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Meckl boldly champions new frontier

God willing, I will begin covering my 45th season of high school football next week when Oconomowoc kicks off its 2022 campaign at Watertown.

I still have vivid memories of the first game I covered. One of the things I pondered during halftime of that contest was whether or not I’d get to see a player I followed make it all the way to the professional ranks someday.

Well, it finally happened. And now it’s happened multiple times.

The most recent instance, though, wasn’t on my radar. It didn’t involve an heir apparent.

At the same time, I wasn’t shocked to hear the news, because I’d seen the athlete and competitor in question multiple times.

I’d witnessed her heart, her soul and her relentless drive.

Yes, her. That’s not a typo. Renate Meckl, a 2013 Oconomowoc High School graduate, recorded team highs in pass receptions (19), receiving yards (205) and receiving touchdowns (4) as a tight end for the Boston Renegades, who went 9-0 in winning the Women’s Football Alliance national championship last month.

Meckl’s football career wasn’t something she saw coming, but once opportunity came along, she seized it and ran with her trademark relentlessness.

And she didn’t look back until she became a champion.

“I’m absolutely loving it!” Meckl said. “It has been such a blast, and all of the travel that I had to do for practices, games, etc. was absolutely worth it to be surrounded by so many incredible athletes and coaches. The family atmosphere that this team creates is second-tonone and that is something truly special.

“I’m not certain what my future in football is going to entail, but I always try my best to immerse myself in the moment and enjoy the opportunity at hand, so that was my goal this season.

“This experience meant so much more to me than just the football. We have an opportunity as women to pave the way for the young girls who come after us and making the strides that make opportunities like this a possibility. It’s amazing to see, all throughout the country, young girls are increasingly able to play football from a young age and have those opportunities open to them.”

Meckl and her teammates had a tradition to sustain, and they tackled the challenge.

“During championship weekend, we heard some of the founders of the team talk about

See MECKL, PAGE 2B

“I’m not certain what my future in football is going to entail, but I always try my best to immerse myself in the moment and enjoy the opportunity at hand, so that was my goal this season.”

Renate Meckl Oconomowoc High School graduate, member of Boston Renegades national champion women’s football team

Renate Meckl is off to the races after catching a pass during a 2022 Boston Renegades game. Meckl, a 2013 Oconomowoc High School graduate, helped the Renegades capture the Women’s Football Alliance national championship.

Boston Renegades photo

MARK HUTCHINSON

From Page 1B

the heart and soul it took to keep this team alive and operating in the early years,” she said. “After hearing that, it’s not hard to feel extremely fortunate for the opportunities given and the dedication and grit it took from the past players and coaches to get to this point.

“The journey is certainly not over, but it’s amazing to see things moving in the right direction when it comes to women’s sports and especially women’s football.”

Meckl championed the stature of women’s sports long before this year.

She helped lead Oconomowoc’s softball team to the WIAA state tournament as a sophomore in 2011.

Two years later, she posted team highs in runs (31), hits (35), triples (9), home runs (4), total bases (69) and runs batted in (25) and was named a first-team all-state catcher by the Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association.

She received a Division-I scholarship to the University of Tennessee- Martin, where she continued her successful career and earned the opportunity to play for the German National Team in the European Championships.

Meckl graduated from UTM with honors, majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry, but she hasn’t stopped excelling both professionally and athletically.

She worked as a medical scribe in an emergency room in Milwaukee and family practice clinic in Sussex for the remainder of that year as she applied to medical school.

She did some coaching for the GRB softball program out of Madison and gave catching and hitting lessons locally, then was accepted into medical school at University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Maine, where she enrolled the following summer.

“I’m currently in my fifth year of medical school at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine (UNECOM) in Maine and am completing my last year of clinical rotations before graduation,” Meckl said. “Medical school has certainly kept me busy, but I have absolutely loved every step of the way. I have a continued passion for learning and caring for patients, and this journey has reaffirmed that I’m exactly where I’m meant to be on this path to becoming a future doctor.

“UNECOM provides education and learning opportunities that are top-notch, and I feel so fortunate to be a part of the program. I was appointed the opportunity to complete a pre-doctoral fellowship program in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) and anatomy over the past year where I was on campus working with and teaching the first- and second-year medical students in the clinical skills portion of the curriculum.

“The experience I’ve had over the past year has done wonders for my continued growth both academically, professionally and personally that I’m so grateful for. The experience does extend out my medical school track by one year, which is why I’m currently completing my fifth year.”

The adjustment has come with no regrets. In fact, it has been a blessing.

“The opportunity this past year has provided is truly irreplaceable,” Meckl said. “Over the next few months, I will be applying to residency programs to pursue physical medicine and rehabilitation as a specialty. I will find out next March where I will be completing my residency training.”

Meckl has embraced living in the Northeastern United States, too.

“I have been in Maine for the last four years and have absolutely loved it,” she said. “From the first time I visited Maine during the interview process for medical school, it felt like home.

“I always tell people that Maine is just like Wisconsin plus mountains and the ocean, and truly what can be wrong about that? There is a very Midwestern vibe in Maine and access to so many outdoor activities that I enjoy, including hiking, biking, camping, whitewater rafting, and snowboarding, so I have taken full advantage of being near the mountains.”

Meckl considered her European Championships stint the capstone of her competitive fastpitch softball career, but she has continued to play slowpitch softball in the Northeast whenever she can.

How did her emergence as a professional football standout with the Boston Renegades come about?

“When I was on my clinical rotations in small-town Skowhegan, Maine, I met a person who was a member of the team and learned about the opportunity through her,” Meckl said. “She happened to be home in Maine because of COVID and the football season being canceled so it was quite ironic how we crossed paths. I never realized that women’s tackle football even existed, much less that there was a professional team, but immediately I was intrigued to know more. I was able to travel down to Boston, where the Boston Renegades football team played to see some of the games.”

Meckl was duly impressed. “It was so incredible, even witnessing the team from the outside as a fan, to see the opportunity for women’s sports and women in football and all the amazing women who were making the best of that opportunity,” she said. “Over the last few years, women’s sports are really making big strides and gaining a larger following. Women’s football is very much a part of that wave. “It just seemed like something I couldn’t pass up if I was able to make it work in my schedule.”

With this past year being Meckl’s fellowship year, her schedule was busy, but gave a bit more flexibility than a year in clinical rotations would have.

“I attended the fall tryout sessions that were held and instantly was hooked by not only the football, but the environment that the coaches and players work so hard to create,” she said. “There is something so unique about an atmosphere in a team where everyone has different backgrounds, various careers in so many avenues, travel commitments from in-state or outof- state and all come together with a common goal of putting a successful product on the football field.

“The level of sacrifice and dedication that goes into playing a professional sport that receives no compensation truly highlights the love that everyone on the team has for the sport of football and the family like nature of this team.”

Meckl’s pursuit of football came with reservations.

“Initially, I never thought that I could make it work to travel from Maine to attend practices and games in Massachusetts,” she said. “One day when I was sorting out the logistics, I realized first that I might be slightly insane, and second, I could potentially make it work!

“My life has always revolved around operating on a busy schedule to accommodate for playing sports, and that was always my niche, so I figured this would fall right in line with that.”

The regimen was demanding, and it forced Meckl to become a road warrior.

“For the months of January through March, I was driving 2.5 hours per direction on Tuesday and Thursday to attend practices in Taunton, Massachusetts and one hour each direction on Saturdays to Revere, Massachusetts,” she said. “Needless to say, my car has put on about 19-20K miles since the start of the year. ... But I can’t say enough about how amazing it has been to be a part of this team and have the opportunity to be back in a team sport.

“Starting from the ground up, the coaches reinforced all the fundamentals and from January on, I learned the game of football in significantly more detail than I ever had before.

“There are no words to describe just how much fun I had this season with not only playing football, but getting to know my teammates as well. The culmination of the season was winning the National Championship at the Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. This was also the first nationally televised women’s football game as it was featured on ESPN2, which infinitely expanded the audience of fans throughout the country. What an unbelievable experience!”

Meckl is grateful that she had her loyal legion of family and friends following her career.

“The outpouring of support I have received from family and friends when they first heard about my football opportunity was overwhelming in the best way,” she said. “So many people had never heard that professional women’s tackle football even existed and were equally as surprised as I was, but ready to jump on board to support and follow the team.

“My parents, who did so much traveling throughout my softball career, were so excited to watch and were able to make multiple trips out to watch games. My mom especially had a blast coming to games and lived her best life this spring in traveling to games on the weekends. My teammates were extremely impressed with the travel all the way from Wisconsin. A few family members and friends made the trip to watch games as well, which was so much fun to have a cheering section from home in the stands.”

Meckl has taken some time to reflect on the roots of her athletic career since becoming a national champion. They have proven to be vital throughout her life.

“I played soccer, T-ball and baseball as a kid with the boys before being able to switch over to softball,” she said. “I never minded being paired on teams with the guys since I was always a roughand- tumble type of kid anyways, always up for adventure or sports.

“Football has always been one of my favorite sports to watch, especially following the Green Bay Packers and being the huge cheesehead that I am. I’ve always enjoyed going outside and throwing a football around with friends and family. When I was young, my dad and I would go play catch in the yard, and he was always impressed that I could throw a spiral quite consistently. I played intramural flag football during the first few years in medical school and really loved it, but never really looked into pursuing other opportunities since I didn’t know any other ones existed. My hand-eye coordination through playing many sports must have allowed me to smoothly transition from a softball catcher to a catcher of footballs instead as a receiver.”

Meckl played an enormous role in upgrading the OHS softball program.

“I have such fond memories of those days,” she said. “Being a part of the wave of change in culture and stature of the OHS softball program was incredible. “One of my favorite memories was from sophomore year beating Watertown in the sectional final to go to state. There were hundreds of people lining the field all the way around the fence, and the game was played at night, which made for such an awesome and unforgettable atmosphere, especially against one of our main rivals.

“The whole postseason run to the state tournament that year was so memorable and was made even more special since it was the first time in over 30 years. There are so many wonderful memories that I have from that time overall. Our group was able to leave a mark on the Oconomowoc softball program and that is truly an honor and privilege!”

And lo and behold, Renate Meckl is at it again.

(Mark Hutchinson may be reached at mhutchinson@conleynet. com.)

Oconomowoc’s Renate Meckl gathers in a pass during her rookie season in the Women’s Football Alliance this summer. Meckl led her team in pass receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

Boston Renegades photo

Renate Meckl, left, and one of her Boston Renegades teammates display the 2022 Women’s Football Alliance championship trophy.

Boston Renegades photo

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