Lake Country Publications Sports Director JR Radcliffe provides tidbits and details from the Lake Country prep sports scene to the Wisconsin sports world at large. His weekly column presents exclusive interviews, commentaries and observations.
From a coach or player’s perspective, nobody likes to think about what lies ahead next year. That is to say, a very good team with mostly sophomores and juniors might be downright great next year, but it’s often not appropriate to suggest this season can’t be special, either. Plus, it’s not exactly a science to schedule when the very best seasons will take place.
Still, it’s hard to ignore teams that bring back a wealth of experience, especially when those players have already had success the preceding year. Here’s a few teams to watch in 2013:
Arrowhead girls cross country. Ridiculously, none of the seven runners on last fall’s state championship team were seniors. That same team won the title for a second straight year and did so with a score of 41 – the second lowest in meet history. Cross country is a difficult sport to predict, with its share of injuries and young newcomers who burst onto the scene immediately, often shifting the balance of power overnight. Still, it’s hard to imagine Arrowhead being anything other than the favorite in 2013. The Pewaukee girls aren’t far behind, with five of seven returnees of the state-qualifying unit in 2012.
Arrowhead football. Football teams typically have substantial turnover from year to year with such a high percentage of contribution from the senior class. But successful programs keep the cycle going, and Arrowhead is coming off a dominant 2012 and state-championship showing. Not only that, but there are plenty of potential returnees. Defensive lineman Billy Hirschfeld and offensive lineman George Panos were All State selections. Linebacker Matt Seitz was also first-team All Conference, as was receiver Ricky Finco. All four are juniors. Other returnees with All Conference mention are Sam Seonbuchner, Logan Rupard, Ty Jaeger and Alex Romenesko.
Hamilton basketball. This could be a banner year for the Hamilton basketball program on two fronts. The boys and girls teams entered the New Year with a combined record of 19-1. The girls are one of the top-ranked teams in the state with several players (junior Mackenzie Latt, junior Hannah Menzia, freshman Taylor Klug) who will have impact beyond this season, as well. The boys are undefeated with huge contributions from juniors Brady Ellingson and Austin Kendziorski. Next year’s playoff path might be a tad easier on the boys side when Germantown 7-footer and Indiana recruit Luke Fischer finally graduates.
Mukwonago boys basketball. Not only is the team (10-1) looking at a very real chance to grab its first conference title in 2013, with great potential for the WIAA postseason to follow, but three of the team’s top five scorers are juniors.
Mukwonago girls golf. Four of the top five golfers on last year’s sectional squad return, including three-time state qualifier Abby Martin. The Indians reached state as a full team two seasons ago and will look to replicate that feat in the fall.
Pewaukee basketball. The Pirates have a winning tradition, but the 2011-12 season was one of uncertainty with such a talented senior class departing on both the boys and girls side. But the word “rebuilding” might have been used in error here. The boys entered the New Year at 9-3, and the girls were 8-2, and both were relying heavily on non-senior contributions (especially the girls, with the lone senior on the roster injured and out for the year). Look out ahead, Woodland Conference.
Oconomowoc boys track and field. Though track and field is a sport that requires numerous participants, it really only takes a small few to make a major splash at the state meet. Keep an eye on Oconomowoc in that regard this season. Shawn Michels – a top-seven finisher in both hurdles events last year – is back, as is the entire 11th place 4x800 relay (Mitch Pauers, Joe Zack, Brandon Buckholtz and Tyler Carillo) and Zach Poker, who took third in the shot put. Michels has shown proficiency in additional events, as well, and Corbin Ellis returns as a conference champ in the 400 meters. Other returning members of the team’s relays are Jake Ullrich, Ryan Rutta, Casey Bednarski, Alex Kunz and Nate Nord.
Kettle Moraine soccer. The Lasers had their share of senior leaders, such as goalie Kyle Ihn, but the team will return six starters and eight additional players who appeared in the state championship loss to Marquette last year, a 2-1 setback at Uihlein Soccer Park. The team’s three top point-scorers are among the returnees, so the Lasers will be right back in the mix as they gun for a third-straight state championship-game appearance.
Arrowhead girls swimming. The Warhawks just missed a state title last fall, falling by six points to a talented Waukesha South/Mukwonago team. But including an incredible freshman class, Arrowhead will be just as dangerous next year. Mary Warren (former state champ in 50 free, top-five finisher in two events last fall) will return, as will Lindsay Adamski to defend her breaststroke title. Three-fourths of the 200 free relay champion (Warren, Kelly Jacob, Maddie Barta) will be back. Jacob, a freshman, also took top-five finishes in two other events, and fellow freshmen Megan Doty and Sarah Laabs added top-10 finishes in separate events. The sophomore Barta took fourth in the backstroke.
Pictured: Nobody could catch Arrowhead's Jackie Dubnicka and her teammates in 2012. Will anyone be able to catch the same squad in 2013? (Photo by Scott Ash)