Renata Wingert initially joined the Lyons Township girls track and field program only for the indoor season to get in shape for soccer.
When Wingert, a senior, stayed for outdoors, she soon was promoted to varsity and placed by coach Greg Frandsen among the front of workout groups.
“I remember coming in as a freshman and being one of the shyest people ever. I was so scared,” Wingert said. “Track has definitely shaped me into a more determined and disciplined person. I’ve gotten self-confidence and grew and became a better person. I feel healthier, more energized and just feel better with it.”
Wingert can’t help but stand out now for another strong LT team. She’s a captain who usually does the maximum four events every meet and will compete next season for Illinois-Chicago.
In May, Wingert can join 2018 graduates Sonia Slusarczyk and Tara Schwarz as the Lions’ only members of three, top-nine all-state 1,600-meter relay finishers.
“We’ve always known she’s been good. It was just a matter of her knowing she’s good,” Frandsen said. “All of the girls look up to her for the amount she does in meets and the fact she’s always running well. She’s someone we’ve been able to count on for four years. And she continues to get better.”
Wingert was part of the Lions’ highest 1,600 relay state finisher in 2017 (second, 3:55.49) and last year’s fourth-place team (3:54.80), which missed the school record by only .13. Wingert also belonged to last year’s lineups that set school records for the 400 relay at sectionals (48.99) and 800 relay in the state preliminaries (14th, 1:43.61).
“They’re such a thrill. I feel like when you’re a part of a relay team, you develop more of a family mindset. I feel like they’re my sisters now,” Wingert said.
Wingert is coming off her best – and healthiest – indoor season. On March 2, she ran a lifetime-best 42.54 for the 300, an event only competed indoors, and her 26.79 for the 200 Feb. 28 is .14 from her lifetime best. She even tried long jump once, going 15 feet, 2.5 inches. At the indoor West Suburban Silver Meet March 15, Wingert was second in the 300 and 400 and third in the 200.
“This season I actually was – for about a week or so – No. 1 in the state for the 300 indoor, which was actually cool to say. It was a proud time,” Wingert said. “I like having things to do. It’s sometimes kind of stressful to [compete four events)] but I like the stress because then it gives me some push to the race. It makes me want to go faster.”
This indoor season also prompted Wingert to actively pursue college running. Wingert’s mother works at UIC and Wingert remembers sometimes accompanying her to work with twin sister Petra as young children.
“[We’d] go cause trouble in the halls. We were always the loud ones,” Wingert said.
On her recent visit, Wingert made her way to the UIC athletic department and inquired about being recruited. Until she can cut her 400 best from 59.17 to 57.11, she’s a preferred walk-on, but Frandsen said Wingert stated she’ll do whatever events the team needs. The Indian Head Park resident plans to commute to UIC with her car that she already uses for a fairly demanding work schedule around track.
“It’s going to be kind of tough [commuting],” Wingert said. “I wanted to go see what I could do [in college track]. I love running. I’ll always love running for the rest of my life.”