Osage's Wolf earns four medals and mile run state title, other Indians capture medals in Class 3 state meet
Osage senior Sara Wolf was prepared to go the distance, quite literally, in the Class 3 state track and field meet at Adkins Stadium in Jefferson City on Saturday.
Running in a maximum of four events and running the maximum amount of laps any athlete could run in any track and field meet- let alone state- she did not disappoint in her four miles around the track on Saturday where represented her school one last time in the 800-meter run, 4x800 relay, 1,600-meter run and 3,200-meter run.
Wolf brought home four medals from all four events by finishing in the top eight and won a state championship in the mile run before her career at Osage came to an end.
Not a bad way to cross the finish line as a high school athlete.
“You have to get comfortable being uncomfortable,” Wolf said of her mindset and what must have been a fairly good workout for her lungs. “You just have to put in the work if you want to be on top.”
Turns out, her other four teammates were also willing to put in the work as they all reached the podium and earned medals in their respective events and the girls program tied for eighth with 28 team points for one of the highest finishes the program has enjoyed since Coach Miriam Hill took over in 2006. Ste. Genevieve captured the team title with 38 points, respectively, among 74 Class 3 schools.
“It says a lot. They have worked, not just a day here or there, but continuously, and got stronger throughout the year,” Hill said of her team. “It is their work ethic that allowed them to have huge ‘PRs’ (personal records). It was not what they did this week, but all year when it has been cold, snowing or raining at 6 a.m. in the morning and after a long school day.
“They put the work in.”
Wolf began the day with the 3,200-meter run and set the tone for Osage with a third place time of 11:32.76 that only broke a school record of 11:36.39 by Katie Dinkins that had stood since 1996. It was not long after when the 4x800 relay team of Wolf, junior Juliana Bryant and sophomores Katherine Wolf and Bayley Johnson captured second in the state with a time of 10:08.71, trailing only state champion Blair Oaks’ time of 9:59.54.
“It was really fun to watch them run that 10:08 today and it was definitely a team effort. They have not stopped smiling,” Hill said of a relay team that was originally seeded sixth amongst the field of 16 teams. “Doing it with a team- we always think of track and field as individual- but to do it with your teammates in an event like the 4x8 is what brings it all together.”
It certainly helps when each member of the relay team are friends with each other.
“I would not want to be here with any other group of girls than this group right here. We all push each other in the practice and weight room,” Sara remarked. “I’ve had some good 4x8 teams in the past and I love all my teammates I’ve ever had, but this bond I’ve built with these girls I wouldn’t trade for the world. The relationship we have is not comparable to any other group of friends I’ve ever had.”
And, knowing it was the final chance to run with her sister, Katherine wanted to be sure to do her part.
“It is really sad,” the sophomore said after the race ended, “but she has pushed me beyond what I could imagine. I knew this was my last race with her, so I knew I had to give it my all. It is bittersweet and I’ll miss her so much.”
Now, it is up to the three returning members of that relay team to carry on the success.
“That gives us a lot of confidence. And, Sara has been a good example for all of us, so I think we will be able to train the incoming freshmen all summer,” Bryant stated. “Cross country training starts Tuesday, so we are ready.”
The Osage boys also ran in the 4x8 where the team of Sawyer Claxton, Jaysen Groll, John Markowitz and Corey Hubkey finished 16th with a time of 8:55.67.
With two medals and All-State finishes to her name, Sara was set to go for the third in the 1,600-meter run. Perhaps there was no greater display of her grit and determination than when she came around the corner for the final 100 meters of her 14th lap of the day- or 3.5 miles- to complete the mile run.
The race came down to Sara and Wright City junior Zoe Riggs as they bolted towards the finish line. Simply by leaning forward, Sara narrowly edged Riggs by 6/100th of a second to win a state championship with a time of 5:18.28. Bryant was also running for the Indians and finished eighth with a time of 5:27.67 to bring home another medal.
“I developed a bad habit of looking over my shoulder and there she was. She ran a great race and is just a junior, too, so she is going after that top spot on the podium,” Sara said of Riggs. “I knew it was probably going to be a photo finish because we were both leaning. It was a close one.”
The senior didn’t just want the state title for herself, but all of those watching. She knew that a former state champion and family friend, Jason Berry, was watching along with his father Dave, that the Wolf family attends church with. Jason’s mother Sue, who previously passed away, started the cross country program at Osage.
“It is definitely surreal and I’m so excited… Jason, Dave and Sue up in heaven were all looking down on me and watching me race,” Sara said of what she described as an ‘amazing’ family. “I could not have been more blessed to run it with Juliana, too, and I could not have asked for a better finish.
“I knew they were all watching and I wanted it. I wanted it for Coach Hill and I could not ask for a better coach,” Sara continued. “Coach (Jacob) Evans working with us in the weight room, I could not ask for a better coaching staff, better team, better family.”
With just two laps left to run of her four total miles on Saturday, Sara carried that same mindset to the final race of her high high school career when she ran the 800. Amongst a dense pack of competitors, the senior found a way to reach the podium one last time with an eighth place finish at 2:24.03.
“I wanted to get up there for my team because I knew we were sitting on the edge,” Sara said as her team was sitting in fifth place in the team standings at the time, just one point and spot away from a state trophy. “I was just going out there and racing as hard as I could my last two laps, run as fast as my legs would go.
“I’m a little more tired,” the senior continued with a smile after finishing her four miles of racing, “but it was a good day and I am so thankful I could come in all four events and do as well as I did.”
In describing Sara’s career, Hill immediately pointed to her heart, and just like the senior said, being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
“She exemplified that every day with every workout and everything she did. She would be at home, getting homework done first, going to bed and making sure she was getting what it took to recover,” the coach noted. “On the track, she was doing what it took to be the best… She also broke the two-mile record today, so she is going to be up there for us to talk about for a long time. Records are made to be broken, so we want to encourage our athletes to be as good- and maybe even better- but at the same time she just had a lot of heart.”
One who certainly felt encouraged by Wolf’s example was sophomore Madison Kessler who finished seventh in the state pole vaulting competition with a height of 10 feet and 3/4 inches or 3.07 meters.
“Sara medaled in every single thing. I was so happy for her and like, ‘You’re awesome, I want to be you,’” the sophomore said. “I’m so excited and proud for everyone. We all lift each other up.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic took away her freshman season, Kessler was fairly pleased with her own performance, too.
“It was pretty awesome and I did not think that would happen, let alone get seventh or eighth. That is crazy,” Kessler said.
“Really, it’s just a strong mindset. I have the strength and everything I need for it, but did not have the mindset to go with it. This meet today, I was focused, had the right mindset and told myself what I needed to do before I got on there.”
After one of the most successful meets for Osage in recent memory, Hill said it was important to carry on the tradition showing what hard work can do. If the younger athletes can see that, the program may just be able to see success for years to come.
“Since I’ve been at Osage, I don’t think we’ve been this close to coming on the podium,” the coach said of the team results. “It is cool and it helps start traditions at Osage. When the boys and girls see the kind of work ethic that allows someone to be successful, and Sara said the other day, ‘Hard work allows you to be successful,’ you can work for what you need to get. She put a lot of work in and see what it has gotten her and the success she saw today.”
It just takes someone willing to go the distance.
Michael Losch is the Sports Editor at the Lake Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-346-2132