Photo courtesy of Laurie Mathes.
By Andrew Pantzlaff
The Brillion News
REEDSVILLE – Unexpected in some ways, and predictable in others. A journey of redemption. An exhilarating moment of validation. A continuation of greatness. A bittersweet finish. A triumphant ending.
Take your pick to describe a showcase that had it all.
But in simplest terms, it’s best to just call it what it is: the most decorated weekend in Reedsville varsity sports history.
Sophomore Faith Lubner hurdled fastest, and jumped further than anyone else. Meanwhile, senior Chloe Eckstein launched her discus past any of her peers.
And together, they collectively earned four Division 3 state championships at the WIAA State Track and Field Meet this weekend, garnering more gold at an event than has ever been done before in school history.
The four gold medals earned by Lubner and Eckstein gave Reedsville fourth place overall, as a team, in the WIAA D3 girls field. Cuba City won the meet with 53 points. Next was St. Mary’s Springs with 44 points, followed by Lourdes Academy with 41 and Reedsville with 40.
Lubner won the 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles and long jump, while Eckstein won the discus throw.
On the boys’ side, Grant Wedepohl had a photo finish in the boys’ 800 meter run, taking second place after finishing a mere two-one-hundreths of a second – yes, just 2/100th of a second – behind first place. That strong showing helped solidify the weekend as one for the ages for Panthers’ athletics.
But that’s not all. The boys’ 3,200 meter relay team also earned a spot on the podium with a fifth-place finish – upping the Panthers’ medal count to nine.
That squad consisted of Andy Spatchek, Joe Shikoski, Trevor Frank and Wedepohl. The team finished the race with a time of 8:13.87.
Rounding out the Reedsville performances was Reedsville senior Brenton Ott, who took 14th in the high jump.
A victory parade in Reedsville was held on Sunday to help welcome back the Panthers’ athletes after their stellar showing.
For Eckstein, she’s thankful she got into discus. It was an unexpected choice for her heading into her high school life four years ago. But her throw of 125-feet and five inches on Saturday cemented her spot in Panther lore, becoming the first-ever girls’ discus champion in school history.
Eckstein admits it almost never happened, as she could have just as easily been putting on batting gloves this year instead of a gold medal.
She had played softball all throughout middle school, but decided in high school to test the waters with track. Her dad had a big background in cross country and track, Eckstein said, and with track starting practices a week earlier than softball, she figured it couldn’t hurt to try it and switch back to softball if it wasn’t the right fit.
Four years later, there’s no disputing she made the right decision.
“I decided to go out for track, and ended up really liking it,” Eckstein said, but noted it took a bit of time to find her niche. “I tried out for pretty much every event – long jump, pole vaults, sprints. I started doing discus halfway through freshman year.”
There was a connection to the event that hooked Eckstein in.
“I love the uniqueness of it, it’s so technical and precise, and just the mechanical nature of it. I just find it really cool,” Eckstein said.
She admits she’d daydream about winning a state title in the event, but wasn’t sure if it was going to be possible.
Still, with a lot of practice and patience, her technical and mechanical skills started surpassing those of many of her peers.
Her sophomore year, riddled with nerves she competed at state and took 12th.
Last year, she calmed down, improved and took sixth as a junior to earn a place on the podium.
This year, it was her final chance – and she seized the moment.
“I think attending state the past two years really helped. I was nervous, but it was more of a focused nervous,” she said.
That focus – and the tireless work that came in the years leading up to this weekend – helped her make her day dream of discus gold become reality.
“She has done a tremendous amount of work on her own … she put in an extreme amount of work in becoming a state champion,” said Chris Shimek, Reedsville head track coach. “It was very well deserved.”
Since her freshman year, Eckstein has competed with the Madison Throwing Club, refining her skills each summer and winter there. Next, she plans on attending Concordia