LA CROSSE -- The last of the Linse athletes made sure to pad the extended family's treasure chest where state medals are concerned.
Jefferson senior Mariah Linse entered the WIAA State Track and Field Championships as the fourth seed in the Division 2 girls 1,600 meter run and matched it with a fourth place finish in a personal best time of 5 minutes, 7.31 seconds on Friday at Roger Harring Stadium.
The four-time state qualifier in both cross country and track and field didn't have much left to prove as her decorated distance running neared its conclusion. But she felt a sense of redemption nevertheless after a virus hampered her performance on this stage a year ago.
Linse was sitting solidly in third place in the 3,200 meter run a year ago when she uncharacteristically faded late in the race. She held on to win a sixth place medal, but later collapsed and spent the night at the hospital where tests revealed a high white blood cell count which was later attributed to a virus.
She had to miss racing in the 1,600 the following day, but rebounded in the fall to win her second top ten medal at the state cross country meet.
Linse carried that momentum into the track and field season, where she won MVP honors at the Rock Valley Conference meet and swept the sectional titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter events,
On Friday, she spent the first three laps in third place before Lakeside junior Ashley Peterson surged into third place and held it. But Linse wasn't complaining after running a four-second PR and feeling more than healthy enough to complete the distance double she sought to undertake a year ago when she runs in the 3,200 today.
"I look at last year as just a humbling experience, to bring you back down to Earth and know that I do have to keep working hard," Linse said. "It doesn't just come naturally. You have to put in the work and sometimes things don't turn out your way, but that's just part of the motivation to get back out there and get back at it."
Linse has always credited her cross country and track distance coach Megan Carstens for helping her along the way, and offered one final testimonial to a coaching legacy that has been momentous in Jefferson over the past decade.
"I will always respect (distance coach Megan Carstens) so much, not just as a coach but just as a mentor in general," Linse said. "I trust her. I learned from Day 1 of freshman year that she earned it. She earned everyone's trust out there and she knows exactly what she's doing in that she has that experience under her belt. She was an All-American (at UW-Whitewater). You just trust her because she knows what she is doing.
"She had (her third) baby this year, little Michael. She had him on Sunday and on Thursday, she was back at practice. Her hubsband Chad is taking over as distance coach right now, but she is just dedicated to the team and even though she has a family of her own that is expanding, she makes her best effort to be with our track family, every second that she can. I just respect and love her for that."
Denmark senior Leah Kralovetz won the race in 4:56.84, followed by G-E-T senior Dana Feyen (5:02.76), Peterson (5:03.50), Linse and Viroqua senior Jillian Weston (5:09.78).
"I have known these girls all the way since freshman year," Linse said. "I have a lot of respect for them. They are just the type of girls you want on your team. They are incredible and humble and show great sportsmanship and they give the glory to God, which is something I completely respect in them."
They brought out the best in Linse, who battled through high heat and fatigue to finish with her best time in her final high school mile event.
"The last lap is always just this terrible combo of adrenalin and lactic acid and they just battle each other the whole time," Linse said. "You just have to keep your head up and stay strong and push through that. You know everyone is going through that, it's just who wants it more."