Fenwick boys track and field athletes can’t help but feel the championship aura around them.

The cross country team’s IHSA Class 2A state championship last November climaxed a truly ultimate season.

The program’s first state championship included head coach and Fenwick graduate Dave Rill sharing the title with his sons, one a runner (Grayden) and another an assistant  coach (Brixton). 

Dave Rill also awarded an honorary state championship medal to his coach and mentor, longtime Fenwick coach John Polka.

“The distance guys are excited obviously after that,” Rill said. “Our top guys are back and they’re in great shape.”  

The Fenwick football team’s IHSA 5A title for its first IHSA state championship also is paying dividends. Besides the lineup’s middle and distance strength from cross country, the Friars have acquired several top-notch sprinters from football, many making their track debuts.

Grayden Rill

“That combination, with cross country and football winning, our team is bigger than I’ve ever seen it,” Rill said. “We have almost 30 sprinters right now, which is more than I’ve ever had. The majority are football players.”

At the 2021 IHSA Class 2A state track and field championships last spring, junior Grayden Rill (4th, frosh-soph school-record 1:57.80) and senior Lee O’Bryan (8th, 1:59.41) both earned top-nine, all-state honors in the 800-meter run. Rill, who equaled the third-highest state track finish by any Fenwick entry, was an all-state eighth in cross country last fall.

The eighth-place 400 relay with seniors Stephen Brown, Max Reese and Jacque Walls (school-record 43.22) became Fenwick’s first all-state relay ever. Brown reached state individually in the 200 (15th 22.89) and 100 (17th, 11.20).

Zac Daley

Senior Zac Daley qualified for state in the 3,200 (12th, 10:28.30) and Rill also was 13th in the 1,600 (4:33.25).

O’Bryan’s second-place 800 (1:57.91) and Rill’s third-place 1,600 (4:28.48) at the Chicago Catholic League Indoor Championships in March already are under the 2:00.80 and 4:31.13 2A state-qualifying standards. 

Daley (3,200 in 10:07.98), junior Will Shannon (40-11 1/2 in triple jump) and the 1,600 relay of O’Bryan, Rill and seniors Will Jancewicz and Suleiman Abuaqel (3:40.61) also were fourth at CCL indoors.

O’Bryan (800 in 2:00.20) and Rill (1,600 in 4:27.75) both were third at the Top Times Indoor Classic on March 26.

Other key sprinters include senior Bryan Hunt and sophomores Elijah Romeus and Donnell French.

Assistant coach Brian Dzingai, fourth in the 200 at the 2008 Summer Olympics representing Zimbabwe, is bringing along the new sprinters.

“The nice thing is having that many (sprinters), we can have multiple relays. We have enough for a 4 by 200 without those guys coming back (from the 400 relay),” Rill said.

Fenwick girls return with deep squad

Besides eight returning IHSA Class 2A state qualifiers, the Fenwick girls began building depth during the indoor season.

“We are excited about the team and progress we have made so far,” Fenwick coach Dale Heidloff responded.

Junior Bella Daley was 10th at state in the 1,600 (5:21.13), 2.82 seconds from top-nine, all-state honors. She was an all-state 23rd in cross country.

Seniors Sonia Kuchinic (13th in 300 low hurdles (13th, 50.92) and Maureen Moore (tied for 14th in high jump, no height) also were individual state qualifiers.

Seniors Jordyn VanSanten, Flynn Monahan and Moore and junior Allie Heyer were 21st in the 400 relay (54.50) and 22nd in the 800 relay (1:54.32). The 1,600 relay of junior McKenzie McClear, Heyer, Kuchinic and Monahan (4:24.94) and 3,200 relay with senior Camille Nourie and Daley (10:49.07) also finished 22nd.

Last season also included the program’s second sectional team title.

Junior Elisabeth Braun had the Friars’ top finish at the indoor Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Indoor Championships on March 20 by taking second in triple jump (10.21m/33-6).

Daley (1,600 in 5:23.05) and the returning 3,200 relay state lineup were third (10:25.30).and McClear (10.17) and Kuchinic (10.61) were third and fourth in the 60 hurdles.

At the Top Times Indoor Classic on March 26, Daley (1,600 in 5:23.01) and the 3,200 relay of freshman Mia Menendez, Nourie, junior Ava Martinez and Daley (10:24.30) were sixth. Martinez was an individual girls cross country state qualifier (180th).

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