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This week’s calendar page a reminder of what could have been

This week’s calendar page a reminder of what could have been This week’s calendar page a reminder of what could have been

Time is a funny thing with how it can drag so slowly and yet speed by you, often simultaneously.

That thought hit me with a simple glance at my desk calendar this week.

As this issue of The Star News hits local newsstands Thursday afternoon, it’s been 10 weeks since we last covered a game or competition of any sort. Since I dove head-first into sports reporting at The Lakeland Times about 25 years ago, I can probably count on one hand how many stretches of 10 days there have been without a game to do, much less 10 weeks.

I cannot tell a lie. The absences of final scores, final stats, standings updates and the usual countless spring schedule updates have made for some long days in the corner office space. As anticipated when this all first started, it’s been a jolt to the body clock for sure.

The glance at the calendar also served as a reminder that this week would’ve already marked the beginning of the end of the spring sports season. And, of course, Friday would’ve been graduation night around the county, a day where families are always caught up in the question of “where did the time go?”

When all hell was breaking loose in March, I optimistically went ahead with my annual ritual of writing the spring high school sports schedules into my desk calendar which, as we know now, was a giant waste of ink. Now, looking at those calendar pages for this week and next, one wonders what might have been.

We’ve got time to burn, let’s daydream for a while.

On Monday, May 18, the Marawood North track championships would’ve been held in Abbotsford. On Tuesday, the Great Northern Conference meet would’ve been held at Northland Pines and the Eastern Cloverbelt championships would’ve been held at Colby.

First, I can hear grumbling at the Marawood meet about the weather forecast that just a few days earlier was promising sunshine and the warmest air of the year. Instead, we got cloudy, cool and wind –– again. Been that way since mid-April. Why change now?

Nothing stops Medford’s girls from another title-worthy performance behind its usual scoring surge in distance races, Sami Stolp in jumps and Marissa Fronk in sprints. The boys are peaking and contend as well. Gilman’s girls earn a solid finish, led by record-breaking senior thrower Evelyn Fryza. Rib Lake’s Steven Petkau wins the North boys MVP award with a huge day in jumps and hurdles.

Everybody has a relay team, or two, or three –– some expected, some by surprise –– that emerge as contenders when the post-season begins May 26.

On Tuesday and Thursday, Medford’s baseball team would’ve had its longawaited regular-season games with Antigo. This was gonna be fun. The teams last met in a May 29, 2019 WIAA Division 2 regional final where the Red Robins rallied in the final inning to upset the top-seeded and GNC champion Raiders. Antigo went on to win the whole freakin’ thing two weeks later.

I’m seeing John McMurry taking the mound today at Raider Field with the GNC title on the line, the kind of start he’s been waiting his whole life for. The Raiders are relatively young, but they got better as the season progressed and clawed their way back into the race, highlighted by a pitching gem from Spike Alexander Tuesday in Antigo. The winner gets momentum heading into a tough D2 regional tournament that starts next Thursday and features tough squads from Antigo, Merrill, Mosinee and Rhinelander.

The Rib Lake baseball team is finishing up its regular season with non-conference games against Flambeau Tuesday and Edgar Thursday and preparing for a deep tournament run in Division 4. The Redmen and Athens Blue Jays went right down to the wire in the Marawood North title chase and as the tournament approaches, everyone is looking at the possibility of the teams meeting again in a sectional final at Athens June 9. There are some teams aiming to spoil that plan, including Gilman, who battled another potential spoiler, Greenwood, for first all season long in the Eastern Cloverbelt behind big seasons from leaders like senior Gabe Gunderson and juniors Kade Kroeplin and Brayden Boie. The Pirates closed this week with key games at Loyal Tuesday and against Spencer Friday.

The daydream moves to softball where Gilman hosted Fall Creek Tuesday in a playoff tune-up after it destroyed its foes in the Eastern Cloverbelt, going 14-0. At something like 22-3 overall, the Pirates are ready to make a second straight run toward state when Division 5 tournament play starts next Tuesday. Rib Lake finished its season with tough non-conference games Monday and Tuesday against Marathon and Spencer, after making marked improvements under second-year coach Hannah Schmidtfranz and threatening the .500 mark for the first time since going 10-11 in 2012.

Medford’s softball team ended its regular season Tuesday by hosting Antigo on the final day of what’s been a competitive GNC race from top to bottom. This is a group with quality veterans in Alex


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Matt Frey Nicks, Brynn Rau, Rachel Mudgett, Emily Schafer and Delani Clausnitzer but also had roles filled by a fair share of youth. With three quality pitchers and an improving offense, the Raiders are now a team looking to do damage as an unknown in its new northwest sectional half-bracket.

Thursday’s schedule included the third and final round of the GNC’s girls soccer tournament. I’m thinking today’s matchup is against Ashland, Rhinelander, Northland Pines or maybe Lakeland as the Raiders earned an upper-division finish in round-robin play under firstyear head coach Chris Reardon. Led by a core group of four returning seniors and three returning juniors, the Raiders are confidently kicking through a winning season, which ends the day after Memorial Day at Regis-McDonell. The post-season starts June 4, and with Rhinelander back in the D3 bracket after a one-year hiatus, a return trip to the sectional final will have to be earned.

This week’s schedule includes GNC golf meets at Rhinelander Tuesday and Northland Pines Thursday. There’s one more next week at Antigo before postseason competition starts June 2. Senior Kaleb Voight and sophomore Caleb Heckel are doing their best to play their way into All-GNC status.

The calendar page doesn’t show it, but I’m envisioning Medford’s boys tennis team picking up a meet this week in preparation for the WIAA D2 post-season run that starts the day after Memorial Day at the Black River Falls subsectional. With a lot of experienced depth that developed under head coach Jake Bucki a year ago, the Raiders are the GNC’s most improved team this spring and were part of a threeway battle for first with Rhinelander and Antigo all the way through the GNC tournament last weekend. With all of that success, now I can see why spring is suddenly almost over. Time flies when you’re having fun –– or not.

Matt Frey is the Sports Editor at The Star News.