OPRF runs into a record number of Track and Field athletes

The most popular sport at OPRF is back–and it’s bigger than ever. 

In the upcoming indoor track season, increased participation has raised expectations for continued success for both the boys and girls. The boys’ team has its sights set on another Indoor West Suburban Conference title, with strong contenders in all events. The girls have an experienced core that they will rely on to make a run in the conference championship. 

This is the first year the West Suburban Conference will allow an athlete to compete in two sports during the same season. With more flexibility in an athlete’s participation comes more numbers. Head Coach Tim Hasso estimates there will be more than 300 track and field athletes between males and females competing for OPRF this season. “We’ve never had a program as large as we had last year. I envision this will be the largest track and field program since I’ve been here,” he said. 

“My freshman year, there were probably about six or seven throwers. Last year, there were 23,” added Reese Garland, a senior thrower.

The indoor track season started on Jan. 16 and ends with the indoor West Suburban Conference Championship on March 18. The team will go straight into competing outdoors, preparing for outdoor conference, sectionals and the IHSA 3A State Championship in May. “When we get outdoors, it’s priority season,” Hasso said. 

The boys’ team hopes to start off strong by claiming another Indoor Conference title, which will give them momentum to defend their five year outdoor West Suburban Conference Championship streak in the spring. 

“The West Suburban Conference traditionally in track and field is one of the strongest conferences in the midwest. It means something to come out of this conference as a champion,” Hasso said. 

In order to continue their dominance in the conference, the boys’ team will need to rely on leadership from experienced athletes. “I want to see every kid run their event and excel in it. We have a lot of talent on the team,” said senior Elijah Mowatt, who looks to repeat success as a sprinter. 

Mowatt runs every sprint race, but his specialty is the 200 meter. “I would love to break the 200 meter record, and place at or win at state,” he said. Other strong sprinters are sophomore Caleb Shulz and junior Mason Phillips.

Hasso takes pride in the team’s strength in each discipline, highlighting the balance of points earned by each of the sprint, distance and field athletes. Reese Garland and junior Kaden Garland, who are brother and sister, both placed fifth at state in discus last year. 

“There’s an expectation for us to get top five or above. Expectation to qualify. Expectation to win,” said Reese Garland, whose scores have brought big points to the girls’ team. 

“I’m trying to get first in both shotput and discus this year at state, and then go to nationals,” Kaden Garland said. 

The girls’ team is going to rely on experience to propel them to success this season. Senior sprinter Rhea Richards has been on the team since she was a freshman. “It’s definitely different as a senior wanting to do the best as possible for the team in my last season,” she said. 

Both boys’ and girls’ distance is also very strong. Seniors Liam Newhart and Owen Augustine return after a historic cross country season. For the girls, senior Natalie Quinn and juniors Lenny Sterritt and Katie Stabb have experience in high pressure meets. 

The upcoming track season warrants excitement, especially with the culture Hasso and the coaching staff have built around the whole team. “We have done a tremendous job cultivating a culture where the kids feel purpose, where the kids feel acceptance, where the kids feel comradery,” Hasso said.