Kortnie Volk splashes down into the long jump pit where she finished second overall at the State finals. —Photo By Matt Frey
Kortnie Volk splashes down into the long jump pit where she finished second overall at the State finals. —Photo By Matt Frey
The 124th Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) boys track and field championships along with the 49th running of the girls track and field championships was one for the record books for the Three Lakes-Phelps Bluejays.

Held Friday and Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Stadium Complex on the campus of UW-La Crosse, a record number (12) of Bluejays qualified in the Division 3 boys and girls events.

Coach Andy Wyss sum­med it up best Sunday evening after witnessing what may have been the most historic few days in the existence of the Three Lakes-Phelps track and field team.

“It was a perfect end to a historic season for our program,” said Wyss. “I have so much to say about this group, but I’m almost at a loss for words.”

For any high school athlete, the highest level of accomplishment continues to be at the WIAA championships. While there have been a number of individuals who have experienced much success on the athletic surface at both Three Lakes and Phelps Schools, it wasn’t until Saturday that the now-cooperative program could lay claim to having a State champion, and they did so by the slimmest of margins.

“When that huge scoreboard flashed the first place time from Three Lakes-Phelps, I screamed and jumped out of my seat,” said Wyss. “I nearly fell over three rows of bleachers. It was a moment of pure, uncontainable joy. I can only imagine what the girls felt in that moment. Pure elation with a side of disbelief perhaps.”

The team of Emily Fink, Kara Sowinski, Sydney Lurvey and Kortnie Volk put on a performance for the ages, taking first place and claiming a WIAA championship in the Division 3 4x100-meter relay in what many are calling one of the tightest races across the entire two-day event.

“That girls relay was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever witnessed,” said Wyss. “We started well, and moved the baton around better than we have all season. When Kortnie got the baton from Sydney, we were still in fourth place. In the span of 100 meters, that’s extremely difficult to make up, especially at the State Meet.”

The image of Volk leaning across the line is one that Wyss has already conceived as being iconic at Three Lakes High School. In moving from fourth place at the final handoff to first, Volk willed her team onto the podium as champions by a mere 0.01 second.

“There’s a reason we run in the order we do. Each of these girls knows their role on the relay,” said Wyss. “And Kortnie’s role is that of the closer. I believed that if we were ever in a situation like this, where it was a neck-and-neck race, Kortnie would will herself to catch who she needed to catch. And to think that it came down to the lean.”

Only 0.03 seconds separated the top three schools in the girls 4x100-meter finals as Three Lakes-Phelps (50.52) topped Man­a­wa (50.53) and Eau Claire Regis (50.55) to take the top spot.

Wyss said although it was Volk who crossed the line, she merely finished what her other three teammates had already started in that race.

“Plain and simple. That opportunity wouldn’t have been possible if the other three girls hadn’t done so well,” said Wyss. 

“A relay performance like this really is a team effort. It takes four fast girls, and we have the fastest,” he said. “From where I was watching the race, I couldn’t see the finish line very well. I knew the finish was close, but I figured we’d end up in second or third.

“I could see the girls embracing each other with smiles and tears. To be able to share that experience with them brings me so much happiness. Especially coming off of our seventh-place finish in that event last year, it didn’t end how we wanted it to. This year, that’s not the case.”

Not to be outdone, the Three Lakes-Phelps boys 400-meter relay team also turned some heads in La Crosse, qualifying themselves as the sixth-fastest team in the 10-team finals before eventually finishing in eighth place with a time of 44.95. La Crosse Aquinas won the race with a time of 43.53.

The same team of Brock Walkowski, Parker Trollan, Jesse Dupuis and Trevin Walkowski doubled up on placing in the relay events in La Crosse, qualifying as the fifth-fastest time in the 800-meter relay and finishing in the same spot in the finals, making the podium with a fifth-place time of 1:33.29.

“Our boys relays came to compete,” said Wyss. “They’re very determined, and to make finals in both relays and then to make the podium in one, especially when it was the first State Meet for three of them, was a great accomplishment.”

Phelps’ student-athlete Parker Trollan made history as he became only the third athlete in Phelps school history to make it to State level competition.

Kari Thomson did it in 2002 as part of a girls relay, and Katy Haarala went three years as a high jumper from 2002 to 2004.

“Parker joined a very select group of individuals with this accomplishment,” said Wyss. “I’m proud of him, and I know the community of Phelps is too. Parker may be the third athlete from Phelps to go to State, but he certainly won’t be the last.”

For perspective, the Three Lakes-Phelps program sent more athletes to State this year than they had athletes on their entire roster only a handful of years ago.

“And every single athlete we took to State competed in the finals of an event,” said Wyss. “Every single athlete we took to State placed in the top six of an event, took home a medal, and got to stand proudly atop the podium to represent their team, their schools, and the towns of Three Lakes and Phelps.

“On the whole, we competed at a better level than we were expected to. There were a few seniors in this group, and a lot of State returners. So, this year, it wasn’t enough for them to just get to State. They wanted to take it to the next level and leave their mark.”

One of those individuals who made yet another mark on her career and the record books was Volk, who Wyss said had an incredible stand-out meet.

“She did really well in all her events,” said Wyss. “In almost all cases exceeding expectations.”

Starting on the track in addition to her role in the 400-meter relay, Volk qualified for the finals in the 200-meter race as the eighth fastest preliminary time (26.67). She was able to chop some off that in the finals, running a time of 26.54 to finish ninth. Delanie McFadden of Ozaukee was the winner in a time of 25.13.

Volk went to the field events Saturday and the junior put a jump together for the record books in both the long and triple jumps. She stretched the tape to 17-9 3⁄4 in the long jump, which was good for second place in the 16-member field.

Jessica Brueggeman of Royall High School won the event with a new State record distance of 18-8 1⁄4.

From the long jump to the triple jump, Volk continued her successful meet as she pushed a new school record of her own to 37-10, good for third place behind Brueggeman (38-9 3⁄4) who doubled-up in championships and state records and Emily Herzberg of Melrose-Mindoro (38-4 1⁄2), who was in second place.

Sophomore Emily Fink also had an very solid showing at the WIAA State Meet as she would make a podium finish in the girls 100-meter dash, qualifying as the sixth-fastest time before finishing in that same spot in the finals with a time of 12.71. Haley Durst of Ithaca-Weston won the race and set a new State record in the process with a time of 12.12.

Off the track Fink also fared well in the shot put, where she tossed a new school record distance of 37-0 3⁄4 on her third attempt, good for seventh.

Junior Aubrey Schoeneman of Mercer won the event with a toss of 43-3 3⁄4.

On the boys side it was the end to one of the most successful high school distance running careers in program history as senior Jared Zwettler ran his final prep race as he competed in the Division 3 mile run in La Crosse.

“Jared’s race was awesome to watch,” said Wyss. “He has always exceeded every one of my expectations. To end his high school career on the best mile of his life and claiming a bronze at State was extremely satisfying. A great final chapter on his storied career.”

Having run the race twice before, Zwettler used his experience to avoid getting boxed in at the start, and found himself in a good position after the third lap. He was the third of four seniors in the top four, following winner Adam Rzent­kowski of Rosholt who posted a time of 4:20.38. David Vannucchi of Luther High School was second with a time of 4:21.46, followed by Zwettler who set a new personal best and school record with a time of 4:26.13.

Senior Brock Walkowski was the other Bluejays competitor to take part in an individual event as he qualified for State in the 100-meter dash, although he didn’t make it out of the preliminaries with a time of 11.74.

Coming off a three-peat of Northern Lakes Conference championships for both the boys and girls teams, a back-to-back Regional championship for the girls team and the first Regional championship in school history for the boys team, the finish at State made the season all that much more memorable, according to Wyss.

Until this past Saturday, only Ken Bigley in 1994 (wrestling) and Nick Boehlke in 2000 (3,200-meter run) had posted State championships for Three Lakes.

There were 182 schools represented in the Division 3 field across Wisconsin this year. As a team the Three Lakes-Phelps boys tied for 22nd place, scoring 11 total points. The Lady Bluejays posted a final total of 29 points to finish in an all-time best fourth place.