Coaches in any sport love it when seniors display beyond-their-years maturity.
Shorewood senior track ace Jacob Goldberg is just such a senior, having had to grow up a lot this year for many reasons, personally and athletically.
And he ended his career in the best possible fashion at a rain-spattered, storm-delayed WIAA State D2 track meet in La Crosse last weekend, as he finished second in a school-record effort in the 800, anchored the 4x800 relay team to a state championship and then passed several runners at the end to lead an all-senior, two-time defending state champion 4x400 relay to another runner-up spot in the final race of the meet.
The 4x800 state title was the first that coach Dominic Newman can remember in 15 years of the distance-rich tradition of the Shorewood track program, and he was more than impressed with his Oklahoma-bound star, as Goldberg clearly left the team wearing his Greyhound red proudly on his sleeve.
'I cannot say enough about Jacob's leadership,' said Newman. 'A week before the (WIAA) sectional he went up to the rest of the guys (who would be on the 4x400 relay team) and said 'I care about you guys. I know I could possibly make the podium in the 400, but I have faith and trust in you guys and I really want to defend that (relay) title.''
Afterward, Goldberg said he couldn't have done it any other way.
'I have to admit that last race (the 4x400) was one of my best races ever,' he said. 'I had a pretty good idea that I could get third but I wasn't sure if I could get second. It just ended a great season in a great way with these guys.'
Behind Goldberg, the defending state D2 team champion Greyhounds earned a tie for fifth in the team standings with 33 points, as the distance giants of Monroe ran away with team honors with 63 points.
Goldberg began his weekend on Friday, June 6, with a second to Monroe's Ethan Moehn in the 800, breaking the school record he set the previous year with a 1:53.56. Moehn won the race in 1:52.16 beginning an impressive sweep of the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 races.
'I didn't quite feel right,' he said. 'I'd thought I'd do a little better, but he (Moehn) is a heck of an athlete.' Teammate Sam Shields turned in a commendable effort in the slow heat of the 800 with a personal best of 1:58.44 to take 13th overall.
Goldberg then teamed with Anthony Brewer, Taylor Dennis and Jack Mauer to earn the sixth spot going into the finals of the 4x400 relay (3:23.26). As expected, the powerhouse Grafton 4x400 broke Shorewood's year-old state record in the event by .58 of a second with a 3:19.04 trials mark.
'We were proud to own that record for exactly 364 days,' chuckled Newman, who had all but conceded the mark earlier in the season when he saw how fast the Blackhawks were. 'They're an inspiration to us.'
Saturday got off to a slower than expected start as thunderstorms rolled through the La Crosse area and led to an unprecedented five hour delay.
The Greyhound 4x800 relay team of Charlie Stahl, James Douglas, Mauer and Goldberg were the second race up on the program, and they did not let down, building a huge lead and letting Goldberg come home in something of a victory lap, taking two-plus seconds off their own school record and winning by more than four seconds in 7:51.04.
'We're really happy with that title,' said Newman. 'We knew that when Moehn decided to go the route he did (the three open races) that would open the door for us. We finally achieved a feat that had been haunting us for many years. We finally won and we broke a difficult school record too.'
The Greyhounds didn't feel like anyone had done them any favors.
'We've been working so hard on that race all year,' said Goldberg, 'and we finished where we thought we should have been. When I cross that finish line, it felt like everything had come together. It's the greatest feeling you could have, winning something like that.'
It was a marvelous event for everyone.
'Coming back with a chance to win during our senior year makes all of us really happy,' said Stahl.
But it was up to the first-year track junior Douglas to come up with the joke of the day, at the expense of much-beloved sprint coach Eric Mathews.
'He gave us a pump-up speech today,' Douglas said. 'He said 'Strike like lightning!' and here we are with a lightning delay (laughs).'
In the 3,200 later in the day, Stahl picked up another state medal, earning third in 9:24.71 as sophomore Sam Kuhlmann faded a bit to eighth in 9:40.13.
That left it up to the 4x400 relay to finish things off on a right note. Both Brewer (pulled muscles) and Dennis (foot and pulled muscle) were not quite healthy until the end of the season. The relay turned in a fast time at the Woodland Conference meet and that convinced Goldberg to lend a hand to see how far the team could go.
And it went a long ways. The team was in solid position after the first two legs but then Brewer took it up a notch in the third leg and gave Goldberg a chance to do some something special on the anchor.
Which he succeeded in doing as he passed Little Chute and Mount Horeb runners in the final stretch to finish second to Grafton (3:21.74) with a clocking of 3:23.37.
'We really had only three weeks to come together and we did it,' said Dennis. 'This feels so good. We hadn't been running well all season but once we got to state we had to give it our all.'
And that's all Newman could have asked for.
'On so many levels this was a success,' said Newman. 'It was a long and trying season with the weather, but the kids succeeded.'