Peyton Sippy was back in her element last Saturday.

Cooped up by the coronavirus pandemic since March, the University of Wisconsin track standout was back competing.

The 2018 Janesville Craig graduate ran in the Town USA Meet Of Champions cross country meet in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Sippy was one of 14 Badgers that were forced to run unattached in the 6,000-kilometer race due to the Big Ten Conference not allowing sanctioned fall competitions in cross country.

Sippy finished with a time of 21:23, which was nine seconds off her PR.

“More than anything, it was great to be back in a meet environment,” Sippy said. “You feel the nerves again before the start of the race, which is good, and the muscle memory came back it seems about nine seconds into the race when you’re trying to get off to a fast start.”

“The funny part is that my last race back in March was on the same course,” Sippy said of Terre Haute’s championship course that hosts the men’s and women’s NCAA Division I national championship races.

“To be only nine seconds off my best time after not competing since last March was a good sign that my training is paying off.”

Sippy and her teammates found out about the meet two months ago, which tested their determination.

Because it was not a sponsored event, had to pay for their own entry fee, transportation and lodging costs. They also could not wear anything with the UW logo on it.

“It worked out pretty well,” Sippy said. “We piled into a bunch of cars, drove down there and stayed at a teammate’s parents’ house, who lived about an hour away. “We all just felt like this was something we had to take advantage of since we hadn’t raced since March.”

Sippy has been logging between 60 and 65 miles a week training, and despite the UW not having fall season, still has access to several of the school’s amenities, including the weight room and Shell recreational facility. The locker rooms remain off limits because of COVID concerns.

With an eye on a degree in rehab psychology, Sippy is thriving in the classroom. She was named academic all-Big Ten last spring as part of the track and field team and was also awarded a Buckingham Academic Momentum Award—given to student-athletes who have demonstrated significant academic improvement throughout their collegiate careers and celebrate them for having the ability to balance textbooks with playbooks.

Sippy said life on a normally bustling campus has slowed to a crawl due to the pandemic. She said even Badger football game days are quiet.

“Campus life is actually kind of dead,” Sippy said. “The first thing I do when I leave my house is put my mask on and never really take it off.

“All my classes are online, and about the only time I really saw anybody out and about was our first football game when you saw students heading to the liquor store before the game.

“I’m taking the whole thing very seriously because I want to be able to go out and compete this winter and spring.”

Sippy said temporary UW and Big Ten plans call for a shortened cross country season to begin Jan. 1, capped off by a Big Ten championship meet in late March. She fully understands that running outdoors in January in Madison is not exactly ideal conditions.

“I’m not quite sure how they’re going to handle things, but I’m sure they’ll figure something out,” Sippy said. “Some people are going to choose not to run cross country because the Big 10 indoor meet is the week after the cross country meet.”

Sippy is a junior at Wisconsin but has sophomore-eligibility athletically because she redshirted her freshman year.