Sophomore runner focused on improving

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Wolf had successful freshman year

Greg Bates, Times Herald Correspondent

Complacent isn’t a word associated with Bailey Wolf.

One year removed from making her mark as one of the top-10 girls’ cross-country runners in Oconto Falls High School history, Wolf is trying to get even better as she enters her sophomore season.

Wolf trained hard during the offseason. She dedicated herself to the sport.

“She went out last summer and just kind of ran and ran, but I think this year she had more of a purpose to her running,” Oconto Falls cross-country coach Lon Ludemann said.

That purpose is to constantly improve.

“I think I’ve known since I was little I’ve been a good athlete, but now it’s getting to the point where if I want to be better than everyone else I need to really work during the offseason and put in the time,” Wolf said.

During the summer, Wolf logged a lot of miles. She even trained for her first half marathon and ran in the Dances With Dirt Devil’s Lake Marathon in Baraboo. Wolf placed eighth out of 162 females and was third in the 15- to 19-year-old division, finishing in 2:04.19; she averaged 9 minutes, 28 seconds per mile.

Wolf believes that training and running the half marathon built up her endurance, and will pay dividends this season in cross-country.

“She knows what it takes to get to the level as far as conditioning,” Ludemann said. “She’s got talent — some people have it, some people don’t. If you add the fact that she’s got talent and she works at it, to me that’s what makes her so good.”

Wolf had a phenomenal start to her varsity career a year ago, finishing out of the top 10 — coming in 11th — just once in a regular-season meet. She was first in one meet, runner-up in three others and placed third twice. Wolf logged her personal-best time of 15:21 during a late-season meet in Reedsburg.

“I hope to get to the 15s this year just so I can gradually cut it every single year,” Wolf said.

Ludemann said Wolf could easily drop 20 seconds during a meet if the conditions, the course and the competition are all favorable. Wolf believes she can take off some time if she just focuses entirely on the task at hand.

“I think a lot of it is just in my head of what I can and can’t do,” Wolf said. “I think if I just put my mind to it that I can do it.”

Wolf enters her second season with the sixth-best 4,000-meter time in Oconto Falls’ girls cross-country history. If Wolf shaves off a mere six seconds from her personal-best time, she will climb into fourth place. Trina Hobyan holds the school record after a blazing run of 14:42 in 1999.

It’s quite remarkable that Wolf stands alone in sixth place and still has three years to log the fastest time.

“I think it only gives me room to improve that I’m the sixth and I can slowly get to that No. 1 spot,” Wolf said.

A bigger goal for Wolf this year is returning to the WIAA Division 2 state meet. Last season, Wolf finished 38th overall with a time of 15:47.64.

Running at the largest meet Wolf had ever been a part of was a learning experience in itself. However, she also took away a few other valuable nuggets. Wolf jumped out to a strong start and was in 24th place after the first mile of the race, clocking in at 5:59. Despite the quick beginning, Wolf tailed off at the end.

“I think I definitely realized my first half of the race is my stronger suit,” Wolf said. “I kind of have to work on my kick, so the last mile of a race I can be more consistent.”

Wolf worked on her kick during the summer and is trying to perfect her sprinting during the final 100 meters of a race.

Ludemann, who has been watching Wolf run since third or fourth grade, believes she can have a better season than she did last year. With her soaking up valuable experience of running in big meets, including state, Wolf knows what to expect this season.

“I think physically she’s in better condition this year than she was last year and I think she’ll admit she’s put in more miles over the summer than a year ago,” Ludemann said. “Physically, I think she is ready. Mentally, she’s just going to have to wait until she gets into the races. She’s got to challenge herself every time, and she does.”