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2020: The year of cancellations, delays, and change
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Monticello senior Reece Rufer walks off the court for the last time in his career after losing to Randolph 76-54 March 12 at Madison Edgewood High School. Rufer scored 21 points against Randolph and finishes sixth all-time in scoring in school history. He was named honorable mention all-state and co-Six Rivers East player of the year with teammate Peter Gustafson for his efforts this season. - photo by Adam Krebs

MONROE — Much like the news side, the local sports world saw COVID-19-related news dominate the headlines. 

In March, the WIAA canceled the boys and girls basketball tournaments just as the state games were beginning. A few weeks later, the WIAA canceled the spring sports season altogether. 

In July, the WIAA delayed the start of the fall season and later opted to give schools ultimate authority on whether to play games. The WIAA also created an alternate fall season set for late winter and early spring in 2021. State championships for fall sports were also rearranged, with state volleyball and cross country taking place in pods around the state instead of one location. 

The schools that chose to play fall and winter sports on time opted to limit spectator attendance, either denying any fans or limiting to just two to four family members per player. Games also saw an increase in online streaming, with many schools airing competitions on Facebook and YouTube.

Knaufs, Einbeck make Fury hockey history

Monroe’s Anika Einbeck and Albany sisters Hailey and Alyssa Knauf made history on the ice with the Rock County Fury hockey team. The trio all reached the career 100-point milestone within just games of each other, were named to the all-state team and led the program to the WIAA state tournament.


Area sends five wrestlers to state meet

Three Monroe wrestlers (Alex Witt, Patrick Rielly, Brady Schuh) qualified for the state meet, as well as Darlington-Black Hawk’s Carson Lobdell and Pecatonica-Argyle’s Noah Krahenbuhl. Witt finished fourth; and Rielly and Krahenbuhl each finished sixth in their weight classes.


Black Hawk girls reach state for third straight season

The Warriors finished the season unbeaten in Division 5, but did not get a chance to defend their title when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the state tournament after just one day. Natalie Leuzinger, Hannah Butler and Bailey Butler were conference Co-Players of the Year and were named all-state. Leuzinger broke the school record for career points in the process. Head coach Mike Flanagan was named the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association’s girls basketball Co-Coach of the Year with Dave Donarski of La Crosse Aquinas.


Monticello boys reach sectionals

The Ponies cruised to a conference championship and entered the WIAA Division 5 playoffs with just one loss. In the sectional semifinal against Randolph March 12, the Ponies lost 76-54. It was the last night of prep sports in the state for six months, as the WIAA shut down the state basketball tournaments, spring sports and delayed fall sports in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Mathiason steps down, Kenny takes over

Longtime Monroe girls basketball coach Sam Mathiason stepped down from the program in early June, and his assistant, Patrick Kenny, was tabbed to take over in July. Mathiason had been the head coach for 10 seasons, leading the Cheesemakers to the state tournament three times. Kenny has been with the program for six years, most recently as the junior varsity coach. He said he looked forward to continuing the success of the program. “I’m very excited that they were going to allow me to take over for Sam and build on what he has accomplished,” Kenny told the Times in July.

Breadon takes over Black Hawk-Warren football team

After winning the WIAA Division 7 state championship in 2019, longtime Black Hawk football coach Cory Milz stepped away, and assistant Desi Breadon took over in April. Milz coached for 18 seasons, winning three state titles, including two in his last two years at the helm. Breadon is still waiting for his team to take the field, as the co-op moved its play from the fall to the spring in order to incorporate its Warren players, as Illinois put a hold on all sports until 2021.

Darlington boys CC finishes fifth at state

The Redbirds traveled to the WIAA Division 3 State Cross Country meet in West Salem at the end of October and finished fifth. Junior Rhett Reuter was 15th overall, while teammate George West, a sophomore, was 19th. In the girls meet, Darlington freshman Raquel Reuter was ninth overall, with Albany sophomore McKenna Broughton 26th and Albany freshman Ava Ahnen 32nd.


Meyer, Butler pick UW-Green Bay

Monroe senior Cade Meyer and his cousin, Black Hawk senior Bailey Butler, each picked UW-Green Bay as their school of choice to play basketball in Fall 2021. Both players have earned all-state honors, and Butler has suffered just one loss in her career.


Black Hawk volleyball reaches sectional finals

The Warriors finished the conference-only schedule unbeaten and advanced to the sectional final in the WIAA Division 5 playoffs before falling to Eau Claire Immanuel Lutheran in five sets. It was the first time Black Hawk had reached the sectional final in 20 years. Along the way, Black Hawk coach Rachel Wolff earned her 300th career victory, and finished the season as the Six Rivers East Coach of the Year. Senior Bailey Butler was the Conference Player of the Year.

DNR contemplates opening hiking, cycling trails for ATV use

As part of updating the 15-year Southwest Savanna Draft Regional Master Plan, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources took into consideration allowing ATV and UTV use on the Sugar River and Badger State Trails. Both trails are currently only for hiking and bicycling use during the warmer months, with snowmobiles and other motorized vehicles eligible for use during winter when the trail is snow covered. A petition had gathered nearly 18,000 signatures of those opposed to the change. A decision was originally planned to be made by the DNR in late summer, but has since been pushed back to early 2021.


Two recent graduates fight rare health battles

Jayden Stietz and Hailey Betthauser were 2019 high school graduates at Black Hawk and Monroe, and each were highly competitive and celebrated athletes. In 2020, each fought the battle of their lives.

Stietz, of Black Hawk, had been an all-conference football player and played basketball and baseball for the Warriors. In 2020, he was in and out of hospitals and care facilities fighting Necrotizing Myopathy, an aggressive form of Myositis that inflames and weakens muscle fibers in the body rapidly.

Betthauser was a star centerfielder for the Cheesemakers, helping lead Monroe to the state championship in 2019. On Jan. 3, 2020, she suffered a ruptured AVM in her brain and entered a coma. For more than 9 months she, along with doctors, nurses and family, fought to heal her up so she could return home. After multiple setbacks, Betthauser died on Sept. 27 at just 19-years-old.