LA CROSSE -- Jefferson senior Logan Wegner peeled himself off the track after a nasty fall and eventually left the track bloodied and bruised, but not beaten.
His coach made sure of that.
"Logan Wegner had to battle," Jefferson track and field coach Doug Siegert said. "His shoulder was killing him. After he took that fall in the 4-by-2, I told him, any way you are doing the 4-by-400, you are doing it. Because you are not going to end that way. You are too special of a kid for our program. He came out and he gave it everything in that 4-by-4."
Wegner bounced back from a disastrous failed relay exchange in the boys 800-meter relay to run a successful second leg of the 1,600 relay, which finished fourth, to provide a happy ending to Jefferson's otherwise snakebit two days at the WIAA State Track and Field Championships on Friday and Saturday at Roger Harring Stadium.
Jefferson's boys track and field team sent two relays to state a year ago and finished a close seventh in both of them to just miss making the awards podium reserved for the top six finishers in each event.
The trend continued Friday. The 3,200 relay team of Wegner, senior Ryan Nelson, junior Ian Sande and senior Alex Marin finished eighth in a school record time of 8 minutes, 7.52 seconds.
But the 800 relay team of freshman Brady Gotto, Wegner, junior Jordan Weisen and sophomore Taylor Phillips made the finals with a fourth place time of 1:30.84 in the trials. The 1,600 relay team of Gotto, Wegner, Marin and Phillips grabbed the 10th and final spot in the finals with a time of 3:27.82.
Gotto also narrowly made the finals in the 200-meter dash with a 10th-place time of 22.65 in the trials and finished 10th in Saturday's finals in 22.64. Phillips did not make the finals in the 300 hurdles after finishing 15th in the prelims in 42.52.
The Eagles seemed a safer bet to medal in the 800 relay, but all bets were off when Wegner fell attempting to get the baton to Wiesen on the exchange between the second and third runners. Their medal hopes were gone as a result, and the team was disqualified.
But they still had one last chance to medal in the final event of the meet and got the job done. Gotto led off and gave Wegner the baton in medal contention.
"It's been good (my first varsity season)," Gotto said. "It's been a real experience for me.
"It's been an honor, being a freshman and running with all upperclassmen, it's been amazing. I felt really strong, Stuck in lane 10, I wasn't sure how it was going to work out, but I really pushed myself to stay up there. My first state meet was quite an experience. I came out here and ran my hardest and made the finals in all my events. It was a great experience for me."
Wegner ran a strong second leg and gave the baton to Marin in third place.
"I have had a day to say the least," Wegner said. "It started with a real tough break in the 4-by-2. It hurt physically and emotionally. To work that hard and get there and not have things pan out the way you want it to really hurt.
"I've learned over the years to have a short memory. You've just got to pick yourself up and move on to the next thing. Once you finish the race, there's nothing you can do about it after that.
"This feels awesome. This is complete redemption for me in my book. It just feels so good to run with these boys one last time. To finish fourth from Lane 10 after a not-so-good 4-by-2, to say the least, I couldn't feel more proud of them. I feel redeemed."
So did Marin, who received the baton for the 3,200 relay in fourth place only to cross the finish in eighth after falling short against other blazing anchor runners.
His opening salvo in relay races is always impressive, and this time he just plain looked angry out there.
"Actually, yes, a little bit," Marin said.
Marin had a day and a half to wait between races. He gave Phillips the baton in fourth place to win the biggest mental battle of a long track career.
"Seven years of track led to this moment and I am going to run really hard and that's it," Marin said. "I am very happy that we got onto the podium. It's going to be something I'm looking forward to, looking out at the stands from the podium. I wouldn't have anyone else to receive and pass batons to (than these guys)."
Phillips maintained the position he was given with a solid anchor leg. The Eagles finished in 3:25.79, which was a little slower than their sectional time of 3:25.31. Freedom won in 3:21.58, followed by Peshtigo in 3:24.91 and Westby in 3:25.37.
"I love that so much," Phillips said. "I love finishing the race. It's really an amazing finish crossing the finish line and knowing it was a great performance by all of my teammates. I can't be happier with them. It was awesome. It really was."
The team was forced to wait an eternity to get on the medal stand while officials conferred over a five-team pileup in the Division 1 mile relay which resulted in a re-running of that event.
Coaches, family and friends waited patiently. These guys earned that much.
"We tell the kids, anything happens up here, whether it's great things or things that aren't so great, those are the things that can happen," Siegert said.
"When we started the day off yesterday and the 4-by-8 breaks the school record by five seconds and it's the same group of kids that held the record last year, so it took them a year, exactly. The same four guys and (it was great) to have Alex Marin and Logan Wegner and Ryan Nelson as seniors on there. To have them finish the 4-by-8 together with Ian Sande coming back and to get that school record. We started Friday with a lot of momentum. That started us off."
Momentum went by the wayside after the 800 relay DQ, but everyone rallied for the final event.
"It's tough," Siegert said. "I was on the back stretch. It happened on the front corner. Being in the outside lane, that's a long corner and it just kept dragging on us, dragging on us and I just think it was a combination of a long corner and a hard day yesterday.
"That was a heartbreaking moment for us to have that happen, but knowing the positive I took out of that was Logan had another race. We knew that 4-by-4, he was going to bring everything he had. That was his last race as a Jefferson Eagle. We know the other guys on that 800 relay are young, so they are going to be back, they are going to be hungry. If things go right, they could be on the top of that podium somewhere.
"(That last race) was fun to watch for us. We know that's a special group of kids in that 4-by-4. Alex, it's a long day for him. He ran that 4-by-8 and he only had the 4-by-4. Today was a mental day for him, thinking, 'What do I have to do to be sitting here for hours and hours and hours and run a good 400?' and he did, and that's what seniors do. It's a senior with experience that has been to cross country and been here a couple times now.
"Watching Brady Gotto, it's great to see the confidence our older athletes have helped him gain through the year and having a freshman in the finals of the 200 at the state meet, that's so cool. That's so fun.
"Phillips, he's one of those kids I like to call a quiet competitor. He's not out here making a show. He's here doing work and doing what he is supposed to and it shows every time he steps on the track whatever the event is, he is going to compete. He does not want to lose. That's why he is in that spot. I look at that 4-by-2, Jordan, Brady and Taylor are back and that's going to be special."
Junior Zach Donley made his first state appearance for Jefferson in the boys discus and finished 12th with a throw of 129 feet, 9 inches.