Like anyone involved in spring sports, DeForest girls track coach Chris Smith was devastated when the 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is no way to ever measure or catalogue how the loss of spring sports will affect everyone who would have been involved,” Smith said. “Removing the opportunity for physical, emotional, and spiritual growth is a setback for sure. Then you think about the relationships that were not allowed to develop. Those challenging moments in practice and competition will have to wait. We certainly feel for all of the athletes for delaying all of the experiences we gain during a season. It’s just been tough for all of us to accept.”
The Lady Norskies got a week of practice in before the WIAA put an end to all spring sports.
From what he saw in the opening week, Smith was expecting another solid season for the Norskies.
“I think we envisioned a typical season for us as a team,” Smith said. “One where we could challenge for a top place finish if we developed inexperienced athletes and stayed healthy.”
Last season, the Lady Norskies placed third behind Waunakee (199.5) and Baraboo (154) with 92 points at the Badger North Conference Meet. Beaver Dam (70.5), Sauk Prairie (57), Reedsburg (53), Mount Horeb (46) and Portage (27) rounded out the standings.
The Norskies placed sixth at the WIAA Division 1 Middleton Regional and 12th at the Verona Sectional.
“Maybe we were a bit slow to develop but by season’s end, we were really coming on and seeing some terrific performances,” Smith said. “We had a few sectional qualifiers who surprised us a bit.”
This year’s DeForest squad included seniors Megan Ackerman, Paige Beerkercher, Sydney Hahn, Jenasea Hameister, Alyssa Laufenberg, Angelique Maistner, Taylor McPherson and Madalena Oliveira.
“We have three four-year athletes leading this senior class,” Smith said. “Those leaders have been instrumental in the success of our program the past four seasons. While this is a small senior class, they will most certainly be missed next year. We definitely had some high hopes for the finish to their bright track and field careers.”
Ackerman, Hahn and Laufenberg were all four-year letter winners for the Lady Norskies.
After in-person practices were cancelled, Smith provided at-home workouts for his athletes.
“We have been using the skyward email software to send out regular communications with workouts and notices,” Smith said.
Smith is hopeful the at-home workouts will help the underclassmen progress in their careers, but he knows it is nearly impossible to replace an entire lost season.
“The growth is definitely delayed for all the underclassman,” Smith said. “You cannot replace competition experience and the daily work within a group with individual workouts and realize the same level of growth. We just have to accept that the conditions are typically the same for everyone, in all schools, on all teams. The elite athletes will come back and still show signs of a high level of performance, just not as consistent. It will be very interesting to see how long it takes for the bulk of the athletes to catch up.”
The WIAA is allowing sports teams to have a 30-day contact period this summer, but the Badger Conference will not be taking part.
When the track season resumes next season, Smith expects everyone involved to have a change in their outlook.
“I think we’ll see a greater appreciation of how fortunate we are to have school sponsored sports,” Smith said. “At least for a time, I think we’ll be able to get athletes to really take advantage of each day, each practice after realizing it can all be taken away through no control of our own. We’re just praying that we’ll be able to conduct our sports on a somewhat normal basis.”