The 300-meter hurdles might be the most pain-fraught event run at a high school track meet. Requiring a sprinter's speed, a distance runner's stamina and field event devotee's attention to technique, it is not an event for which many coaches have volunteers.
Let alone freshmen volunteers — stepping up in late April, track crunch time, no less.
But that was what Willie Cole had last season. The Crete-Monee coach swiftly declined the offer, saying it came "much too late in the season."
So, who would do such a thing?
"Somebody who's insane," Cole said, laughing. "There's nothing easy about it."
Nothing easy unless, perhaps, you're a Foy.
Tenija Foy comes from a family familiar with defying convention. Older sisters Mi'a and Te'ja, respectively, are competing collegiately in swimming and cross country. Milea, a Crete-Monee junior, is a standout soccer player.
Then there's dad, Mike Foy. The 1980 Thornwood graduate was a two-time member of the U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling team (1988 and 1992), and since returning to the south suburbs in 2002 has authored a feat of undeniable entrepreneurial courage.
In 2008, he bought Glenwood's venerable Dragon Inn Restaurant, and in 2009 moved it from the location it had occupied for 46 years.
"Courage? Or coercion?" Mike Foy said. "It was a hard situation for everyone there. We were kind of forced."
Regardless, Dragon Inn is now in Chicago Heights, with plans on the board for a Lansing location.
And yes, Tenija Foy is now a hurdler.
On Saturday, the sophomore finished third at the Homewood-Flossmoor Invitational, her time of 51.24 seconds one of the top 20 in the state thus far this season, according to athletic.net. Not bad for a runner in just her second outdoor meet, and first competing in a heat with the fastest runners.
"She's tough," Cole said. "You've got to be tough to want to run hurdles."
Toughness never entered the equation as far as Tenija was concerned. Last season, she merely watched an older Crete-Monee runner practicing the hurdles.
"It looked like it was fun to do," she said, "but I have a different mind than anyone else, I guess."
Her father couldn't agree more.
"I learned a long time ago, it's all about desire," he said. "I can't have the desire for them."
That said, he conceded he recognized her gift for running at an early age.
"Ever since she was able to run, she was running like a wheel rolls — so smooth," he said. "She has a gift. I can't take any credit for it."
Her early, natural speed has been augmented by running cross country and, in track, the 400 meters and 1,600-meter relay. In the relay, Foy and two other Warrior runners are back from the quartet that finished sixth in state last season.
"She has a measure of speed, and her stride is naturally long," Cole said. "She's a natural 400 runner, so strength-wise she can handle the hurdles."
Apparently. Although Tenija has clipped a hurdle or two, she's never fallen.
Then again, falling has never been an issue.
"My dad says once I started walking I never fell," she said.
It seems she's not planning on falling short as a hurdler, either. Though she's still got some work to do to reach the 46.94 automatic qualifying standard for state, based on her times now Cole says Tenija has a good chance to advance out of Crete-Monee's sectional with a top-two finish.
Her gaze might go beyond state.
"Just the other day we were talking about the Olympics — she asked me a little bit about the Olympics and how it affects me that there may not be wrestling in the next one," Mike Foy said. "I asked her if she was thinking about the Olympics.
"She definitely is."