November 16, 2011 | 07:19 AMThe fall high school sports season ended with a bang Saturday.
The Badger/Big Foot/Williams Bay/Westosha Central/Wilmot swim team sent five girls to the state swim meet at the UW-Madison Natatorium, and it made sure Badger swimming remained a household name in Wisconsin.
Junior Anna Brooks, a Westosha Central student, took second place in both the 50 and 100 freestyles. Also, the 200 freestyle relay team of Brooks, Evelyn Edge, Kaarin Quaerna and Carly O'Brien grabbed third place with a time of 1:38.07.
Furthermore, Badger senior Leah Mikrut made her first state appearance to cap off an impressive career.
While the first area basketball games start Nov. 22, I want to take one last opportunity to remember the fall sports season. Whether it was a crushing hit from a Badger or Big Foot football player, a scintillating spike from the Lady Chiefs or a Badger swim speedster blazing through the pool, area athletes dazzled us from August through October and beyond.
For the second straight year, here are my fall award winners:
Male athlete of the fall
Kenny Walker, senior, Big Foot football
This one wasn't even close. Walker is a raw athlete whose speed and ability make him nearly impossible to stop with the ball in his hands.
Where do I start with this guy? After an up-and-down junior campaign where he had to miss Big Foot's final playoff game due to an ankle injury, Walker was injury-free in 2011, and opponents paid the price every game.
Walker's effortless fluidity when running the ball compares to a Gale Sayers-type, and he's no softie. Out of 131 total touches including rushes, receptions and punt and kick returns, the senior scored an unconscionable 32 touchdowns, good for a score every four times Walker touched the ball. His 1,444 rushing yards led area rushers by more than 350 yards, and his per-carry average of 13.2 yards was second in the state among backs with 100 or more carries.
Coach Rodney Wedig often referred to Kenny as the most athletically-gifted player he's ever coached. And Walker didn't just do it on the offensive side of the ball. On defense, Kenny will put you on the ground in an instant from the cornerback position. He had four interceptions and 43 tackles as a cornerback.
For his other-worldly efforts, Walker was recently named first team all-state at running back and cornerback by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association. He along with teammates Luke Kahl and Garett Cary earned all-state honors. The three along with Badger's Tom Cychner were the four area athletes who earned all-region accolades.
When I talked to Kenny after the team's season-ending loss, he said he wanted to play football in college. Wedig informed me that Division 1 Army wants Kenny to play running back. Also, several Division 2 schools have shown interest. I would imagine when the recruiting season really picks up after this weekend's state championship games, a few more D1 schools will call the Walkers looking for Kenny's services.
Others receiving consideration: Tom Cychner, senior, Badger football; Luke Kahl, senior, Big Foot football; Tomas Pecha, junior, Badger cross country; Mike Brody, junior, Big Foot cross country; Joe Ahlgren, junior, Badger soccer.
Female athlete of the fall
Annie Kunes, senior, Big Foot volleyball
With the addition of junior setter Katarina Rotta, the buzz surrounding the Big Foot volleyball team was heavy back in August.
With established stars such as Kunes and Meghan Schneider, the club had someone to get them the ball in Rotta. And Kunes, in her fourth year on varsity, didn't disappoint.
Big Foot took home conference, regional and sectional championships, and Kunes was the coach on the court who made Big Foot go. A Division 1 recruit (University of Texas-San Antonio), Kunes paced the squad with 313 kills and was second in digs and blocks.
Whenever the girls were down, Kunes was there to speak positive words of wisdom and pick the team back up. This was never more evident than in the WIAA Division 2 state semifinal against Waukesha Catholic Memorial. After Big Foot fell behind 2-0, Kunes helped will the team back to a game three victory. She fired off a game-high 17 kills in the contest, and she often huddled up the team to get everyone on the same page. Kunes' kill down the line sealed a 25-22 game three victory for the Lady Chiefs.
An outside hitter for the Chiefs, Kunes will move to libero next fall for UT-San Antonio.
Others receiving consideration: Meghan Schneider, senior, Big Foot volleyball; Annie Gaugert, senior, Badger golf; Katarina Rotta, junior, Big Foot volleyball; Claire Canda, junior, Williams Bay volleyball; Liz McGrail, senior, Big Foot/Williams Bay tennis; Anna Brooks, junior, Badger swimming; Carly O'Brien, sophomore, Badger swimming.
Team of the fall
Big Foot volleyball
This was another no-brainer.
The girls posted the best record (40-5) in school history and made it to the state tournament for the first time as well. They went undefeated in conference, then lambasted Jefferson, Lakeside Lutheran, McFarland and Richland in the playoffs, making it a perfect 12-0 in playoff games. But the run ended against eventual state champion Waukesha Catholic Memorial, who took the first two games in a 3-1 victory.
Big Foot outscored Memorial 41-33 over a span of two games, but Memorial finished game four with a 14-6 flurry to win it.
Kunes, Meghan Schneider, Kat Rotta, Mackenzie Long and Amy Schryver all earned first team all-Rock Valley honors. Also, Sydney Racky made the second team, and Laura Hanley and Maggie Kivlin each earned honorable mention.
Coach Jen Stelling helped lead the squad to state in her ninth season at the helm.
Big Foot demonstrated teamwork, resiliency and a relentless pursuit to every ball all season. These girls are dedicated to the sport. Nine of 12 members play club, or year-round, volleyball. Expect the Walworth gals to knock on state's door next year as well.
Others receiving consideration: Badger football; Big Foot football; Badger girls cross country; Big Foot boys cross country; Badger swimming.
Coach of the fall
Glenn Biller, Badger swimming
Talk about fitting all the pieces into the puzzle. Badger swimming draws from five different schools, and it's no guarantee these girls know each other when the high school season rolls around.
That's part of what makes Biller's coaching so impressive. He took girls from Badger, Williams Bay and Westosha Central high schools and helped mold them into a formidable team despite four seniors on a 36-member squad.
Throughout the year, the girls dropped times, including huge drops at sectionals, where the team took second place to Burlington while facing several much larger schools. Swimmers in each and every events dropped times, and Biller dubbed it his best overall sectional meet ever.
At Saturday's state meet, the 200 freestyle relay of Evelyn Edge (Badger), Carly O'Brien (Williams Bay), Anna Brooks (Westosha Central) and Kaarin Quaerna (Badger) placed third. Brooks took second in state in both the 50 and 100 freestyles. Brooks hadn't swum in any sprint events before this season, but Biller thought her skill set was conducive to sprints. It paid off big time, and Brooks now has a great shot to win state in both events next season.
What's more is O'Brien missed most of the season with a hyperthyroid issue, but Biller's tactics had her winning races in no time and qualified her for state in two individual events (200 IM, 100 butterfly).
Brooks summed it up on Monday afternoon.
"We have a good coach and he knows how to push us," she said of Biller. "Glenn's practices are very intense."
Others receiving consideration: Jen Stelling, Big Foot volleyball; Matt Hensler, Badger football; Rodney Wedig, Big Foot football; Carol Van Henkelum, Williams Bay volleyball; Ross Fowler, Badger soccer; Jim Karedes, Big Foot/Williams Bay tennis; Stephani Reynolds, Badger girls cross country.