DUNLAP, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — The Dunlap Eagles girls track team will compete for state championship medals Saturday.

And the Eagles will be thinking about Tessa Sutton.

Saniya Mathew/Dunlap senior: “Not only are we running for our coaches and our friends but we are running for Tessa,” said senior Saniya Mathew, a state qualifier in the 800-and-1600 meters. “The purple ribbons, the warm-up shirts, they remind us of her. We are running for her, praying for her, she’s always in our thoughts.”

Sutton, a junior at Dunlap High School, passed away in March after a two-year battle with cancer. She was diagnosed in 2021 during her freshman soccer season.

The girls have been wearing purple ribbons and bows this season to honor Sutton.

“I think this year, her confidence has really come with me. This year during long jump, I have (personal records) over a foot,” said junior Teagan Sullivan, who played four youth sports with Sutton. “She’s been there the whole time. I wear my Team Tessa shirt every meet. I wear purple laces. I’m always thinking about her.”

Junior Chelsea Wetzel, another friend of Sutton, is the top seed in the class 2A pole vault.

“We all have our purple bows and Team Tessa t-shirts. Anything that helps us be reminded of Tessa. It’s extra motivation,” said Wetzel. “We always just want her family to know we are always thinking about about her and her family.”