Boys track athlete of year: Wallenfang’s legacy will be ‘felt forever’ at Preble

Jake Wallenfang looked like a duck on water at the WIAA state track and field meet this year.

On the surface, the Green Bay Preble senior appeared cool, calm and collected sitting in a camouflaged lawn chair with black sunglasses while waiting to compete in the pole vault on June 1.

But deep down, Wallenfang couldn’t hide the nerves that were making knots of his stomach before getting the opportunity to take flight down the runway and break the state record by clearing 16 feet.

“It was nerve-racking and my heart was definitely pounding,” Wallenfang said. “I’ve learned over four years how to calm myself down because you can’t pole vault when you’re tense. I stand on the runway, take my deep breathes and just go have fun.”

Wallenfang stood on the state podium four times, earning top-three finishes in all of his events to become the first four-event medalist at the meet in Preble history.

Not only did he break a WIAA state record to win the Division 1 pole vault championship but Wallenfang also was the anchor leg on the winning 400-meter relay team, which broke a state record with a time of 41.5 seconds during preliminaries.

Overall, he accounted for 34 of his team’s 50 points to help the Hornets finish as the D1 state runners-up for the first time since 2006.

For his efforts, Wallenfang is the 2013 Press-Gazette Media boys track and field athlete of the year.

“He’s just a cool customer, nothing really fazes him,” Preble coach Nick Marcelle said. “He’s just focused all the time, and he’s going to get the job done.”

While Wallenfang’s two-day performance at the state meet in La Crosse was arguably one of the greatest ever by an area athlete, the balancing act he accomplished at regionals on May 20 might of been his finest hour — literally.

Between 5 and 6 p.m. that day, Wallenfang ran the preliminaries for the 100 and 200 dashes, reset his school record twice by clearing 15-7 and 15-9 in the pole vault, won the 100 finals and mustered up enough energy to become the first Wisconsin high school pole-vaulter to reach 16 feet in 29 years.

“Leading up to it, I just wanted to make it through,” said Wallenfang, who vaulted 16-½ feet at sectionals. “I wasn’t going to go for heights that day, so 16 feet was a huge surprise. It all came down to how I felt after my two 100s, because that is a tough race. But after that I felt pretty good.”

In addition to the pole vault and the 400 relay, Wallenfang broke school records in the 100 (10.73) and 200 (21.81), taking third and second at state in the respective sprinting events.

“We never thought that he would become this speedster,” Marcelle said about Wallenfang, who threw the shot put in grade school and competed in the long jump as a freshman.

Assistant coach Paul “Donart is definitely not going to have a problem recruiting pole-vaulters after the exposure that Jake had this year,” Marcelle said. “His legacy is going to be felt forever.”

Jake Wallenfang
Jake Wallenfang


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