Is it impossible to lose a pair of state champions like Carl Heinz (state champ in high jump) and Malachy Schrobilgen (state champ in 3200) who powered OPRF to a third-place team finish in 2012 at state and not feel the effects of their graduation?
Let's not answer that quite yet.
In addition to their historic state title performances, Heinz also took fifth in the triple jump (46-08.50) and Schrobilgen captured third in the 1,600. Evan Fisher, another runner who graduated, finished ninth in the state with a time of 1:55.98 in the 800.
"We've had some individual All-State performers in the past, but Carl and Malachy really took it to another level," OPRF coach Tim Hasso said. "I think Carl and Malachy really wanted the other kids to share the experience of winning a state medal. Even though those guys are no longer with the program, a high standard has been set that we would like to replicate on a yearly basis."
While Heinz and Schrobilgen have moved on to Duke and Wisconsin, respectively, to apply their considerable talent in college track and field, OPRF appears set for another good season.
The Huskies' starting point to make another deep run in conference and at state begins with their stellar 4 x 100 meter relay team. Juniors Jamal Baggett and Lionel Towns, and seniors Zach Booth and Tariq Taylor recorded a time of 42.19 in the state final race to finish runner-up to Dunbar which posted a time of 41.92.
"Obviously, our 4 x 100 team has big expectations this season," Hasso said. "They really raised their level [last year] and we're looking for another great spring from them."
Triple jumper Samora Nesbit is another major talent who is drawing college interest. Pierce Sheehan will try to fill the large void left by Schrobilgen's departure in the distance events.
"Our distance crew is coming around," Hasso said. "York and Lyons Township always have excellent distance runners, but our kids are getting out on the track and making progress."
Hasso expects OPRF, York and Lyons to battle for the West Suburban (Silver) Conference outdoor title this spring. Lyons won the indoor championship this year.
"There may not be as much early success this season," Hasso said, "but this is a process. Our goal is to be peaking in May."
The OPRF girls team also returns this spring armed with the confidence of a strong showing at state last year. The Huskies finished in a six-way tie for 38th. Sophomores Erin Svhela (19th in the high jump) and Hannah Gorin (31st in the 3200) return to lead the team.
In pole vaulting, the Huskies are also very solid with both their boys and girls performers. Wichita State-bound McKenzee Kroeschell, who finished third in the state in the event last season, is the most accomplished girls pole vaulter in OPRF history. Thirty-three participants (14 boys, 19 girls) are involved in the Huskies' pole vault program, a dramatic spike in interest, according to OPRF pole vault coach Tim Gamble.