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Running for a legacy

On March 15, HHS boys track and field hosted the Coach Popenfoose ABC Invite to honor Joel Popenfoose and his legacy
C Willig
Casey Popenfoose stands amongst his family and gives a passionate speech about his late father, Joel Popenfoose, a previous coach of HHS track and field.


A flash of blue whizzes by, leaving the strands of your hair blowing away from your face. Was it a bird? A plane?

Tap, tap, TAP, TAP, tap.

No. At the end of the track, you see a stampede of track runners finishing their sprints and–

SWACK. Whoosh.

They crashed into the thick, gray mats against the wall. A whistle blows and a new set of runners repeat.

This and many other events took place on March 15 during the Coach Popenfoose ABC Invite. The boys’ track and field team hosted the invite, welcoming teams from Hampshire, Burlington Central, Jacobs, Lake Zurich, and Kaneland high schools.

Their school colors decorated the fieldhouse throughout, each corner filled with rainbow blurs of activity. Reds and blues pole vaulted, black threw in shot put, and purple and gold kicked up sand as they competed in the triple jump.

As for Huntley, the varsity boys consistently placed top scores: personal records were placed for many, freshman and sophomore runners saw their scores increase dramatically from previous meets, and Huntley took home the 4×200 win.

“It’s an exhilarating experience,” sophomore runner Connor Wade said. “It never gets old. Each meet brings something new and exciting.”

This meet in particular was one with big meaning for the entire track and field community. One of the original coaches of Huntley High School track was Joel Popenfoose. He passed away on March 16, 2023.

“It’s been a year without him,” said Casey Popenfoose, son of Joel Popenfoose. “The grief the entire family felt has been rough, but the track and field community has given us nothing but love and support.”

Joel Popenfoose was the head coach for over 15 years for boys’ track and field and made sure both his athletes and kids got involved in the sport.

“It was a family rule that we had to do track and field during middle school and high school,” Casey Popenfoose said. “[My dad] would literally take us to the track to run laps.”

Coach Popenfoose would even take his runners out during the beginning of the track season when there was still snow outside. The fieldhouse had yet to be built, so he would shovel the snow and ice to ensure his runners were able to practice.

“The last time I FaceTimed my dad in the hospital, he was watching track on the TV. Not even paying attention to me, just the runners,” Casey Popenfoose said.

Joel Popenfoose’s legacy has continued this past year and has pushed track and field athletes to work even harder.

“I worked with [Coach] Popenfoose for quite a while, and he really just lit up a room,” track and field coach James Rolando said. “He took this program from 25 kids to hundreds.”

Running in the name of Joel Popenfoose, the boys’ track and field team continued to perform their best. Coach Rolando is anticipating the rest of the season to follow the same trends.

There is nothing quite like watching the elation of an athlete as they reach their goal that they likely have been working on for some time to accomplish. I can’t wait to help them get there,” Rolando said.

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About the Contributor
Carrie Willig
Carrie Willig, Social Media Manager
Carrie Willig is the social media manager for her second year in a row! It is her second year on The Voice staff. In her free time, Carrie loves to read, spend quality time with family, hang out with friends, and watch Disney movies. She’s so excited to make the 2023-24 school year another great year!

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