OPRF senior Josephine Welin announced on Oct. 24 that she has committed to run cross country and track at the University of Washington next fall. | Alex Rogals

Oak Park and River Forest High School senior Josephine Welin says she often can be indecisive.

The University of Washington helped to make her college running decision a little easier.

On Oct. 24, Welin publicly announced her verbal commitment to the NCAA Division I school in Seattle for women’s cross country and track and field. She confirmed her choice last weekend with Maurica Powell, the director of both programs.

“Just the environment and campus, team and coach, everything I’m looking for. It still was a really hard decision, but I felt like I made the right choice,” Welin said.

“A couple of weeks ago, I narrowed it down to my top three schools. I needed to sit down and see where I could see myself be happy and successful.”

Welin’s options increased significantly after her breakthrough junior year. She improved from an all-state 16th in cross country in 2019 to the state’s top girls runner in 2020, winning her IHSA sectional and the non-sanctioned statewide ShaZam Championships with course-record times.

At the IHSA state track meet in June, Welin won the 3,200-meter run and was second in the 1,600 with the No. 2 time in state finals history.

Washington women’s cross country is ranked No. 18 nationally and No. 1 in the West Region. Powell, who runs the program with husband Andy, is in her fourth season at Washington after 12 at Oregon.

Welin was encouraged by her mother, Tracy, to contact Powell. OPRF girls cross country coach Ashley Raymond had been impressed after seeing Powell as a presentation speaker.

“The first time I talked to Maurica on the phone, I really felt a connection to her and just the way she runs the program, I feel like that really works well with me,” Welin said.

“It’s very individualized. There’s a lot of girls where running isn’t their only sport or the only one they did. They did a lot of biking and cross training and still are able to run at a very high level. At practice, they’re really focused and work hard, but they’re also able to be silly with each other and relaxed. Everything there felt close, like a family.”

Welin made all five official college visits and considered them all seriously. Washington was Welin’s third overall visit in early October. She first narrowed her large group of interest to about 12 schools. 

Another plus for the OPRF senior was Washington’s location and environmental studies and biology programs, which Welin plans to study. Welin loves the outdoors, camping and hiking and visited Seattle about three or four years ago on a family trip.

One of her favorite science experiments was freshman year, when she studied the effects of extreme temperatures on bacteria growth.

“I had some petri dishes in the fridge and the basement under a heat lamp. I’m sure my parents loved having bacteria in the fridge,” Welin said.

“I’ve always been a science and math person. I guess I see myself doing some sort of research in the lab or in the field.”

Welin is the only Midwest recruit for Washington, whose cross country roster is mainly West Coast athletes along with five from Australia or New Zealand.

It’s quite a change from Welin hardly thinking she’d be a Division I runner as a freshman.

“I would say learning to kind of just believe in myself and trust my training and trust my coach and kind of just see the power of what hard work can do has really been a good thing I’ve learned,” Welin said.

“I definitely credit my coach and parents and family and teammates for supporting me along the way. Having all of this time to dedicate to something I’m passionate about, I’m really grateful I found running and I’m able to enjoy it and work hard every day.”

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