Four girls on Big Foot/Williams Bay’s track team had an incredible run of success a few seasons ago.
Zanzie Demco, Grace Gillingham, Gloria Esarco and Brooke Wellhausen teamed up to run both the 4x400 and 4x800 relays from 2015 to 2017.
The group made the state meet in the 4x400 all three years, and the 4x800 for two seasons. They finished fourth or better in each, including a second-place 4x400 finish in 2016 and a state title in the 2016 4x800.
When Esarco and Wellhausen graduated in 2017, the relay team was broken up. But for three of the girls, who are now in college, their track careers have continued, and the impressive performances keep coming in.
In fact, their high school state championship races helped ease them into the rigors of college competition.
“The state track meet is such a great experience. It’s so big, even bigger than some college meets I’ve been to. That atmosphere really prepares you for college athletics,” Wellhausen said.
Esarco went on to University of Illinois-Springfield, where she has been the Prairie Stars’ best runner in the 800 for the past two seasons, including a third-place Great Lakes Valley Conference finish in May 2019.
Wellhausen and Demco have stayed in-state, with Wellhausen at UW-Stevens Point and Demco at UW-Oshkosh, where the former teammates are now Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rivals.
In her freshman year in 2018, Wellhausen kicked off her college career with a bang, taking second in the WIAC in the 800-meter run and winning the conference title as a part of the 4x400 relay team.
When Demco started her college career a year later, though, the two former teammates were suddenly going head-to-head in some of the same events they were once running together. Their 4x400 teams have faced off a number of times, including at the WIAC championship meet on May 4.
Demco’s Oshkosh squad had the best 4x400 time in the regular season, with a good enough time to earn them a spot in the Division 3 national championship, making them the clear favorite in the conference event. However, it was Wellhausen and Stevens Point that took first place in the WIAC, giving them their second conference title in a row.
While Wellhausen pulled off the upset over Demco, the rivalry between the former ChiefDogs remains positive.
“I know she’s been really successful throughout both of her years at Stevens Point. I still felt like it was cool to know she was doing so well,” Demco said. “Watching Brooke inspires me to want to be even better.”
The two may not be quite as close as when they were making their yearly trips to state championships in high school, their collision-course college track careers will help keep their friendship alive.
“We were way closer then, because we were seeing each other on a daily basis. But she’s in my phone, and we text each other every once in a while,” Wellhausen said. “She’s always a friend.”