Prairie’s early achievements in Girls’ Field Hockey served as an indicator of great things to come

Did you know: Prairie used to be a powerhouse on the high school Girls’ Field Hockey scene?

With their sticks in tow, Prairie Hawks first took to the field in the fall of 1968, when the school began offering Upper School athletics. TPS offered both Middle and Upper School girls’ teams until 1996. 

Members of Prairie’s 1971 state champ squad pose for the cover of “Shoreline Leader” magazine.

During that time, the squad celebrated much success. The ‘70s marked an undefeated season (1970), followed by a State Championship (1971). The ‘80s were similarly exciting, with a Conference Championship (1980), Conference Tournament Championship (1984) and one more state title (1985). 

Coaches through the years included former TPS Athletic Director Sandy Freres, as well as longtime teacher, coach, and alumnus Tim Ellis ‘77.

Though the days of plaid skirts and knee-high socks as uniforms are long gone, the teams’ ethos of collaboration and success has carried through the decades, and still exists in today’s Athletic Department. Former coach & teacher Harold “Swanee” Swanson summed up the mission well: 

“The original goal of the Prairie athletic program was to provide an opportunity for any student who wished to participate. At the beginning there were four boys’ sports and one girls’ sport, while at the present [1990] we have seven for boys and six for girls. As for involvement, we at present have 80% of our students participating in one or more sports. Anyone who wants to participate can find a spot for him or herself.

“There has always been room on the roster on any sport at Prairie for the student who was only just interested. But in addition, if he or she so desired, that student could also ‘reach for the stars.’” 

Prairie currently offers 14 Upper School teams, in addition to four intramural and nine interscholastic teams at the Middle School level. All teams adhere to a no-cut policy. The most recent addition: the first Girls’ and Boys’ Swim teams in school history.

When Field Hockey was still a thing, Prairie competed as a member of the Wisconsin Independent Schools Athletic Association (WISAA). That membership lasted until the 2000-01 school year, when all private schools transitioned to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA). TPS’ Upper School teams still belong to the WIAA.

Some of Prairie’s peer private and independent schools around Wisconsin still field Girls’ Field Hockey teams, including University School of Milwaukee, Brookfield Academy, and Divine Savior Holy Angels (DSHA); since the WIAA does not include field hockey anywhere on its’ rosters, all of these schools offer it as a club, rather than a varsity sport.