The emotions Alyssa Wolf felt at the end of the 2017 track season were indescribable.
After spending more than two months on the injured list and being left off the postseason roster for the 3,200-meter run, the Brunswick junior could’ve easily given up.
Good thing for Wolf and the Blue Devils, she didn’t.
Wolf is putting together one of the best seasons in school history and enters districts this week as the fastest two-miler in the state, creating a passion for an event most look at as an eight-lap punishment.
“I love it. I absolutely love it,” Wolf said. “I’ve been through a lot with that race. Ever since my freshman year, I just came to love it.
“Last year I was injured for 10 weeks and all I wanted to do was go to state in the 32 and, unfortunately, there wasn’t enough space for me.”
Taking up those postseason spots were eventual Gazette MVP and current University of Illinois runner Rebecca Craddock and All-Ohioan Felicia Pasadyn. Both placed in the top five at the Division I state meet.
While Wolf could’ve dwelled on the fact she had to work her way back from a hip injury, the experience had the opposite effect.
An intense summer of mileage led to a 19th-place finish that helped the cross country team to ninth.
Wolf kept that determination into the winter, as she put in more miles, laps in the pool and competed in a handful of indoor meets to hit the ground running.
“Being left off last year’s postseason roster turned her very good work ethic into a super drive to succeed,” Brunswick distance coach Kerry Hunter said. “I believe she would have qualified for state in the 3,200 last year, but it was hard to argue with (Craddock and Pasadyn) getting the nod over her.
“Al’s success in cross country helped her realize her potential. It gave her confidence coming into this track season and she has been building on it ever since.”
Boy, has she ever.
In just the third weekend invitational of the year, Wolf recorded a state-best run of 10:38.39 to win the Dublin Coffman Classic, a mark that was 0.2 seconds ahead of Beavercreek’s Taylor Ewert.
That changed last week, as Wolf battled a torrential downpour midway through the Greater Cleveland Conference Championships to take first in 10:36.36 over Solon’s Olivia Howell (10:37.67), who surpassed Ewert with the second-fastest time in Ohio.
“I came back this year really motivated to get (to state) and do well,” she said. “After cross country, I was pretty excited for track. I’ve just been working really hard.”
Wolf also has the county’s fastest time in the 1,600 (5:01.30) and is fourth in the 800 (2:21.16).
Her internal drive, however, sets her apart.
“Al’s ability to push herself has been her biggest contributing characteristic to her success,” said Hunter, who also coaches cross country. “She can have a very demanding workout with no one around to push her.
“Also, racing-wise, she doesn’t need someone there to make her run fast. She is out there competing against herself. Not many can do that.”
Along with offseason training, Wolf has taken more of a leadership role by setting the tone with an intense workout regiment. Her ability to motivate has reached not only her fellow distance runners but the rest of the team.
“Her personality has really shown this year,” Blue Devils coach Melissa Wojtala said. “She definitely is more involved as an active part of the team. I think it is great how she has taken an interest in other events, aside from just the distance.”
Wolf even has had an influence with a healthy lifestyle that includes introducing Wojtala and the squad to black bean brownies.
Her mission isn’t over, however, as this week she will focus on the 3,200 and 4x800 relay in hopes of securing spots in Columbus next month.
But her focus right now is to keep improving her already impressive time in the two-mile.
“I would say, by the end of the season, I would like to get to 10:25 or somewhere around there in the 10:20s,” Wolf said. “I just want to place well and have fun.”