Submitted by Dave Marquardt
Peshtigo’s Mitchell VanVooren clears a hurdle in the 300 hurdles at Saturday’s WIAA Division 2 state track meet in La Crosse, Wis.
Submitted by Dave Marquardt

Peshtigo’s Mitchell VanVooren clears a hurdle in the 300 hurdles at Saturday’s WIAA Division 2 state track meet in La Crosse, Wis.

LA CROSSE, Wis. — Seniors Mitchell VanVooren and Max Rauch have both had fantastic track careers at Peshtigo High School, and at Saturday’s WIAA Division 2 state finals, they both went out on top.

Rauch, who will be attending Grand Valley State University in the fall, successfully defended his state title in the pole vault, but not without a scare in the fifth round.

With the bar set at 14 feet, 3 inches and only three competitors remaining, Rauch knocked the bar down on his first two attempts bringing himself to his final attempt. Like the seasoned vet he is, Rauch wasn’t fazed by the pressure and cleared the bar to move on to the next round. Jarrod Vis of Waupun Area was knocked out at 14-3, so it was down to Rauch and New Berlin West’s Aaron Sobush for the state title.

Rauch cleared 14-6 on his first attempt and Sobush moved on after his second try at it, moving the bar up to 14-9, which is the height of the school record that Rauch owns at Peshtigo.

He got over 14-9 to tie his school record and Sobush scratched on all three attempts as Rauch claimed his second-straight state gold medal. He tried to break his record by moving the bar up to 15-2, but couldn’t get over it after three tries.

“Max is the returning state champ and he knew everyone was going to be gunning for him,” Peshtigo coach Joe Nault said. “When he missed his first two attempts at 14-3, we were a little concerned for him, but at the same time he’s the best in the state for a reason. He doesn’t fold under pressure and we expected him to get over it. What a great way to end your high school career.”

A future Marquette University Golden Eagle, VanVooren wrapped up his high school career by taking first in the 110-meter high hurdles, third in the 300 hurdles and was a part of the 1,600 relay team along with seniors Cole Trimberger and Reid Marquardt and junior Jerod Jandt that came up huge for the Bulldogs with a second-place finish.

In the 110 high hurdles, an injury in the previous event halted the action and forced the competitors to wait until everything was all clear again. After about 20 minutes, the race was ready to start. Waiting all that time can make it hard to stay loose and run your best race, but VanVooren knew what he was fighting for.

After placing ninth in the 110 high hurdles a year ago, VanVooren came out and secured himself the gold medal with a time of 14.59 seconds, beating Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau’s Davis Wenthe by .02.

During Friday’s preliminary round, VanVooren set the school-record in the 300 hurdles with a time of 38.11. While he wasn’t able to duplicate that on Saturday, he still ran a very respectable time of 39.52 to lock up third place.

“Mitch has been awesome for us his whole career,” Nault said. “He works so hard and he deserves to be a state champion. He just squeezed it out in the 110 finals and even after having to wait, he still went out and ran as if nothing even happened. That says a lot about his determination and drive as an athlete.”

By the time the 1,600-meter relay came around, Nault realized that Peshtigo was in a three-way tie on the leaderboard and needed at least a runner-up finish to lock up sole possession of third place, a big feat for such a small team number-wise.

“Before the race I brought them together and told them, ‘this is the last time you guys are going to run together, if you get second place we take third as a team. Go get it.,’” Nault said. “It was a huge gut check for them and they went out and killed it.

“Some of these teams that are here are two to three times the size of us, so for us to be able to take third place at the state finals is really special.”

In Friday’s prelims, the Bulldogs ran a time of 3:25.20 to qualify in the fourth position, but they were close enough to the second and third place teams that anything was possible.

In the finals on Saturday, Peshtigo’s team shaved .21 seconds off their time to come in second behind Division 2 powerhouse Freedom.

Marquardt and Trimberger also competed in individual events, but didn’t have the same success as the relay team.

Trimberger had a tough race in the prelims on Friday and failed to make the finals in the 400. Marquardt ran the 800 and got caught up in a pack and boxed in, not allowing him to do what he does best which is hang towards the middle of the pack until halfway through the second lap, then turn it on in the end. Nault mentioned it has worked for him all season, but he just didn’t get the chance to do it.

While they both had tough individual outings, it could have been easy to have a bad attitude and hurt the relay team, but instead, they each took their frustrations out in the race and helped push the team to a silver medal.

“I was really proud to see how (Reid and Cole) bounced back from their races in the 1,600 relay,” Nault said. “Cole ran the fastest split I’ve ever seen him run and Reid had one of his season bests as well. This whole crew has so much heart and it really showed in that race.”

The dream of getting back to state and giving themselves another shot at the podium started at Peshtigo’s team picnic at the end of the season last year. Last season the 1,600 relay team placed fifth.

“I remember the guys talking about it at the picnic about how they knew they had a chance to place higher if they could get back,” recalls Nault. “They pushed through to the end of the year, took on a huge work load in practice and really all stepped up a lot as leaders. Our youngers guys coming up will have some big shoes to fill, but just being around this group and being able to see their work ethic I think will teach them that if they work hard, good things will happen.”

The lone Marinette representative on Saturday was senior Carson Polomis in the 1,600-meter run, where he placed 14th with a time of 4:34.62.