Hometown Hall of Famer
The Kaneland School District last week inducted Kerry Rink, pictured here from her days as a Kaneland High School cross country runner, into its Hall of Fame in the Personal Athletic Achievement category. Rink was a three-sport athlete at Kaneland, standing out in cross country, track and basketball. Courtesy Photo
Former KHS athlete inducted into District Hall of Fame
by Mike Sandrolini
ELBURN—Kerry Rink received a phone call out of the blue a couple of months ago from Dr. Jeff Schuler, superintendent of Kaneland Community School District 302.
Needless to say, she was pleasantly surprised to hear from him.
Schuler gave Rink, one of the most successful athletes in Kaneland High School history, the word that she had been selected for induction into the Kaneland School District Hall of Fame.
“That was kind of nice,” said Rink, who starred in track and field, basketball and cross country during her four years at Kaneland from 1984-88. “I was just honored that I was going to be inducted.”
Rink was officially inducted last week during Kaneland’s Senior Athletes’ Night. Members of her family, including her mother, Gerry, and her father, Richard—her varsity high school basketball coach—attended the ceremony.
“I think it’s a great honor,” said Richard, who coached the Knights during the 1980s, first as an assistant and then as head coach. “They finally got her in there, and she deserves to be in there. It’s good that they did it (induct Kerry) in front of the seniors to see what can be done by their athletes.”
Although she excelled in each of the three aforementioned sports, what Kerry accomplished on the track is legendary around the area. She was the Class A 800m state champion three consecutive years, and capped her stellar career by setting the state 800m record in a preliminary heat at a meet in 1988.
She then broke that record during the finals en route to the championship.
Her state record in the 800 stood for 19 years.
In addition, Kerry ran on the Knights’ 4x400m and 4x800m relay teams, the latter of which also set a state record and won a Class A title. The Knights captured the overall Class A team crown in both 1987 and 1988.
In cross country, she was a three-time all-state runner and placed third overall at the 1987 state meet, which at that time was not divided into classes.
Kerry’s track and field prowess landed her a scholarship to the University of Kentucky, where she achieved All-American status her freshman year.
She unfortunately ended up tearing the medial meniscus ligament in her right knee during her sophomore year while running for the UK cross country team. Kerry ran track the following spring, but the injury didn’t allow her to compete in either cross country or track her junior and senior years.
However, Kerry did graduate from UK with honors, and then went on to earn her master’s degree in occupational therapy from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
“I’m proud of the way she handled things on the court and off,” said Richard, who is an assistant boys basketball coach at Hinckley-Big Rock and was a sixth-grade teacher at Kaneland Middle School until his retirement in 1999. “I’m proud of the way she handled herself and came back and got her master’s degree after all the adversity.”
Kerry had been living and working in Los Angeles for the past seven years, but recently moved back to the area to be closer to her family. She now works in occupational therapy in DeKalb.
Rarely did a day go by in the Rink family when either Kerry or one of her five siblings—four brothers and a sister—wasn’t taking part in a practice, game or meet.
Kerry’s oldest brother, Patrick, wrestled and played football at Kaneland.
Her sister, Amy, was the starting point guard on Kaneland’s 1982 Class A state champion basketball team. Kerry’s two older brothers, Mike and Danny, each played football and basketball and ran track, as did her younger brother, Greg.
Gerry and Richard Rink had three of their children going to high school at the same time.
“I wish the microwave (oven) had been invented a few years earlier,” Richard said with a laugh. “There was someone in sports all the time. My wife and I used to parcel out watching games. She’d go to one event and I’d go to another. It was somewhat chaotic sometimes, but it worked out.”
Richard, of course, didn’t have to attend Kerry’s basketball games because he was her coach. Coaching one’s daughter or son isn’t unusual, yet Richard was always wary that he didn’t treat Kerry differently from the rest of her teammates.
“It was fun coaching her,” he said, “but it was kind of hard when you coach your own kid. You maybe have to be harder on your kid than you would on the other kids; otherwise it looks like favoritism. But I thought she was a very good player, and she did quite well for herself.”
That she did. Kerry was an all-state player in 1988 and tied a school record for most points scored in a quarter (17). She shares that record with Beth Creamean, a former two-sport star (basketball and softball) at DePaul University.
“It was hard sometimes because I didn’t know whether to call him Dad or coach,” Kerry said, “But I’m honored to have him as a coach. It was a good experience overall. We had a good team.
“He was a great coach and still is. I learned quite a lot from him. He helped me with my shooting and defense, and think I was the basketball player I was because of him.”
Kerry lists her parents and siblings as being among her biggest influences, both on and off the field and court.
“I went to school, went to practice, studied and went to bed (during high school),” said Kerry, a straight A student at Kaneland. “I was very serious and very driven. They were always good about telling me, ‘It’s OK if you get a B (in a class).’ They tried to help take the pressure off me a little bit, but I put a lot of pressure on myself from within (to succeed).
“My parents had a big influence on me, and my siblings did, too. I come from a very sports-minded family. My sister was an influence, as well, because she was a really good point guard.”
Kerry also mentions Lea Ann Machais, her sister’s teammate on the 1982 championship team; Pat Sheetz, the head track and field coach during her varsity career at Kaneland; Doug Ecker and Tom Todd, who also coached her in track and cross country; and Mr. Davis, her favorite high school teacher, as inspirations.
“My teammates inspired me, too,” she said. “There were a lot of different personalities and talents (on those teams).”