Though the sometimes larger than life presence of former coach Todd Brawner still lingers a bit around the camp of the Germantown boys track team, life goes on for the unit, which will have new leaders this season and a new outlook.
"We're doing OK," new co-coach Andy Bavlnka said. "There was a little uneasiness at first with largely a whole new staff, but the transition is going well. We're going to be inexperienced this spring but there is a lot of talent out there.
"We'll try to keep our expectations realistic."
Brawner left the program last spring in what was a misunderstood and controversial mutual agreement between him and the administration. He is now an assistant coach at Homestead.
In his 15 years with the program, Brawner built an enviable record of success. Since 1998, Germantown won 24 of 33 North Shore Conference meets and claimed a WIAA state title in 2006. His personality and record of success routinely drew more than 100 athletes out for the team, a number that Bavlnka and co-coach Jeff Schreiber as well as principal James Blackburn were heartened to see come out this spring.
"I'm always pleased when students choose to take part in school activities," said Blackburn, who himself developed strong track credentials while a coach at Whitnall. "We have to remember it's all about them and not necessarily their coaches. We understand that students and athletes can develop strong ties to their coaches, but in the end, it's about the student-athlete and not the coach.
"Everyone is replaceable in every situation. Todd did great things in his time, but we've all moved on now."
Bavlnka said the team got whatever kinks that were remaining in the Brawner era worked out right away when they kicked off the season with an open meet at Homestead on March 18.
They had another early meet at Manitowoc on March 31, and formally got things going with the North Shore Conference Indoor on April 6, where they went in as defending champs (see GermantownNOW.com).
Few familiar faces
It will be almost an entirely new varsity crew that Bavlnka and Schreiber will work with. The only returning state qualifier is junior hurdler Dexter Schleis. Other key veterans will be senior hurdler Eric Geisthardt and vaulters Wes Heupel (senior), Kevin Tran (senior) and Mitch Heupel (junior).
Bavlnka led the cross country team to its first state team berth last fall and is hoping athletes from that team, led by junior Nick Skidmore, will be key cogs in the new Germantown machine.
"We haven't set up the team to maximize points yet but we feel pretty good about where we are," Bavlnka said. "We're going to focus on 200 and 400 (meter) training. That won't really change (from last year). The kids are good. We'll work it like the cross country season, aim for the outdoor and push hard for the meets in late May and early June."
Blackburn has confidence in the new coaches.
"They have great educational and athletic backgrounds," he said. "They come in with great integrity and are very knowledgeable about the sport. In fact, if you talked to them for awhile, you'd say they were track and field junkies. Just great guys who care about kids and who want them to succeed."
Steven L. Tietz can be reached at (262) 446-6619 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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