Remembering Jim Westphal’s winning run

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Hinsdale Central special education teacher and assistant athletic director Rick Lapinski sent in this picture (right) of former Oak Park-River Forest track and field state champion Jim Westphal.

Lapinski, an outstanding triathlete of his own with a recent appearance at Hawaii’s Ironman, works with Westphal in the special education department at Hinsdale Central. The picture was likely taken off a wall at OPRF honoring state champions at the school. I don’t know if that’s Lapinski’s shadow in the lower left from taking the picture.

I know I had never seen this picture before. Outside OPRF’s Fieldhouse are headshots of former all-conference champions, but I don’t recall seeing action shots in that part of the school.

Westphal was the only previous OPRF athlete to win the 3,200-meter run at the Class AA state meet in 1987. Until Saturday. Wisconsin-bound senior Malachy Schrobilgen joined Westphal in that elite company by winning the 3,200 in the Class 3A state meet in Charleston. Westphal was there to see it as an assistant coach at Hinsdale Central.

“I couldn’t be prouder. I’ve had the privilege to watch Malachy over the last three seasons in which he has become one of the best distance runners in the country. His exploits on the track go without saying. An incredible competitor and athlete. And to come back for a third in the 1600; Wow, what a competitor and team player,” Westphal said.

“What’s even more impressive from a coach/teacher/parent perspective is that Malachy is grounded, humble, and an overall genuinely terrific young man. An athlete like that comes around every 20-25 years or so. Clearly, he has had wonderful guidance from his parents (Greg and Kathleen) and coaches (Jose Sosa and Abel Reyes).”

“Watching him cross the finish line brought a flood of emotions and for a few moments for me and what it was like to experience a state championship. How ironic, with the same coach (Sosa).”

Schrobilgen has seen Westphal run before. One of Schrobilgen’s coaches showed him a video of Westphal’s winning run that the school keeps on a DVD. Westphal’s title came nearly seven years before Schrobilgen was even born.

Westphal (pictured right) probably won’t miss seeing Schrobilgen, who graduates on Sunday. As Hinsdale Central’s boys cross country coach for nearly 10 years, Westphal has seen Schrobilgen dominate his Devils runners. Last year’s battles between Schrobilgen and Hinsdale Central graduate Billy Fayette, now at Richmond, were fierce both in cross country and on the track.

After OPRF, Westphal became a four-time All-American in cross country and track and field at Loyola University. He competed in the Olympic trials in 1992 and 1996 and was a member of the U.S. World Cross Country team from 1994-96. Before arriving to Hinsdale Central, Westphal coached at Glenbard West.

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