East Troy High School’s Austin Depuydt competes in the WIAA Division 2 cross country subsectional. Depuydt took first place with a time of 17:22, advancing to the Deerfield Sectional, where he placed fourth and punched his ticket to the state meet last weekend.

Runners compete at state, Depuydt takes 14th

By Dan Truttschel

Correspondent

In a season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, East Troy High School senior Austin Depuydt made the most of what he was given.

Competing at Saturday’s WIAA Division 2 State Cross Country Meet at Colby High School, Depuydt turned in a 14th-place effort to close out his career.

Depuydt posted a time of 17:04.05. Edgewood senior Leo Richardson was the individual meet medalist with a winning time of 15:47.05.

“Austin ran a really strong race at state,” East Troy coach Ryan Vodnik said. “He went out with the first handful of runners, stuck with them, jockeyed positions with a group, and ultimately, took eighth in his wave.

“The competition in that wave was good, but we didn’t know how good it was until we learned he’d taken 14th overall in the three heats combined.”

La Crosse Aquinas won the team title with 96 points, followed by Kiel with 106, Freedom with 112, Valders with 118 and Little Chute with 121.

Depuydt earned his spot at state with a first-place finish at the East Troy Subsectional (17:22) and a fourth-place effort at the Deerfield Sectional (17:08.21).

Before those two races, he had only competed one other time, Vodnik said, because of the pandemic.

“Austin threw down an amazing time for that (Timberlee) course to win the subsectional race,” he said. “He ran another really good race for our sectional, where he qualified for state.

“It was a loaded sectional, which definitely helped him prepare for the state race. All that said, his performance (this season) consisted of him having to prepare himself for elite competition without the races to do so, making his feats that much more impressive.”

Also competing at the subsectional for the boys were junior Jonah Edwards, 26th (20:00); freshman Kaden Fridley, 27th (20:03); sophomore Jonathan Kurth, 37th (20:39); junior Anthony Barney,47th (22:24); and junior Noah Lehnert, 49th (22:35).

On the girls’ side, sophomore Autumn Larson was 13th (23:02), followed by junior Riley Pluess, 34th (25:33); senior Claire Labecki, 43rd (27:00); senior Jordyn Gulig, 44th (27:37); and senior Julie Chase, 45th (28:54).

COVID challenges

Vodnik, who was assisted by his wife, Helen Holtz, said they both were pleased with how their teams dealt with all the challenges presented by the pandemic.

“COVID definitely caused a lot of uncertainty for our season,” he said. “We raced less than we normally would have. That’s really it, though. We were fortunate to have an awesome group, which made the season go extremely well.”

With just two official races on the schedule, finding other ways to keep their teams motivated and focused became a key part of the season, Vodnik said.

And the runners on both teams responded.

“As a coaching staff, we couldn’t have asked for a better, more resilient group of athletes,” he said. “There’s nothing in their attitudes or demeanor that conveyed any sense that anything was different.

“From a training standpoint, we didn’t let off the gas pedal at all. The practices were as rigorous as they would have been for any other season. We did throw in more fun activities, events or games that incorporated running to mix it up, and the athletes really just bought into everything, making every day an absolute pleasure to be there.”

 

Vodnik, who was assisted by his wife, Helen Holtz, said they both were pleased with how their teams dealt with all the challenges presented by the pandemic.

“COVID definitely caused a lot of uncertainty for our season,” he said. “We raced less than we normally would have. That’s really it, though. We were fortunate to have an awesome group, which made the season go extremely well.”

With just two official races on the schedule, finding other ways to keep their teams motivated and focused became a key part of the season, Vodnik said.

And the runners on both teams responded.

“As a coaching staff, we couldn’t have asked for a better, more resilient group of athletes,” he said. “There’s nothing in their attitudes or demeanor that conveyed any sense that anything was different.

“From a training standpoint, we didn’t let off the gas pedal at all. The practices were as rigorous as they would have been for any other season. We did throw in more fun activities, events or games that incorporated running to mix it up, and the athletes really just bought into everything, making every day an absolute pleasure to be there.”

 

 
 

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