'It really hasn't set in yet': Glenbrook South senior on winning state title in 300-meter hurdles

Two days later, Ryan Schaefer still couldn't quite believe it.

On May 27 at the Illinois High School Association Class 3A boys track and field state finals in Charleston, Schaefer became Glenbrook South's fifth state champion in boys track when he won the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 38.34 seconds.

The Illinois State-bound senior was the Titans' first champion on the track since Colin Hepburn won back-to-back 100 dash titles in 2009 and 2010. Ryan Faut won discus at the 2021 state meet.

“It really hasn't set in yet, which is funny,” Schaefer said on Monday.

“But it's a dream come true and I worked super-hard for this moment, and I really couldn't have done it without my coaches and my family making sacrifices for me,” he said.

In the May 26 preliminaries at Eastern Illinois University, Schaefer clocked 37.79, which stands as Illinois' best this season in the 300 hurdles.

Over the course of the spring, Titans coach Kurt Hasenstein said Schaefer rose from No. 5 to No. 2 all-time at Glenbrook South in the event, behind only John Strickland's 37.01 seconds to win the 1990 Class AA title, a state record at the time.

“First of all it's really special for him, his family and our school,” Hasenstein said of Schaefer's title. “To be able to have an athlete of his caliber come through our program, it's really tremendous working with someone who loves track and field so much and has so much passion.”

Multiple influences helped mold the athlete, and the accomplishment: Hasenstein, a past decathlete at North Central College; former Palatine head coach John Nalley, who joined the staff last fall as an assistant; past Titans assistant John Novotny; Schaefer's teammates; and his parents.

His father, Jonathan Schaefer, was a distance runner at Loyola Academy. Most directly, Ryan's mother, Julie, now a Glenbrook South English teacher, was a state-qualifying Titans hurdler who ran at Eastern Illinois.

From this group Ryan Schaefer learned not only technique but patience, focus “and making sure I'm having fun. That's what got me through this season,” he said.

“He had the right guys around him to push him and he had the right guys around him to make sure he was still having fun,” Hasenstein said.

It all came to bear as Schaefer approached the 300 hurdles final on a sunny Saturday.

  Glenbrook South's Ryan Schaefer places second in the Class 3A long jump at the IHSA boys state track and field meet in Charleston Saturday, May 27, 2023. John Starks/

It almost gets lost that Schaefer also finished second in 3A long jump at 6.83 meters (22 feet, 5 inches). His 18 points in the hurdles and high jump equaled a 16th-place team finish for Glenbrook South.

Kenwood's Parrish Hartley snatched the long jump title late in Saturday's finals, 6.96 meters (22-10). Schaefer just barely fouled on his final attempt.

That never feels good. Neither did a 16th-place high jump, clearing 6 feet, 1 inch.

A little mad, a little disappointed, his legs beat, Schaefer hydrated and regrouped for the 300.

“As I warmed up I was telling myself, I may be tired, but I've got to push through this last race,” he said.

Newfound adrenaline turned into the good kind of butterflies when he got into the blocks. The starter's gun fired. Schaefer took Hasenstein's advice.

“Hass told me to run your own race, and I can't lose. That's exactly what I did. I got out really hard on the first hurdle, and I felt like I was just floating,” Schaefer said.

Seated in the front row of the O'Brien Stadium grandstand where the final turn meets the straightaway, Hasenstein noticed a little stutter around the second hurdle, but Schaefer kept his composure.

Hasenstein warned that unlike most of Schaefer's races this season, he would be challenged in Charleston. Schaefer said he benefitted from his tight sectional race against Evanston's Miles Granjean, who went on to win the 3A 110 hurdles and earn all-state in the 100 and 200 dashes.

“I'm glad I had that experience heading into the final,” Schaefer said.

Despite pressure from Stevenson's Marcus Caselberry, Wheaton Warrenville South's Amari Williams and others, Schaefer stayed tall, maintained form, and ran calm.

“I knew down the stretch it was going to be his,” Hasenstein said.

Schaefer's time of 38.34 seconds was .32 seconds ahead of Moline's Saiheed Jah, with Crystal Lake Central's Jonathan Tegel in third. Also capping a strong senior season, Loyola's Henry Hartsfield placed eighth at 40.19 seconds.

“It's just a feeling that I really never thought I'd experience, and something I never thought I could accomplish,” Schaefer said. “And now that it's happened it's like a big sigh of relief and I'm really proud of myself.”

Finishing strong

After running the fourth-fastest preliminary time in the 800-meter run, of 1 minute, 54.19 seconds, Glenbrook North junior John Ihrke ran even faster in the finals.

Most of the field did too, though, and despite running a personal-best time of 1:53.99, Ihrke placed sixth in the 800, won by Hinsdale Central's Dan Watcke at 1:52.16.

Ihrke is the only Spartan boy to earn a top-nine, all-state finish in the 800.

Loyola senior Will Simon placed 10th in the 800 with a personal-best 1:54.82. Glenbrook South's James Hiltebrand set another PR with his preliminary time of 1:58.85.

New Trier's Ben Crane, just a sophomore, finished 10th in the 3200-meter run on Saturday.

Glenbrook South's Schaefer nearly had a shot at a third all-state honor. He joined Caleb Jung, Ben Freidinger and Thomas Zambianchi on the Titans' 400 relay that in preliminaries went 42.53 seconds, .03 seconds behind Bloomington, the final team into the finals.

New Trier's Jameson Rick, Caden Pfister, Tucker Anglemyer and Jeram Salles finished fourth in the 1600 relay. Though IHSA records show the Trevians with several all-state finishes in the mile relay before the advent of the metric system, this was the first time since 1990 for an all-state New Trier 1600 relay.

Loyola junior Enoch Appiah-Kubi, the Deerfield sectional triple jump champion, finished sixth in Charleston with a top leap of 13.73 meters (45 feet. ½ inch). Breaking a 15-year-old school record, Appiah-Kubi now owns Loyola triple jump records both indoors and outdoors.

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