Heinz will be one of several former OPRF track and field athletes competing at the Division I level.Courtesy DANIELLE DOBIAS WAGNER

Carl Heinz will take his leaping ability to Duke next year.

The OPRF senior, who last season became the school’s first track and field state champ in 24 years and the school’s first state champ in the high jump event since 1980, has made a verbal commitment to Duke after mulling over offers from Wake Forest, Michigan and Clemson, among others.

“Carl is comparable to a five-star football player,” said OPRF boys track and field head coach Tim Hasso. “To be ranked in the Top 5 in the nation; those guys are rare to come by. He had his pick of schools, and it was all about which one would be the right fit for him. Duke is a great school and has a great track and field program.”

Hasso said he was pleased that his high jumper was able to make the decision early, even though the official signing day isn’t until Feb. 1.

“He doesn’t have to worry about it anymore,” said Hasso. “He can focus on his academics. Anytime one of our kids has the opportunity to move on to the next level, I’m happy for them. I’m thrilled they have the opportunity to pursue their dreams. It’s great for them, and it’s a reflection of our program.”

Heinz officially won the Class 3A high jump state title last year with a leap of 6-feet-8 inches, but he also cleared 6-10 at the meet. He also took some shots at the 7-foot mark, a measurement he cleared at the Hinsdale Central Relays earlier last season to set a new school record. In his sophomore season, Heinz finished fifth overall at state.

Just last June, Heinz finished second in the high jump at the 2011 New Balance Nationals held at the University of North Carolina A&T. He leapt 6-9.75-inches, behind Mississippi’s Justin Fondren, who also leapt 6-9.75. Fondren won the event by having less jump faults than Heinz.

“I really had low goals as a freshman, but then last year I became extremely motivated. I never set out to break any records, and it’s never been my goal to win a state title,” Heinz said back in May after winning the high jump event at the state meet. “I just wanted to improve every year, and I did that. There’s nothing you can do better as an athlete than to give it your all and have some recognition for it.”

In recent years, the OPRF boys track and field program has seen several athletes go on to compete at the Division I level. Jeff Navy, who ran relays for the Huskies as a senior, has walked on at Michigan State. Amir Arif, who finished second in the long jump (22-10.75) and third in the triple jump (47-3.25) at the state meet in 2010, earned a scholarship to Michigan State. Jack Stapleton is currently competing in cross-country at Wisconsin. Sam Fourman, a sprinter on the team last season, has walked on as a distance runner at Iowa. Brendan Donley, who was All-state in the 800 meters last spring, is currently a freshman running middle distance at Columbia University in New York.

Besides Heinz, OPRF’s track and field team will have another solid Division I recruit this coming spring in distance runner Malachy Schrobilgen. The senior, who recently won the Class 3A Fenwick Cross-country Regional, is being pursued by such Big Ten schools as Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, according to Hasso.

Last season, Schrobilgen finished just a whisker behind first-place finisher Jack Driggs of York in the 3200-meter run at the Class 3A State Meet. Schrobilgen finished in 9:06.8 while Driggs posted a 9:06.25.

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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...