Luther North HS girls’ track and field team wins championship
by AGNES CONNOLLY
The Luther North Prep High School girls’ track and field team won the state championship in the final weeks before the school closes its doors next month and coach David Grim said the win was unexpected but it could not have come at a better time.
On May 20, the last girls’ track and field team to come from Luther North won the Class 1A Illinois High School Association state championship, the first state title ever achieved by any Luther North sports team, according to the school. Grim, who has been the cross-country and track and field coach at the high school for 35 years, said the win was a surprise.
"As a coach you always dream a little but I never thought it would happen," Grim said.
The team placed as state champions in three IHSA events. Junior Natasha Bernett won first place in the 300-meter low hurdles, senior Kayla Armstrong won first place in the 400-meter dash and Armstrong, Bernett, Jada Williams and Cameron Boone won first place in the 400-meter relay. Altogether, the team earned 59 points, a 7-point lead over Warrensburg-Latham, which won second place.
Other team members are Rebecca Everett, Alana Santos, Leah Uteg, Michelle Diaz and Charlotte LaFleur. Grim and coach John Franklin coached the team.
The school at 5700 W. Berteau Ave., will close after 64 years of operation on the Northwest Side due to declining enrollment and financial problems.
The decision to close was made by the school’s board of trustees on Feb. 24. Officials cited years of declining enrollment and costs associated with operating a private high school as reasons for the closing.
At its peak in the 1960s and 1970s, student enrollment exceeded 1,400 students. Enrollment gradually declined in succeeding years, and the current enrollment is 170 students, officials said.
The victory has had a lot of impact on the school and its community.
"It can get emotional at times. It comes in waves," Grim said. When the school announced its closure earlier in the year, Grim said it was important for everyone to enjoy the last few months and celebrate the school. After the win, Grim expressed it as "icing on icing on the cake."
Grim said community celebrations include a broadcast of some of the races from the championship for the rest of the Luther North students.
"They go wild," said Grim, "even I still get shivers down my spine."
Although some of the team is graduating this year, other girls from the team are headed to new schools. Some of those girls will continue track at their new schools. Grim said that tells the students not to compare this moment to others but instead to let it stand on it its own. Grim says it’s important for each team member to take what they learned from this and share it.
For Grim, he said the win would always be a special memory. "It feels great. Sometimes I don’t know how to express it," he said.