Thursday, August 13, 2020
Cashton senior Austin Schaldach on his way to the 200-meter dash title at the 2019 Scenic Bluffs Conference track and field meet. A two-time state qualifier, Schaldach won’t get a chance for a third state berth this season. Herald photo by J.P. Schaller.Lady Eagle seniors Emma Gronemus (left) and Gracey Mlsna (right), pictured above running side-by-side at an outdoor meet in 2018, were expected to play key roles this spring in Cashton’s push for its third Scenic Bluffs Conference track and field championship over the past four years.Isaac Hemmersbach is one of 15 Eagle seniors on a Cashton High School track and field team that was poised to sweep the Scenic Bluffs Conference track and field championships this season.From left - Cashton senior twins Lily and Holly Adams complete a hand-off during a relay race at a track meet in 2018. The sisters were hoping to help the Lady Eagles win their third straight Scenic Bluffs Conference championship this season.Lady Eagle Lydia Korn, who earned multiple individual and team state berths in cross country and gymnastics, was looking forward for a chance to return to the track this spring after suffering a serious knee injury in gymnastics over the winter.Michael Barnes (left) takes off after getting a hand-off from teammate Kristt Hilden (right) during a 2019 relay race. After finishing tied for the top spot with Bangor in last year’s Scenic Bluffs Conference standings, the Cashton seniors were looking to win the boys title outright this spring.Cashton’s Olivia Meyers gets ready to toss the shot put during the annual Cashton Invitational at UWL’s Mitchell Hall as a freshman in 2017. Meyers and her classmates won’t get a chance to compete as seniors this spring due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Eagle thinclads looked to dominate SBC on the oval

Shutdown derails hopes of Cashton’s Senior Sweep

With all due respect to the rest of the Scenic Bluffs Conference, it was a pretty safe bet that Cashton was poised to repeat its track and field championship sweep this spring.

The Lady Eagle thinclads captured the 2019 title outright to win their second straight SBC championship, while the Cashton boys tied for the top spot with rival Bangor last season.

With 15 seniors – nine boys and six girls - returning to the oval this spring, the general consensus around the SBC was that Cashton was the team to beat.

“With almost everyone back on both teams, there was already a lot of excitement about 2020 as 2019 ended. Kids talked about the season throughout the fall and winter,” said Cashton head track coach Jeremy Mosley.

“Once we started practice and saw the kids we had, the excitement grew. I knew we had a great chance to repeat with both teams based on the tremendous senior leadership and experience we had and the number of kids that could contribute to the conference effort,” he continued. “The depth we were going to have with 28 athletes on each team was going to be a huge benefit at the conference meet. It was also going to be exciting to have a chance to win the conference titles at our home facility.”

We know now, of course, that Cashton’s championship run would be derailed along the way, when the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association pulled the plug on the state’s 2020 spring sports season amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The news was a tough pill to swallow for a group of Eagles who were looking to wrap up their high school track and field careers in style.

“This was supposed to be the year – the stars were aligned. We have a good group of seniors and our goal was to win conference,” said senior sprinter Austin Schaldach.

“It was a dream year for all of us. For how hard we worked, it was going to pay off,” he added. “There were also a lot of school records we were going to try and get this year. I was only .08 (seconds) off the school record in the 100-meter dash.”

Schaldach lost plenty when the WIAA called off the season.

A two-time state qualifier in the 200-meter dash, Schaldach finished seventh at state as a sophomore and made the podium last season with a sixth-place finish.

His expectations to return to state and make a run at a title were very high as he entered the 2020 campaign.

“There were four seniors (among the state’s top 200-meter runners) who graduated last year and one who got bumped up a division, so I had a chance to get into the top three,” he said.

Senior distance runner Gracey Mlsna had plenty to look forward to as well.

A three-sport athlete competing in cross country, gymnastics and track, Mlsna is no stranger to success.

She was a member of the Cashton girls cross country team that qualified for state in 2017 and 2018 and an individual state qualifier in gymnastics during her freshman and sophomore seasons.

In track, Mlsna qualified for sectionals in the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs and the 3,200-meter relay three seasons in a row, but was never able to earn a state berth.

She felt this year could have been her year, but now we’ll never know.

“I was definitely excited for the season because I’ve been training for a long time. I started the long jump last year and I was excited to see what I could do in that this year because I improved by a ton last season,” she said.

Lydia Korn, Mlsna’s teammate in cross country, gymnastics and track, was unsure she would get back on the oval for her senior season after suffering a serious knee injury in gymnastics over the winter.

Korn had knee surgery in January and was planning to be part of the team even if she was unable to compete.

“Before any of this came about, I was still planning to be part of the team. I’m disappointed for the team, not just for myself,” offered Korn, who said she wasn’t sure if she would be competing this spring.

“I was still planning to work out, doing what I could do, depending on how physical therapy was going. I was looking forward to my senior season,” she continued. “This year, the senior class wanted to see how far we could get. Unfortunately, we won’t get to meet our goals and see how much we could have accomplished.”

Eagle hurdler Kristt Hilden was expecting a big senior season for himself and the Eagle boys.

“I was definitely excited to improve from last season. I was looking forward to the guys coming together,” he said.

Hilden was a big part of the 2019 Cashton team that tied with Bangor for the SBC boys track and field championship.

He admits he was looking to exact some revenge over the arch-rival Cardinals this season by winning the title outright.

“I definitely think we had a very good chance of taking the conference title outright – both the boys and girls teams,” said Hilden, admitting the cancellation of the spring sports season hit him hard.

“I just miss my friends – hanging out with them in sports and school – and making memories,” he continued. “And I miss being coached by my older brother (Cody Dahl) in track.”

The 2020 track season was just seven days old when the WIAA put things on hold in mid-March, but spring sports athletes across the state held out hope the shutdown would end in time for a shortened season.

“When things got shut down, we had two really good days of practice in the last week. Kids took home hurdles, shots and discs. I gave them workouts to do and other activities to do to work on their strength and fitness. That was enough to cover what we thought would be just a couple of weeks,” offered Mosley.

“When the safer at home order got extended, I continued to send workout ideas based on where we would be in the schedule,” he added. “The most difficult thing I have had to do during this time is hold an online meeting with our seniors when the season got cancelled.”

The news hit the kids hard – especially the seniors who learned for the first time that their high hopes for a stellar season on the track had ended.

“I stayed optimistic the season would still go on and we would have a good chance to do the things we wanted to,” offered Hilden. “Personally, I didn’t feel it right away, but as time went on I got a little sad about it.”

While there’s not really a silver lining, Hilden takes some solace in the fact that he will continue his sports career in college as a member of the Viterbo University men’s basketball team.

While the won’t compete in sports in college, Korn plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the fall, while Mlsna in headed to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Like Mlsna, Korn has had a stellar high school sports career.

She earned a state cross country berth as an individual in her freshman season and was a member of the Lady Eagle harriers state-qualifying teams in 2018 and 2019.

Korn also advanced to the state gymnastics meet as an individual her freshman, sophomore and junior seasons as a member of the Viroqua cooperative – the same team that Mlsna was a part of.

“I’ll miss being with my friends and making memories,” she said. “Some of our memories were cut short, but I can always look back on the memories we did make and cherish those.”

Mlsna will miss her teammates as well.

“I was super bummed when we found out (the season was cancelled). I was looking forward to spending time with my teammates and showing who we were as a team,” Mlsna said. “We were talented in all areas, so I was super bummed, not only for myself, but for my teammates.”

Schaldach, who competed in football, cross country and track during high school is faces with the end of his competitive sports career as well.

He plans to enter the workforce upon graduating, working with his father in the family garage floor coating business.

“It’s heartbreaking. The most heartbreaking part is not having the team have the season we’d been expecting for so long, It drained the life out of me,” offered Schaldach.

“I’m never going to get that back – that’s what I’ll miss the most – especially with the group of guys that I’ve grown up with,” he continued. “And I’ll miss coach Mosley. He helped me through some rough times. I was going to show him how much he helped me grow.”

Mosley, too, is heartbroken for a group of seniors who have had so much taken away in such a short time.

“When the season was cancelled, I felt terribly bad for kids that are seniors looking for one last opportunity to represent their school and community. I felt bad for kids that were excited about seeing a lot of individual success and improvement that would have contributed to some great team success,” he offered.

“I was devastated for kids who were set to possibly break school records, make moves on our all-time lists, and make it to state. I know that many of our kids are disappointed and there is a lot of sadness in this situation. Unfortunately, those that were hoping to experience the state meet, that opportunity is gone and our seniors cannot get that chance back,” Mosley continued. “While we would have loved to compete this spring, I am thankful that our kids and their families are healthy. We will be able to reflect on this season down the road and I hope it will not be focused on what might have been, but on what our community did to stay healthy and safe and to support each other through this pandemic.”

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