A season that could’ve been has come and gone for the Lake Mills Boys track team. Some said, “best the school has ever seen”; a state championship-caliber team with the move to Class 1A. Now the focus must shift to a new season with new athletes.
During the pandemic, coaches across the country felt the pain of telling their athletes – in multiple different sports – they wouldn’t be able to compete, telling seniors their careers were over. Last spring confused everyone, no idea what was ahead over the next 12 months. But for Lake Mills coach Dan Rice, it was especially tough. Not only because it was a “once in a coaching career team,” but Rice’s son, Jackson – a returning state medalist in the 4×800 – was a senior on the team.
Rice is now entering his 19th year as the head man, and the Bulldogs are coming off their first outright conference title since 1959. Without a season last year, Rice said it’s a rebuilding process.
Lack of athletes shouldn’t be a problem. Lake Mills won a playoff football game for the first time in school history, the wrestling team made their sixth straight appearance at state duals, and the basketball team went 25-1, making their second straight state appearance.
Getting and keeping those athletes healthy will be the biggest challenge. The basketball players have only just started practice following their run – a good problem to have added Rice. Senior Carson Eaton is recovering from a football injury. Sophomore Brady Hanson – who broke out this fall on the gridiron and winter on the wrestling mat – is also recovering but should be available. Hanson was expected to make an impact a year ago before the season was called off. And junior Kadin Abele will miss the season.
So what will the Bulldogs look like this year?
Rice is still very high on the 4×800. Two years ago, the team of Tommy Kaktis, Carson Rygh, Jackson Rice, and Mason Fritz broke the school record and finished fifth in Class 2A. With three of those four returning last year, the hope wasn’t to just get to state; they planned to beat the state record. Even with all four gone over the past two seasons, Rice says the new look 4×800 is looking fantastic.
The other relays were also hit by graduation, but success breeds success, and Rice thinks they have athletes to fill the gaps.
About the only events, Lake Mills didn’t dominate at the conference meet two years ago was field events. Forest City pulled out to a 41-7 lead over the Bulldogs during those events. Coach Daniels leads the Bulldogs’ throwers, and coach Rice says they’ll be ready.
The Bulldogs’ jumpers will be a bit behind as most were basketball players but will be in postseason shape before the conference and state qualifying meet in May.
Lake Mills did share the conference title with Forest City in 2013 and will look to win their third – second straight – later this spring.