Area track & field athletes ready for state

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Stegeman, Havemeier each have prior experience
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Ericka Havemeier of Oconto Falls, left, will compete in the 200-meter dash at the state meet for a second consecutive year. (Times Herald file photo)

The WIAA State Track and Field Championships brings together Wisconsin’s top athletes who all have their own unique stories.

Some of the athletes are seniors who have appeared at state during each year of high school. Other seniors qualified for their first state trips. The meet will also feature plenty of freshman and sophomores who are hoping their state appearance is the first of many more to come.

When the 2018 championships take place this upcoming Friday and Saturday at Veterans Memorial Stadium in La Crosse, a total of six local athletes will be competing.

Of the group of state qualifiers, only Suring’s Mitch Stegeman and Oconto Falls’ Ericka Havemeier have made the trip to state before. Gillett’s Sylvia Hansen, Aubrey DeBauch, Derek Hanson and Bo Krueger will be experiencing their first state experiences.

Regardless of what event or how much experience an athlete has, each competitor is ready for the state meet.

Mitch Stegeman will be making his second straight trip to La Crosse for the state meet. A year ago as a sophomore, Stegeman competed in the pole vault, taking 12th after clearing a height of 12 feet.

This year, Stegeman will again compete in the pole vault and enters with a seed mark of 12 feet, 6 inches. The junior also will take part in the 300-meter hurdles. He enters with a seed time of 42.56 seconds.

“Being able to compete in two events is really cool,” Stegeman said. “However, I am just going to take it one event at a time on Friday. Getting to the state meet is the goal of every high school track athlete, and I’m glad that I get the opportunity to compete at this level.”

“Mitch is a very hard worker,” Suring track coach Heidi Gerndt said. “He not only works hard during practice and meets but also spends a lot of time researching his events on the internet, looking for helpful drills, tips, and better ways to improve skill.”

Ericka Havemeier will represent Oconto Falls at the state meet in the 200. The sophomore owns a seed time of 25.92 seconds in the event. Of the 18 competitors in the event, only five have times of less than 26 seconds.

Havemeier will be competing in the event for a second straight year. As a freshman, she finished the 200 in 26.82 seconds, good enough for a 14th place finish.

“Last year’s experience is going to help me better prepare for my race in so many ways,” Havemeier said. “I am definitely not going to be as nervous for one. I am very excited to compete at state for a second year. I have a lot of family and friends coming to support. I’ve worked hard for this all year and making it to state just tops it off.”

Gillett will have four different individuals compete in the Division 3 level at state.

Sylvia Hansen will compete in the 1,600 and 3,200 on the girls side. The freshman owns the third-fastest seed time in the 1,600 (5 minutes, 20.81 seconds) and the fourth-best time in the 3,200 (11:59.06). Aubrey DeBauch, another freshman, will compete in the 300 hurdles. DeBauch takes a seed time of 48.09 seconds into the state meet.

Derek Hanson, a freshman, will run the 1,600. Hanson’s seed time (4:34.24 seconds) is just over six seconds slower than top-seeded Living Word Lutheran’s Michael Axtman time of 4:28.18. Bo Krueger will compete in the discus. The sophomore enters state with a seed mark of 133 feet, eight inches.