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Top sports stories of 2017

Hudson's new Raider Stadium on the high school campus opened to a packed house for the raider football team's first home game Friday, Aug. 25. File photo 1 / 5
Hudson's girls 4x200 meter relay team, clockwise from top left, Lucy Fashingbauer, Kady Kochendorfer, Lexi LeFever and Bailee Dierks are all smiles after receiving their sixth place medals at the WIAA State Track and Field Championships June 3 in La Crosse. File photo 2 / 5
The 2016-17 Hudson wrestling team qualified for the WIAA State Team Championships for the third straight year in February. File photo 3 / 5
Senior Taylor Owens, left, and Anna Wilgren, reached the round of 16 at the WIAA State Girls Tennis Tournament in Madison Oct. 11-13. File photo 4 / 5
The Raider boys hockey team hoists the state championship trophy after winning the third state title in program history Saturday, March 4, in Madison. File photo 5 / 5

Editor's note: This story is part of a series recapping the top stories of 2017. Read the other top stories here.

Boys hockey wins state title

The Raider boys hockey team had one of the best seasons in program history in 2016-17, posting a record of 27-2-1, claiming its second straight Big Rivers Conference title and winning Hudson's third state championship and first since 2004.

The Raiders won the BRC title with a record of 11-1-0 before outscoring their opponents 30-0 in three playoff games to reach the WIAA State Tournament for the second straight year. Hudson defeated BRC rival Eau Claire Memorial 4-0 in the state quarterfinals, Wausau West 4-1 in the semifinals and Waukesha North 2-1 in the championship game Saturday, March 4, one year after finishing state runner-up.

Senior Chase Blackmun was named the BRC Player of the Year and WIAA State Tournament MVP after posting a goal and two assists in Hudson's three state tournament victories while head coach Brooks Lockwood, a player on Hudson's first state title team in 2001, was named the 2016-17 National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) Boys Ice Hockey Coach of the Year.

Wrestlers make third state team appearance

The Raider wrestling team qualified for the WIAA State Team Tournament for the third straight year, and fourth time overall, by defeating Marshfield, 36-33, in the Division 1 team sectional Tuesday, Feb. 14, in Stevens Point.

Hudson had the unenviable task of facing three-time defending state champion and undefeated Kaukauna in the state team quarterfinals Friday, March 3, in Madison and Kaukauna defeated the Raiders, 47-13, on their way to winning their fourth straight state title. It was the third straight season Kaukauna has defeated Hudson on its way to claiming the state team championship.

Earlier the Raiders won their third straight Big Rivers Conference title and 11th in the last 15 years before sending four wrestlers—Jacob Anderson, Cole Godbout, Isac Schindler and Mitchell Anderson—to the WIAA State Individual Tournament in Madison Feb. 23-25. Godbout finished second in his first state tournament appearance while Jacob Anderson became just the fifth two-time state place winner in school history with a fifth place finish.

Blinkman swims to another state title

It took a record-setting swim by Eau Claire Alliance senior Paul DeLakis to keep Hudson sophomore Shane Blinkman from defending his state championship in the 200-yard individual medley at the WIAA Boys State Swimming and Diving Championships in Madison Feb. 18.

So what did Blinkman do? He went out and set a new state record of his own to win a title in the 100 backstroke.

Blinkman posted a time of 48.84 seconds in the 100 backstroke to break the old mark of 49.34 set by Nicholas Petersen of Homestead in 2013 and win his second state title in two different events in two years.

Blinkman was part of a Raider contingent that helped Hudson finish 11th in the 34-team state field, the highest finish in the program's history. He added a second place finish behind DeLakis in the 200 IM and teamed up with twin brother Cale and seniors Matt Baker and Alex McNamara to break the school record in the 200 individual medley with a seventh place time of 1:36.59.

Dierks brings home three state track medals

Hudson sophomore Bailee Dierks finished second in the 100 meter intermediate hurdles, fourth in the 300 meter low hurdles, and teamed up with senior Lucy Fashingbauer, junior Kady Kochendorfer and junior Lexi LeFever to earn a sixth place medal in the 4x200 meter relay at the WIAA State Track and Field Championships June 2-3 in La Crosse.

Dierks, Fashingbauer, Kochendorfer and LeFever were four of 18 Hudson athletes competing at state over the weekend in a total of 12 events. It capped a season that saw the Raider girls win their 10th Big Rivers Conference championship, 11th regional championship and fifth sectional title since 2005, while Hudson's boys won their second BRC title in three years.

Hudson's girls sent 14 athletes in 11 events to this year's state meet, the most ever for the program, and finished 14th out of 120 possible Division 1 teams.

Cross country teams both make state

For the first time since 2006 Hudson's boys and girls cross country teams qualified for the WIAA State Championship Meet in the same season, and despite the cold, windy conditions, both finished in the top half of their respective 20-team fields.

The Raider girls placed sixth and the boys finished ninth in the 105th running of the WIAA State Cross Country Championships at The Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids Saturday, Oct. 28.

Hudson's boys returned to state for the third straight year while the girls made their first appearance since 2013.

Sophomore Rachel Ball moved up two spots from her state debut in 2016 to finish 13th out of 189 runners in the Division 1 girls race with a time of 19:09.2, while junior George Bond led the boys team with a 28th place time of 16:33.44.

Wilgren, Owens all-state tennis

Senior co-captains Anna Wilgren and Taylor Owens were named to the Wisconsin High School Tennis Coaches Association All-State Second Team for the fall season after reaching the sweet 16 at the WIAA State Girls Tennis Tournament in Madison Oct. 11-13.

Wilgren and Owens, paired at the No. 1 singles position, went undefeated in Big Rivers Conference play to capture the conference title while finishing the season with a record of 25-3 overall. After claiming the sectional championship, the pair won their first two matches at state before losing in the round of 16 to the eventual state runners-up from Homestead.

At the Raiders' postseason tennis banquet, Wilgren and Owens were both acknowledged as Academic All-Conference recipients and as the Most Valuable Players for Hudson this past season.

Stein state runner-up

Sophomore Ella Stein placed second in the 100 yard breaststroke to highlight Hudson's contingent at the WIAA Division 1 Girls Swimming and Diving Championships at the University of Wisconsin Natatorium in Madison Saturday, Nov. 11.

Stein touched the wall in 1 minute, 3.48 seconds in the 100 breaststroke, just 1.31 seconds behind two-time state champ Grace Bennin of Verona. Stein's time not only broke her own school record, set a week earlier at the sectional meet, and earned her all-state status, it also qualified her for 2017-18 All-American consideration from the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association.

Stein also finished 15th in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:10.46 to account for all 19 of Hudson's team points. Middleton won the team title with 313.5 while Hudson finished 24th out of the 35 teams that scored.

Raider Stadium opens

After more than 50 years playing its home games at Newton Field, the Hudson Raider football team played its first game at the newly constructed Raider Stadium Friday, Aug. 25.

The new turf field stadium on the high school campus is the result of an $8.2 million referendum approved by taxpayers in April 2016, one of three items on the ballot that also included $74.3 million for the expansion of the high school and $7.9 million for improvements at the middle school. All three were approved.

In addition to the stadium, the new athletic facilities also include eight, lighted tennis courts and two turf practice facilities.

Stevens Point spoiled opening night by kicking a field goal with 10 seconds remaining to beat the Raiders, 23-21, but Hudson went on to finish the season with a record of 7-3 and qualify for the WIAA playoffs for the second year in a row and the eighth time in the last ten years.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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