Abby Peeler was looking forward to the 2020 track season and making a trip to state for the first time.
But the COVID-19 pandemic ended up changing the plans for the Kaneland thrower, canceling the 2020 track season and significantly shortening the 2021 campaign.
Amid all that, Peeler still found her way to state in 2021, earning fifth in the shot put, committing to throw at the University of Wisconsin, and being named the Daily Chronicle 2021 Girls Track Athlete of the Year.
“For the crazy year we had, I couldn’t be more happy with how it went,” Peeler said.
|Name, year, school||Event||Time/Distance/Place at state|
|Brooke Probst, jr., Indian Creek||High jump||1.57 meters, fifth (t)|
|Reagan Gibson, fresh., Indian Creek||Pole vault||3.33 meters, fifth|
Peeler let loose a toss of 12.29 meters to take fifth in the season finale. She said it was disappointing that it ended up being her first trip to state, missing out altogether on the 2020 season.
“It was quite disappointing for everyone, obviously,” Peeler said. “But this year it made state that much more special. It was like, this is the only chance I have.”
Not to say that Peeler didn’t make the most of her 2020 “season.” Coach Andrew Franklin said she spent an enormous amount of time in the weight room.
“She had been working out extra hard in the offseason and during COVID,” Franklin said. “She was a monster in the weight room. She’s a great leader in the weight room, a role modelf or everyone to watch.”
Franklin said Peeler was set up for a big 2020 season.
“I think she was itching at it to get going and perform,” Franklin said. “Burlington Central had an indoor track meet, and it was right before COVID hit. It was the last thing we did before COVID. And she did really well there. Then of course COVID hit, and she didn’t skip a beat. She kept going along and taking care of things.”
Peeler said it was former Kaneland track coach Eric Baron who played a huge role in her ending up at Wisconsin. The pandemic made recruiting a huge challenge, and Baron, a longtime coach, is pretty well connected with college programs.
“He knows everybody, so he knows the throws coach up there,” Franklin said. “Coaches were reaching out left and right, saying, ‘Hey, you guys got anybody?’ And it’s word of mouth nowadays cause nobody has results from anybody. So Eric is like, ‘You cannot pass this one up. You’ve got to take a look at her.’ ”
Peeler said she was grateful to Baron for his role in her ending up a Badger.
“I started the process a little before the pandemic, but then just everything went crazy,” Peeler said. “During the pandemic, it was all just talking over email and text and phone calls. But I was super lucky to have coach Baron help me out, and he was the one that actually helped me find Wisconsin. So I’m super thankful for him.”
Peeler will be able to learn from Josie Schaefer, who’s entering her senior season and is the Big Ten and UW record holder in the indoor shot put at 18 meters.
“The athletes they have are amazing,” Peeler said. “To have the chance to train with them is next to none. It’s absolutely incredible.”
Franklin said he’s excited for what Peeler will become.
“Abby’s going to be able to be an understudy with that student,” Franklin said. “It’s like the perfect scenario. And she’s got a long way to go. They’re going to be able to get a lot out of her because we lost basically a year and a half of training her. They’re getting a diamond in the rough, man. She’s going to just explode.”