The main awards at the OPRF High School Spring Sport Awards night are the Female/Male Athlete of the Year and the Female/Male Athletic Medal of the Year. The Athletic Medal of the Year is awarded by the Huskie Athletic Council, and is a student-driven award that recognizes athletics, leadership and scholarship. This year's female recipients of both awards exhibit many similarities, which became apparent as I spoke with each of them separately.
Stephanie Bernthal, winner of the 2005 Female Athlete of the Year Award, and Ann Schraufnagel, 2005 Female Athletic Medal of the Year recipient, were both still in-season at the Spring Sports Awards back on June 3. In fact, they would both be playing softball for yet another week, as they and their OPRF teammates went on to win the IHSA State championship. Both Bernthal and Schraufnagel had been on the 2004 OPRF squad that finished second at State, and both spoke of how their entire senior season was focused on winning the championship. When they finished second in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference this year, Schraufnagel thought to herself "How are we going to win State if we don't even win conference?"
"But in the end we realized that really the only team that could beat us was ourselves," she commented.
Ann and Stephanie were both multi-sport letter winners at OPRF, one of the requirements of their respective awards. Schraufnagel played three sports each year throughout her high school career?#34;volleyball, basketball and softball. Bernthal's 2004 softball disappointment was tempered a bit by her field hockey team's State championship earlier that school year.
"Its cool that I have two state championships in two different sports," said Stephanie, "[but] it was really special for softball. I kind of joined the team a little bit later with Windmills [softball], but the group has been playing together for a long time. And it was the very last thing of my high school career."
Ann and Stephanie will continue athletics in college, and have already started summer workouts in preparation for their NCAA Division I careers.
"I really wasn't sure what I was going to do [in college], as far as field hockey and softball. I did recruiting for both of them. I went to the recruiting tournaments and did the traveling with the Windmills," said Bernthal, who eventually decided on playing field hockey at Kent State University.
"I felt that I could improve a lot as a player and challenge myself a lot more with field hockey and I felt like this coach and this team was a really good fit for that."
Schraufnagel, like Bernthal, had several choices to make regarding college athletics, but stayed close to home in choosing to play softball at Northwestern University.
Both Ann and Stephanie are focused student-athletes. They thrive on being busy, and balancing responsibilities.
"Sports is something that I really found a passion for," said Bernthal. "I just love to go out there and compete. I love that feeling of stepping on a field and facing an opponent ? I like to go out there and give it my all.
"I would like to ultimately coach in some way," she added. "I just would like to stay involved in sports."
Schraufnagel, too, looks forward to eventually coaching, and appreciates the opportunities she has had.
"My mom said that when she was young the only sport she could [participate in] was water-ballet. And now there are endless opportunities for me. I hope there'll be even more for my kids' generation? Kind of like empowering women in a way that they used to not be."