Osage’s Wolf looks forward to challenge of running four distance events in final state meet
Osage senior Sara Wolf has an engine that keeps on running.
In the fall, she ran cross country and played volleyball for the Indians, found time to do some running workouts over the winter with the cross country team while playing basketball and she kept moving around the track this spring and became a state qualifier in four different events- the maximum number allowed for any athlete.
In fact, Wolf will be running the maximum number of laps any athlete could run at the Class 3 State Meet in Jefferson City on Saturday. As a state qualifier in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs, and as a member of the 4x800 relay team, she will run a total number of 16 laps around the track for an equivalent of four miles before her day and career at Osage comes to an end.
“I’m super excited about it, especially to go with the group of girls I’m going with. It is just kind of a last little ‘hoorah’ that I get to keep going after school is out and I’ve already graduated,” Wolf said of her final high school event.
“Just a little longer, they can’t get rid of me yet,” she added jokingly.
The senior, who started running with the Osage cross country runners as a fourth grader, will continue a cross country and track and field career at Saint Louis University. But, looking back over her career, it may be easy to see why Wolf is in not exactly in a rush to be leaving.
Her athletic achievements include an All-State selection in volleyball this past fall and she also earned All-State honors as an 800 runner by finishing sixth in the state as a sophomore in 2019- the last time there was a track and field season after the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the 2020 campaign. In that same sophomore year, she also competed as a member of the 4x800 and 4x400 relay teams that finished 13th and 14th in the state, respectively.
The accolades also include competing in the state cross country meet all four years of her career, and she is leaving the school as the all-time leading 3-point shooter in the girls basketball program.
For Coach Miriam Hill, who leads the cross country and girls track and field program at Osage, Wolf’s success is no secret- it comes down to a matter of heart and work ethic. And, the coach believes that is exactly why Wolf will be busy representing the Indians one last time on Saturday.
“She is constantly going,” the coach said. “Her work ethic is what has allowed her to be successful in all four (events) along with her heart. She has an incredible heart and does not let up until she crosses the finish line. That plays a big part in her being successful in all four events. And, not just qualifying, but being right up there to be one of the best in all four events.”
Constantly running throughout the year, logging the miles and staying in shape has certainly helped, but Hill pointed out that there is so much more that goes into it than that. She recalled an analogy from Coach Michael Klaus, who leads the boys cross country program at Osage, known as the ’three-legged stool.’
“We’re only one leg and when you take those other legs out, that stool is going to fall,” Hill explained. “Well, she doesn’t take those other legs out. When she leaves here, she makes sure she is taking care of rest and eating properly. When she is with us, she is hitting it hard in the weight room and on the roads and the track.”
That may be one of the reasons why Wolf went from finishing 96th in state cross country as a freshman to finishing 36th as a senior. That may be one of the reasons why she was a district champion in the 1,600, 3,200 and as a member of the 4x800 relay team while taking second in the 800 this spring, and finished as a sectional champion in the 800, 1,600 and 4x800 relay while taking second in the 3,200.
Hill noted that maintaining her base throughout the winter when she ran with the cross country team in the mornings was key and it allowed her to hit the ground running when it came time for track and field season.
“When we hit the track with the speed work, she has gotten progressively faster as the season rolled on,” the coach stated. “She has just followed through in a very strong fashion with continual improvement, based on what we set her workout and goal times to be.
“We could throw her in almost any event and she would be successful.”
It is an example the coach noted that others would do well to take note of, the way she carries herself in workouts and the speed she does certain drills at. The weight room itself has also paid dividends, and the coach said that if COVID-19 had not disrupted things during her time as a junior heading into her senior season, Wolf may very well could have been an All-State cross country runner, too, by finishing in the top 25.
“Often, you have these freshmen girls that come in and look awesome their freshman and sophomore year, and then there is that steady decline. That has not happened with her and I think a lot of it comes to what is happening in the weight room,” Hill said.
“As far as where her potential lies, we’ve just begun to tap into it as a runner,” the coach continued. “I think we’ve just started to tap into her potential and I think she can compete at the division one level and go a long way.”
For now, the mission is to get to the top of the podium on Saturday. Running in four distance events, all in the space of a single day, Hill said the strategy is to look for those best opportunities to become a state champion. However, she is certainly not discounting Wolf’s ability or competitive nature.
“Do I think she has the potential to run her best in all four events? Yeah, but once again, it goes to the heart she has,” the coach stated. “We’ve had some great runners at Osage throughout the years, but she has probably been the most consistent in regards to her times at meets. She has continually improved and whatever we’ve asked of her or the competition level, she has been out there doing.
“We’ve got some distance runners there (state) who have done this a lot longer than she has at this level and she just kind of figures out what their pace is, goes with them and sees what she’s got left. That is what it is going to take to run four events at the state level,” the coach continued. “We’ve had some incredible athletes in Missouri, starting back in the 80s with some great runners that did all four events up until now. It can be done and she has the stamina, endurance and base. I think she is going to do well.”
While there is plenty of reason to be excited, not just for an opportunity to try and win four state titles on Saturday but for a collegiate career in the future, Wolf credited her coaches and teammates for all their help along the way.
“If you were to ask me my freshman year that I’d be running the mile and two-mile, let alone the 800 and 4x800, I would have never guessed. It is crazy to think of my time improvements and that I’m able to do this, too. It is all thanks to my coaches and teammates,” she said.
“My coaches have prepared me for this. They knew I was capable of doing this and put that confidence in me that has allowed me to have confidence in myself. Then, also running and the kind of training in the weight room, I’ve been able to find what works best for me as a runner and I can definitely tell through my improvements over the season.”
She is continuing to trust that process and the guidance of her coaches as she and her teammates prepped for the final meet of the season this week. Just like any other time she trains, she knows there can be no shortcuts.
“I’ve seen a lot of success this year and definitely had to put in the work. If you are going to put in the work, you are going to get results,” Wolf noted.
At the same time, she is enjoying that process and the final high school memories being made with her teammates and coaches. Classes are over, graduation is over and it simply comes down to representing her school one more time.
“At the beginning of the year I didn’t know if I was going to have any season from fall to spring sports and getting to have a full season in all my sports- getting to have a track season after not having one last year- has been so fun and crazy,” Wolf said. “We have conversations all the time, ‘I forgot this is what it felt like, and, ‘It has gone by so fast.’ Just little things we forgot and are coming back to us, it has been good to have it back.
“The three girls I’m going with in my relay have never experienced anything like this. Just to be able to go with them is just so fun and I’m looking forward to Saturday,” Wolf continued. “Just go out there and race, have fun and enjoy that we are there. We have nothing to lose now and just have to leave it out there.”
Michael Losch is the Sports Editor at the Lake Sun. He can be reached at email@example.com or 573-346-2132