There was just something that struck Jim Ludvigsen about Evan Schuster during the spring of 2013.
Ludvigsen was coaching track and field at St. Lucy’s Elementary School and Schuster, a new kid on the team, was absorbing everything that was being said. Seven years later, Schuster is the All-Racine County Athlete of the Year in boys track for the second straight season as a junior at St. Catherine’s and Ludvigsen traces it all back to what he first noticed.
“His eyes were open, his ears were open and his mouth was shut,” Ludvigsen said. “I’m a City of Kenosha firefighter and that’s what we always tell people — just keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut and you’ll go far.”
Schuster could just be starting this journey. He served notice as a sophomore in 2018 when he placed third in the 400 meters and fifth in the 200 in Division 2 at the WIAA Track and Field Championships at UW-La Crosse.
Knowing he had so much more to offer, Schuster worked tirelessly for even better results on the state stage as a junior. He delivered just that with Division 2 championships in the 200 and 400 and a fourth-place finish in the long jump, an event he had little experience in before this season.
How dominant was Schuster? Consider that he scored all 25 of the Angels’ points in the the meet, good for seventh place in the 63-team Division 2 standings. That was their first top-10 finish finish at the state meet since the merger of public and private schools in 2000.
“I know it shows what kind of work ethic Evan has,” said Dan Miller, who coaches sprints and relays under St. Catherine’s head coach Tom Scheller. “Yes, he’s blessed with a lot of talent, but sometimes, athletes who are blessed with talent don’t necessarily have that excellent work ethic and Evan’s the exception.
“He was tremendous throughout the season with his work ethic and his understanding of what he wants. He wanted to get back to La Crosse not just get on the podium. He wanted to be in that No. 1 spot and he worked extremely hard for it.”
That is what Ludvigsen noticed about Schuster in 2013, The son of a doctor, Schuster maintains a 3.1 grade-point average and willingly takes that challenges Scheller and Miller give him with no complaints.
He wants to be the best and he’s willing to pay any price. That desire was within him from an early age.
“My dad (Thomas) is a doctor and just watching him, with all the motivation he had for schooling and everything just really motivated me,” Schuster said. ‘And my mom (Lori) just does everything for us and I truly love them both.
“I really look up to them. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am. They truly are my role models.”
It was that driven kid who pushed himself to extremes on a miserable spring day with sleet last April. He might have rested on his laurels after winning two state medals as a sophomore. He might have went through the motions, given the conditions.
Instead, he pushed himself to the limit.
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“I’m willing to do anything it takes,” he said. “Every day I wake up and I think, ‘Let’s see what you can do today to get better.’ It’s just the little things when no one’s watching.”
The ultimate reward came May 31 and June 1 at the state meet. Relatively new in the long jump, Schuster participated in the 400 preliminaries, transitioned to the long jump preliminaries with little rest, went to the 200 preliminaries and then went back to the long jump finals, where he produced a school-record effort of 22 feet, 4¾ inches on his final attempt.
It was difficult to manage that first day and he easily could have been scratched from the long jump had it interfered with his bread-and-butter 400, Miller said.
And now Schuster is looking ahead to his senior year, where he is contemplating the possibility of taking on even more at the state meet, such as the 100. The final decision will be made by Scheller, who will obviously be looking out for Schuster’s best interests, but anything is a possibility with this young man.
“Could he do all three sprints?” Scheller said. “The tough part of that is you have three prelims on Friday plus long jump on of the two days, prelims and finals. That’s basically seven events and that’s a lot to do in two days.
“So we’ll see. If he’s competing well, do I think he could be competitive in the 100? Absolutely.”
It’s not at all a stretch to suggest Schuster will be competing well at that time. After all, he always does compete extraordinarily well.
- Horlick coach Josh Slamka is a example of someone who walks the walk with his athletes. The 40-year-old Slamka, voted the county’s Coach of the Year, is ranked No. 1 in the world in the Masters class of the 800 meters.
Leading by example, Slamka has overseen some extraordinary accomplishments as coach. Take when the Rebels’ 4x100 and 4x200 relays qualified for the state meet at UW-La Crosse.
The more highly-regarded 4x200 relay was disqualified in the preliminaries when two runners were ruled to be out of the zone. The left the 4x100, which Slamka said was, “a bonus relay. We thought they had an outside chance of qualifying for the finals.”
Instead, that relay went on to set a state record. Seeded fourth going into the meet, the 4x100 relay of Darion Folsom, Khalil McLain, Marty Bell and Mike Weaver took nearly a second and a half off its previous-best mark to produce a state-record time of 41.38 seconds in the preliminaries.
Credit Slamka and assistants Jeff Lee, Chisholm Allen and Aleks Cukic for getting those four to refocus.
“It was just a matter of reminding them that there was something else to do,” Slamka said. “Once they realized they only had a few minutes to regroup or lose everything, they did recommitted themselves mentally.
“It was almost like to perfect scenario because the 4x200 was a huge letdown. And I think because they didn’t want to lose everything, they were able to re-direct that energy. It was perfect timing.”
Slamka, a 1996 Horlick graduate who just completed his 13th season as coach, doubles as an English teacher at the school.