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 may 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. 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 two medals for the Wildcats.
Senior Max Herkert, who is being recruited by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Purdue, tied for sixth in the pole vault, matching his school record (14-6).
After the first day, Verona was fourth in the team standings with 10.5 points. Homestead (16) leads Oconomowoc (14) for first place. Kimberly, the defending state champion, and Mukwoanago have a high of 16 events at state.
“It’s not quite what we were hoping for, but it’s a good start,” coach Joff Pedretti said. “We need to really step up and beat our seeds and make things happen tomorrow in order to get to where we want to be.”
Acker scratched on his first 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 reached 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.”
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 cleated 15-3 and finished second based on misses.
Pedretti pulled Acker from the 4x200 relay preliminary because the discus was going on at the same time. The Wildcats still found success to make the finals. The 800 relay team of sophomore Graham Stier, senior Mason Jordan, sophomore Javon Presley and senior Jayden Joe-Wright took seventh in the prelims (1 minute, 29.42 seconds), about two seconds away from top-qualifying Muskego.
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 towards,” 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 towards 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.”
Joe-Wright took ninth in the prelims of the 200 (22.05) to qualify for today’s finals.
Junior German exchange student Selma Rudolph finished ninth in the long jump (17-8 1/4), 20th in the preliminaries of the 300 hurdles (48.55) and 23rd in the preliminaries of the 100 hurdles (16.81).
Junior Leah Remiker, who was in her third appearance at state, placed 14th in the 800 with a time of 2:19.45.
Junior Tamiya Smith placed 19th in the prelims of the 100 (12.73) and 21st in the prelims of the 200 (26.57).
Senior Lily Brings will compete in the pole vault Saturday.