Girls’ track dominates competition at state


For the second year in a row, the girls’ track and field team earned a state trophy, improving their placement this year by finishing as the state runner-ups at Eastern Illinois University. With a score of 52 points, they clinched a spot in history, only behind Huntley who scored 62.5 points. 

To add to the excitement, the 4×800 relay were state champions for the third consecutive year. Consisting of junior Lily Ginsberg and seniors Hailey Erickson, Cameron Kalaway and Samantha Patterson, the four ran their way to a three-peat by finishing in first place. According to IHSA, since 1985 the Prospect three-peat stands as a state record for the 4×800 event, only tying with York High School when they won in 1996, ‘97 and ‘98. 

Sophomore Sophie Fransen, who went to state last year but did not race, was able to compete in the 4×800 prelims along with sophomore Veronica Znajda, Patterson and Erickson.

 “It felt really exciting to be part of something that was so big for the team,” Fransen said. 

Based on the preliminary results, the final state 4×800 team was predicted to place second; however, the girls were able to run for each other and take first place.

“It was such a special moment to see my teammates out there running really well,” Fransen said. “Everybody in the stands was so excited for them … there was really good energy there.” 

Fortunately, success not only flourished in distance races, but also continued into the sprints. The 4×200 relay of junior Charlotte Deines, sophomore Anna Niebruggee, and freshman Nikki Niebruggee and Samantha Skowronski were able to get second place in finals. Anna credits her success to the support from her teammates and sprint coach Kenny Johnson.

“For our relay [Johnson] was saying how [we’ve] been working hard towards this all year and it was our chance to prove that,” Anna said. “He really put it into perspective.” 

Head coach Pete Wintermute credits a large portion of the season’s success to Deines, Patterson and freshman Meg Peterson’s work ethic. Wintermute described Deines as “the most improved” athlete in the state as she broke numerous school records. 

In moments outside of relays, such as the 200m prelims, Niebrugge feels comforted by the thought that her teammates understand the stress that can come along with races.

“I just have to tell myself that I’m not the only one on my team and that my teammates are dealing with the same pressure,” Anna said. 

With the seniors leaving, Fransen is sad to see such impactful leaders graduate, but she knows that the juniors and sophomores will fill the roles left by the seniors.

“They were all really big leaders and they brought the team together a lot,” Fransen said. “When I’d be nervous for races they had that experience and knew how to help calm me down. It’s going to be weird not having them there, but I also think our team will be able to step up.”

Wintermute believes that the team’s dynamic of putting each other before themselves had a lot to do with their achievements this year.

“Probably the thing I’m most proud about I guess is what led to a lot of success was just the selflessness of many girls on the team,” Wintermute said.

According to Wintermute, the character of some of the runners helped shape the team’s culture. 

“… It was really all about the team and less about a bunch of individuals and I think that just became contagious when you saw it from the top happening,” Wintermute said. “It was just contagious going all down through the program and to me that’s something that’s memorable and it’s what creates those bonds that these kids have for a long time.”

Wintermute believes the distance runners contributed greatly to setting the tone for the program. 

“[Kalaway, Erickson and Patterson] are some of the most incredible kids I’ve ever coached and forget athletic achievements, just in terms of who they are as people,” Wintermute said.

Anna is doing her best to serve as a similar role model as the seniors and juniors were to her this year. Through observing the upperclassmen, she tries to mimic these effective leadership actions that stick out to her the most.

“I see the upperclassmen acting all confident like they know what they’re doing,” Anna said. “It’s like they know they’re going to do well.”

While at the meet, Fransen felt constantly supported by Wintermute with his words of advice and reassurance. Months of training alongside Wintermute helped prepare all of the girls for success at the state meet.

“[Wintermute] reminds us that we deserve to be there and he makes sure we all know how much work we’ve put in,” Fransen said. “He reminds us that we’re strong, talented and powerful.” 

According to Wintermute, he and the coaches strive to encourage and be there for all runners during their time at Prospect. 

“I’m blessed to have an incredible coaching staff,” Wintermute said. “Our goal as teachers and as educators is to prepare athletes and student-athletes for what’s to come … for many of these kids I’d do anything for them. I think the rest of our staff is like that too, that if there’s anything they ask for we are there to support them in any way shape or form whether that has to do with running or not.”