The Oak Park and River Forest High School girls cross country team opened postseason competition on the right foot. The Huskies outran several Chicago schools en route to winning the Jones Regional of the Class 3A state playoffs.
OPRF placed seven runners inside the top 20 and scored 26 points to beat out Whitney Young (40), St. Ignatius (65), Lane (102) and host Jones (142).
“The goal for regionals was to practice running in packs and come away with a win. The girls did just that,” OPRF girls coach Ashley Raymond said. “We don’t have a definite front runner but we have an amazing pack. The team believes in our pack and they know how strong of a team we are if we run together.
Whitney Young senior Ella Behrens was the individual champion with a time of 17 minutes, 37.5 seconds.
Running in sunny and moderately windy conditions, senior Hannah Thompson and sophomore Nora Wollen finished second and third, respectively, with times of 18:26.8 and 18:27.9 for OPRF.
Teammates Violet Harper (5th place/18:34.1), Josephine Welin (6th/18:35.3) and Parker Hulen (10th/19:20.7) also ran well. Junior Audrey Lewis came in 17th at 19:40.6 and sophomore Maggie Rose Baron was 18th at 19:40.9.
“The front pack of Violet Harper, Hannah Thompson, Josephine Welin and Nora Wollen stayed together for 2.5 miles until they broke apart,” Raymond said. “Samantha Duwe is usually part of this pack but she rested last weekend. Our second pack was Maggie Rose Baron, Parker Hulen and Audrey Lewis. Coaching a team with seven girls that are this close in ability has been so much fun. I cannot wait to see what they can accomplish in the next two weeks.”
Four of the team’s top seven runners are underclassmen.
“Hannah, Josephine and Parker all ran personal bests at regionals,” Raymond said. “Parker had the most impressive race. Parker stepped up as our fifth runner. She really helped us out the last mile of the race. There was a pack of runners in front of her that she passed which really drove down our score. She ran a personal best by over 10 seconds.”
Trinity wins Elmwood Park Regional
Trinity took top honors with a score of 27 at the Elmwood Park Regional. The Blazers have won a regional championship in two of the last three years.
Senior Alexis Cohn also placed first with a time of 19:11.4.
“Alexis became Trinity’s first regional champion in the history of the program.,” Trinity coach Johann Gonzalaez said. “This was especially good to see considering that a week ago Cohn had to drop out of the conference meet at the 1.5 mile marker due to health issues. She wanted to make it up to her team and that she did at the regional.”
Teammates Kate Foley (19:41), Sylvia Ritzler (19:52), Courtney Yungerman (20:59), Jessica Hoffman (21:14) and Hannah Roberts (21:16) and Annabel Halloran (21.58) also ran well, powering the Blazers into sectional competition.
“Courtney ran a personal-best 20:59 and it couldn’t have come at a better time,” Gonzalez said. “Hannah is coming back from a stress fracture and has dropped 1 minute, 14 seconds since we last raced here three weeks ago.”
Cohn, Foley and Ritzler (top three runners in the field) earned all-regional medals.
“The message all week was run like you’re capable of and good things will happen,” Gonzalez said. “I felt the team came focused and ready to compete at regionals. We were a little flat two weeks ago at the same course so we felt we needed to get out in the beginning of the race.
“We knew that Solorio had a great front runner followed by a tight 2-5 pack,” he added. “This meet demonstrated how important our 4-7 (runners) are in a race. They really stepped up and helped us win the meet. I was extremely pleased to see the girls stay composed during the race and focused on what was happening around them.”
With the exception of seniors Cohn and Roberts, the rest of the Blazers’ sectional qualifiers are sophomores.
With room for improvement, Friars advance
The Fenwick girls team also advanced to sectionals by placing fifth (147) at the Hinsdale Central Regional. Laura Durkin took 26th with a time of 19:44.5, Marie O’Brien was 27th with a time of 19:45.9, and Maria Quinn placed 28th at 19:51.06.
“We did not perform well. Thankfully we advanced, but it was a terrible race,” Fenwick girls coach Kevin Roche said. “We worked them pretty hard last week and we were mentally relaxed going into it, so those, along with other factors, played a part in the poor performance. We moved on though, and that is what we are happy about.
“Even with the very poor regional performance, we placed sixth in the sectional against all other sectional times,” Roche added. “So, knowing that quells a little bit of my nervous energy. I am excited to see how they will perform for each other. They will bring out their best at sectionals and fight to the very end for each other.”
Arlene Amaya (31st/19.55.4), Katie Cahill (35th/20.08.5), Mary Bridget Donahue (36th/20:36.6) and Mikaela Burns (37th/20.42.4) also represented Fenwick at the regional.
“All things considered, Mary Bridget Donahue and Mikaela Burns ran best for us,” Roche said. “They were right where we expected them to be in terms of place. Those two were pushing alone for much of the race too which is tough to do.”
Minich leads OPRF boys
The OPRF boys team placed fifth at the Jones Regional to qualify for sectional competition. Senior Garrett Minich led the way with the Huskies’ only top 20 time at 16:26.2 for 19th place.
“Our team ran pretty well at regionals,” OPRF boys coach Chris Baldwin said. “We were able to run as a pack and move up throughout the race. A lot of our team ran their best race of the season.
“Hoping to see continued improvement in our racing,” he added. “We’ve had some great workouts and the boys just had their best race as a team so hoping that continues.”
Senior Spencer Thorpe (16:41.6) edged out sophomore Eamon Cavanaugh (16:41.9) as the teammates took 26th and 27th.
“Spencer Thorpe had his best race of the season,” Baldwin said. “He got himself into a great position through the first mile and was able to move up the whole race. He ended up being our No. 2 runner by catching Eamon Cavanaugh at the end of the race.”
Juniors Jake Cramer (17:02.2), Jack Blatchford (17.07.4), Alfonso Acevedo (17.08.4) and senior Gabe Manes (17.10.1) formed a tight pack to finish 33rd through 36th for the Huskies.
Fenwick boys move on
The Fenwick boys squad secured safe passage to sectionals with a sixth-place showing at the Hinsdale Central Regional. Seniors Eric Janc, Joseph Wermes, Owen Filbin and Jared Wermes set the tone with the Friars’ four fastest times.
Janc finished the trail in a time of 16:28.4 to come in 23rd. Joseph Wermes was 30th at 16:43.3 and Filbin 31st at 16:44.8, while Jared Wermes recorded a time of 17:18.2 to place 37th. Junior Chris Brady (40th/17:27.2), sophomore Joey Schulz (43rd/17:41.6) and junior Matthew Zuber (56th/19:26.2) also contributed for Fenwick.
“I thought we performed average. It was not our best day and looking at how our training has been going, we did not race to our potential,” Fenwick boys coach David Rill said. “As I look ahead to sectional we are really going to have to step it up and race how we train if we are want to move on. They are ready to run well.