The end of another high school sports season gives scribes such as yours truly a chance to collect our thoughts and take a sabbatical from checking team schedules and other information on the athletics2000.com Web site.
But in a mere six weeks from Wednesday—Aug. 10, to be exact—football teams in your area will be putting on the pads once again. And with it, the beginning of the 2011-12 prep season.
I’m not prepared to turn the calendar just yet, though.
Join me in a walk down memory lane from a reporter’s perspective one last time regarding the 2010-11 campaign.
Here we go…
I had the privilege of being an eyewitness to several athletic achievements during 2010-11 that I’d consider top-notch. But here are two that really stand out:
- York’s boys cross country team winning the Class 3A state title
Watching legendary coach Joe Newton, 81 years young, being greeted by well-wishers near the winner’s stage at Peoria’s Detweiller Park is a moment you want frozen in time. Standout senior Jack Driggs and the Dukes brought home the school’s that first Saturday in November—its first since 2006.
- Wheaton Warrenville South winning the Class 7A state football title for a second straight year
One of the most difficult things to do in sports at any level is win championships, but hats off to the Tigers and head coach Ron Muhitch for doing just that last November at the University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium.
Reilly O’Toole, Matt Rogers, Titus Davis, Sparty Chino, Caleb Bednarz, Jason Schuman, et al. Not only great athletes, but terrific young men.
Most Intense Athlete
Downers North point guard Katie Hunzinger is friendly and personable off the court. On the court, she’s all business. Loved her fiery demeanor and the way she went all-out at both ends of the court.
Most Embarrassing Moment
Arriving at an area boys basketball game, taking a seat behind the score’s table … and realizing that some gentleman sitting a few feet to my left was wearing a J.C. Penney sweater identical to mine.
Needless to say, I kept hoping my twin would find another place to sit—ideally at the top row on the other side of the gym.
Whenever Wheaton North and Wheaton Warrenville South lock horns in an athletic endeavor, get ready to strap it down, as Hawk Harrelson would say. Overtimes and extra innings are not uncommon.
Well, a dual girls tennis meet between the two schools last September took the trophy for longevity. Every match this particular day had concluded by around 5:30 p.m., except for one: between No. 3 singles players Tesa Coker (WWS) and Courtney Kayne (Wheaton North).
Their match went on … and on … and on. At one point, one of their teammates watching the match (I can’t remember which team she was on) got on her cell phone and ordered a Domino's pizza, which was delivered right to the court.
Some 3 ½ hours after it started, just before dark, the match finally concluded. Click to find out how it turned out.
And the pizza? I think the girls polished that off by the start of the fourth set.
I heard countless renditions of the Star-Spangled Banner sung by students throughout the year prior from the opening kickoff at football games, the opening tipoff at basketball games to the first pitch at baseball and softball games.
Ninety-eight percent of these students did a terrific job. The remaining percentage, umm, let’s put it this way: You’re not auditioning for American Idol. What’s more, if you can’t remember the lyrics, why not print them up and refer to them, if necessary, while you’re singing? (And don’t get me started on those in some student sections—not all—who insist on making cymbal-crash noises after every lyric of the national anthem.)
Now that I’m off my soapbox, hats off to an elderly man who, prior to a girls' regional basketball game at Glenbard West, sang the anthem flawlessly. It was, hands down, the best rendition I heard all year.
Best Prep Sports Venues in DuPage County
- Football—There's nothing like Glenbard West’s Duchon Field on a crisp, fall Saturday afternoon with Lake Ellyn as a backdrop. Wheaton Warrenville South’s Red Grange Field and York’s Clarence D. East Field are nice, as well.
- Basketball—Hinsdale Central’s gymnasium, with its circa 1950s bleachers. I’m a fan of Downers South’s gym, too. It gets rockin’ with a full house.
- Volleyball—The Spyglass Athletic Center on the campus of St. Francis High School in Wheaton. An excellent facility, and the home of two excellent girls and boys volleyball teams. The pep band is good and loud, too.
- Baseball—I miss the old Wheaton North baseball field along Geneva Road with its Green Monster-like, left-field fence. But the old field’s replacement has a blue monster in right field, and the field itself is well-groomed and immaculate.
- Softball—Glenbard West: I like the portable outfield fence, the synthetic outfield turf … and the horns blasting from passing Metra and freight trains.
Admittedly, I thought Hinsdale Central’s baseball team was toast as it faced an 11-2 deficit in the sixth inning of its regional opener with one more inning to go. In fact, I was formulating leads for my story by the fifth inning.
However, I had to refrain from clicking the “submit” story to the editor button because the Red Devils tallied seven runs in the sixth and four more in the seventh to , 13-11. Hinsdale Central hit five home runs that afternoon, including a grand slam by Matt Anderson.
Best Student Section Taunt
The Wheaton North student section singing “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star” while Reilly O’Toole, Wheaton Warrenville South’s all-state quarterback—and a darned good basketball player—was shooting free throws. If you were to ask Reilly what he thought about the taunt, I bet even he would give his cross-town rivals props for creativity.
Worth the Price of Admission
A good rim-rattling dunk always catches my attention, and if I didn’t have the luxury of getting into athletic events free of charge with my trusty media credential, I’d pay to see Wes Koral, a guard for Wheaton Academy’s boys basketball team.
Koral played just one season with the Warriors (he transferred to Wheaton Academy from Joliet Catholic after his junior year), but he made quite an impact. Last December, I saw Koral for the first time when the Warriors faced in a non-conference game.
Koral, who tops out height-wise between 6-2 and 6-3, has around a 40-inch vertical leap, and had two dunks that evening—one in which he drove down the baseline on an inbounds play and skied over defenders to jam it home.
Wes, we hardly knew ye, but thanks for putting on a show.