January 27, 2022 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

Sjuts saving the best for last

Rylee Sjuts is starting her final month as a track athlete for St. Joseph-Ogden High School.


If the past is any indication, she may be saving the best for last.


Sjuts, a sprinter, started running track in sixth grade at the urging of her P.E teacher.


However, she also played basketball, volleyball and softball in middle school.


That all changed when she got to SJO.


“Once I got to high school, I just concentrated on volleyball and track,” she said.


Sjuts played volleyball for just two seasons and concentrated on track for the final two years.


As many athletes that compete for coaches Jason Retz and Kelly Steffen, Sjuts credits the family atmosphere for much of the reason that she has enjoyed her time as a Spartan athlete.


“Coaches Retz and Steffen really stress the mantra of being a family, and that goes from the seniors on down to the freshmen,” she said. “We all treat each other equally, which is why I think we’ve been so successful over the past few years.”


While this spring hasn’t been unusually rainy, it has had its share of bad weather. Sjuts said that is something track athletes are used to. Mainly because their coaches stress being prepared to compete in the elements.


“Sure, we’d all like to run in 70-degree weather, but that’s not always possible,” Sjuts said. “You have to mentally prepare yourself for any possible weather condition.”


Sjuts said the team works out in all sorts of elements to prepare for inclement weather during meets.


“I think that prepares us for whenever we must perform in adverse weather conditions”, Sjuts said.


Sjuts has competed in many different events this season, including the 400 and 800-meter runs, the 300 hurdles, and competing on the 4 x 400 and 4 x 800 relay teams. She also has been doing 100 and 200-meter events.
At the Illinois Prairie Conference meet in Bloomington, Sjuts stepped up when a teammate had an illness and performed at the highest level—like she has done all season.


Sjuts competed in the 400-meter relay, which finished third, took third in the 300-meter hurdles and competed on the first place 1600 meter relay team.


“In those conditions, two thirds and a first isn’t bad at all,” Sjuts said.


Sjuts also credits the training regimen for sprinters with helping her succeed at the high school level.


“The distance people only take about a few weeks off all season long, but us sprinters take more time away to recoup our bodies, which I think benefits us,” she said. “We have a chance to heal our bodies because with sprinting, it’s a fast-paced regimen. Not to say that the distance people aren’t doing their thing well, it’s just they have a different training purpose with running long stretches, as compared to a couple of minutes or even a few seconds.”


With Sjuts being a senior, she has taken some time to reflect on the highlights of her athletic career. They include winning the state title in 2018, as well as her 4 x 400 relay team winning the state title her sophomore season. Sjuts also treasures the workouts that she has had with her teammates by her side.

As for future plans, Sjuts will hang up her spikes competitively once this season is over and focus on academics in college, which will eventually lead to her future career.

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