Verona sophomore Jackson Acker has been envisioning a future as a football player at the University of Wisconsin, but after surging to a silver medal in the discus, he might have also secured one in track and field at the next level.
Acker unleashed a throw of 171 feet, 5 inches on his final attempt to shoot from the fifth seed to the state runner-up at the WIAA Division 1 state meet Friday, May 31. Fond du Lac senior Andrew Stone repeated as the state champion with a throw of 189-7.
Acker got off to a rocky start at the state meet at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Veterans Memorial Stadium. He scratched on his first two throws in the preliminaries before getting a throw past 150 feet to reach the finals.
“It felt good, but it was scary because I scratched my first two throws and I needed a good third throw to make the finals,” Acker said. “I knew it was going to take a lot, but I knew it was something I could do.”
It was one of three medals for the Wildcats. Senior Max Herkert, who verbally committed to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to become a decathlete, tied for sixth in the pole vault Friday, matching his school record (14-6), and the 4x200-meter relay team ran to a fifth-place finish Saturday.
The Wildcats finished 15th at state with 16.5 points.
Discus and shot
Acker again scratched on his first discus throw in the finals before exceeding several other competitors on his final throw.
“A lot of people who had thrown found the circle slippery,” he said. “It was something we had to adapt to.”
Acker said at the start of the season his goal was 150-0. He had his best throw at the Big Eight Conference meet, when he surpassed 191-0.
“I honestly didn’t think I would end up much farther than that,” he said. “My coach thought that was so funny. It’s just amazing to see how far I’ve come, and to take second in state is just an amazing experience.”
Acker added a ninth-place finish in the shot put (52-4). It was 2 1/2 inches away from a PR.
With the pole vault bar wobbling, Herkert cleared 14-6 on his final attempt to tie for sixth. He missed at 15-0.
Oconomowoc senior Maxwell Meyer won the title at 15-3. West Bend West senior Eli Tranel also cleared 15-3 and finished second based on misses.
“It was a super competitive competition,” Herkert said. “It’s unheard of that seven people went 14-6. That’s just insane. I had a chance to PR.”
4x200 relay and 200
Sophomore Graham Stier didn’t know whether he would run in the 4x200 relay at state until late in the week.
Stier got the call in place of Acker, who was competing at state in the discus and shot put, and made the most of his opportunity.
The Wildcats’ 800 team of seniors Mason Jordan and Jayden Joe-Wright, freshman Javon Presley and Stier finished fifth with a time of 1 minute, 29.21 seconds Saturday.
“We had a good week of practice, and I found out I was going to be running the prelims and there was a chance I would be running the finals,” Stier said. “I just wanted to come out here and get it done for the team. I had to step up, and I thought we did that today.”
The Wildcats entered the finals seeded seventh.
“We all knew we had it in us,” Joe-Wright said of the 800 relay. “We were just saying beat your seed like last year. It’s a real special feeling to go out with a medal.”
The Wildcats were seeded fifth in the 4x400 relay last year and finished fifth.
Presley said Jordan and Joe-Wright are inspirations on and off the track.
“Everyone was focused,” he said. “We came in with a razor-sharp mentality.”
It marked Jordan’s second time at state. He was a state qualifier in the 400 last year.
“There is no greater feeling than this,” Jordan said. “I’m happy I got to compete again.”
Jordan said the team spent the past couple of weeks working on hand offs because the order was changed up several times during the season.”
Joe-Wright took eighth in the 200 (22.21), .09 seconds away from medaling. He qualified for the finals by taking ninth in the prelims.
It appeared early in the high jump competition the Wildcats could add two more medals to their total.
Senior Jatavion Hawkins cleared 6 feet and 6-2 on his first attempt. He made 6-4 on his final try. Herkert enjoyed similar success in the early going, clearing 6-0 on his first attempt. He missed his first attempt at 6-2 before clearing it on his second jump.
But Herkert couldn’t match his lifetime-best jump of 6-6 set last week at sectionals and finished eighth. Hawkins also cleared 6-4 to finish ninth based on misses.
“I knew people would be PRing because it’s the state meet,” Herkert said. “It’s the state meet and you have to PR. I knew I could have gone higher. It’s a little disappointing.”
Racine Case senior Jay Jay Rankins won the event at 6-7. Three of the medalists in the high jump had at least one miss on the opening height of 6-0.
Hawkins said he didn’t think about being perfect through 6-4 to have a chance to medal.
“I was just thinking do my best,” Hawkins said. “It felt great to make it to state with Max. It was a great experience.”
Herkert said he didn’t have a good attempt at 6-6.
“My steps just felt off, and it just didn’t click,” he said.
The Verona boys 4x800 relay team of junior Brad Tuomi, junior Drew Gonzales, senior Jason Ford and freshman Aidan Manning took 18th with a personal-record time of 8:11.29.
Manning said everyone worked really hard on a hot day.
“It means a lot because we did our best at state and it’s what we’re working toward,” Gonzales said.
Ford will always remember his final year of track.
“I’ve ran some of the best times I have ever put down in my high school career,” Ford said. “I thought our team was working toward a similar goal of trying to get better.”
Tuomi entered the season with an ankle injury he suffered in a club hockey game. He qualified for state for the second straight year. He was a state qualifier in the 800 last year.
“I was hoping I would make it (state) again,” he said. “I had a great group of guys to get me there again.”