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Buckshot The Magazine / June 2018


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The athletes of the year pose with their awards on June 21 at the Leader-Telegram Prep Sports Awards at Florian Gardens. : Altoona’s Mariah Hoepner (top spring female athlete), Memorial’s Abigail Stow (top winter female athlete, female athlete of the year), Chippewa Falls’ Kaylee Frenette (people’s choice female athlete), McDonell’s Megan Baier (top fall female athlete). : Menomonie’s Justin Evans (top fall male athlete), Bloomer’s Payton Dachel (people’s choice male athlete), Immanuel Lutheran’s Levi Schaller (top spring male athlete), North’s Mason Phillips (top winter male athlete)/Photo by Dan Reiland

LEADER-TELEGRAM PREP SPORTS AWARDS WINNERS The Leader-Telegram sports department picked the winners of the following awards (with the expection of the people’s choice awards, which were selected by an online fan vote). The athletes were honored at the Prep Sports Awards on June 21 at Florian Garddens: : Abigail Stow, Memorial. : Cormac Sampson, Memorial. : Megan Baier, McDonell. : Justin Evans, Menomonie. : Abigail Stow, Memorial. : Mason Phillips, North. : Mariah Hoepner, Altoona. : Levi Schaller, Immanuel Lutheran. : Kaylee Frenette, Chippewa Falls. : Payton Dachel, Bloomer. The following athletes were nominated by their respective schools and honored at the event:

: Mitch Adrian, Brooklynn Arbs, Jacob Chilson, son, Kolten Wright. : Carter Jacobs, Ashlyn Korger. : Alex Conrad, Justyne Burgess, Payton Dachel, Sidney Kostner, Bradley Sarauer, Kendall Zeman. : Michael Emery, Bailey Gillett, Felisha Glomski, Megan Holcomb, Garrett Roth, Rachel Manier. : Katie Faris, Couper Fosvik, Kaylee Frenette, Codie Meinen, Grace Roseen, Isabelle Spooner, Lucas Steinmetz, Jared Woodhull. : Megan Baier, Hayden Abby Opsal, Payton Swoboda, Peyton Tozer. : Kameri Meredith, George Scharlau. : Emily Annis, Megan Baier, Shae Baier, Josh Biesterveld, Kobe Humphrey, Isaac Wegner. : Steph Kazemba, Cassidy Noeldner, Dan Lau, Jordan Rutz, Levi Schaller, Lauren Sotnyk. : Jack Kern, Tanner Kohlhepp, Jack

Longville, Natalia Mattoon, Lexi Meade, Olivia Pasch, Cormac Sampson, Abigail Stow. : Charlotte Akervik, Haley DeSouza, Noah Hanson, Kate Klauck, Jack Kron, Mattea Peplinski, Mason Phillips, Sam Stange. : Amber Darge, Grace Gilles, Laith Kidness, Jaxon Kostka, Keelin Norman-Klatt, Audrey Newby, Josie Seelen, Zach Yengo. : Taylor Everson, Aubrey Lasher, Brianna Nelson, Drew Severson. : Cade Hanson, Ethan Kjellberg, Alana Plaszcz, Morgan Radtke, Brady Redwine, Allie Weber. : Olivia Costley, Jessica Kuula, Tyler Riemenschneider, Ethan Ritger, Jason Pritzl. : Tyra Boettcher, Grace Braatz, Madison Davis, Justin Evans, Carissa Henderson, Sam Skillings, Sam Sleichert, Konnor Rowan. : Emily Flaskrud, Rian Evans, Bryce Johnson, Ben Larson, Nick Pelke, Haley Poeschel. : Brooke Freitag, Logan Mulhern.

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Sampson and Stow, the

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L-T Prep Sports Awards athletes of year, put in the hours every year to improve skills BY NICK ERICKSON


either Cormac Sampson nor Abigail Stow say much. Their peers may tell

play the two Eau Claire Memorial star athletes let their abilities do the talking. For how good both Sampson — a Wisconsin football recruit who also played hoops and threw shot and discus — and Stow — the state player of the year in girls hockey and an all-state soccer player — were as freshmen, they always found a way to get better each and every season. grandest of fashions during their senior years. Sampson was an all-state pick in football, all-conference in basketball and went to state track in both throwing events. Stow led the ECA Stars to the state cham-

tourney. She also led the area in goals during the soccer season. Their secret to always getting better? Always be humble and hungry. “Don’t let success get to your head,” Stow said. “I see a lot of players have a super good year, and then the next year, maybe not as good a year because they thought they had it all. But you really never do.” Sampson and Stow were awarded the inaugural male and female athletes of the year honors on June 21 at the Leader-Telegram’s Prep Sports Awards at Florian Gardens. Both had similar mentalities to get there. And both had their own journeys. Stow burst onto the scene just a bit earlier than her classmate. As a freshman, she became a household name with the Stars when she netted 42 goals and 23 assists.

and 135 assists, averaging 3.12 points per “Growing up, I always looked up to those game as a senior. The UW-River Falls hockey people that had the big names or were alrecruit set the bar high and kept climbing, ways in the paper,” Stow said. overcoming the notoriety of her name and See ABES Page 6 not letting the pressures get to her.

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From Page 5

“It was kind of like, ‘Wow, I wonder what it’s like to be them.’ And then you are them. sure, but I think that makes you the person you are and the athlete you are.” Sampson took a little longer to burst onto the scene. Always big and athletic, he made a commitment to attending various camps and lived in the weight room. That combination — and his raw athleticism on display on the basketball court and throwing circles — got him looks from mid-major football programs. On May 12, 2017, Wisconsin came knocking. A day later, he answered, accepting the Badgers. Sampson also stayed true to himself through the process. And like Stow, he let his play and others do the talking. “Everything starts in the weight room, and you aren’t going to get better if you don’t lift,” he said when asked to give advice to younger athletes. “Then just be a good person. Your coaches are going to talk you up more if you’re a good person to your teammates and your coaches. And then go to all the camps that you can and want to go to.” While both have bright futures at their respective schools, they each have memories that stand out from high school. game as a junior, when he batted a pass out of the air from his defensive end position and then intercepted it against La Crosse Central. coaches, and one that was received quite well in scouting breakdowns. He also remembers breaking the backboard in basketball warmups as a sophomore at Superior. “It scared the crap out of me, because it

some.” named state tournament MVP after scoring

The two racked up a lot of wins, a lot of statistics and a lot of buzz around Memorial High School during their four years. said with a laugh. “I didn’t know how my They were two of the more dominant coaches were going to react to that.” athletes in their respective sports around For Stow, the memory that stands out the the state as seniors. most is beating top-ranked Hudson 6-1 in a Now they’re leaving with one last accolade — Leader-Telegram Prep Sports netted four of those goals, and the Stars Awards athletes of the year, another piece broke down the door to take the program to new heights. “They are a class representation of our “You could tell from the way the team school, our community and they embody the idea of what we are looking for in a stulocker room, even on the bus, there was no dent-athlete,” Memorial athletic director way we were going to lose that game,” Kevin Thompson said. “Academically, they Stow said. “That environment was somestand out, and athletically, they stand out. thing I’d never seen before. It was very awe- They are truly two great individuals.”

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Evans was Mustangs’ war horse Top fall male athlete ran for nearly 2,000 yards in physical Big Rivers to lead Menomonie to conference title BY NICK ERICKSON


ENOMONIE — It was an unseasonably warm Friday night on Sept. 15. And Menomonie running back Justin Evans, who had already had around 30 bruising runs against a physical Hudson defense, was in clear discomfort on the sidelines. But not even the worst of cramps could ing a 12-point lead into the fourth quarter, Evans hobbled into the huddle and kept pounding through the tackles. On third-and-4, he busted loose for 27 yards. After a few methodical rushes, he scampered through the hole from 41 out into the end zone for the dagger in the game that ultimately decided the Big Rivers Conference. “There were multiple games I’d cramp up through it,” said Evans, who was named the

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lot to ask a body to go through. But Evans delivered and then some. Despite other teams knowing he’d be heavily featured, Evans rushed for 1,946 yards and 31 touchtop fall male athlete at the Leader-Telegram downs on 295 carries. The All-Northwest Prep Sports Awards. “I knew I needed to be out there.” player of the year and honorable mention Last fall was Evans’ third as a featured WFCA all-state pick shouldered the load for runner in a usually crowded Menomonie the Mustangs. “He was a war horse and we just kept with current Wisconsin linebacker Mason pounding him at people and he kept getStokke and then Mitch Weber, who graduting better as the game went on,” LaBuda ated last season. said. With two scholarship quarterbacks — The between-the-tackles, downhill runner played a crucial part in the Mustangs relege, Evans was one of the only returners peating as conference champions. “Rushing for close to 2,000 yards in a seasively. Mustangs coach Joe LaBuda knew son against the defenses of the BRC and he’d have to rely on him heavily. In crucial games, that meant getting the ment,” River Falls coach David Crail said. rock anywhere from 30 to 45 times. In a Evans will play football in the fall for Wiphysical league like the Big Rivers, that’s a nona State.

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Baier rewrote record books Top fall female athlete, Macks’ three-sport standout dominated on volleyball court


HIPPEWA FALLS — When she walked into the gym at McDonell High

athletic freshman, Megan Baier had all the physical tools to be a special player for a storied program. She got better and better with another level with varsity volleyball. A versatile game and an innate sense of accountability helped Baier rewrite the record books. Baier played the back row just as hard as her natural position on the left side, where her right arm wrecked havoc on opponents for four years. She set an example in the weight room and wasn’t afraid to hold tough conversations. She demanded perfection of herself and listened to teammates in the process. All that translated to the court. Baier had 1,433 career kills in a program that had never even had anyone record


Top Fall Female Athlete 1,000. She recorded 533 alone this year and added 74 assists, 42 blocks, 338 digs and 74 aces. An all-state honorable mention, Baier was a two-way player because the Macks, who won the Western Cloverbelt title, needed her to be. “What she has done in a very successful program historically, she is the best to come through those doors,” coach Kat Hanson said. “That doesn’t just happen. Her work ethic created that.” Baier was named the top fall female athlete on June 21 at the Prep Sports Awards. What separated Baier from other strong outside hitters is that she never forced anything. She used teammates well on the court and counted on them. “When you have a phenomenal other outside hitter like Abby Opsal and you have

a phenomenal libero like Grace Mrozinski, it doesn’t let me get complacent,” Baier said. “It always helped me push and get going no matter what.” Baier also was the D5 state player of the year in softball after pitching the Macks to their second consecutive state title.

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ason Phillips was trailing Slinger’s Caleb Ziebell 3-2 with 1 minute, 30 seconds left in the WIAA Division 1 138-pound state championship match on Feb. 24 at the Kohl Center. Phillips said Ziebell kept wanting to bring the match close to the boundary, but Phillips wouldn’t have it. He challenged Ziebell to come to the middle. It worked to perfection. went for a shot. And it was a golden one. ever shot in my life,” Phillips said. Phillips got that takedown and earned a just waiting for the buzzer, which sounded to signify a 7-3 victory. Now, he’s forever a


ever come home with a gold medal from individual state. On June 21, he was named the top winter

Join Us on our Patio Top Winter Male Athlete male athlete at the L-T Prep Sports Awards. “I was just really focused on it, and it’s been my goal for my whole wrestling career,” said Phillips, a four-time state place winner who had always fell just short of the eventual champion at state. “What a way to go out.”

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trampoline and later on land, Mason Phillips planned out the moment he could do it on a wrestling mat. He’d break that out only if he were to win a state title. As soon as the buzzer sounded — after he pointed to the sky as well as the stands to acknowledge his biggest supporters —

school career just come out of me and I went out and put it all together,” Phillips said. “All my training and the people who I got to celebrate them and all the hard

work I put in. It was craziness.” He also one-upped his grandfather’s runonship. “I’ve put my heart and soul into North what my grandpa started.” Phillips learned how to overcome adversity to get his golden moment. man, fourth at 113 as a sophomore and fourth at 126 as a junior. He used each of those disappointments as motivation and never lost sight of his ultimate goal — a WIAA state championship. “I got up every morning, and if everything was ever hard for me or it was a struggle, I just knew that I was doing what I was doing because I loved it and people knew I loved it,” he said. “If I were to do anything besides giving my all every single day, not only would I let myself down but all those people around me down.” This winter, Phillips will wrestle for St. Cloud State, the defending NCAA Division II national champion.

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Top spring male athlete Schaller struck out 510 hitters in his four dominant seasons at Immanuel Lutheran



itching-to-contact is a growing trend at all levels of baseball. In Wisconsin, where new pitch count rules implemented last year limit high school hurlers, trying to get hitters to put the ball in play early in counts — rather than going for a strikeout — has been an approach adopted by many pitchers. Not Levi Schaller. Eau Claire Immanuel Lutheran’s ace has a killer instinct whenever he takes the mound. And it doesn’t involve letting his in-

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Top Spring Male Athlete named the top male spring male athlete at the Prep Sports Awards.

tough for even the best and most disciplined hitters in high school baseball. First, there’s the fastball. Schaller is only 5-foot-11, but his fastball velocity has increased 10 mph since his freshman season. He’s consistently in the low 80s and can “I want to strike everyone out,” Schaller climb into the mid-80s at times. That speed said. “I don’t want them to touch the ball.” alone is hard for most small-school lineups That’s not an approach all high school to handle. pitchers should take, but Schaller has the “He’s deceptively fast,” Immanuel Lutheran coach Joe Lau said. “With his The four-year starter was a workhorse for smaller frame and physique, I don’t think as the Lancers during his career, and his num- a hitter you’re expecting that kind of velocbers suggest he’s one of the most dominant ity. We’ve only faced maybe one or two pitchers the city of Eau Claire has ever seen. pitchers that throw harder than him.” In four seasons, Schaller posted a 37-9 Schaller doesn’t deviate much from the record. That’s good for the most wins of any standard four-seam speedball, but that’s pitcher in the city. He’s also led the Lancers just the tip of the iceberg. to the sectional the past two seasons and to a pair of Dairyland Conference champipitches, and that includes two top-notch Along the way, he’s done a pretty good job not letting hitters touch the ball. His 510 strikeouts obliderated the city record set in the 1950s by Memorial’s Hud Gelein, who led the Old Abes to two state championships and would later go on to sign with the Milwaukee Braves. Schaller tossed 56 innings as a senior, with a 2.50 ERA and 130 strikeouts while giving up just 15 hits. He struck out 20 batters in a game. All that despite battling a sore back for much of the season. Schaller was also able to help his own cause on the mound in his senior season. He led the Lancers with a .465 batting average. For all those accomplishments, he was

curve. The second is a sweeping pitch with more lateral movement. Both are late, sharp-breaking pitches that buckled more than a few knees over the past four seasons. But which curve is better? “You’d have to ask the hitters,” Schaller said with a smirk. “I’ll use either at any time.” Rounding out his weapons are a slider and a changeup. He mixes those in for a recipe that simply keeps hitters guessing, and that’s just the way Schaller likes it. “The way I attack depends on the batter, what they’re telling me with their approach at the plate,” Schaller said. “But I like to get in the hitter’s head and mess with them so they don’t necessarily know what I am going to throw.”

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Top spring female athlete, future Badger follows up state title with runner-up


ltoona coach Todd Lenz called it poetry in motion. And with the all work she puts in technically, it’s easy to understand why. You count the seconds in your head between when Mariah Hoepner lands on the mat and when she races over to whomever You probably won’t get too far past two. every step of Hoepner’s journey was a caling every step and every motion over the bar. Even after clearing a height many can only dream of, she’s already on to the next one, pouring over a choppy video on an iPhone of a jump she literally just completed. “You can look at those nitpicky things,” Hoepner said. “When you’re running, it’s so fast you can’t pick out just the small details. But when you look back and have someone

despite setting new PR


Top Spring Female Athlete else look at it again, you can get more clear advice because it’s happening slower.” The Wisconsin Badger recruit had a personal best height of 5 feet, 7 inches. She won the 2017 WIAA Division 2 state

it’s got an extended life as she heads to athlete. “It’s crazy to look back and think that as a

have fun,” Hoepner said. “It’s still fun, and I love high jumping. Every time I high jump it just brings so much joy to me. But looking back, it’s quite amazing. It’s just kind of unimaginable and just awesome.”

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People’s choice male athlete broke records in hoops, dominated on football STORY BY JOE ZIEMER BLOOMER — He wasn’t the tallest. He wasn’t the most athletic. But he darned sure was one of the craftiest. Few players have produced like Payton Dachel over the past four years. And on Dec. 22, Dachel made Bloomer history. Dachel, the 6-foot-3 senior forward, wrote his name into program annals by scoring 24 points in a 67-41 victory over Spooner at the Hawks Nest. In the process he became Blackhawks’ all-time leading scorer. “I’m just thankful to my teammates,” Dachel said. “They’ve been with me through it all. It’s just one of those feelings that once in a while, one person will get. I guess I got that.” Dachel surpassed Kevin Krenz, who scored 1,228 points from 1999-2002. The second-team All-Northwest product Dachel entered the game 17 points shy.

People’s Choice Athlete He quickly chipped away by scoring 14 in the second half, he tied Krenz by splitting a pair of free throws with 7 minutes, 52 seconds to play. Then, with 7:18 remaining, he etched his name into the school’s record book. The burly forward also excelled in footplay football in the fall at Winona State after anchoring the Blackhawks’ powerful rushing attack on the line. He also received the inaugural reader’s choice male athlete of the year honor at the Leader-Telegram Prep Sports Awards on June 21. “He’s a very personable kid,” Bloomer basketball coach Greg Van Grunsven said

after the Dec. 22 game. “He’s very well-liked in the basketball community in the Chippewa Valley. He’s very well-respected at Bloomer High School. And he’s a very talrepresentative of Bloomer High School.” When he wraps up his four-year varsity career, Dachel will go down as one of the most unique — and entertaining — players this area’s produced in some time, the undersized post player with the football body and game that fuses old school moves with modern versatility. One minute he’s making a power move on the low block, as he did on several occasions Friday. On others, he’s stepping out to knock down a 3-pointer, which he did twice in his record-setting game. In his most crowd-pleasing moments, he’s leading a fast break. “I was blessed with this body,” Dachel said. “I play my game, I guess.”


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People’s choice female athlete Frenette the scrappy leader of Chi-Hi’s state team STORY BY NICK ERICKSON


HIPPEWA FALLS — Nobody was happier to learn the Chippewa Falls softball team would be switching from white to black pants this spring than Kaylee Frenette. all-state pick and Leader-Telegram player of the year, but that never excused her from doing her own laundry after the game. And the scrappy and aggressive way she plays requires a fair amount of time with the

People’s Choice Athlete Frenette hit .462 with 17 stolen bases, 40 the Cardinals back to the state tournament The UW-Eau Claire recruit repeated state. Frenette, who was named the people’s choice female athlete of the year at the Prep Sports Awards, also was the 2018

level could go down just a little. “I didn’t have to soak them after every single game,” Frenette said with a laugh. back-to-back winner since Chi-Hi’s Evie She knows no other way to play. Frenette Schaller in 2012 and 2013. is the energizer who never sits still during Frenette’s colorful personality and style games. The ultra-competitive shortstop was that’s a reason the Cardinals seemed to loving every minute of it. have so much fun in their march through

the sectional to get to Madison. coach Kate Fjelstad said. “She can bring people up even when you feel you can’t get any higher, and she knows how to bring people together and make the mood right when it needs to be.” Frenette burst onto the scene as a freshman and never surrendered her spot at the top of the Cardinals lineup. She’ll be tough to replace. But if there is another Kaylee Frenette out there, the original has some advice. “Be true to you,” Frenette said. “If you are are as a person, you are going to struggle. And have fun. I tried to have as much fun as what you need to do to get better.” That, and of course, always have a healthy supply of laundry detergent.

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Mary F. Rufledt Besides her many business accolades, Mary is dedicated to giving back to our communities by supporting the Camp Manitou Project, Giving Tree, the Parks & Rec Dept., Warm the Children, amateur Go Kart racer and numerous school events.

715-830-1001 Office 715-828-9347 Cell or email: Licensed in WI/MN SRES, ABR, CRS, RRS, GRI, REALTOR ®

Helping People is what Real Estate is All About Please contact Mary today, whether you are ready to buy or sell a home in Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, Menomonie and surrounding communities in Northwestern Wisconsin.


Buckshot The Magazine / June 2018

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Old Abe alum and current NHL defenseman joins former Badger Balts to address athletes at Prep Sports Awards BY SPENCER FLATEN Jake McCabe has had plenty of highlights in his hockey career. From playing in the NHL to captaining the U.S. to a gold medal at the World Junior Championships in 2013, there’s plenty of good to wash out what little bad there’s been during his time on the ice. That’s not entirely the case for McCabe though. Speaking at Thursday’s Leader-Telegram Prep Sports Awards at Florian Gardens, the former Eau Claire Memorial Old Abe vividly of Rice Lake in overtime. It was one of just the Abes didn’t make it to the state tournament. “I was trying to get the puck out of our zone, and I turned it over. Next thing I know, it’s in the back of our net,” McCabe

period. That loss on Feb. 28, 2009 hurt, but McCabe didn’t let the disappointment slow him down. That summer, he went to a hockey camp in Rochester, New York, U.S. National Team Development Program 2012, and the 24-year-old has gone on to make 215 career appearances in the NHL so far. He’s scored 10 goals and assisted 37. Overcoming disappointment was one of McCabe’s main messages to the high school athletes honored at the Prep Sports Awards on Thursday. “You’re going to have disappointments,” he said. “Don’t lose sight of your ultimate goal. Don’t doubt yourself.” He was also quick to credit three things for helping him reach his goal of playing at hockey’s highest level: family, coaches and

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hard work. All three were things he encouraged prep athletes to pay close attention to. Former University of Wisconsin football player Dr. Joshua Balts also spoke at the letic career and his work as an orthopedic surgeon. Balts, a Barron native, had an injury-riddled career. He sustained a plethora of injuries, from a broken collarbone to a torn ACL. He recently returned to Barron County to work at Mayo Clinic. Like McCabe, he

touched on the importance of having others to turn to for help. “When you go through this, lean on family and friends,” Balts said to athletes who hope to play at the college level. “Having that support group was vital to me.” Balts said he felt the things he learned through sports can help tremendously in life. “I’m constantly working in teams, working with other people,” he said. “Lessons learned from sports will stay with you long after.”

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Buckshot The Magazine / June 2018


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Buckshot The Magazine / June 2018

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Buckshot | June 2018  
Buckshot | June 2018