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Eight Badgers advance to state track


Kotula, Sproul, Wieseman making return trips



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After medaling in the 400 relay at state in 2010, Connor Kotula is going back to La Crosse in the same event as a senior. Mike Ramczyk.

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Senior Tristan Sproul is making her first trip to state since 2011. Mike Ramczyk. (click for larger version)
May 28, 2013 | 04:18 PM
WATERFORD — It's been quite the track career for Badger senior Connor Kotula.

As a freshman in 2010, he was one-fourth of a 400 relay squad that took fourth in state with a record-setting time of 42.52.

That team, which included future college athletes Jarek Kunz and Justin Bowers along with Wes Aranda, was the last 400 relay squad to qualify for state before this year.

Kotula, now a senior and the leader of Badger's current 400 relay squad with Andrew Allen, Nick Hall and Michael Mann, has come full circle.

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With a time of 44.20 May 23 at the Waterford Sectional, the foursome qualified for this weekend's state tournament at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Kotula anchored the bunch, and he overcame a lot to get to this point.

Before the season, he suffered two torn anterior cruciate ligaments and two torn menisci in his knees. Also, he pulled a hamstring two weeks before conference.

"It wasn't so difficult physically, but to be mentally ready after an injury that could end your career, it was pretty hard," Kotula said. "I was ecstatic after I crossed the finish line and knowing I was going back to state. I thought I could make it back, but I knew I had to push myself twice as hard. This season I really had to commit. I had to push myself 110 percent to make sure I could make it."

Alex Martinez was the other state qualifier for the boys. He took in the 1,600 run with a time of 4:31.17.

Martinez dropped his time by 13 seconds from last year. Badger boys coach AJ Curtis said Martinez has a "great chance" of breaking the school record at state.

"Alex has really taken it to another level this season," Curtis said. "And out 400 team has been very impressive. All of their splits have dropped significantly from last season, and adding Nick Hall has paid off."

At state, Curtis isn't worried about winning.

"Our goals at state are just to go up there and compete," he said. "We just enjoy being able to send guys up to state but are looking to improve our times from this season. We have held by our motto all year in that we can only control our effort and performance."

For the girls, two distance runners and a field event made it to state.

Senior Tristan Sproul qualified in the 800 run, taking third with a time of 2:24.75. Also, Elle Adams, a junior, advanced to state in the 3,200 run by finishing in third with a time of 11:45.28.

Sproul, who made state her freshman and sophomore seasons, was happy to qualify again.

"It was huge sigh of relief that I made it my senior year," she said. "My goals for state are to just have fun, enjoy my last high school race, run fast and PR."

Senior Liberty Wieseman took second in the discus with a throw of 114-5 at sectionals. This is her second straight trip to La Crosse. For Wieseman, hard work paid off.

"We had 6 a.m. lifting three times a week for most of the season," Wieseman said. "It gave the team more time at practice to focus on our events. I think the morning lifts made a big difference for me this year."

Wieseman said state was a goal for her senior year. She hopes to podium (top six) in La Crosse. She broke the school record in discus with a 119-3 at regionals.

"I just want to get up there and compete," she said. "My goal is to throw over 120 feet. I'm pretty close right now, but state is my last chance."

Badger girls track coach Jenn Jaeger said her team performed well at sectionals.

"It's always hard competing on Monday and then turning around and competing at the same level on Thursday again and the girls did a nice job," she said.

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