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Warrensburg-Latham's Brittney Oakley staying prepared for IHSA track season
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Warrensburg-Latham's Brittney Oakley staying prepared for IHSA track season

WARRENSBURG — By this point, Brittney Oakley knows every slight incline and step in her neighborhood, she's quite acquainted with her treadmill and can be found, at some point, in her driveway working on her long and triple jump form.

It's all in a days work for Oakley, a Warrensburg-Latham senior track athlete who is signed to join the Illinois State University track and field team next season, as she awaits word on if the IHSA will have spring sports competitions as the country navigates the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Oakley has gone to the Class 1A state track and field meet every year as an athlete at Warrensburg and has 10 individual state medals and one team medal to show — so far. She finished fourth in last season's long jump, ninth in the triple jump, was on the 4x100-meter relay team that finished sixth and the 4x200 team that finished seventh.

Even with uncertainty surrounding the status of spring sports, Oakley still has plans to walk into O'Brien Stadium on the campus of Eastern Illinois University and leave with four more individual medals. Each workout comes with a sense of hope. Without hope, those 400- and 600-meter runs on the treadmill get more burdensome.

“I do have hope," Oakley said. "It’s slowly getting kind of less and less though. With the April 30 thing (the extended social distancing measures from President Donald Trump and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker), that kind of worries me. I’m just trying to stay positive through the whole thing because if I have hope I’ll continue to be motivated to work hard."

When the announcement of school closures hit on March 13, Oakley figured she would just miss a few early-season meets and be back on path. The extension of closures was harder to absorb. That meant less possible time for a track season. The IHSA announced last week that it would be willing to extend the timeline for spring sports, if possible.

“I was definitely devastated because obviously it’s my senior year and I have big plans for the whole year, but I was still like, ‘OK, I can just go out there and do what I can do. I can show what I can do without a ton of meets,'" Oakley said of hearing about the extension of school closure. "Now with the whole postponements it’s like, ‘Oh, geez, that gives us like two weeks, maybe.’"

No school also means no access to facilities. Oakley was asked to leave Warrensburg-Latham's track in the middle of a workout and has been relegated to finding different ways to practice and work out.

“I’m able to do a lot, but I did get kicked off my track so that’s kind of sad," Oakley said. "I’m kind of thinking of it now as overcoming adversity. I can’t be on the track. I can still go outside. I can still run on a treadmill and I can still do jumping drills. I’m just trying to do that and I’m running 400s; even though it’s not on a track, it’s still something."

Warrensburg coach Tammy Davis sends out some workout ideas to her players and uplifting messages, but when she considers the prospect of Oakley and the rest of the seniors possibly missing their final year, her voice begins to break and the tears come.

Anything, Davis said, is better than nothing.

“It makes me cry," Davis said. "It’s just really upsetting. Here’s my thought: Give me two track meets, sectionals and state and I’ll take it. I’ll take anything they’ll give me. It’s hard to be optimistic when you see what’s going on around the state with the numbers and stuff like that. I get really upset."

Even when Davis is struggling, she knows Oakley's outlook can lift her up. She's relentless in her pursuit that a season could still happen. One jump. One race. Oakley is treating this situation like it's a mental rut early in the season. She can will herself to keep going and to keep holding out hope as long as necessary. She has four more years of track at the Division I level, but she's been a fixture at the state meet for three seasons.

She just wants a fourth.

“I have to keep a mindset," Oakley said. "It’s just a mindset for me. Once I tell myself, ‘OK, Brittney, you can do this,’ I just go out and do it. This is kind of the biggest thing I’ve had to deal with, obviously, but we’re taking it day by day."

Said Davis: “All four years she’s just been fabulous. It seems like she’s been with me forever. I don’t want to give her up."

PHOTOS: Class 1A and Class 2A girls state track and field finals


Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25

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