At the end of the 2014 track and field season, the Waconia teams had more hardware and accolades than they probably knew what to do with. The season was filled with successes as the athletes and coaching staff saw the continued dominance of the girls’ track and field program and also saw the boys’ team begin to see what had been anticipated for years.
When all was said and done in 2014, the Wildcat teams came away with a conference championship, 23 All-Conference awards, seven new school records, a runner up Section 2AAA award, five state qualifiers in seven events, and three state podium finishes.
The season began April 8 at Mankato West, with the Wildcat girls winning the team title and the boys finishing fourth. The Wildcat squads went on to back-to-back sweeps of the team titles at Faribault (April 15) and Litchfield (April 22). Just one team sweep at a meet was something coach Christian Gilbert hadn’t seen in at least a decade, if ever, in Wildcat history, but to have two meets back-to-back was simply amazing.
Both teams finished third at Delano on April 25, and continued their year at the True Team Section 7AA meet in Wayzata on May 7 where the girls finished sixth and the boys eighth.
At the conference championships, the girls won the WCC title, while the boys were a close third, their best finish in years.
After multiple rain delays, the Wildcats were able to host their annual invitational in mid-May, where the girls again dominated the competition and the boys were second.
All season, the Wildcats battled the challenging weather and had to accommodate last minute schedule changes.
“Things I would love to change is the weather, it was tough…I can’t even remember how many (meets) were cancelled,” Gilbert said. “I would love a full schedule.”
He said the early cancellations proved costly for various aspects of the teams.
“We were a week away from peaking,” he said of the distance crew. “We had entire weeks completely cancelled.”
Gilbert added that the pole vaulters deserved to be at the state tournament, but fell just short. But that won’t be the case next season as the current vaulters are already in training for 2015.
“The time we had and the people we had, we really maximized our potential,” he said. “They’re already on the track and working for next year.”
The Section 2AAA meet proved challenging, but not unconquerable at the end of May. After the first day of scoring, the Wildcat girls were tied for first place with Chanhassen, but would go on to finish as runners up after Day 2, qualifying five girls to the state tournament in seven events. The boys finished 10th overall.
At the Class AA state meet, held June 6-7 at Hamline University, the Wildcat girls brought home three podium finishes. The 4×200 meter relay team of Molly Reighard, Danielle Pioske, Kaitlyn Schuler, and Miranda Schultz finished third in the finals to bring home the bronze, while Reighard was seventh in the finals of the 200 meter dash and Pioske was eighth in the 100 meters.
Gilbert said the 4×200 relay team, which had the fastest finals qualifying time, came in third simply because they were running too fast for their own good and ever-so-slightly fumbled a handoff.
“Tom (McDonald) has them so precisely with their handoffs,” Gilbert said. “[They were} running out of their minds … it’s no one’s fault.”
The 4×100 relay team of Reighard, Pioske, Kirsten Wagener, and Schultz was sixth in their heat and fell just short of the finals. Wagener also competed in all three jumping events, finishing 11th in the high jump, 15th in the long jump, and 18th overall in the triple jump.
Although the team will certainly lose some talented senior athletes, the strength of the Waconia track and field program, which gave out all 159 of its uniforms this season, will quickly fill in those holes.
For example, the state third-place 4×200 relay team only needs to replace one athlete, Miranda Schultz, and is expected to make another run at the state tournament next season.
Gilbert expects the girls to be just as dominant as ever with the upcoming athletes, and said the boys should also be transitioning into a “new gear,” next season, finally establishing a strong program rivaling the girls.
“It was just a fun year and all the momentum going into next year,” Gilbert said. “Once you get a system and you get success, replacements kind of naturally happen.”
With the continued growth of the program, Gilbert expects nothing less than 180 kids in the program next season, an astonishing number that will only continue to feed into the strength of the program.
“They’re just coming up and they’re excited for track,” he said. “As they get older, they’re just really going to lock down.”
Gilbert said he loves building the program and is looking forward to continuing it next season, especially since he expects new levels of talent to be hit in multiple events and specialities.
“These kids have been in the shadows of these greats,” he said, “but it’s going to be fun to see kind of a changing of the scenery in the track program and see those kids step up into those roles.”
Throughout the 2014 year, multiple school records were reset. For the boys, Zach Olsem is the new record holder in the pole vault, extending that record to 13 feet, 8 inches. Cody Ellis now holds the record in the triple jump at 43-02.25.
Five new records were set on the girls’ side of the board. Pioske set the new 100 meter dash record at 12.45 seconds, while Reighard now holds the 200 meter record at 25.6 seconds. Three different relays set new records including the new time of 49.80 in the 4×100, run by Pioske, Reighard, Wagener, and Schultz.
Reighard, Pioske, Schultz, and Schuler reset the 4×200 record down to 1:42.37, while the 4×800 team of Lexi Willems, Katherine Jensen, Alora Rands, and Carissa Dock broke the school’s 4×800 record at the True Team meet with a new time of 9:45.77.
At the WCC Championships, 23 All-Conference awards went to Wildcat athletes including: Raven Concaughblount, Zach Christians, Cody Ellis, Katherine Jensen, Taylor Lange, Allyson Marrs, Zach Olsem, Danielle Pioske, Paige Notch, Molly Reighard, Kaitlyn Schuler, Miranda Schultz, Holly Thomas, Kirsten Wagener, Lexi Willems, and Makayla Williams.
The Waconia junior varsity and junior high teams also found successes this year as they challenged the varsity regulars for coveted spots and kept the competition stiff. At the JV WCC Championships, the boys captured the title while the girls were runners up. Also during the year, a number of junior high level records were broken.
Team awards included: Most Valuable Player (Cody Ellis, Molly Reighard), Most Improve (Abbie Cafarelle), Rookie of the Year (Alex Carrabre), and the 300-Mile Club (Katherine Jensen, Alora Rands, Lexi Willems, Kalin McDonough, Ellie Swanson).
Contact Melissa Marohl at [email protected]