Current events and sad trends wormed their way into the North Shore sports scene this past calender year where, otherwise, change was both rapid and subtle.
There were Shorewood residents close at hand when the tragic Boston Marathon bombing occurred in April and fortunately they lived to tell their harrowing tale. Their voices were added to a loud chorus of "Why, why, why?" as nebulous international political slights triggered this great sadness on a day where only great personal achievement should have been celebrated.
And on an even sadder note in the area, there were teen suicides of athletes and those related to athletes, one very notable one included. Difficult, incomprehensible things to take in with so much hope and promise ahead of them, but as we all know, at that age, everything, even the slightest of slights, get magnified to the Nth degree and get dealt with in extreme ways.
In those instances, we can only keep talking, only keep in contact, only keep trying to do everything we can to keep those individuals from forever closing the door.
Because, as we know, when the door swings open wide, fabulous, amazing things do happen for these kids.
At the top of the list was the level of commitment the Brown Deer community showed to its students and its athletes when it greatly refurbished its entire campus in a multimillion dollar project, including the smashing new Novak Family Field House.
The opening of the site last spring was highlighted by former Falcons star and current NBA player Steve Novak announcing that he had donated $100,000 to the project which was named partly in honor of his father, longtime athletic director and former head boys basketball coach Mike Novak.
Later that fall, more commitment was shown at Brown Deer, when another fundraising effort led to a new football scoreboard upon which, there was also a note honoring the late Falcons great Shaun Wild.
On the championship level, matters were led by the swift legs of the Shorewood track and cross country programs. In the spring, the Greyhounds boys track program was a hearty story as multitime state champion and Wisconsin recruit Justin Rabon shook off a difficult early season leg injury to lead the surprising Greyhounds to a state Division 2 team title.
When Rabon, running the anchor leg, hit the finish line with a team-title clinching, record-setting victory in the 1,600-meter relay you could see the great joy that only competition at the highest levels can bring.
Also at that state meet, you saw a fine example of sportsmanship as when a botched start of the girls D2 3,200-meter race led to a runner falling, the Greyhounds' Haley Holan came over, quietly calmed the fallen runner and helped her get back into position for the re-start.
State place-winning distance runner Morgan Florsheim made note of that effort and said, "That's just Haley."
Later in the fall, people were saying "That's just Morgan" as Florsheim turned in an impressive 18 second win in claiming the state D2 individual cross country crown. The first state individual crown for Shorewood since the great Claire Maduza in 2005. Morgan said she could not have done it without the emotional help of her sister, Haley, who also finished off a fine season with a strong finish.
On the boys side, top Greyhounds runner Charlie Stahl led the team to a third-place finish with a second-place individual slot.
The Whitefish Bay girls cross country team continued its decade-plus long run of dominance in the North Shore arena with another league title capped off by a strong second-place finish in the WIAA State D1 meet as freshman Camille Davre finished third individually.
Other noteworthy efforts included Whitefish Bay diver Joe Kaszubowski winning his second consecutive state D2 title in his specialty in February. He started off this winter's junior season so well that veteran coach Jim Davis doesn't think he will ever lose in his high school career.
Homestead swimmer Nick Petersen also made history in February, when he broke Nicolet Olympic relay champion Garrett Weber-Gale's 10-year old state D1 record in the 100-yard backstroke with a 49.34 effort. Petersen recently earned a NCAA Divison I scholarship to Northwestern.
Back in the pool this fall, Shorewood's Kristin Malone and Rachel Munson led the Greyhounds to four individual victories in the state D2 girls meet in November. Malone defended her title in the 200 free and Munson, just a junior, had a breakout meet, breaking the record in the 200 individual medley and taking down her own mark in the 100 breaststroke.
They were also both on the winning 200 medley relay adding to an impressive Shorewood swim legacy that now includes 42 individual and relay championships.
Change came in winter to the gymnastics scene, when Homestead upset Whitefish Bay for the North Shore/Greater Metro Conference title and took third in the D1 state meet.
Brown Deer's boys basketball team also played well this past winter and earned a Woodland Conference title with a senior-dominated crew.
Other items of note included the following:
· Homestead pitcher Colten Poellinger's nearly untouchable summer for the Highlanders baseball team, when he went 8-0 with a preposterous 0.27 ERA including a 41-inning scoreless streak. Both he and Brown Deer utility player Drew Worth earned all-state and All-Suburban honors.
· The academically oriented Whitefish Bay girls golf team spent the fall winning the North Shore Conference title, qualifying for the state meet and taking a lot of tests. Coach Fran Donadio rewarded them for all their achievements with regular stops for ice cream.
· Also in the golf world, Homestead's Anika Hitt not only finished second in the WIAA state meet this fall, but also led her almost completely rebuilt Highlanders squad to a state team berth as well.
· New coach Jeff Worzella invigorated the Bay boys soccer team to a North Shore title and a state tournament berth, too, this past fall.
· The area football highlight of the fall had to be an underdog Homestead football team upsetting then top-ranked Arrowhead in an epic second game of the season that had the whole Wisconsin grid world buzzing. Arrowhead wound up with the state D1 title, but the rebuilt Homestead team still finished with a North Shore title and a third round state playoff berth, earning veteran coach Dave Keel his first NOW All-Suburban coach of the year honors.
· And there was change in the air this past fall, too, as the Homestead girls' tennis team's hopes for a record sixth straight WIAA State Team title came to an end when it fell to eventual winner Middleton, 4-3, in the state semifinals in October.
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