After helping set a WIAA Division 3 state track and field record in 2018, Will Kaashagen graduated from Cambridge High School and went to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater without much of a desire to continue his track career.
Kaashagen took one year off from formal track and field competition before he tried out for the 2019-20 Warhawks lineup. He excelled and was named an All-American after his performances in the NCAA Division III indoor season.
“I kind of wanted a break from it and second semester I wanted to go back out for it because I was missing the camaraderie and going to practice everyday and hanging out with people,” Kaashagen said. “Meets are great (but) it’s the practices where you get to know people and have the most fun.”
As winter started thawing, Kaashagen started to get the familiar itch to return to track, but it was already too late for the 2018-19 season. He played intramural basketball, spent time in the weight room and trained in multiple Cambridge track practices before trying out for the 2019-20 UW-Whitewater track and field team where he specializes in the 400-meter run. He ran the 400 for the Warhawks in the distance medley along with David Fassbender, Clinten Woerishofer and Brian Kuehl.
Kaashagen was familiar being surrounded by speedsters after spending his high school career on relays with Rudy Hommen, a wide receiver at UW-Oshkosh, Spencer DeForest, a defensive back at Illinois State, as well as Gus Kaiser and Spencer Currie, who were members of the distance medley relay for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee during the indoor season.
Kaashagen, DeForest, Hommen and Riley Olson set the 800-meter relay record at the 2018 state meet in 1 minute, 29.4 seconds as the Blue Jays won the state title that season.
Even then, though, Kaashagen was unaccustomed to the challenges and anxieties he faced competing in the fall of 2019.
“It was pretty nerve wracking. All fall we were practicing and everyone was talking about the cuts that they make for the team,” said Kaashagen of his experience trying out for UW-Whitewater in the fall. “No one has a guaranteed spot because some of the seniors were talking about guys who were super good years before and they didn’t run very well and ended up getting cut.”
But Kaashagen persevered despite taking a full season off from formal competition.
“I went from not knowing if I was going to make the team and then getting to where I was was pretty astounding to me,” he said.