Boys runners on track for success

Photo+by+J.+Todd+Phillips

Photo by J. Todd Phillips

As February rolled into March and March into April, people all around the Midwest were chomping at the bit for some nice weather to get outside.

The OPRF boys track team was no exception.

But first, they had to take care of business at the first of the big four meets: the Indoor Conference championship meet. The Huskies took on their fellow West Suburban Silver squads: Downers Grove North, Hinsdale Central, York, Lyons Township, and Glenbard West. The Huskies turned it into yet another stellar performance, winning the meet by 12 points over second place Downers Grove North. The meet was chalked full of entertaining races, the most gripping being the 4×800 relay. The Huskies trailed heading into the final leg, with Lou Delano set to anchor.

“Stepping into the exchange, all I was worried about was timing the exchange with (senior) Ryan (Leonard) correctly. Once we got a clean handoff, I locked in on the leaders. I’ve run all of my best times in the 800 running the anchor on a relay, trying to run people down,” says senior Lou Delano.

Delano swiftly closed the gap, and the Huskies took the race with a time of 8:00.07, beating second place Downers Grove North, whose team ran 8:02.84, one of many wins on the night for the Huskies. Senior Ian Kelley turned in an incredible performance at the championship, winning the 55 meter hurdles, the 50 meter hurdles, and the 400 meter run. Kaden Garland took the victory in the shot put with a 51-foot mark, 7 feet more than the second place finisher. Josh Meister took the victory in the pole vault with a 15-foot mark.

“The energy that the team brought to the indoor conference was insane,” said DeLano. “People were on the track cheering for each other all day long. I fed off that energy and closed the gap bit by bit every lap, and made my move to take the lead with about 150 meters to go in the race. All around we executed our race plans during that race and it showed.”

The Huskies celebrated a successful indoor season, but got right to work preparing for the home stretch in the outdoor season.

“Not much changes from indoor to outdoor track except for our practice location. The distance guys will run to Concordia for workout days, all other events take a bus there and back. Being on the bigger outdoor track lets us do more volume in our workouts because the turns aren’t as hard on our legs. Nicer weather is super nice, it’s more enjoyable running when it’s 60-70 degrees outside than 20 degree weather,” said Delano.

To open their outdoor conference season, the Huskies traveled an hour south for the Minnoka Smith Strong Invite, and for the first time this season the Huskies did not come out on top. The team finished seventh overall, losing to first place Batavia by 67 points and second place team and host Minooka, who is ranked 1st in the state, by 55 points.

“I think in all things in life it is important to be humbled. We faced the best teams in the state with some incredible runners and some weren’t ready for an extremely cold and competitive meet,” says senior Ian Kelly. “Every athlete took it very personally and we all feel ready to dominate everything else that crosses our path. It is important to know we have a lot of time before our conference, sectionals, and state meets. Those are the ones where all of our work pays off.”

On April 19, the Huskies were back on the road, making the half-hour drive to Downers Grove North high school for a Quad against the hosts, Proviso West, and Downers Grove South. Though the meet wasn’t scored, the Huskies performed well, regaining confidence before their second invite of the outdoor season on April 22 against Downers Grove South.

“I would say that the DGN meet allowed us to see who is where and how fast people can run for the big meet against Minooka,” says senior Jeremy Pierre. “I would say this was important for us to come back and score against these great schools.”

“It felt great to bounce back as a team because it’s so exciting to see hard work finally paying off. A lot of guys got to really put their foot in the door for some time for sectionals and state. But personally it felt great because I was able to redeem my 110m hurdle and I placed first for 300m hurdles and ran the fastest time in Illinois which is obviously a great boost for me,” says Kelley.

The Huskies have four more meets before they begin their postseason trek towards a state title, including the West Suburban conference Silver Outdoor Championship.

“We are super excited. Historically, our team has put together our best races and meets when it matters most (at the conference, sectional, and state meets) so we are all super excited to keep competing and see what we are able to do down the stretch,” says Delano.

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