OPRF senior Lena Tang advanced to the state meet in pole vault after clearing 9 feet, 3 inches and finishing second at the May 11 sectional meet at Proviso East in Maywood. (Paul Nickoley/Contributor)

For Oak Park and River Forest High School seniors Josephine Welin and Samantha Duwe, the IHSA Class 3A Proviso East Sectional on May 11 was quite a comeback.

Numerous Huskies took advantage of the finally beautiful weather to advance 10 entries to the Class 3A girls track and field state meet and claim their first sectional title since 2018 (148 points) by 91 points.

Welin won the 2021 state championship in the 3,200-meter run (10:36.36) and was second in the 1,600 (4:42.55), but this was her 2022 season debut after recovering from a stress fracture.

Welin won the 1,600 (5:04.91) and was second in the 3,200 (11:05.21) to OPRF sophomore Katie Stabb (lifetime-best 11:01.26). Because Welin had no seed times, she ran in lower-seeded first heats of both races.

“It’s definitely different than last year, when I had so much training under me, but I’m really glad that I have the opportunity to run at state my senior year,” Welin said. “I’ve only been running three to four times a week and the longest I’ve run is like five miles. I’d love to try to get all-state (top nine).”

Top-two sectional finishers automatically advance to state along with entries that achieve state-qualifying standards. 

OPRF also won the 800 relay with juniors Rhea Richards and Saniya Shotwell, sophomore Chloe Johnson and senior Darnesha Fraley (1:44.87); the 1,600 relay with senior Lucca Bibbey, freshman Bella Brauc, sophomore Willa Aumann and Shotwell (4:11.07); and the 3,200 relay with Duwe, sophomores Samantha Welin and Lenny Sterritt and junior Natalie Quinn (9:54.91) – all season-best times. 

Advancing in second were Fraley (200 in personal-best 25.88), senior Lena Tang (2.82m/9 feet-3 inches in pole vault), junior Reese Garland (34.52/113-3 in discus), Quinn (1,600 in 5:30.24) and the 400 relay of Richards, Shotwell, Johnson and Fraley (season-best 49.01). Tang won the tiebreaker for second with OPRF sophomore Hannah Franke, whose 9-3 was a personal best.

Fraley and Richards are the Huskies’ only other 2021 state returnees from the 800 relay. 

“[This season] it just feels like I’m more a part of the team,” Richards said. “It feels like we’re almost connected more. It’s just good to go with good friends.” 

From their previous season bests, the 400 relay dropped two seconds, the 800 relay four, the 1,600 relay 11 and the 3,200 relay 26 seconds. 

“I feel like we took it way more competitive this year. We all, as a team, fought together,” Fraley said. “I’m really tired, but I’m happy as a team.”

Because of injury, Duwe’s 2:28 opening leg of the 3,200 relay marked only her second track race this season. 

“I wanted to help our team go down to state and give us a good leadoff. I think I did that so I was happy with it, regardless of the time,” Duwe said.

Shotwell had special motivation to also qualify with the 1,600 relay, a new event for her this season.

“It was very painful [anchoring] but one of my friends [Bibbey] is a senior. I see she’s been pushing really hard,” Shotwell said. “I really wanted to make her proud before she leaves for college.” 

“I really, really wanted to make it to state,” said Bibbey, a 2021 state alternate. “It was a little nerve wracking. I didn’t get us in the best place [leading off], but I was really just screaming at my girls, because that’s my thing.”

Fenwick, Trinity advance runner to state

The Fenwick and Trinity High School girls track and field teams competed in the IHSA Class 2A Glenbard South Sectional on May 13.

The Friars finished third with 74 points and advanced four individuals to the IHSA state meet at Eastern Illinois University on May 19-21. Freshman Mia Menendez won the 800 meters in a personal-best time of 2:25.50.

Junior Bella Daley qualified with a pair of second-place finishes in her events, the 1,600 meters (5:26.98) and 3,200 meters (11:41.04), while her classmate Elisabeth Braun came in second in the long jump (4.81 meters).

The Blazers came in seventh with 42 points but advanced two victorious relays downstate. The 1,600 relay of Amanda McGreal, Laura Murphy, Julia Valaika and Myla Roy registered a time of 4:20.36, while the 3,200 relay of Murphy, McGreal, Jasmine Arzuaga and Roy posted a time of 10:24.29.

Melvin Tate contributed to this report.

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