Grant Jensen had played soccer his entire life when he arrived at Prairie Ridge three years ago.
It was the sport he loved. It was even something he considered pursuing in college.
But something happened his freshman year. Wolves boys track and field coach Judd Shutt and assistant coach Amy Taege got a look at the long-legged freshman and saw a potential beast in the 800 meters.
“I wasn’t planning on running track my freshman year, but they convinced me,” said Jensen, who is 6-foot-4. “They worked it out with my (Chicago Inferno club) soccer schedule. I couldn’t thank them enough for being persistent.”
Jensen’s trust in his coaches paid huge dividends. He qualified for the Class 3A 800-meter run in the IHSA Boys Track and Field State Meet three times, taking fourth last year. He signed his National Letter of Intent last month with Illinois, where he will run next year on an athletic scholarship.
Jensen visited Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, but liked Illinois’ engineering program and assistant coach Jebreh Harris, who works with the middle distance runners.
A couple weeks after Jensen finished fourth at state, he ran a 1:53.32 in the 800 at the Midwest Distance Classic in St. Louis.
“After that I realized Division I was a very real possibility,” Jensen said. “I went into steps for recruitment that summer.”
Shutt said Taege convinced Jensen to try track his freshman season. They told him they could work around his club soccer schedule. A time of 2:00 is considered a strong 800 run early in a track season.
“The first time he stepped on a track he went 2:01 as a freshman,” Shutt said. “He wouldn’t have been able to keep up with our varsity guys for a complete workout, but he’s always been a competitor. Over the course of the next couple years he’s been our go-to guy. We got very lucky. He did about six workouts and ran 1:57.”
Orvis to IUPUI: Crystal Lake Central senior Becca Orvis signed her National Letter of Intent last month to run on scholarship at D-I Indiana-University-Purdue-University-Indianapolis, where she will join her sister Janine.
Becca Orvis finished 18th at the Fox Valley Conference Meet and was a Northwest Herald All-Area honorable-mention selection for cross country.
Dineen to Murray State: Marian Central senior Regan Dineen will walk on at D-I Murray (Kentucky) State next year for women’s track and field. Dineen qualified for the Class 2A State Meet last spring in three events, the long jump, 4x100 and 4x400 and helped the Hurricanes win the Woodstock North Sectional.
Dineen long jumped 17-10 to win the East Suburban Catholic Conference.
Shepard to Northwestern: Marengo senior Aaron Shepard signed recently to attend Northwestern College, an NAIA school in Orange City, Iowa on a track and field scholarship. Shepard finished fifth in the Class 2A high jump at the state meet, clearing 6-5.
At the Richmond-Burton Sectional, Shepard made his career-best height of 6-7 to win. He won the Kishwaukee River Conference title at 6-3.