Not many athlete mixtapes are likely to feature much alto saxophone. Year-round athlete Marshall Rushton would be a suitable exception.
The West Allis Hale junior in 2016-17 qualified for state in three sports, not to mention the state solo/ensemble showcase with his fellow saxophonists. It was a whale of a season, and as he looks forward to his senior year, Rushton wants far more.
“The state experiences, I just want to make them better for next year,” Rushton said. “All three of them.”
The state qualifier in cross country, wrestling and track and field doesn’t include music in that statement, largely because he scored as well as he possibly could. Playing a piece called “Cotillion,” Rushton was part of a team of saxophonists that achieved a perfect score in qualifying and at the state competition in solo/ensemble.
He’s been playing the instrument since sixth grade.
“It’s relaxing, I guess,” Rushton said.
When he wasn’t jamming on the sax, he was making rapid improvements in his other endeavors. In his first year running cross country, Rushton ran a personal-best 16:50.88 at the South Milwaukee sectional, earning the final individual qualifier spot for the state meet from that event.
“The one that came as a surprise to me was cross country,” Rushton said. “It was my first year, basically, running 3.2 miles, just longer distances at a fast pace. I did pretty bad during conference, but then I ended up PRing (at sectional), running 16:50 to get to state, a PR by maybe four seconds. I had to catch this last guy right at the end with maybe 800 (meters) to go. (My coaches) said I had a pretty good chance, and they were right, so as soon as I saw that guy, I was thinking I had to get him.”
He took 144th at state with at time of 17:42.33 at Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids.
"This is his first time up at the elite level for running," said Hale track and field coach John Dewitt, an assistant with the cross-country team and one of the guiding forces that brought Rushton to running. "A lot of times the first experience is not necessarily a positive one. A lot of runners get there and don’t have quite the state meet they want the first time up. We’re confident that after another season of hard work, he’s going to be mentally and physically prepared to take that next step."
When the winter season began, Rushton had the opportunity to pair up in practice with eventual state champion Peyton Mocco, but a surprising regional loss to Brandon Harrison of Mukwonago put Rushton in an unfavorable draw at the sectional.
But Rushton downed top-seeded Evan Sinda of Muskego in the sectional semifinal, then won a rematch with Harrison in the final by a resounding 16-6 score at West Allis Central.
“Marshall has quite the drive for things,” Hale wrestling coach Randy Ferrell said. “He’s a standout kid. For us, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that he qualify (for state). Coming in and doing it in the fashion he did, he had a heck of a sectional tournament. I don’t think he was very happy with how his state tournament went. He was a little sick going into it; he caught a flu bug and it didn’t work out as well as he hoped.”
Rushton lost his only match at 138 pounds in the state event in Madison by major decision.
But for the second time this year, Rushton was able to bounce right back from a disappointing state tournament and compete in the next one.
He took second in the 800 meters at the West Allis Central track and field sectional in 1:55.91 and reached state, with top-three finishers in each sectional advancing. He had the seventh-best sectional time across the state but ultimately took 23rd in La Crosse at 2:05.03
“As soon as someone makes it there, there’s a bigger goal they want, like doing better at state, so that’s mine for the upcoming season,” Rushton said. “I know I can already make it there, so I just want to perform at my best when I’m there."
It was just his second year running track and field; he stuck to football and wrestling as a freshman before adding running in both the fall and spring.
"I personally was a wrestler and a runner and I saw the talent he had on the mat and helped recruit him for the track," Dewitt said. "He’s simply a great young man and a heck of an athlete ... but more than that, he busted his butt this summer, put in the miles and put in the extra workouts and did what he could to be successful in all his sports. When he continues to work year round, even though they’re not the same sport, that just makes him a better athlete overall and leads to higher performances."
Rushton was also named honorable-mention Academic All-State by Crossface Magazine, a publication that focuses on wrestling. All four Hale wrestlers, in fact, found themselves somewhere on the lists, and Mocco had the highest score in the junior/senior division across Wisconsin.
“We love to have kids in our athletics at Nathan Hale, and we love to see those multi-sport athletes,” Ferrell said. “In the day and age of specialized sports, it’s nice to have that throwback kid that’s able to succeed in multiple sports.”