KIMBERLY — The Kimberly boys track and field team enters this week's state meet one to watch with qualifiers in 14 events; no school has more.
Kimberly hasn't won a team state title since 1960, but this might be the year to end the drought. The Papermakers are loaded in the weight events, have good relay teams and based on the number of qualifiers, have depth.
“Just shows that our coaches are really good coaches and that we're not afraid to work hard and all that put together leads to good success," said senior thrower Bryson Kasper.
Kimberly has won every postseason event this spring, having won Fox Valley Association title, the regional title and the sectional title, but the Papermakers know there’s one more hurdle to clear — winning a state title.
"Kimberly track has been looked upon well in our conference and well respected in our sectional, but I don't think in the state we've always gotten the tip of the hat that we deserved, so it would be something great for our organization," senior distance runner Garrett Benz said.
Winning a state title is not easy, and that was on display last year. With one event left Green bay Preble seemingly had the Division 1 state title in its grasp before Brookfield East won the final event to edge the Hornets by one point, 51-50. Kimberly was fourth with 37 points.
The state meet has everything — the expected, the good unexpected and the bad unexpected. Trying to predict what will happen Friday and Saturday is impossible, but Papermakers coach Steve Pratt knows in order to win it all a few things have to go his team’s way.
State track and field meet qualifiers
"Luck is going to play into it,” Pratt said. “There's going to be a lot of things that need to fall our way. One thing I told our kids is just go in and focus on competing."
Kimberly should gather a good amount of points in the weight events. Marcus Matsche, Matt Weinhold and Kasper rank 2-4 in the shot put, only behind Bay Port sophomore Cole Van Lanen. And in the discus Kasper ranks No. 1, Matsche is No. 3 and Weinhold is seventh.
"We'll have to come in and perform really well and hope good things happen from that," Kasper said.
It's been quite a season already for the Papermakers, but Pratt believes there's more to come. Knowing his team won a sectional loaded with quality teams in Preble, Appleton North and Bay Port, he feels his team has been tested for state.
He thinks his team is well prepared to perform at its best this weekend.
"I just couldn't be more proud of the season we've had because it's been such a great run,” Pratt said. “and I really think the best is yet to come this weekend in La Crosse."
Sounds like the trophy case might be getting a new addition.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay