Macie Davidson and Tatiana Sotka don’t have to go far for track advice.
They can just ask Mom.
The Waupaca High School cousins competed on a relay team and three individual events at the WIAA State Track & Field Championships, held June 6-7 at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Both of them have been to state before as freshmen, Sotka last year and Davidson two years ago.
Their moms, Dena Davidson and Debbie Sotka, are sisters and competed in track at WHS. Both of them qualified for state all four years under former coach Linda Kassera, who was also on hand in La Crosse rooting for the next generation of track athletes.
“I see (Tatiana) every single day, but I never get sick of her,” Macie said. “She’s my right arm and really helps me in track.”
Both made it to the medal podium at state. Davidson placed third in the girls’ Division 2 400-meter dash, while Sotka took fourth in the 200-meter dash and ninth in the 100-meter dash. They also make up half of the Comets’ 1,600-meter relay team that won its preliminary race with a school record time before finishing seventh in the finals.
“My mom tries to stay quiet even though she’s been here four times in her high school career,” Macie said. “Aunt Debbie likes to put her input there, but I don’t mind. I like it.”
“They just say, ‘Good job,’” Tatiana said. “They don’t really try to help us much.”
Having a close family member on the same team has its advantages.
“We always go help each other in the long jump,” Tatiana said. “We’re always there giving each other support if one of us doesn’t do good.”
“They listen, they work hard, they’re team leaders,” Waupaca girls’ coach Joel Kempfert said. “They’re very coachable, great kids to work with.”
Dena has watched Macie and Macie’s sister, Taylor, compete at state.
“Oh my God, this is the most amazing feeling,” she said. “It’s awesome to be all down here together rooting for the same team.”
“So proud,” Debbie said. “They both worked so hard.”
Debbie still holds the school record in the 800-meter run.
“It’s 36 years old this year,” she said. “Michelle (Petkovsek) has almost beat it twice. She almost beat it last year and she came within a second this year. It’s there. It’s ready to be broken.”
Dena and Debbie competed at state in Madison before the WIAA moved the event to La Crosse, where it has been held the past 25 years.
“There’s intense relief when you finally cross the finish line,” Debbie said. “You come home with a couple of medals and it makes it all worthwhile, Then you go back next year. It’s an extreme high.”
“I can’t imagine how Dena and Deb feel,” Kassera said. “I know how proud I am of these girls.”
Kassera helped get the Waupaca girls’ track program started.
“I can’t even begin to say how proud I am just to be able to watch what these young girls have been doing and knowing the connection with their mothers,” she said. “Back in the early ‘70s, when the pioneer coaches sat down, one of their plans was that next generation of female athletes would be able to have the support of their mothers who had gone through it. You would be able to have the support, the encouragement, the understanding. It would be perfectly fine to be competitive and want to do all this stuff. I’m seeing that vision.
“One of the coaches on this team is also an athlete that I had,” she added. “Not only are we seeing the fact that the next generation is competing, but all of a sudden, these athletes would pick up the baton and start coaching. I’m beyond words. It’s very exciting.”
Kassera coached Waupaca track teams that would go back and forth between Class A and Class B for state competition.
“Deb moved in her junior year,” she said. “This girl comes on the scene and she is just phenomenal. She had been to state at another school. We had some strong runners in that class. When she came in, it just brought it all together.
“Debbie was a graceful runner,” she said. “I can remember sitting in the stands and when she would get around that first corner and start to stretch on the back stretch, the people in the stands would say, ‘Look at that girl run, she is just running like a deer.’ Dena was a little bit more of a powerful runner.”
Debbie wasn’t sure of Tatiana would be a track athlete.
“Her father was also a track star,” she said. “He ran the 4×4 at Holmen High School at state in Madison. We fully expected her to be running. I thought she’d be playing soccer, but track took over.”
Whether Macie and Tatiana will be back at state next year remains to be seen, but if they are, their families will be in the stands to cheer them on.
“It’s a huge bond,” Debbie said. “Joel is family. Linda comes with us, she’s family. It adds to their pride and confidence.”
“These girls are making memories today that they’ll have for the rest of their lives,” she said.