Thunderbirds hoping to stay ahead of the packSubmitted: 03/24/2017

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MINOCQUA - Perhaps the most impressive run of high school athletic success in the Northwoods comes from Lakeland Union in Minocqua.

One look at the trophy case inside LUHS tells you everything you need to know.

Lakeland track and field wins… a lot.

"Kids come into the program knowing they can be a conference champion as a team, a conference champion as an individual. They can be a state champion. We've had five state champions in the last five years," said Lakeland Head Coach Kevin FitzPatrick.

The Thunderbirds have won seven straight Great Northern Conference spring titles in boys track and five out of six GNC crowns on the girls side.

"We do kind of have this aura about us, like, it's Lakeland, which is kind of cool, but as a coach I always need to be on game because there's always somebody gunning for us," said FitzPatrick.

Some of the Thunderbirds point to their coaches as the biggest reason for all that success.

"I think a lot of it comes back to our coaching staff, from the beginning of the season they have a plan for us, and we work to establish goals with them, and they make sure we're on a plan to reach our goals," said senior Stephanie Balas.

That aura got a boost last fall when the T-Birds won their first ever cross country state championship.

That win has raised the bar even higher for an already elevated program.

"People see the success we had in cross country, and they realize that's not impossible. We have athletes from freshmen to senior that all see that goal and know it's achievable now," said junior Kav FitzPatrick.

The team's sprinters are quick to point out that despite the success of the distance runners; they're not the only reasons for Lakeland's winning ways.

"You can't have the school being like 'oh, it's just those cross-boys, they hold the team up.' No, actually we score points for the team too," said senior Julia Malicki.

It's true that Lakeland has been a very balanced team the last few years.

After a few key sprinters graduated from last year's boys team, this year's boys sprinters will have plenty of work to do to prove themselves this spring.

"We lost two big guys, Sam Jaeger and Spencer Sutton last year, that carried a lot of points for the team as far as the sprinters go, so we need some other guys to step up," said senior Max Wohlleber.

The T-Birds' success has also produced five individual state champions in the last five seasons, including the 2015 boys 3200 meter relay.

After struggles at the state meet last year in that race, FitzPatrick is aiming for a bit of redemption.

"We want revenge this year. We were state champs two years ago, and obviously that's the ultimate goal so hopefully we make that happen," said FitzPatrick.

Kevin FitzPatrick says he's hopeful for both the boys and girls success this year.

He added that other strong GNC teams could make this one of the toughest seasons they've had yet.

Story By: Mark Spillane

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