Oconto Falls grad fulfills dream of running in college

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Successful running career coming to a close

Greg Bates, Times Herald correspondent

University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point cross-country and track and field runner Bailey Wolf was a 2016 graduate of Oconto Falls High School. She qualified for the WIAA Division 2 state meet with the Panthers all four years, and continues her success at UW-Stevens Point.

Bailey Wolf was always a confident runner while at Oconto Falls.

She made four trips to the WIAA Division 2 cross-country state meet, but when she got to the collegiate level, Wolf had to really step up her running.

Wolf, who graduated from Oconto Falls in 2016, had a great freshman season on the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point squad and placed 39th in the NCAA Division III Midwest Regional.

Wolf was the Pointers’ No. 2 runner most of her first season. The shift from high school to college running happened very smoothly.

“It was a hard transition for her and I thought she handled it well,” University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point coach Brett Witt said. “As coaches, you don’t put a lot of expectations on freshmen because they are going through some transitions. You just never know with freshmen when the light bulb’s going to go on. We were fortunate that we needed some people to come in and help us out last year, and she, as a freshman, was able to come in and do that.”

The biggest change in running in college was the extra mileage needed to get prepared for races. At Oconto Falls, Wolf generally logged between 25 and 30 miles per week during the summer. Preparing for college, Wolf put in about 50 miles a week and hit the weight room twice a week.

“Coming in freshman year, I guess I didn’t know how many miles I should be putting in during the summer and how I would do on the team,” Wolf said. “After my freshman season, I kind of figured out what kind of miles I needed to be putting in and where I needed to be on the team. I think that gave me a little boost to work even harder in the offseason.”

Wolf improved each meet last season — placing in the top seven on her team every time — coming in 35th overall at the conference championship in 23 minutes, 27 seconds, and 39th at the Midwest Regional (22:54). She beat 20 girls at regionals that had taken her down the previous race at conference.

Wolf, who always dreamed of running in college, had to practice with the boys team in high school because her times were so much better than her teammates. However, in college, Wolf has had girls to run with who have similar times.

“It’s just so much easier in practice to just push yourself and be able to run with a group of girls all the time,” Wolf said. “Also, having that is a competitive drive in the meet and the race, it’s also you want them to be up there with you. You want to try to stick with them, so it’s motivating.”

“Anybody that’s done any running in their life knows that some days you’ve got it and some days you don’t,” Witt said. “That being said, it’s a lot easier to follow than lead, and so on a day you just don’t feel like you’ve got it and be able to tuck behind your teammates and let them pull you through makes an enormous difference.”

Wolf, who also competes on the UW-Stevens Point track and field team, has also had a successful sophomore campaign for the Pointers. At the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships in Whitewater on Oct. 28, Wolf was her team’s top finisher, coming in 14th overall in 22:54.5.

Wolf will compete in the Midwest Regional in Rock Island, Illinois, on Nov. 11. She is hoping to earn all-regional honors and advance to the NCAA Championships, which will be held in Elsah, Illinois, Nov. 18.

Two years into her college career, Wolf feels like she’s met her expectations she set as a freshman.

“I think coming into college, I just wanted to improve,” Wolf said. “I didn’t want to get to college and plateau and not have my times drop at all. I have been improving and I feel like I still have something left to give and improve still.”

Wolf is fortunate she is hitting her stride as a collegiate runner, but it’s unfortunate her career will be coming to an end. After this year, Wolf will be transferring to the University of Minnesota because it is one of only a handful of schools in the country to offer a mortuary science program.

“Before I chose what college I was going to, I knew that I would eventually have to end up transferring,” Wolf said. “Coming to a small school gave me the opportunity to run for two more years.”

“She was very up front with what she wants to study; she wants to be a mortician,” Witt said. “There aren’t many schools that offer track and cross-country where you can study to be a mortician. She needed to go somewhere for two years to get her schooling started. We’d rather have her for two years rather than no years.”

Since Minnesota is Division I for cross country and Wolf will be busy studying for her major classes, running isn’t an option when she transfers. Wolf will walk away from cross-country satisfied with what she accomplished since starting the sport in fourth grade.

“I think I’ll be happy with where I went with my running career and knowing I at least took the opportunity to try running for two more years in college,” said Wolf, who might get involved in a running club at Minnesota.

However, it’s going to be tough for Wolf not to compete in cross-country knowing she still has two more years left of eligibility.

“I don’t think I’m ready to be done running, but it’s kind of what I have to do,” Wolf said.