Poised for the podium.
That seemed to be the perfect scenario this track and field season for Ryann Porter and Tina Shelton.
The Janesville Parker seniors qualified in seven events in last year’s WIAA Division 1 state meet and figured to make a run at a number of top-six finishes this year. Finishing in the top six lands a competitor a spot on the podium and some nice hardware to take home.
COVID-19 ended any podium hopes, but it has not ended the track careers of either standout.
Porter plans to attend Indiana State, a Division I school in Terre Haute, Indiana. Shelton will stay close to home and take her talents to UW-Whitewater.
Both said that having a chance to compete in college has eased the sting of losing their senior seasons to a worldwide pandemic.
“I was very down at first when it happened but thought there still might be a bit of hope of still having some kind of a season,” Shelton said. “But when they canceled the season for good, I decided that there was no way I wanted to be done running. And Whitewater was a perfect fit. It’s a great program, close to home and gives me something to look forward to.”
Porter said she took the news hard.
“I was really distraught,” Porter said. “I was so focused on the upcoming season and hopefully getting another chance to compete at state and try to better my school records. But I got my first week of workouts from Indiana State the other day, and that’s got me excited about the future.”
Porter would have been the top returning triple jumper in the state. She finished second last year at state with a school-record jump of 38 feet, 4.5 inches.The winner of the event was a senior.
Porter was also seventh in the long jump and 10th in the 100 high hurdles at state last year, as well as anchoring the Vikings’ 800-meter relay team that also included Shelton and just missed qualifying for the finals.
Porter’s 10th-place finish in the high hurdles would likely have been four or five spots higher had she not clipped a hurdle during the race. She holds the school record in the event at 15.26 and probably would have shattered that mark this season thanks to a grueling offseason workout regimen. Porter believes she could have taken more than a second off her school-record time.
Porter said that not being able to spend time on and off the track with Shelton and the rest of her teammates made for some depressing days early on.
“That’s what makes me really sad,” Porter said of missing the daily practices, bus rides to away meets and team meals. “I didn’t go out for basketball this year, so that’s why I was so looking forward to track and being on the same team with Tina.”
Porter was recently named Parker’s Class of 2020 WIAA Scholar Athlete.
Shelton qualified for state in the 100- and 200-meter dashes last year, as well as leading off the 800 relay team. She did not make the finals in any event but was poised for a big senior season because she was finally fully healthy after battling leg injuries in the past.
“We only had a week or so of practice this year, but my times were already much faster than they were at this time last year,” Shelton said. “This was the best I ever felt physically going into a season.”
Shelton also said losing out on her final prep season was tough to take. Her only consolation was being named Parker’s female 2020 American Legion Award Athlete. She was a second-team all-Big Eight Conference selection in volleyball this past fall, when she helped lead the Vikings to sectional play. And Shelton was an honorable mention all-Big Eight pick in girls basketball this winter.
“There’s a real culture with our track program,” Shelton said. “It’s like one big family. I’ll miss that more than anything.”
Ryann Porter and Tina Shelton will both miss out on what could’ve been sensational senior seasons. But their best days on the track are likely still ahead of them.