LHS Athletics Through the Decade
Updated: Feb 12
Throughout the last ten years La Follette sports have not been shy of success. From hitting home runs on the baseball diamond, to winning competitive cheer competitions, to finishing first place on some of the states most elite cross country courses, La Follette athletes have brought a lot of school pride. Coach Swanson (Swanny to most) has been the head football coach at La Follette for the last six years and acted as an assistant coach for seven years before that. Swanson has been an active part of the La Follette athletics program for the last decade and has seen some of the best athletes and moments in La Follette’s sports history.
Coach Swanson is proud of the football program’s seven straight playoff appearances and multiple playoff wins. The lancers have also dominated city rival Madison East nine straight years earning themselves the Lussier cup and have maintained it with each win over the Purgolders. Swanson and his fellow coaching staff have produced many all conference winners and many players who have moved on past the high school level and continue their football careers in college. Ben Mogilevsky graduated from La Follette in 2014 and went on to play 4 years at UW-Platteville and finished his senior season as team captain. Josh Bernhagen is currently the backup long snapper at UW Madison one of the top 25 teams in the AP college football ratings. La Follette graduates Zach Oruruo and Braden Jorenby play significant time at the University of Minnesota Duluth and Tyler Duncan plays as a tight end at Aurora University just outside Chicago, Illinois. Another stand out player to continue their athletics career after high school is Katie Feller. Feller earned seven letters throughout her highschool career, four in soccer, two in volleyball, and one in football. Now she starts as a defender on the UW La Crosse soccer team.
Outside of football Coach Swanson has also seen some other impressive athletic accomplishments, “I think one of the coolest things was LaDell (Cannon) and Kiara (Lee) both winning the triple jump last year and basketball being just one game away from state,” he recalls. “The cross country team also never fails to entertain, I love watching those guys run and compete for conference titles every year,” Swanson said. It is true that the cross country team has been successful and produced some wonderful athletes over the last ten years. In 2011 Chandler Diffee became the first cross country runner in school history to win the state title as a junior and also became the first runner to compete at the Nike Cross Nationals race that same season in Oregon. As if Diffee’s impressive accolades were not enough, along came Finn Gessner. Gessner won back-to-back state titles his junior and senior year setting a blistering school record of 14:39 in the 5k. He competed at the National level twice and captured a hard earned title of Nike Cross Nationals runner up his senior year after being in the lead with 70 meters to go. Gessner even competed internationally by representing team USA in a world championship race in Scotland. Gessner also won state in 2017 and set a school record 8:47 for the 3200 meter in track and field. In addition to the individual success of the cross country team in the last ten years, Coach Nichols has also led his athletes to second place finishes at state twice and has only missed state qualification 3 years in the last decade.
In addition to football and cross country the girls softball team has also produced some high caliber athletes that continued their athletic careers after high school and into college. Tyra Turner currently plays at UW Madison on the women's softball team. She had a jaw dropping athletic career at La Follette not just in softball but all around as a 5 sport athlete. Turner participated in basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, track and field and softball in high school. She qualified for the state track meet all four years of high school and won the vault at state gymnastics her senior year. She earned second team all conference for softball her freshman, sophomore and junior years and first team all conference her senior year. She was three time offensive MVP, and was named defensive MVP as well. In 2018 Turner was named Madison sportswoman of the year and all area female athlete of the year before choosing a softball career over track and enrolling at UW-Madison for the next chapter of an amazing athletic career. Nicole Newman also had an amazing career with the La Follette softball team and then went onto an equally if not more impressive career at Drake University. Newman is considered to be the best pitcher to ever play at D1 Drake and was named first team all american for the entire NCAA. Newman leads Drake in strikeouts and wins in the history of the school and also set an NCAA record of five perfect games pitched in a season. She is now working as an assistant coach for the University of Minnesota softball team. Newman’s astounding accomplishments help fill Lancers with pride and inspire current lancers to succeed along with all of the successful Lancer athletes of the last decade. As current Lancer athletes see these inspiring figures who were once in their shoes it opens up a world of opportunity and possibilities. La Follette has dominated athletically in the last decade and they look for more accomplishments in the decades to come.