The Oak Park and River Forest High School girls cross country team capped off a superb postseason run by placing 10th at Saturday’s Class 3A state finals. Competing at Detweiller Park in Peoria, the Huskies scored 318 points on Saturday in cool conditions.

“I am so proud of what the team accomplished at state this year,” OPRF coach Ashley Raymond said. “We didn’t have a front runner but we had seven girls who bought into the power of the pack. We had seven girls that were willing to give it their all for their teammates and it paid off.”

The Huskies’ 10th place finish ties the 1984 team for the best result ever at state finals in program history. OPRF has qualified for state nine times since 1979.

Naperville North (80 points) won the 3A state title. Glenbard West junior Katelynne Hart won state in the individual results with a time of 15:59.8, the second-fastest time in state finals history. The standout junior has won three straight state titles in cross country.

Sophomore Nora Wollen led the Huskies with a time of 17 minutes, 36.7 seconds to finish 49th. Her pace was 5:52 per mile over the course.

Senior Violet Harper (17:56.4/70th place), freshman Josephine Welin (18:02.1/80th), Hannah Thompson (18:12.2/102nd) and freshman Samantha Duwe (18:16.7/113th) were the Huskies’ other top runners. Sophomore Parker Hulen and junior Audrey Lewis recorded times of 18:26.2 and 19:18.3, respectively, for OPRF.

All seven runners recorded personal-best times.

“When every athlete runs their fastest ever, you can’t ask for more,” Raymond said. “We can walk away from the season knowing we gave it our all when it mattered most.”

Maggie Rose Baron, who ran in the Jones Regional, was another key contributor for the Huskies this fall.

The Huskies earned their trip to state by placing fifth at the Niles West Sectional. At Niles West, Wollen (14th place/18:15), Thompson (16th/18:16.4) and Welin (21st/18:23.2) paced the Huskies with top 25 times. Duwe (27th/18:33), Hulen (42nd/19:08), Harper (50th/19:15) and Lewis (75th/19:43) also competed for OPRF, which scored 114 points.

OPRF also won the Jones Regional in its postseason debut this season. With the exception of a few runners, the Huskies return the bulk of their team next fall.

“We are losing Violet Harper and Hannah Thompson next year,” Raymond said. “Violet and Hannah’s leadership was essential this year. They brought the team together and got them to believe in the power of the pack. They were also consistently in our top three throughout the entire season.

“We are returning five of the top seven runners,” she added. “Our 8 through 14 runners are very motivated and it will be competitive to get into the top seven next year. We have the pieces to put together another great team next year.” 

Blazers show well in Class 2A

Trinity finished 23rd with a score of 531. Alexis Cohn set the pace for the Blazers with a time of 18:39.1 and 57th place in the 2A state finals. Sophomores Sylvia Ritzler (19:25.6/113th), Kate Foley (19:31.1/125th) and Courtney Yungerman (20:19.9/174th) also ran well for Trinity.

Cohn ran a career-best time, dropping 24 seconds from her previous time of 19:03. Yungerman also dropped 39 seconds to post a personal best. Dealing with a stress reaction, Ritzler finished second on the team.

The Blazers’ other runners were senior Hannah Roberts (20:22.7/178th), sophomore Annabel Halloran (20:52.5/191st) and sophomore Jessica Hoffman (21:21.6/201st). Halloran ran 44 seconds faster than her previous mark of 21:36.

“I was very pleased with how the team competed in Peoria,” Trinity coach Johann Gonzalez said. “We didn’t run well at  the sectional and we focused this week on preparing for this race. Five out of the sevem girls ran career- and season-bests at state. It was great to see all their hard work from the summer and fall pay off in the meet that matters the most.”

Like OPRF, expectations will be high next season for the Blazers who will return the majority of their lineup.

“We will be graduating two seniors  so everyone else will hopefully be back,” Gonzalez said. “Sophomores Kate Foley and Sylvia Ritzler have competed in two state meets in cross country. Next year will be about setting higher expectations individually and as a team. We are excited about the possibility of getting some freshmen next season that have shown great promise.”

Belvidere North won the 2A state championship with a score of 112, while sophomore Brooke Stromsland won the individual title at 16:32.7.

Friars’ Durkin, O’Brien stay close in race

Senior Laura Durkin finished the race in 18:35.4 for 148th, while junior Marie O’Brien posted a time of 18:42.6 for 161st in the Class 3A state finals.

At sectionals, Durkin and O’Brien recorded times of 18:46.6 and 18:52.7, respectively, to earn a trip to state. The Friars just missed qualifying for state as a team with a score 167, trailing the final state qualifier Plainfield North (164) by three points. 

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Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...

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