LA CROSSE – Thain Jones choked up a bit in talking about the Freedom boys’ track team early Saturday evening.
The long-time coach of the Irish had just witnessed his incredible group of athletes secure the WIAA Division 2 state championship and do it in impressive fashion, winning the title with 66 points over Milwaukee Lutheran (46) and Little Chute (42).
“I often wondered what I’d say in a moment like this,” Jones said. “These are a special group of guys. Not just because they are champions, but because of how they represent themselves and how hard they work. Sure, they’re very talented, but that only takes you so far.”
Jones’ eyes watered a bit as he continued.
“I’ve always had a special bond with all the kids, but this team we knew would be capable of some things that you dream about once or twice a lifetime.”
The Irish certainly realized their vast potential. Freedom was the favorite to win the team title coming into the state meet with a talented lineup that boasted Sam Hinz and University of Iowa recruit Collin Hofacker.
Hofacker was sensational, winning the 400 and 200 on Saturday and setting the state record in both.
He also ran the anchor leg of Freedom’s 1,600 relay team, which also placed first.
Hinz won the 800 with a time of 1:54.5 and also took second in the 1,600. He also ran the third leg of the 1,600 relay team that also featured Isaac Gonnering and Eric Schommer.
It’s the first title for Freedom and capped a sensational year for the Irish boys’ athletics program, which also won the WIAA Division 2 wrestling team title in March.