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Track at the WIAA State Championships

Kristen Chou, Marcus-Jay Wilkes, Lexi Keppler, and the boys’ 4 x 400 Relay team of C.J. Boyd, Sam Mackey, Duncan Petrie, and Wilkes, along with alternates Alvin Pokel and Ishan Kuttickat, represented the University School track team in the WIAA Division 2 State Track and Field Championships on Saturday, June 1st at Veterans Memorial Stadium in La Crosse.

Chou had the best finishes for the Wildcats at the tournament.  She competed in two events, the girls Long Jump and the girls 400 Meter Dash.

Chou took 5th place in the 400 Meter Dash race.  Her time in the event was 59.56 seconds.

She also competed in the Long Jump event.  Her best jump of three attempts went a distance of 17’ 09” to earn her another 5th place finish.

Wilkes also raced individually in two events, as well as taking part in the 4 x 400 Relay. 

In the boys’ 400 Meter Dash event, Wilkes gained a 6th place result, finishing the race with a time of 50.23 seconds.

Wilkes finished 9th in the 200 Meter Dash race.  His time in the event was 22.46 seconds.

Wilkes then anchored the USM 4 x 400 Relay squad, following Petrie, Boyd and Mackey.  In the preliminary race, the four Wildcats took 12th place with a time of 3:28.76.  Only the teams with the top 10 times went on to compete in the medal race.

Keppler also ran in two long distance running events at the state meet for USM.  

Keppler took 14th place in the girls 1600 Meter race.  She finished with a time of 5:28.18.

Keppler also ran in the meet’s longest race, the 3200 Meter Run.  She ran the distance in 12:03.92 to finish in 15th place.

Joe Eason, USM’s head coach, reflected on the meet and the season, “Running in the state track meet at La Crosse is the high point of any high school track athlete’s career. For these athletes to fight through our challenging regional and sectional and run this past weekend represents a tremendous achievement. 

“Lexi has had a great series of races to finish up her junior year. She broke a 39-year old record to qualify for state in the 1600 and fought through the heat on Friday to run another great race in La Crosse. Then she came back the next day to face an even tougher pack in the 3200. I’m hoping she’ll set her sights on that record next year; she definitely has shown that it’s within her grasp.

“Kristen ended an already amazing high school track and field career with a personal record and podium finish in the 400, a race she really only picked up late in the season, and a second consecutive podium finish in the Long Jump. She faced a time crunch, with both events coming up at the same time and made the decision to jump in the first flight of the Long Jump. Great call on her part as she had to run in the 400 finals between prelims and finals of the Long Jump. Her strong jump in prelims held up for fifth place overall. She also put her name on the USM record board with an over 18 foot jump at the sectional meet. Kristen ran two very bold 400 Meter dashes, one on Friday that was a PR, and her first run under the 60 second mark, and then a second where she fought off challengers to make her way to the podium. Great day for a great athlete. Her versatility and coachability, in addition to her raw athletic talent, have made coaching her a true privilege over the last four years.

“Our boys’ 4 x 400 team ran a season’s best and bettered the team’s school record from earlier in the season. That record was also 39 years old, and our athletes broke it twice this year. Switching the order helped us improve our time and chances by maximizing Duncan’s distance stamina in the first leg on the outside lane, and CJ’s explosiveness on the long curve.  We didn’t make finals in a tough field, but they put up a new school record along the way.

“Marcus-Jay Wilkes bettered his own 400 Meter school record in the intense heat on Friday afternoon, then came back the next day to secure a podium finish in that event. He also ran one of his better times to qualify in the 200 Meter finals, even after a taxing 400. His last of five hard sprints in two days, in the 200 finals, was a gutsy come-from-behind run to secure a ninth place finish, the highest in that event in USM track and field history.

“I think it’s fitting that all of these athletes in their events have a place on our records board, and one of them, the boys relay team, for a performance at state. Kristen leaves USM as our school record holder in the Long Jump, and Lexi now holds the school record in the 1600. The boys 4 x 400 took down a 39-year old mark in the event earlier this year, but ran an even better time at La Crosse this weekend. 

“MJ Wilkes leaves his name on the board a remarkable six times over his career. He’s a part of the 4 x 100 Meter record from his freshman year, and helped set new school best marks in the 4 x 200 Meter and 4 x 400 Meter relays. He also broke all the individual sprint records this year, setting new bests in the 100, 200, and 400 Meter dashes. The numbers don’t lie. He’s the best all-around sprinter USM has ever seen, and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to coach him.”