Jenna Lovejoy didn’t mince words: She is disappointed the last few weeks of her senior year are gone.
From a student standpoint, the Fort Atkinson senior is disappointed she is missing out on final opportunities to hang out with friends and say farewells because the coronavirus pandemic abruptly halted their senior year.
But from an athletics standpoint, Lovejoy is among three college-bound track and field athletes at Fort Atkinson who are ready for the challenges that lie ahead in their careers. At the same time, though, those athletes shared disappointment in not being able to show off their hard work from the offseason.
“I’ve been training for track specifically since the day after state,” said Maddie Hansen, who qualified for state as a junior. “I took a little bit of a break for swim season, but I went to a few winter meets and those went well. I was in line for a promising season. All the work I put into track and to not have a chance to prove that my training and hard work has paid off.”
Under normal circumstances, Fort Atkinson would have been competing in WIAA Division 1 sectionals May 29 with a chance to go to the state meet on the line.
Lovejoy intends to compete at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, an NCAA Division III program; Hansen is committed to the Air Force Academy and plans to compete in jumps for the Falcons; and Lauren Bilau is committed to competing in the pole vault at the University of Wisconsin.
As a junior, Hansen set the school record in triple jump after clearing 36 feet, 6 inches. She was tied for second place in the high jump and in fourth place in the long jump at Fort Atkinson.
“I was expecting to break them,” Hansen said. “Leaving my name up on all three spots in the gym is something that probably hits me the most. But I keep telling myself to be positive and take this time to be better.”
Bilau, who plans to major in biomedical engineering, already set the school record in the pole vault. She wasn’t able to qualify for state as a junior after making it her sophomore season.
“Since I started my sophomore year, I had no idea until after my junior season I could pole vault in college,” Bilau said. “That’s when the UW coach contacted me. I didn’t really think about it. I joined pole vaulting because I was a retired gymnast and they told me gymnasts are sometimes good at pole vault. I never really thought about doing it collegiately until last season.”
In the off-season, Bilau was able to push her personal record up to 12 feet and secure an offer to compete in the Big Ten.
Bilau and Lovejoy each were in a group of Fort Atkinson athletes that narrowly missed out on state berths last year and had intentions of improving to reach that pinnacle.
Kraymer Gladem will conclude his Fort Atkinson career with three spots in the top 10 in school history: He’s sixth in the triple jump, tied for seventh in the long jump and 10th in the high jump. It’s possible Gladem could have earned a spot at state in any of those three events.
Hayden Zachgo also would have had a chance to qualify for state — He has the sixth spot in school history in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles.
They weren’t able to improve on those marks.
There are positives in the virus, though. Hansen believes being away from organized workouts benefits her because she can outwork her competition.
Bilau said she knows she needs to improve her sprinting form before taking off with the pole to vault over the bar. Though boring and tedious, she said she’s made the most of the time away by focusing on her altering her long-distance running form to be better groomed for sprinting.
For Lovejoy, the positives are that she’s been able to spend more time running with her black lab named Culpepper. Ironically, the aspect of running Lovejoy wanted to improve most between seasons was finishing races strong. She’ll have to wait for college, where she plans to pursue a degree in physical education, to display her closing times.
“That’s always been one of my weaker points. I can run the race evenly and in the last stretch, I need to find another gear and that’s something I worked on a lot,” said Lovejoy, who is a three-time qualifier for the WIAA Division 1 state cross country meet, but never made it to state in track. “I had been doing cross fit all winter to help that. I was excited to show I had improved, but I guess I don’t get to show that until next fall.”