Smith, Wisniewski strike gold
Athletes combine for three state track titles
By Greg Seubert
Ben Smith made the most out of his first trip to the WIAA State Track & Field Championships.
One day after winning the boys’ Division 1 shot put event, the Hortonville High School sophomore made it two in a row by placing first in the discus event.
He wasn’t the only area athlete to return home from the meet with a state championship, as New London’s Kyle Wisniewski won the boys’ Division 2 triple jump competition and followed it up with second-place finishes in the long and high jumps.
Smith came to the meet, held June 3-4 at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, as the top seed in both events based on his qualifying sectional throws.
“I’m pretty excited right now,” he said shortly before joining the third flight of the shot put competition. “There’s a lot of pressure and a lot that could go wrong.”
Less than two hours later, he could call himself a state champion. His winning throw of 59 feet, 4 inches was 7 inches longer than runner-up Drew Evans of Fort Atkinson.
“I got more relaxed and more confident in my throwing. Last year, I kind of struggled with my shot put. I practiced a lot over the offseason and got into it. I just had fun with it.”
Later in the day, Smith, Evans and the other top six shot put throwers took their place on the medal podium.
“It feels really good,’ he said. “I knew I could do it. I knew it would take a great throw and thankfully, I got one out there and it happened.”
With the shot put event out of the way, Smith then turned his attention to the discus competition. His winning throw of 179 feet, 3 inches was almost 7 feet longer than second-place finisher Jojo Azure of Bay Port.
Smith is now looking forward to defending his titles next year as a junior.
“Getting to state is the goal,” he said. “That’s what it was this year.”
Back at state
While the state meet was a new experience for Smith, Wisniewski returned to La Crosse for the second straight year after placing third in the triple jump, fifth in the long jump and tying for eighth in the high jump as a sophomore.
He won his championship with a leap of 46 feet, 11 1/4 inches, 9 1/4 inches ahead of second-place finisher Lucas Heyroth of Lodi. It was his personal best jump by 2 feet, 3 inches.
“We switched up my marks a little and I started sprinting a little more and running harder,” Wisniewski said. “It added 2 feet, I guess.”
Wisniewski said competing against Heyroth, who also finished third in the long jump, helped motivate him.
“My motive for getting going is getting mad,” he said. “I looked at him and I said, ‘I cannot let him beat me.’ He got me going and there it was.”
Wisniewski said the win, which came on the first day of the meet, helped prepare him for the high and long jumps the following day.
“It relieves a lot of pressure because I know I’ve got one under my belt already,” he said. “I’m not as worried to win tomorrow. I want to, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I don’t.”
One last time
Weyauwega-Fremont’s Abby Bartel wrapped up her high school track career with a pair of trips to the podium. She placed third in the girls’ 3,200-meter run and sixth in the 1,600-meter run and also ran the fourth leg of the Warhawks’ ninth-place 3,200-meter relay team that also included Emma Ziepke, Morgan Hansen and Madison Hansen.
“It’s the last time,” said Bartel, who will join the women’s cross country team at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. “I just wanted to make it memorable with my team and have a good experience with them. I’m hoping to put it all out their and do my best in these last races.”
Bartel is no stranger to state competitions. She competed in all three track events at state as a senior, junior and freshman and also won a Division 3 cross country championship in 2019 as a sophomore before placing second last year.
Bartel headed to her final state track meet looking for her first state championship.
“It would be nice, but I’m just going to do my best and see how it goes,” she said. “It hasn’t hit me yet, but I think it will after my last race. It’ll be like, ‘Wow, this is actually over.’ It’ll be sad, but I still have a happy ending.”