Both the River Falls girls’ and boys’ track and field programs have set their sights on the 2023 Big Rivers Conference championship, which would be their first titles since 2015 and 2019 …
Both the River Falls girls’ and boys’ track and field programs have set their sights on the 2023 Big Rivers Conference championship, which would be their first titles since 2015 and 2019 respectively.
The lofty 2023 goals for both programs come on the heels of last year’s strong regular season that saw River Falls have an outside chance at a league title late into the year. Now, the Wildcats are looking to build on that success and reclaim its position atop the Big Rivers Conference.
Just as it has been in the past, track and field in the Big Rivers is expected to be strong again this year. However, with River Falls’ returning talent jumping off of last year’s building blocks, coaches Max Haskins and Kady Bauschelt believe a title could be in the Wildcats’ near future.
“In terms of conference expectations and our goals, we expect to be in the mix for a conference championship with both teams,” Haskins said. “It’s going to be a tall task as it is every year and we’re going to have to go head-to-head with a deep and talented conference. We feel confident putting our kids and coaching staff against anyone.”
River Falls has been on the precipice of a conference championship multiple times in the last handful of years. Twice in the last three seasons the Lady Wildcats have finished runner-up in the conference to Hudson, and once, last year, they earned fourth place.
The boys’ track and field program has been in the hunt for a couple of years. In the two years since its last title in 2019, River Falls has notched two third-place finishes in Big Rivers Conference standings.
For coach Haskins, one of the biggest reasons his Wildcats have been close to a conference championship year after year is because of his dynamic coaching staff that develops talent at an elite level, particularly sprinters and distance athletes.
“I think on both sides, sprints and distance will be really strong,” Haskins said. “Matt Widule and Britt Johnson do a tremendous job with our sprinters and Kari Deluca is as good as anyone when it comes to coaching distance athletes. We always have some new faces, but seem to reload on the sprints and distance side of things.”
If the Wildcats are going to break the cycle of close calls and reclaim a league title, it’s going to be in large part because of returning veteran talent that has already contributed to multiple varsity campaigns.
The returning talent on the boys’ side is headlined by seniors Jacob Gilbertson, Jordan Karras and Cade Myszewski, all of whom played integral roles on last year’s team. Myszewski regularly found his way into the top five in the shot put and discus events while Gilbertson and Karras made hay in the short-distance sprints and relays.
Sophomore Quin Andrews returns for his sophomore campaign after finishing one of the better freshman seasons in recent River Falls memory. Andrews was a long-distance specialist last season and even finished fourth in the 3,200-meter run at the BRC meet in Menomonie.
“Jacob, Jordan and Cade are members of our team that will be seniors and have competed in varsity meets at a high level their entire careers,” Haskins said. “Quin is only a sophomore but is one of the more talented distance runners in our area. We’re excited about what he can bring to the team this season.”
Returning leaders for the girls’ program include seniors Rebecca Randleman, Abi Banitt, Brooke Silloway and junior Lilly Jensen. Randlemen is the most decorated of the group, as she qualified for last year’s state track and field championships in three events including the 100-meter dash and the 4x100 and 4x200-meter relays.
Randlemen anchored both relays while the aforementioned Silloway ran the third leg in each event last year in La Crosse. Banitt brings returning experience as an alternate for both of those relays. She’s also a locker room leader and an athlete that will play Division 1 volleyball next fall.
Jensen found most of her success in long-distance events during track in the spring and cross country in the fall season. Her strongest events last season were the 800 and 3,200-meter runs. She will join Randleman, Banitt and Silloway as the leaders of the girls’ program this season.
“Rebecca, Brooke, Abi and Lilly are three seniors who have competed at a very high level,” Haskins said. “They’ve competed on the biggest stage throughout their careers at River Falls. Lilly is a junior and serves as a tremendous leader to the distance portion of our team.”
As is the same with all teams, River Falls lost several valuable seniors from last year’s team. Now, some of the returning upperclassmen will be tasked with not only performing at a high level but also taking control of the locker room as student leaders.
“I expect the athletes I outlined to be the driving leadership force of our team,” Haskins said. “We have a lot of new faces and younger athletes that are going to benefit from the leadership of our older athletes. These kids know what it takes to meet the standard of our program and have success, both as individuals and as a team.”
River Falls begins its quest for a Big Rivers Conference championship on Tuesday, March 21. The Wildcats will compete in their first meet of the year, a varsity invitational at UW-Stout in Menomonie. Events are slated to begin at 3:30 p.m.