Leading the way to state track meet

Amaya Jerdee was invaluable on Horlick's relay teams, but her forte was in the 300-meter low hurdles as a senior. After not competing in the event as a junior, Jerdee placed fifth at the WIAA Division 1 Track & Field Championships in June.

Amaya Jerdee’s foundation throughout her life has been her mother, Cara, who has raised her only child in a single-parent home.

“She’s been the one to push me,” Jerdee said of her mother. “She knows I have the potential and she’s always had my back and just kept me going.”

As for the force behind her breakout senior season, that just might be a person Jerdee didn’t even know one year ago. Her name is Makayla Rice.

Combine those two influences and they elevated an already talented athlete into the All-Racine County Athlete of the Year in girls track. Jerdee, a senior for Horlick, earned that honor in a vote of the county’s coaches over Union Grove shot putter Katie Fruth.

“Throughout her career, she’s been an awesome athlete,” first-year Horlick coach Sherrie Lawson.

Jerdee elevated herself to another level as a senior, placing fifth in the 300-meter low hurdles at the WIAA Division 1 Track and Field Championships at UW-La Crosse with a time of 45.01 seconds. She was also a premier sprinter, posting the fastest times in Racine County in the 100 (12.36) and 200 (25.38) and running legs of the Rebels’ county best 4x100 and 4x200 relays.

Credit Rice for at least some of that success. She moved to Racine from Rock Springs, Wyo., and attended Horlick as a senior. After a slow start, Rice progressed rapidly and finished the season by overcoming Jerdee to place fourth in the 300 low hurdles at state.

Jerdee, who did not compete in the 300 hurdles as a junior, was pushed by Rice to maximize her ability. And Jerdee followed Rice’s lead, just as Rice was inspired by Jerdee.

“She was one of the only hurdlers who were consistently with me,” Jerdee said. “She kind of pushed me to be in hurdles because, at first, I didn’t have the confidence in myself to do the hurdles.

“So she was there to guide me and push me through every race and in every practice.”

Rice, an accomplished hurdler in Wyoming before being slowed by knee issues, struck up a friendship with Jerdee. The two, who have extensive backgrounds in gymnastics, quickly bonded and have continued to occasionally work out together this summer.

“I was a new student this year, so I didn’t really know anybody to make relationships with,” Rice said. “I became really close to Amaya because we have the same gymnastics background and we just had a whole bunch of similarities.

“When we came to the 300 hurdles, she would always start out fast, so I would try to keep up with her. I was a lot stronger at the end of the race and she would try to catch me. So she was really there to push me at the beginning and I was there to push her in the end.

“And we always prayed together and hyped each other up before the race. It was nice to have a really good friend next to you before the race.”

Their big moment came at the state meet June 1. In the 300 hurdles preliminaries, Jerdee finished in 45.43 seconds while Rice finished in 45.14.

Both turned it up a notch in the finals, with Rice finishing in 44.83 and Jerdee in 45.01. And one last time, they were there for each other.

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“Before the race, me and her were talking about how this was our last race of our high school track career and whatever we do, we’ve got to leave it out on the track,” Jerdee said. “We kept each other motivated until we were in the box.

“I usually get a real good start out of the box and over the first couple of hurdles. She has better endurance, so she pretty much pulled me through at the end.”

This special alliance will likely continue while the two are competing at the collegiate level in Minnesota. Jerdee is going on to compete at Moorhead State while Rice will be about 170 miles to the southeast at St. Cloud State.

Jerdee has big plans beyond that. Ranked 21st in her senior class with an unweighted grade-point average of 3.7, she plans to pursue a medical career in college.

“I’d like to become either an an anesthesiologist or some type of surgeon,” she said. “I’m not sure yet.”

As she moves on, she will have the memory of standing atop the podium at UW-La Crosse the afternoon of June 1.

“I looked up into the stands and I could see my family just cheering and taking pictures like crazy,” she said. “It was one of the moments in my life I will never forget because it was just so memorable and so important to me.

“That’s what I’ve been working for and I finally reached it.”

  • Michele Sittig repeats as the county’s Coach of the Year after leading the Wolverines to another exceptional season.

The 31-year-old Sittig (nee: Pfarr), a former track standout at Somers Shoreland Lutheran High School and Carthage College, is in her fifth season as coach. Despite losing Haleigh Reindl, the 2018 All-County Athlete of the Year in track, to graduation, Waterford repeated as champions in the Southern Lakes Conference and WIAA Division 1 Greenfield Sectional.

Three individuals and two relays advanced to state, with two top-10 finishes. Olivia Busch was eighth in the triple jump and Jayda Obluck was 10th in the 800 meters.

“Going into the season, there were some big shoes to fill from a point-scoring perspective,” said Sittig, referring to Reindl. “It was really exciting to watch the girls step up as a team and we actually put up more points this year than we have in the past.

“So it was really neat to see our team scores be as high as they were.”

Waterford’s number of athletes improved from 38, when Sittig took over the program in 2015, to between 50 and 60 this season.

“One of the reasons we do as well as we do is because of our numbers,” said Sittig, a physical education and health teacher at Waterford.

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