Oak Park and River Forest High School senior Hannah Gorin qualified for the girls track state meet in the 3,200-meter run as a freshman and sophomore.
After battling low ferritin levels in her blood throughout the 2014 season, Gorin missed qualifying again at sectionals by one place.
“I think I’m very motivated [to return to state],” Gorin said. “It’s definitely something that’s right in front of me, taunting me.”
Gorin is back full force and the results show. She won the 1,600 (5:27.6) in the Huskies’ indoor meet against host Lyons Township and Downers Grove North on Feb. 26. The meet was not scored.
“She’s been working really hard, putting the miles this winter,” OPRF distance coach Chris Baldwin said. “She’s already running times faster than at the end of last year and her sophomore year. She’s in phenomenal shape, the best shape of her life to pop off really fast times.”
Four Huskies who competed at state in 2014 contributed top-three varsity finishes at the indoor meet – seniors Brianna Holloway and Myia Jones and juniors Norma Abdur-Rafia and Chena Underhill.
Abdur-Rafia won the 300 (42.6). Vanessa Griffin, Abdur-Rafia, Jones and Underhill dominated the 1,600 relay (4:19.0).
Sophomores and 2014 state competitors Ella Rossa and Hallie Voss remained on the sophomore level. Sophomore Mary Blankemeier, an all-state fourth in the 3,200 last year, probably won’t return until the outdoor season after missing cross country with a stress fracture.
“I’m very confident on a good season this year, real confident,” OPRF head coach Tom Tarrant said. “I’d like to go maybe top 10, top 15 in the state. [That] would be really big for us and then maybe build off of that. We don’t have a ton of seniors.”
The Huskies opened Feb. 7 followed by a relay-only meet Feb. 14 at Proviso West, where their winning 800 relay (1:48.23) and second-place 1,600 relay (4:13.07) posted the state’s No. 3 fastest times so far this season, according to DyeStatIL.com.
Gorin beat her goal of 5:30 and nearly beat her lifetime best of 5:25.7 at LTHS. She surged into the lead for good just after the halfway point.
“[Baldwin] was there and telling me things I should do. He’s like, ‘You’ve got to go now,’ so I went,” Gorin said. “I was really unsure of how this race was going to go. I kind of doubted myself at first because I did not think I was going to place first. I guess I didn’t believe in myself.”
Underhill remains a force in the maximum four events. Individually, Underhill was second in the triple jump (34 feet-10 inches) and 55 high hurdles (9.0) to LTHS senior Emma Haugen (35-1 and 8.5), the 2014 and 2012 state high jump champion.
In pole vault, Underhill was second to LTHS senior and two-time state qualifier Grace Flynn, losing out on a tiebreaker at 10-0 based on fewer misses at that height.
“I was really excited that I got 10-0 for pole vault. I haven’t this season so I’m getting back up towards last year’s best [10-6],” Underhill said.
Underhill has added triple jump in exchange for high jump. The indoor sprint work is helping her prepare for her 2014 state event, the 300 low hurdles. During the summer, she practiced pole vault at North Central College when she wasn’t doing ballet.
“That’s the main thing I do,” Underhill said. “I like all of these more technical, dancy events. Triple jump – definitely I would say (ballet helps). With hurdles it’s bad. I like to leap a lot and then I don’t get on the track as fast.”