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AOTM Sonia Slusarczyk ’18

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AOTM Sonia Slusarczyk ’18

Grace DeKoker, Copy Editor

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The sun beat down at the IHSA track and field state meet last May, as sprinter and hurdler Sonia Slusarczyk ‘18 warmed up. She took off her LT headband — a long-held superstition– before competing in the 4×400 meter relay. The whole race was a blur, she said, but what she can remember is her teammate crossing the finish line in second place, and her whole team rushing to hug one another.

“We knew they could be very good; we knew they were among some of the best relay teams in the state,” head girls’ track coach Greg Frandsen said. “It’s always a matter of pushing yourself to the limit and not to be afraid to hurt during the race. Sonia ran great to maintain our position… it’s always exciting, to see the team cross the finish line, and to come out on top is even better.”
At the state meet in Springfield, Slusarczyk also competed in the 4×100 meter relay, followed by 100 meter hurdles, then 300 meter hurdles and she finished the state meet with the 4×400 meter relay. Her personal success has been critical to helping the team score overall, Frandsen said.

“It was the best because it felt like all that work we’d put in had really paid off.” Slusarczyk said. “My coach always makes fun of me for not smiling at meets, and I just remember my smile was stuck on my face [that day].”

On top of being a two-time state medallist, Slusarczyk has recently committed to University of Miami at Ohio to run track and continue hurdling.

“I’m so excited, I really like the coach and think we can work well together,” she said. “I spent the night with the team and I absolutely loved all of them. I can’t wait to race for them next year.”

Slusarczyk was not always star hurdler though, her freshman year she competed on the girls’ gymnastics team, and initially ran sprints on the track team because she joined later in the season, she said. Her hard work combined with talent landed her a spot on the state team that year, even though she actually had little interest in hurdles until she competed with a travel team that following summer, she said.

“[My coach] asked me to try it, and it was a little rocky, but it improved,” she said. “It takes a lot of coordination, but when I came back to high school season, he had me hurdling right away.”

From that point on, Slusarczyk has poured her focus into running, she said. In the fall, she runs on cross country to stay in shape, but track events and sprinting are her standard domain.

Hurdling is a niche event in track, and Slusarczyk has to train very specifically to see improvement. In the indoor season, the only event for hurdlers is the 55 meter, while the outdoor high school season offers 100 meter and 300 meter, Slusarczyk said.

“It takes time to learn form and technique, and you’re always trying to refine that technique,” Frandsen said. “The timing is so hard to perfect, you have to hold and maintain form around the hurdles.”

Slusarczyk leads the team in more than just points though- she is a leader both on and off the track, teammate Lizzie Scotty ‘19 said.

“She leads us in workouts, she’s always in the front, setting a pace,” Scotty said. “She also is a great example to the entire team. I know so many people, including myself, look up to her, and she is always looking out for us.”

Slusarczyk trains year round, and runs for Chicagoland Zephyr’s Track Club in the summer. Frandsen is her coach there as well, and through him she has seen the most improvement, she said.

“He’s fixed so much of my running form, from a practical point,” she said. “He juggles so much, but you still get attention from him. You know that he really cares about you, which is really nice.”

Coaching Slusarczyk both during her high school season and in off-season training is a unique experience, Frandsen said. He has the opportunity to give her more feedback, and by working with her closely, build her confidence in her events.

Frandsen has high hopes for Slusarczyk final season, he said. She is set apart by her high intensity, he said, and a constant drive to be better.

“Her strength as an athlete is unbelievable,” Scotty said. “She’s indestructible. Sonia never fails to meet and beat the times [Frandsen] wants us to be hitting.”

Track and Field next competes at the York High School on March 3.

 

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