by Dave Boehler
Beacon Sports Editor
Some freshmen were lost.
They would go out for high school sports like track and field and have to be taught what a shot put, discus or pole vault was because Sheboygan middle schools did not offer those activities.
“We still have to do that, but not as much,” South girls track and field coach Lauren Braaksma said. “They know the different kind of events. Like I had a freshman come in who told me she absolutely hates the long jump. I’m like, ‘well then we’re not going to do the long jump. Let’s go try the high jump.’
“That was something she didn’t try last year. Them being already exposed to it helps.”
That changed two years ago when teachers like Horace Mann’s Braaksma helped get a grant to increase student participation in after-school activities.
According to her, there hadn’t been organized sports at Sheboygan middle schools since the 1980s.
But eighth graders last year were able to compete in volleyball, basketball, tennis, wrestling and track and field.
South freshman Madeline Ognacevic was one of them.
She took advantage of track being offered at Farnsworth Middle School even though she had no experience in the sport.
“I knew it was running, there was high jump and long jump, but I didn’t really know about pole vaulting and some of the other events,” said Ognacevic, who competes in the 200- and 400-meter dash as well as the triple jump, high jump and pole vault on the varsity.
North freshman Zach Seymour took up track in seventh grade at Urban Middle School and currently competes in three running events and the long jump.
Seymour says he would not be on varsity, however, without the past two years of experience.
“You’ve got to kind of know what you’re doing, or at least look like you know what you’re doing,” he said.
Golden Raiders’ boys coach Ted Schermetzler, in his 14th year at the helm, had six freshmen in the program last season. Now he has 17.
“This is almost double the highest number of freshmen I’ve ever had,” he said.
South boys coach Kevin Herber had 15 freshmen come out and says in the past he would have about eight.
“This year, the kids came in, knew the events and were ready to compete right away,” Herber said. “It was a noticeable difference from Day 1. Because of this, kids have progressed faster and have started to contribute at the varsity level much sooner.”
Track coaches know the more freshmen, the more options a team has.
Teams are able to field more events but the added numbers also create a better camaraderie on the squad.
“If you have more kids, you have a better team,” Schermetzler said. “But sports are more than winning and losing.
“It’s having fun, it’s building the bonds, the relationships, it’s learning a work ethic. If somebody has a bad day, they can build them up. If it’s a really tough practice, they can lean on each other to help them.”