, as well.

But Middleton’s swimmers also appear capable of doing great things this championship season. And last Saturday was proof of that.

The Cardinals finished third at the Big Eight Conference meet — arguably the state’s toughest league — and seem ready to make a splash over the next two weeks.

“The guys really were ready to go and were fired up with a ton of energy,” Middleton coach Luke Lengfeld said. “It was a great start to the championship season.”

Madison Memorial ran away with the meet, totaling 652 points. West was second at 482.5, while Middleton (430.5), Verona (239) and Sun Prairie (216) rounded out the top five.

Lars Haskins had Middleton’s top finish of the day, placing second in the 50 freestyle.

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Wrestlers settle for second

This was not what anyone expected.

It certainly wasn’t what anyone wanted.

Now, the challenge for Middleton’s wrestlers will be to rebound as soon as possible.

The Cardinals went to the Big Eight Conference tournament in Verona as the consensus favorite last Saturday. But Sun Prairie edged Middleton, 258.0-253.5 and stole the crown.

Janesville Craig was third (228.5), while Verona (203.5) and Beloit Memorial (176.5) rounded out the top five.

Middleton led by 29.5 points heading to the championship flights, but couldn’t hold on.

“We can’t dwell on it,” Middleton coach Kent Weiler said. “We have more important things to focus on. The kids were kind of shocked. It was a little bit of a meltdown.

“In all my years of coaching, I had never seen anything like that. Disappointing.”

Middleton reached the championship match at seven weight classes, but settled for second place in all seven.

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Middleton girls top Verona, near Big 8 title

VERONA — The magnitude of the night could be felt in countless ways.

The jam-packed parking lot. The overflow crowd. Student sections — and even adults — that never rested.

But Middleton girls basketball standout Liz McMahon knew the Cardinals’ game against Verona Thursday was really big-time midway through the first quarter. That’s when Verona officials lifted a large curtain so folks that had filled an auxiliary gym could also watch the game.

“It felt like a sectional final,” McMahon said. “It was great.”

The result — from Middleton’s perspective — was even better.

The Cardinals put four players in double figures, dominated the glass in the second half and toppled the Wildcats, 65-60, before a raucous crowd.

Middleton improved to 16-2 overall, 14-0 in the Big Eight Conference and took a major step towards winning the league for the seventh time in eight years. Verona fell to 16-2, 12-2.

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Schafer will play baseball at Iowa

Middleton’s baseball program has become a pipeline to Division 1 colleges in recent seasons.

And Cardinals senior Luke Schafer will continue that movement.

Schafer, a two-time all-Big Eight Conference selection, will play at Iowa next season. Schafer gave a verbal commitment to the Hawkeyes last week after visiting the school Jan. 27-28.

Schafer will be a preferred walk-on with the Hawkeyes, with the hope that scholarship money will become available later.

“It’s a tight roster right now, so it was extremely competitive,” Schafer said. “But next year, they’ll lose 17 seniors. Obviously, it would have been great to get a full scholarship. But hopefully the scholarship will work itself out if I can go in there and prove myself.”

Schafer has certainly proved himself during his time at Middleton.

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Girls basketball team set for showdown

They are the gold standard for the rest of the Big Eight Conference. The programs everyone else is chasing.

Middleton and Verona’s girls basketball teams have dominated the conference since the Wildcats joined the league in 2008-09.

In the six seasons since, Verona has posted an 84-19 conference mark (81.6%). The Wildcats have also shared the league title twice in that time.

The only program that’s achieved greater success is mighty Middleton. The Cardinals are a remarkable 90-13 in conference games (87.4%) and have won or shared five conference titles in the last six years.

So it’s fitting these two powers will meet for the league title Thursday in Verona at 7:30 p.m. Middleton enters a perfect 13-0 in the conference, while the Wildcats are 12-1.

Madison La Follette (9-4) is a distant third in the league, meaning Thursday’s game will likely decide the league.

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Girls BB team wins 9th straight

Be afraid.

Be very afraid.

That’s the message Middleton’s girls basketball team has been delivering to its foes lately.

The Cardinals rolled to a pair of highly-impressive wins last week. First, Middleton trounced host Madison East, 83-49, last Thursday. The Cardinals followed that up with a 73-45 snack down of visiting Madison West last Saturday.

Middleton, ranked No. 6 in the latest Division 1 poll, improved to 15-2 overall and 13-0 in the Big Eight Conference.

“Our team is really gelling together,” Middleton senior forward Liz McMahon said. “We’re running our offense well with good spacing and we continue to learn how to best play together.

“Defensively, we’re running our press well and improving on our half court defense. Hopefully we can continue our success, because this last part of the season is where our hard work can pay off.”

Middleton’s hard work has certainly paid off, of late.

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Rongstad's 33 lifts Middleton

A few games back, Middleton boys basketball coach Kevin Bavery sensed a change was necessary.

Bavery had been using senior guard Derek Rongstad at the point all season long. But with the Cardinals in need of an offensive lift, Bavery shifted Rongstad to shooting guard.

The move has paid off in spades.

Last Friday night, Rongstad erupted for a career-high 33 points and powered Middleton to a much-needed 86-79 win over Madison East. Rongstad, a UW-Milwaukee recruit, has now exploded for 86 points in his last three games.

“It was important to get him into more of a scoring emphasis and he's responded,” Bavery said of Rongstad. “The timing is great for us in this stretch run leading into tournament time as it's made us more complete.”

Senior forward Max Oelerich added 16 points and senior forward Derek Rogeberg had 15 points.

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Middleton wrestlers win Big 8

The conference title was on the line.

And there were just five meets left to decide a champion.

Middleton and Sun Prairie’s wrestling teams — battling for the Big Eight Conference dual meet title — were embroiled in a thriller last Wednesday night.

Sun Prairie was clinging to a 22-21 lead late in the match. But Middleton won four of the final five matches and notched a 43-26 win.

Middleton finished the dual meet season with a 9-0 record and won its second straight regular season conference title. Sun Prairie finished the dual meet season at 8-1.

“That just solidifies their hard work,” Middleton coach Kent Weiler said. “They’re buying into the program and the commitment.

“They didn’t miss a beat. This was expected for them. It’s fun. It’s one of those things where it’s nice to see the hard work pay off. As a coach and program-wise … it’s nice to see it all come together.”

Things certainly came together against Sun Prairie.

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Carey powers hockey Cards

Middleton’s hockey team needed a lift.

The Cardinals, mired in their first losing season in more than a decade, needed something good to happen last week.

Enter Jordan Carey.

Middleton’s senior forward scored a pair of late goals in a span of two minutes, 22 seconds last Thursday and lifted his team to a 4-3 win over visiting Janesville.

“Jordan is a special player,” Middleton interim coach Steffon Walby said. “He has the ability to take over a game at a moments notice.

“He played extremely well and got a few good bounces that he ultimately capitalized on. When he is mentally sharp and plays a physical game, he can be the best player on the ice.”

Middleton also dropped a 3-0 decision to first-place Verona last Saturday. The Cardinals now stand at 8-10-2 overall this year and are in fourth place in the Big Eight Conference at 6-4-2.

Carey’s heroics were the highlight of the week for Middleton.


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