Everyone who knows even a little about Wisconsin preps track knows the story of the Whitefish Bay boys and legendary Hall of Fame coach Chet Wangerin, who led the Blue Dukes to 16 state titles in a row between 1937 and 1952.
The Blue Dukes lead the entire state in terms of state titles with 18.
And Bay has remained good since that early run, full of high-level, state-championship talent ever since. But what it's been missing for a long time is the classically deep, well-balanced team that could win the most basic of desired goals: conference titles.
In fact, until the surprising championship effort the Blue Dukes put in May 17 at the conference meet at Nicolet, there had never been one for Bay in the 30-year history of the North Shore Conference.
The Blue Dukes would have to go back to the old Suburban Conference for the last one, and records for that are sketchy.
Even respected longtime Whitefish Bay boys track coach Bob Sorgent, who retired many years ago, is hard-pressed to come up with the last champion.
'We always had good teams,' he said, 'but we could never get past Homestead, and then Todd Brawner built that juggernaut at Germantown (in the late 1990s and through the first decade of this century).
'So this is great for the Blue Dukes. I'm so happy for the kids. These are kids who are participating in multiple sports and who dot the I's and cross the T's. Just great, just great.'
The kids thought so, too.
Top long sprinter and senior Van Bassindale, who lost the last half of his season to a leg injury, couldn't have been happier for the way the meet ended as his sophomore brother, Bo, turned the corner on the last lap of the 4x400-meter relay and edged a Homestead runner to win the event by 0.34 seconds.
Bo Bassindale and the Homestead anchor tangled legs a little on the last curve, but both kept their balance as Bo came off the turn and passed his Highlander counterpart down the stretch.
'He just has the capability of doing anything he wants in any sport any time he puts his mind to do it,' said Van Bassindale of his little brother. 'We had some talented guys, prominent guys, show up today and execute the game plan. We were so well spread out today.'
'It was tough not having him out there today,' said Bo of Van, 'but the entire team stepped up. I'm proud of everyone out there.'
So was coach Bobby Wood.
'We kept pace, got a lot of stuff done, and so many people contributed,' he said. 'Whether they finished first or third or fifth, guys just showed up.
'We've been running with a chip on our shoulders since (North Shore) relays, and it showed today. And it was good that we had Van out here today. He's the emotional support we need.'
The Blue Dukes responded to that, scoring an impressive 148 points to beat league relays champion Homestead (123).
Regional and beyond
The Blue Dukes built on that conference title with a solid effort in the WIAA regional at Germantown on Monday, May 23, and now will send qualifiers from there to the sectional meet at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 26, at Watertown.
From there, the top three in each event, plus all those whose efforts are among the best eight out of all sectionals statewide, will advance to the WIAA State Meet in La Crosse on June 3 and 4.
The rest of that meet-capping winning 4x400 relay for Bay was a perfect example of what makes this Bay team tick. It included a freshman (Jimmy Zebell), a sophomore (Bo Bassindale), a junior (Joe O'Neill) and a senior (four-sport star Macklin Kortebein).
They put the final touches on this balanced effort that included a stunning amount of field event points, including a personal-best winning effort of 13-6 from pole vaulter Michael Kirkendoll. Another win came from the 4x800 relay team of Blake Bostwick, Matt Dudek and Rhys and Rowan Koch (8:27.89).
Elsewhere, the balance showed up, especially in the field events. Another multisport athlete, Bailey Wieland, led the point-producing long- and triple-jump efforts, where the Blue Dukes went two-three-four in each event. In the long, Wieland was second at 201/4, while RayQuan Bolden was third (19-111/2) and Kortebein fourth (19-111/4).
In the triple jump, Kirkendoll was second (431/2) while Wieland was third (43-23/4) and Elijah Moore fourth (42-31/4).
Other seconds went to O'Neill in the 400 (51.3), Rhys Koch in the 800 (2:00.59) and freshman Evan Murray in the 200 dash (22.65).
Other strong efforts went to: 100, Murray, third (10.99); 400, Bo Bassindale, fourth (52.78); 300 intermediate hurdles, Wieland, third (41.29); 110 high hurdles, Wieland, third (15.51); 4x200 relay, Henry Primack, Mark Mendoza, John Kim, and Murray, third (1:34.27); high jump, Kortebein, third (5-10).
All told, Wieland would score an impressive 26 points in his four events.
Wood was stunned at the overall effort.
'It was just a total team win, very gratifying,' he said. 'With this group coming into the season we weren't sure what we were capable of, but all the guys put in the work, and it really paid off.'
Adding a new chapter to Bay's long glorious track history in the process.