Hatchets light it up at sectional; Bluejays step it up, too
The Hatchets dream season racheted up a notch when they qualified four events for this weekend’s WIAA State Meet in Madison, and they did it the hard way, by winning those events outright against 15 other teams in Saturday’s Stevens Point Sectional.
The Merrill girls placed 14th in the meet.
Tomahawk set a number of team records in the process, starting with their overall runner-up finish to Ladysmith creating a new standard for sectional performance. The Hatchets’ four firsts, total state qualifiers (six) and top-eight swim finishes (11) all broke team marks.
“The girls cried!” THS coach Theresa L’Esperance said. “They were so excited to know right then they were heading to state. It has been 8 years. Both relays are very excited.
“All day, our thought was, win and in, but we had no idea how poignant it would be. Times for the state qualifying are unbelievably fast. It is getting harder and harder to qualify from the northwoods.”
A fourth-place finish in the opening event – the 200 medley relay – just served to motivate the Tomahawk girls.
“We knew all day we had to ‘win to get in,’ ” L’Esperance said. “We also knew that Ladysmith was swimming very good, as well as Rice Lake and River Falls. Our first relay did not perform like we thought with only two personal records being set out of four, so we had to re-group and get the girls laughing.
“Weber also did not have a good performance in the 50, we later attributed that to an injury that kept her out of the pool during the high yardage point of the season. I was really proud of her, she pulled herself together and took the lead on the 200 free relay. Dallman had a great swim as did Hilt, but we noticed a raised arm of an official. That meant a team had disqualified. We were sure it wasn’t us, but one never knows. It was Rice Lake, but we had finished first, so we were safe and in.
“During the 400 free relay, we changed the lineup from the previous week, going with Weber, M. Kleich, Russell and Hilt. We told the first three girls to not allow Ladysmith too much of a lead or Lauren wouldn’t be able to catch Jamie Fuse. We kept the race close and when Lauren entered the water we were just a fraction behind Ladysmith. I sat through the whole race, too nervous to watch too close. Once Lauren had 25 yards to go, she was so far in the lead there was no doubt of our win.”
Freshman Lauren Hilt set the pace, winning the 50 free in :24.36 and the 100 free in :53.39, both school record times. Her 50 time is the third-best of 18 D2 qualifiers, and her 100 time ranks fourth of 16.
Morgan Weber – who was the 100 free runner-up (:57.07) and fourth in the 50 free (:25.72) – joined Hilt on both the winning 200 free and 400 free relays.
Baylee Dallman and Michaela Galganski filled out the 200 relay on the way to a first-place (1:44.04), while Mikhayla Kleich and Katherine Russell bumped to the 400 relay to a top-rated 3:47.38.
“The St. Point Sectional was the largest in state, but also the slowest,” L’Esperance said. “We knew we needed to take a first (in an event) to qualify (for state).”
The Hatchets ranked 4th-5th in the 100 fly with Russell (1:06.63) and Karli Cecil (1:06.88), while Russell was also fourth in the 100 back (1:06.70). Kleich did it in 5:47.64 in the 500 free, and the 200 medley team of Russell, Galganski, Cecil and Dalland that comes back to the offensive line.”
Hintze gave 32 S and 16 A tackles, 8 TFL, and caused a fumble. Breaman had two GNC interceptions, 21 S and 13 A tackles, 2 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 2 passes broken up and 1 BK.
“When Ben was healthy, he had a great year,” Sturm said. “He was a force in the run game and able to find the ball pretty consistently. We missed him those (three) games he was out.
“Nick came back from a knee injury during basketball and we weren’t sure where he’d be with it. He always ended up in the right spot and he took advantage and made a few big plays. He played well all year long.”
Klug was 6th in rushing ypg at 75.3, on 107 carries for 452 yards, and scored 7 TD’s. He made 12 S and 9 A tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PBU, 1 FF and 1 FR.
Anderson was 4th with 15 receptions for 301 yards with 4 TD’s, and had a 20.1 ypr that was 1st in the GNC. Dengel gave 23 S and 12 A tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 TFL, 1 FF and 2 FR. Stockowitz had 19 S and 20 A tackles, 3 TFL, 1 int. and 1 PBU. Mootz offered 10 S and 9 A tackles, 1 int. and 2 PBU.
“Alex was a tough, hard inside runner,” Sturm said. “A lot depended on what coaches were doing to us. Some games he got more carries. On defense he did very nice job on both the run and the pass. Jake had quite a few long touchdowns and he also blocked very well.
“Dustin had a real nice junior season. He uses his hands well. I expect him to have a very solid senior season. Brian was also in the right spot. He took pride in doing his job well and was very consistent. Chaz did well in 1-on-1 coverage. We felt like he could cover the best receiver out there.”
Bonnell and Schmidt helped that line make holes for Hoffmann, who ended up 10th in ypg (52.8), but had the highest ypc of anyone at 11.3. Grunenwald ended up with 36 S and 24 A tackles, 2 PBU, 1 interception, 4 FR and 1 FF.
“Tyler is an excellent blocker,” Sturm said. “Justin made all our line calls and a lot of times he was able to move a good nose guard over him.
“Nick blocked well, ran well and caught the ball well. I’ve got a lot of good things to say about him. Ty had a very solid season. He didn’t have as many interceptions this year, but I thought he played the run better.”