When the season began, Wauwatosa East girls track and field coach Nancy Braidigan didn't know what to expect from her squad. But before the year was over, the Red Raiders displayed plenty of nice surprises.
"There are no words to describe this season," she said. "In the beginning I was kind of thinking whatever will be will be. We lost a core group of sprinters/jumpers, a few major distance runners, still didn't have a full varsity squad in all events, had two new coaches on staff and I just wasn't sure where we would be."
But Braidigan's returnees applied what they went through last spring and came up with some nice performances.
"You always hope that the returning kids will take what they learned from the season before and apply themselves just a little more to reach whatever goals they have set for themselves," she said. "I think a majority of our varsity kids did just that and some of the newcomers either had a good base or a great work ethic to really do well.
"It was a little bit of a rocky start with some of the performances and injuries, but the girls really fought back and worked out whatever it was they needed either mentally or physically."
As a result, Braidigan had trouble picking out what was the brightest moment.
"It is hard to say which was the highlight," she said. "Obviously, state was the big stage and the outcome was really exciting, yet at sectionals the vibe was just so awesome. The girls were pulling for each other like I have never seen before, watching each other compete and congratulating each win and/or ticket to state with a big scream and hug. It is just hard to describe that day."
Tosa East took 10 girls in eight events to state this year, the most Braidigan has taken in her 13 years.
"And I am pretty sure (that is) the most East has had up at state for many years before me," she said. "I am pretty certain that placing 16th overall is the best showing in 20 years. Not enough people understand the track and field world and how amazing these girls really did at state, so hopefully they understand and can be extremely proud of themselves and their accomplishments."
The Red Raiders had plenty of individual highlights.
Both senior Claire Gordee and sophomore Natalie Schudrowitz were all-state performers and were the Red Raiders' Most Valuable (track) performers.
The Most Valuable (field) performer was Hailey Krahn, while the Most Improved athletes were Jordy Schmidt and Lauren Dillon. The winner of the Coaches Award was Bethel Assefa.
The GMC Scholar Athletes were Assefa, Maddie Fisher, Nicole Kashian, Andrea Schaefer and Emma Watson and the captains were Assefa, Fisher and Gordee.
This year's conference champions were Schudrowitz in the indoor mile, two-mile, outdoor mile and two-mile and part of the distance medley, an amazing stretch for someone who was running for the first time in her career.
Gordee was a champion in the outdoor 200 and part of the distance medley; Schmidt and Kashian were part of the distance medley.
Braidigan will lose Assefa, Kashian, Fisher, Gordee, Cali Castaneda and Shelby Lang to graduation.
"They all were a very important part of this team throughout the season," she said. "They will be missed dearly and it will be hard to fill their shoes next year because of their talents and efforts.
"The senior ladies are a great example for the underclassmen. Each one of those girls worked hard each of the four years they were on the team and each one of them had major success this season. It is a true testament of the results you get with hard work and dedication."
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