Burlington’s Tanner Sylvester (center) competes for the Demons in Monday’s track meet at Burlington High School. The team is looking to bounce back after losing the 2020 season to the pandemic. (Photo by Mike Ramczyk)

BHS track team recovering after promising 2020 season was lost

By Mike Ramczyk

Correspondent

It was one of those years where all the stars aligned before burning out in a super nova.

In 2020, the Burlington High School boys and girls track teams had a record 140 athletes out for the team, and head coach Jason Bousman said they were poised to make plenty of noise in the Southern Lakes Conference.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic derailed the Demons’ plans and the plans of any other student-athlete in the state of Wisconsin last spring, as the 2020 spring season was canceled.

Austin Wiemer, Moy Medina, Joel Fisher, Kolton Krueger, Meghan Harris, Mattie Stutzman, Trinity Northrop, Sam Lois, Spencer Nelson, Emma Langley, Holly Reynolds, Sarah Korducki and Megan Way all had to miss their senior seasons.

Bousman acknowledged it was one of the most difficult experiences of his six years as head coach.

“If you work in or around athletics, you’re going to deal with tough seasons at some point in time. It’s the law of the land,” Bousman said. “And no matter how experienced you are as a coach, nothing can prepare you for the challenges of dealing with a team that has fought so hard to get where they need to be and let it get taken from them. It is impossible to be ready for these challenges until you are hit with them head-on.

“The look in our athlete’s eyes as I hand-delivered their spirit wear to each one of them late into the summer, months after our season was taken, was heartbreaking. Knowing that our seniors believed that things were finally in the correct position to challenge for the prime spots in the conference was one of the hardest things I have experienced as a coach.”

It was a lost season, and the three C’s to success have to be restored – culture, commitment and communication.

Bousman says more than 70 athletes were lost due to last year, as only 70 students are out for the teams this year, a glaring 50% reduction in participation.

Burlington finished in the top three in the SLC in 2019, as the 400-meter relay team of Zach Wallace, Jack Hartzell, Jack Schenkenberg and Nick Webley went to state.

Reynolds also made state in the shot put, and Julian Luciano and Webley both advanced to state in the long jump.

While most state performers are graduated, Wallace leads a list of key returning letterwinners that includes Logan Bjurstrom, Fred Gauger, Celia Inthamavong, Addie Mangold, Sam Naber, Sean Neil, Anika Preusker, Owen Shenkenberg, Karol Soto, Tessa Teberg, Amanda Viel, Megan Vos, Brendan Welka and Alex Zimmerman.

Wallace will be playing Division 2 college football this fall, and he had hip surgery this past winter.

Bousman says there is plenty of new talent that will help the Demons this spring, including Tanner Sylvester, Casey Sommers, Drew Stutzman, Tommy Teberg, Brooke Wright, Marlee Nichols and Isabella Sanfelippo.

In terms of expectations, Bousman is focusing on rebuilding the program after such a bizarre, disappointing 2020.

“Three C’s to success has to be restored,” he said. “A culture that drives our practices, expectations, and goals for the season. Everyone must understand and believe in your foresight, and, as a coach, we must strengthen it and build on it. Commitment has to be renewed and must be established before everyone else buys in practices, team encounters, drills, and manifests through your actions.

“Communication must be reestablished, so there is no void that negativity can find its way into our program. If we can renew these things, great things will return.”

For complete coverage of sports from Burlington and Catholic Central high schools see the May 6 edition of the Burlington Standard Press.