HOLCOMBE — Courtney Lundmark and Sara Stender each had plenty of reason to smile on Friday.
But perhaps their biggest grins of the day came after the Lake Holcombe duo inked college commitments to continue their athletic careers at the next level. Lundmark signed to play volleyball at Viterbo University while Stender signed to compete in track and field at St. Norbert College.
Both Lundmark and Stender have been a part of Lake Holcombe’s most successful sports teams in recent years and will get the chance to carry that over into college.
Staying with the game
Like a lot of people, Lundmark fell in love with her sport of choice at an early age. Starting with volleyball in fourth grade, it was a sport Lundmark learned to love quickly and never grew tired of.
Instead, she kept working to get better and was a big part of what has been a simply dominant four-year stretch for the Chieftains in East Lakeland Conference play. Lake Holcombe went 46-2 in ELC action during the previous four seasons and the program is currently on a 36-game conference winning streak.
Lundmark’s impact on the volleyball court hasn’t just come inside the walls of the gymnasiums at Lake Holcombe. She’s also been active with traveling teams and that extra effort helped get her noticed by one of the premier programs in the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics.
“She’s really motivated and I think that’s been her biggest asset all the way through,” Lake Holcombe coach Beth Meddaugh said. “She always had this goal of playing in college in mind and she worked hard all the way through to achieve that. It’s exciting to see her do that.”
Lundmark is a two-time first team All-Chippewa County team selection that had 234 kills and 265 digs last fall after moving positions on the floor, becoming a middle hitter and defensive specialist. That sort of versatility could serve Lundmark well at the next level, as she said she hasn’t been told yet by V-Hawk coaches where they plan on playing her.
She just knows she’s anxious to make an impact for a Viterbo squad that last season advanced to the NAIA National Tournament semifinals for a second year in a row and tallied 40 wins, the second-highest total in the history of the program.
“It’s a beautiful campus and it’s a great school and it had my major which was very important,” Lundmark said. “And obviously the volleyball program has an unbelievable record, they’re back-to-back national semifinalists. That really did it for me. The coaches and the players were very welcoming.”
Lundmark joins a program led by Chippewa Falls native Ryan DeLong, who just finished his 11th season leading the V-Hawks. She also joins Lake Holcombe graduate Brittney Hattamer in the Viterbo athletic family. Hattamer, a 2012 graduate of Lake Holcombe, is a senior on the V-Hawk women’s basketball team.
Lundmark plans on majoring in health care and wellness management with the goal of one day working in health care administration. Lundmark could also compete for the V-Hawk track and field team, but said she hasn’t made a decision on the possibility of being a multi-sport athlete at Viterbo yet.
Stender will head to St. Norbert to compete for the school’s track and field program, a team that she said has felt right since the program first contacted her last summer.
“They’ve welcomed me with open arms already and I felt really at home,” Stender said.
Stender had a successful junior season last year for the Lake Holcombe/Cornell track and field team that included a trip to sectionals in the long jump, despite competing with a fractured foot that limited her action in 2015. Stender was a conference champion in the long and triple jump her freshman and sophomore seasons.
“It was painful but I actually did pretty well,” Stender said of competing last year.
“We thought she was out for the year but the doctor gave her permission to long jump,” Lake Holcombe/Cornell co-coach Jacob Ebner said.
Stender’s first venture into the triple jump in middle school was initially supposed to be a one-time thing, according to Ebner. Stender competed in the event despite not being too thrilled about it — but she stuck with it and now holds the middle and high school record for the event.
“She’s been a leader by example in both sports I’ve coached her in,” Ebner said of Stender, who he has also coached in cross country.
Stender took second place at regionals and 10th at sectionals. She’s already off to a strong start this season taking fifth in the long jump at the Blue Devil Open indoor meet at UW-Stout earlier this spring. Stender followed that up by taking first place in the triple jump and fifth in the long jump at Thursday’s McDonell Indoor Invite at UW-Eau Claire, a meet where the Knights swept the boys and girls team championships.
Stender has expanded her event repertoire this spring in an effort to familiarize herself with the pentathon, a competition that includes a blend of hurdling, throwing, jumping and running events.
As for the rest of her spring, Stender said she has eyes on making it past sectionals to the WIAA state track and field meet in La Crosse.
“She’s always working hard and trying her best at everything she does,” Ebner said.
Stender said she plans on majoring in medical biology and wants to become a physician’s assistant.