DURANT, Iowa — Jake Willkomm saved one of his best performances for last in 2019.
It carries a little more significance now than it did at the time. It turned out to be the senior's last time competing for Durant's track and field team.
"There's kids (like me) that this was supposed to be their senior season, or if not, they lost a season to get better," Willkomm said. "Either way, it's terrible.
"There's a bunch of kids that aren't going to be able to show what they have."
Going into the Class 2A state track meet last year, Willkomm and teammate Mason Compton, a senior then, were seeded fourth and sixth, respectively, in the long jump.
However, Willkomm scratched on his first of three preliminary attempts and ultimately missed making the finals by less than 4 inches.
But short-term memory can oftentimes be the athlete's best friend. And Willkomm had already proven what he could do in the long jump with a season's worth of great jumping behind him.
Willkomm, who also qualified in the 200-meter dash, bounced back and took fourth in that event with a time of 23.21 seconds. He entered the state meet with the 10th-best time in 2A.
It was one of the more surprising finishes at the state meet last season among area athletes.
"I'm pretty happy that happened last year," he said, "because if that didn't happen then, I wouldn't be in the situation I am now."
It was enough to put Willkomm on the map of some college track teams.
He recently decided that Loras College in Dubuque will be the next stop for his running and jumping talents.
"Being able to run (next year) at Loras will be great, I'm excited for it," Willkomm said. "I guess I'll just take the pain and grief from not having this season and put it towards Loras. I'll definitely cherish the moment more now that I know the feeling of having it stripped away."
Like Willkomm, the three runners who finished ahead of him at state in 2019 were juniors, so this weekend was supposed to be his chance at a rematch at state. That opportunity won't come since the COVID-19 pandemic washed away the entire spring sports slate.
"I obviously think about what could have been," Willkomm said. "If we had a season, I could have potentially made it back to state and did better. But other than that, there's not much to say about it. It's tough.
"I was working and trying to get better for a season we didn't have It's a bummer."
Regardless, he's content with career as a high school runner and feels fortunate to have turned in the performances he did so that he, despite the lost senior season, has some track and field potential yet to fulfill at the next level.
And as much as he'd like to have had one more track season, he's also the consummate all-around athlete.
He's played football, basketball and baseball for the Wildcats in addition to track, so the news Wednesday that summer sports can start on June 1 gave Willkomm a reason to look forward to finishing his high school athletic career, as opposed to prematurely being forced to look back on it.
"I think we're set up to have a pretty good season in baseball this year," Willkomm said.
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