OAK HARBOR – It’s hard for Oak Harbor’s Jake Wistinghausen not to feel great right now.
Last year, it was impossible for Wistinghausen not to feel terrible. He appreciates the transition and is doing everything he can to make it count.
Wistinghausen began experiencing symptoms of what was later diagnosed as Crohn’s disease at the start of track season his junior year. He had no appetite, vomited what he did eat and his energy was so depleted he had trouble walking from room to room.
“It confuses my body and mixes things up and it attacks itself,” Wistinghausen said of the immune disease.
Wistinghausen lost more than 30 pounds in one month as they tried to figure out why he was constantly nauseous and achy all over like he had the flu. This continued as doctors tried to figure out exactly what was going on and then determine the correct medication dosages.
Wistinghausen’s health then gradually improved with some help from anti-inflammatories until he was able to run in the district cross country meet, something that was not expected.
He felt great when this track season started. It has shown. He’s currently among the region’s best in the 3,200 at 9:55.96.
That would make Wistinghausen a leader on any team. But the leadership he provides with his story of overcoming adversity is rare.
He’s played a large role as the Rockets have ascended toward the top of the Sandusky Bay Conference this year. They are contenders for the conference crown Friday.
“It’s pushed us harder than the group has pushed,” said senior Tyler Sievert, Wistinghausen’s close friend. “We see him working and we know we can buckle down. He’s set a huge example. He’s the best fighter — the pain and the obstacles.
“He’s the toughest kid I know. To come back from that as one of the top two-milers in our region is amazing. He went from struggling so much to managing it to beating it.”
Wistinghausen wanted to be part of success
Oak Harbor coach Andy Augsburger said Wistinghausen wanted to come back because he wanted to do more than that. He wanted to show that he was a major part of the team’s success.
“Jake wanted to prove to his team he’s got it and ‘You can count on me,'” Augsburger said.
In fact, while Wistinghausen’s body was letting him down, his thoughts were of Sievert.
“I thought about my teammates … Tyler,” he said. “We’ve been running together forever. We’re friendly competitors pushing each other every day.
“I didn’t want to let him or my team or myself down.”
The entire team watched Wistinghausen’s struggle and recovery. Normally a frontrunner, he lagged way behind.
“I started my junior year of track and it cut my physical ability to zero,” he said. “I couldn’t keep up. It was depressing. I’m basically full-go and ready to go all the time now.”
As much as Wistinghausen feels a sense of relief for his current health, those close to him are also pleasantly surprised. They were horrified when he lost weight from an already slender body and fearful about the uncertainty a year ago.
“He wasn’t as lively and active,” Sievert said. “It was hard to watch. For him to get back to the way he was, was a sight to see.”
Wistinghausen worried about the future but tried to remain positive. He was reassured by two family friends who manage their own Crohn’s.
“There were times I wished I was me,” he said of feeling healthy. “I don’t quit. I wish it took a little shorter but I’m glad I didn’t stay down. I didn’t want to be the kid to give up when it got hard.
“I didn’t know I could have this success a year ago, but I’m glad I fought to make the most of things.”
Wistinghausen near school record
Wistinghausen competes in the 1,600, 3,200 and 4×800 relay. The school record in the 3,200 is 9:50.
His top time in the 1,600 is 4:40 while his best relay split is 2:03.
“The ultimate goal is state in the two-mile and possibly the school record,” Wistinghausen said. He loves the 3,200.
“The more mileage I have the more I excel,” he said.
Wistinghausen is on pace to contend for SBC and district championships, qualify to regional for the first time and possibly advance to state.
“Jake is capable of doing that,” Augsburger said. “He’s right where he needs to be right now. As soon as the season started he was motivated and there was no doubt he’d get to that point. It’s been nice to have him back full-force.
“Some people don’t know where Jake came from after 2014. He was shot out of a cannon.”
Wistinghausen demonstrated his potential by finishing fourth in the SBC in the two-mile as a sophomore, but his junior season was a disappointment. This season has been fulfilling.
“I’m even a step above the old Jake,” he said. “I feel better. Being able to perform how I want to and run with my teammates and friends, that’s what means the most. It’s not regionals or state.
“It’s being with my friends as a senior and doing the best I can.”