The end of this school year marks the 30th anniversary River Falls High School has played in the Big Rivers Conference. This past year, athletically, has been the best and there's not even a close second.
The Wildcats took home three conference titles in 1995-96, the most to date in one year until the senior class of 2019. This year, they hung seven conference title banners. The Wildcats won state titles in power lifting and forensics, they had two individual state champions (Nathen Fuller in wrestling and Hailee Markey in power lifting), too many state individual appearances to list in an 800-word column, and the volleyball team made the state tournament for the third year in a row.
RFHS Activities Director Rollie Hall gives partial credit to the tremendous buy-in to the speed and strength program for both boys and girls in recent years.
"It also takes a good junior class and, in some sports, even sophomores and freshmen," said Hall, who was looking dapper in his suit and tie at graduation this past Sunday.
"I think most everything can be boiled down to trust," said RFHS Football Coach David Crail when referring to success and building culture. "The players trust the coaches have their best interest at heart and the coaches trust the players to commit to the process. They know they are loved and appreciated and they trust that no matter what."
In 30 years of BRC competition, the Wildcats have never had a student-athlete win three conference team championships during the same school year. This year there were two, junior Payton Flood (football, basketball and track) and senior Adam Feyereisen (football, basketball, and baseball).
Feyereisen, nicknamed "The White Mamba," was a team captain in each sport.
"Adam is a quiet assassin both literally and figuratively," said RFHS Basketball Coach Zac Campbell. "From an outward presence, he's about as quiet as they come, but when he speaks, it's powerful."
I watched every boys' basketball game this past season (either in person or on the River Falls Sports YouTube channel). If the Wildcats had a manageable lead, the 6-foot, 4-inch point guard would do nothing but pass the ball and make sure each player on the floor was included. When it was crunch time, Feyereisen took over and the other players knew he should. Great leaders don't demand respect; they earn it. No one earned more respect from his teammates and friends than Adam Feyereisen in 2019.
"I would say the two qualities (about Adam) that stand out to me," said Crail, "is his ability to connect with his teammates and his poise."
One of the toughest things to do in high school football is return punts. Most of the time, a sure-handed wide receiver has the job and River Falls had some good ones. Feyereisen, a safety and captain of the defense, however, was back there doing the dirty work.
"Adam's poise is the best I've ever seen in an athlete that I have coached," said Crail. "He doesn't get rattled and because of this, and because his teammates trust him, they don't get rattled either."
Here's the thing about Adam Feyereisen and maybe this is his defining quality as an all-time Wildcat great. As good of a football and basketball player as he was, I don't think too many people would argue baseball is his best sport, the sport with the highest ceiling for him. In today's high school sports scene, almost every single kid in America, if they were in Adam's shoes, would've stepped down from one of the two other sports and focused more on baseball for their senior year.
Those kids would be thinking about their own future. It's not a crime, but the team is secondary. Adam was thinking about his teammates and friends at River Falls High School first. Not many people know about his agonizing knee pain he dealt with the entire year. It will surely improve 100% with correct rest and healing time, but Adam never had time to rest. He never made the excuse. His teammates in all three sports trusted he would be there and he was. Like Coach Crail said, it all boils down to trust.
Feyereisen's leadership was contagious and the entire senior class was infected with it. That's one reason there's seven conference title banners.
"He just goes about his business in an extremely competitive, yet, humble manner," said RFHS Baseball Coach Ryan Bishop,"but I have no doubt his ceiling is higher than most if he gets the opportunity to truly channel his athleticism into one sport in college."
Take this prediction to the bank. Like a quiet assassin, Adam Feyereisen will come out of nowhere as a walk-on baseball player at Minnesota State in the years to come. The Maverick coaches don't even realize what they have on the way, but they will soon enough.
Wildcat senior William Tuchtenhagen spoke at the graduation ceremony this past Sunday. His theme was "unity" and the class of 2019 has it. William, you absolutely nailed it. To Grace Redmond and Madison Priestly, I thoroughly enjoyed your dynamic duo speech, too!
In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed this entire school year. Class of 2019, thank you for a job well done. Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat.