Varsity girls take 1st, advance to 6-1 record for the spring season

Senior Ella Valek leaps over the high jump bar, where she finished first overall. “I missed track so much, and it brings me so much happiness to be back competing with all my friends this year,” Valek said. Photo courtesy of Colleen Olson.

The East varsity girls’ track team hosted both Plainfield North and Joliet Central on Wednesday afternoon. The girls placed 1st overall out of the three competing teams en route to a 6-1 record on the season.

Following the two-week shutdown of all athletic activities in the school district, events began to return this week. Needless to say, the track team has made the most out of it.

Excitement is an understatement for how the girls felt after their return.

“Because last season was shortened, it made me even more excited this year to get back in the swing of things. Outdoor season is the best part of track and I am glad we got to come back to it,” junior Madison Egan said.

Head Coach Connor Downs additionally expressed his gratitude for the opportunity of a renewed season.

“[It’s a] true blessing. I love to see the team, groups, and every single individual improve. I love the interactions, the conversations, the planning. All of it,” Downs said.

For senior Kathy Harris, there was more to overcome than just the detrimental COVID pandemic. 

“I have been struggling with hip and lower back pain,” Harris explained. “Additionally track has taken a big toll on me this year because of the crazy season and random break after two weeks.” 

Harris, despite her complications, was still able to overcome it by looking at the positives to ensure her team’s success at the meet.

“In the 4×400 meter relay, I was just thinking about getting through it, since it is my favorite race to run. I saw the girl in front of me and I was pushing myself to get in front of her,” Harris said.

Alongside her teammates of sophomore Monse Tago, junior Taylor Scott, and senior Ella Valek, Harris was able to win first place in their 4×400 relay meet with a combined time of four minutes and 31 seconds. 

Ella Valek was not quite done there, as she took to the high jump bar for her team, securing first place in the varsity competition and earning one of the two first-place finishes in the field events for the Wolves.

“Overthinking is what kills me,” Valek said. “So turning off my brain gives me an advantage when competing.”

Her strategy certainly worked, as she jumped 1.60 meters in her final attempt, more than a tenth of a meter higher than the runner-up. 

“[It’s a] true blessing. I love to see the team, groups, and every single individual improve. I love the interactions, the conversations, the planning. All of it.”

— Head Coach Connor Downs

As for the rest of the running events, the success remained the same. The Wolves finished in first for nine of the thirteen events. 

Sophomore Sydney Williams set a personal record in her 800-meter run with a time of two minutes and 25 seconds. Even though it is a solo event, she granted her victory to her teammates.

“The biggest advantage was being able to run with my teammates… [the 800-meter run] is really about trusting your teammates the first 600 and trusting yourself in the last 200 down the stretch.”

Williams was not the only member of the track team to best their previous times Wednesday. Junior Kelsey Carlson and Sophomore Avery Neal both set personal records and won their heats in the 400-meter dash and the 200-meter dash, respectively.

“My mentality was always to improve my time and go beyond the barriers I set for myself because I am my biggest competitor,” Neal said.

The team’s next hurdle will be to win the conference meet. That is always the number one goal in mind, according to the runners and Coach Downs. 

“Overall, everyone on the team has an individual goal to improve as the season continues,” Egan said. 

The track and field team has one more upcoming home meet this Monday, May 24th, before advancing to the conference meet on the following Friday, May 28th. 

Charles Jaegle is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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