HS track: Gillett freshmen shine on big stage

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Hansen snags pair of top 5 finishes; DeBauch 7th at state
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Gillett’s Sylvia Hansen competes in the 1,600 run on Saturday at the state meet. (Times Herald photo by Morgan Rode)

Competing in the state track meet can be an overwhelming experience for first-time state qualifiers.

Gillett freshman Sylvia Hansen was among the individuals making her first state appearance at the 2018 WIAA Track and Field Championships at Veterans Memorial Stadium in La Crosse on June 1-2. Instead of succumbing to the pressures and big moments of the meet, Hansen made her first state experience a memorable one, picking up a pair of top-five finishes.

Hansen took part in the 3,200-meter run on Friday, taking fifth with a time of 11 minutes, 34.26 seconds, a new school record. She followed that up with a second-place finish in the 1,600 on Saturday, earning a time of 5 minutes, 15.04 seconds, less than a second behind first-place finisher Marissa Ellenbecker of Edgar.

Getting to the state meet was a huge accomplishment for Hansen, so to perform so well in both of her events was a dream come true for the freshman.

“Yes, definitely during my 1,600 run,” Hansen said about being surprised at her strong finishes. “I was in about fifth place most of the race and I passed a few girls my last 300 meters of the race, bringing me home a second-place medal. I would have never guessed I had that much in me to do something like that. I feel like I did the best I could do and that’s what I wanted. Coming home with two medals, two personal bests and a school record is something I am happy about.”

Hansen admitted that she was a bit overwhelmed by the whole state experience during her 3,200 run. She gained confidence as the race reached its final laps and carried the momentum over into the 1,600 the next day.

The state track meet capped an incredible freshman year for Hansen, who also reached the podium in the Division 3 WIAA Cross Country Championships at The Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids in late October. She took third place behind Edgar’s Ellenbecker and Lancaster’s Lydia Murphy.

Hansen hopes her freshman year is just the start of an incredible high school running career. Friday and Saturday’s performances gave the Gillett runner plenty of motivation going forward.

“It was lots of fun watching all my hard work over the season finally come into play over the matter of two days,” Hansen said. “It gives me this feeling of excitement for what next year, and even this fall will bring me. There is nothing like the feeling I get standing on the podium or after I get done racing any race. These podium finishes will always be in the back of my mind, whether I’m training, racing, or doing nothing at all. It will motivate me to train harder, pass the girl in front of me, and always do my best so I can keep on experiencing big accomplishments like this.”

Gillett also had three other athletes take part in the state meet.

Aubrey DeBauch, a freshman, took seventh in the 300 hurdle preliminaries with a time of 47.36 seconds on Friday to qualify for the final. The prelim time broke another Gillett school record. In Saturday’s final, DeBauch again took seventh place, finishing with a time of 47.59 seconds.

DeBauch had expectations for the track season, but didn’t think it would end the way it did.

“At the start of the season I never would have thought that I’d be ending the year running in finals at the state track meet,” said DeBauch. “As the season moved on to regionals, sectionals and state, the competition kept getting better and better and so did my times. I love the competition and being able to push myself.”

Gillett sophomore Bo Krueger competed in discus, finishing 14th with a throw of 131 feet, 3 inches. Derek Hanson, a freshman, took 16th in the 1,600, finishing in 4 minutes, 49.32 seconds.

Each of the four Gillett athletes were making their first state appearances. The quartet was able to overcome some of the nerves surrounding the meet with the support of their teammates.

“I also had a great time with my teammates,” DeBauch said. “It was great having other teammates at state because you can have fun and take your mind out of race mode for awhile.”

“It was a blast,” Hansen said. “All four of us worked really hard to get to this point, and it was great to spend a well-deserved weekend with them. I feel like we all grew closer over the weekend and have many memories we will not forget.”

Suring’s Mitch Stegeman was making his second straight state appearance. Stegeman took part in the 300 hurdles, finishing Friday’s prelim in 42.76 seconds to take 12th in the event. The junior also competed in the Division 3 pole vault, reaching a height of 13 feet to tie for fifth and make the podium.

“I was very pleased with my performance in pole vault, but was a little disappointed in my hurdles,” Stegeman said. “I’ve hit 13 feet (in pole vault) a few times this year and came in pretty confident that I could make it at state. However, I didn’t think that I would podium with that, so when I did, it was pretty great.”

Stegeman’s pole vault height was a foot higher than what he achieved as a sophomore at the state meet. Stegeman attributed his stronger finish to being familiar with the state meet and the pressures it brings.

“Last year, it kind of got to me and I didn’t perform how I wanted, but this year, I was really able to feed off the energy of the crowd,” Stegeman said. “

Like Stegeman, Oconto Falls’ Ericka Havemeier also was a returning competitor to the state meet. The sophomore took part in the 200 for a second straight year.

Havemeier took ninth with a time of 26.02 seconds in Friday’s prelims to earn a spot in the finals. The sophomore earned a time of 27.14 seconds in the final Saturday to again place ninth.

“Not going to lie, I expected better from myself,” Havemeier said. “But live and learn, nothing I can do about it now. My start was horrible and I knew it the second I got out of the blocks.”

Despite not meeting her standards for the race, Havemeier still had a good time at state and is using her finish as motivation for next season.

“State was amazing,” Havemeier said. “I really enjoyed ending my 2018 season on the red oval. I love the atmosphere of the state track meet. Everyone is just happy they made it. I’m already setting goals for next year. Hoping for a PR (personal record) again, definitely some more block work. Hopefully it will be good enough for a podium next year.”