After waiting 60 years to win a conference title in 2019, the DeForest boys track and field team will have to wait an extra year to defend its title.
The Norskies were set to defend their Badger North Conference title when the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic one week into the 2020 campaign.
“It has been a challenging spring, especially considering the team we had coming back,” Norski coach Joe Parker said. “Last year, we won the first conference title in 60 years and we could have legitimately defended it. We had depth across the sprints, distances, jumps and hurdles. We had a slew of guys who played supporting roles last year and were ready to step into the spotlight this year. Not only from a team perspective, but there were a number of school records that given the right conditions, we had the individuals to break.”
The Norskies had a remarkable 2019 season that culminated with the conference title. They earned the crown despite not winning a single event. It is the first time a Badger North team has won a title without an event winner.
DeForest showed its depth after garnering 136 team points to win its first conference title since claiming the Madison Suburban League crown in 1959. Reedsburg was second with 127.5 points, followed by Waunakee (117), Baraboo (106), Sauk Prairie (70), Mount Horeb (66), Beaver Dam (53.5) and Portage (24).
The Norskies went on to place seventh at the WIAA Middleton Regional and 14th at the Verona Sectional.
“It was a complete team effort last year,” Parker said. “That just built the anticipation for this year.”
DeForest had Jon Roth qualify for state in the 3,200. He ran his way to 17th place.
Roth was one of 16 seniors who were expected to have big seasons this spring. The senior group also includes Max Bashel, Logan Bierman, Alonzo Blevins, Jahyl Bonds, Ben Brandl, Marlon Cystrunk, Brandon Hundt, Joshua Kelly, Will Koenen, Casey Konkol, Nathan Neeley, Brennan O’Brion, Adam Szepieniec, Shane Van Dommelen and Kennedy Wallace.
“This group did a great job building on their strengths over the course of their careers,” Parker said. “Many of them offered support roles in the last two years and were poised to peek in their events this year. For several of them, we were finally zeroing in on what their bodies could handle over the course of a full season and having learned from their injuries, I was really hoping they would shine this year.”
The Norskies got in a week of practice before the season was put on hold. Parker continued to communicate with his team.
“We send weekly workouts to our kids by event,” Parker said. “It’s tough though because a season worth of workouts build from the preseason to competition to championships. It has been like designing preseason workouts for 10 weeks when that part of the season usually goes for four to five weeks.”
Parker is hopeful the workouts will help the underclassman progress for the future.
“Our community does not have a community track program, so our underclassman often spend their first years just learning what track is all about,” Parker said. “We have lost that experience, which will only heighten the need to learn quickly in the next few years.”
Parker is not sure what next season will look like, but he is excited to get back on the track.
“I’m cautiously optimistic we will get the chance to compete again next spring,” Parker said.