For Lyons Township High School senior Catherine Sommerfeld, perhaps it was fitting that her good news came from sprinting LTHS Principal Jennifer Tyrrell.

Sommerfeld, a girls track and field and cross country standout, was in the middle of a home indoor track meet Feb. 15 when Tyrrell informed Sommerfeld that she was among 26 student-athletes named to this year’s annual IHSA All-State Academic Team.

“I was really excited. I knew it was very competitive so I was a little bit surprised but also felt pretty good about it,” said Sommerfeld, who will continue running at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. 

Each IHSA school may nominate one female and male student-athlete who have at least a 3.5 grade-point average (4.0 scale) after their seventh semester, have participated in at least two IHSA-sponsored activities during each of the last two years of high school and demonstrated outstanding citizenship.

Catherine Sommerfeld | Photo by Michael Skora

The honorees were recognized at a banquet presented by the U.S. Army ROTC April 10 in Bloomington. 

The all-state distance runner in track and cross country thinks athletics have helped her in the classroom.

“Honestly, it correlates a lot mentally because I think running is very mentally challenging,” Sommerfeld said. “It helps me focus more sometimes in school because activity activates the brain. I feel like I do focus, I’m able to study better after a good workout.” 

Sommerfeld plans to major in engineering, possibly environmental, at Vanderbilt.

Her future teammates include two other senior standouts, York’s Bria Bennis, whom she competes against often in the West Suburban Conference Silver, and Nazareth Academy’s Colette Kinsella.

“I’ve always been interested in math and last year I realized that engineering is probably what I want to do,” Sommerfeld said.

Sommerfeld earned 2022 IHSA Class 3A all-state track honors in the 3,200-meter run (7th, all-time school-record 10:35.21) and reached the 1,600 finals (12th, 5:11.58). 

Healthy this entire indoor track season, Sommerfeld set indoor school records in the 1,600 (4:57.90) and the 3,200 (10:45.58) in March. The 3,200 time came in winning the indoor West Suburban Silver Meet just ahead of Bennis.

In cross country, Sommerfeld was an all-state 12th in 2021 (16:58.37 for 3.0 miles) and was 30th last November (18:20.0) with the Lions’ state-qualifying team.

As a junior, Sommerfeld missed nearly the entire indoor track season recovering from a stress reaction in her shin. Her senior cross country season competition started late because of a hip injury.

“This season, I’m really just focusing on staying healthy and just appreciating that,” Sommerfeld said. “I think lots of self-care and trying to get my iron levels back up has helped a lot.” 

And rest, which isn’t easy with a demanding training and academic schedule. This year, Sommerfeld has taken study halls to maximize her time management and studies as soon as she returns from practice.

“Some nights I have late nights, but I try to rest,” Sommerfeld said.

This year’s course load has included an Advanced Placement environmental science class and a STEM research course, where she is doing in-depth examination of water systems on homes. 

“I’m also a big math person so engineering really fits me,” Sommerfeld said.