LA CROSSE, Wis. - At last year's WIAA State Track and Field Meet, the La Crosse Central boys were given a rare second chance.
With Brookfield East mathematically clinching the team championship heading into the final event, it was down to Central and Arrowhead as to who would place second in the state. After initially finishing behind Arrowhead in the 4x400 meter relay, track officials called for a re-run after another team was called for interference.
The Red Raiders made the most of the opportunity. After a 45-minute break and a carefully executed coaching call in making distance runner James Saxton run the anchor leg for the first time that season, Central's relay team placed first which captured the state team runner-up trophy.
Ten months removed from that amazing finish, Central is using what happened in 2012 as a springboard heading into the 2013 season. "Something like that happening, at the state meet especially, is unheard of," says senior Aron Klos. "I knew that there wasn't any other team more prepared than us," adds senior Jake Roh.19628096
"We just saw it as a second chance and we took full advantage of it," says head coach Niels Anderson.
The Red Raiders return a ton of talent from last season including three from that state championship relay team. Also four members of the team have signed NCAA Division I track and field scholarships.
"The reason we're all division one athletes is that we all try to do things to perfection and I think we're feeling confident, but not too confident because we know it's going to be a lot of work," says Sawyer Smith who will compete collegiately at the University of Wisconsin.
"To have four DI athletes getting scholarship money from one (high school) program in one year is something that might never happen again in La Crosse Central sports. Period," says Anderson
With most of the pieces in place, Anderson and the Red Raiders are trying not to get ahead of themselves. "Our first priority is to field a team that can win the conference meet."
"We're just trying to take it week by week and not put too much pressure on at one time," says senior Joe Gasper.
"We really want to do a lot better than we did last year." That statement from Roh can only mean one thing - bringing home the gold in early June.
Coach Anderson believes his team is up to the task. "Without saying it too loudly, we have an unbelievable opportunity to do something really, really special."
"It's going to be hard to beat us because we're going to be working hard every day," says Smith. "This year our motto is ‘anything can happen' and we got that from last year."