Category Archives: Featured

Lady Knight streak ends

Photos by Patti Wilk

Kaneland’s season-opening win streak falls in loss to DeKalb
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—The opening season unbeaten streak for the Lady Knights basketball team came to an end Tuesday against DeKalb, but not before earning a tough overtime win over Sycamore last Thursday.

After navigating through a tough and tight battle and seeing the game almost slip away with under a second remaining, the Lady Knights used an extra quarter to dispense of visiting Sycamore on Thursday, 44-37.

Middle presence Ashley Prost paced the Lady Knights with 11 points, while Lauren Goff of Sycamore had a game-high 12.

Kaneland was 15-for-40 from the field on Thursday, but 13-for-18 from the foul line.

The fourth quarter began with Kaneland up 24-22, and a Sarah Grams pull-up jumper eventually gave KHS a 32-27 lead, but two baskets by the Lady Spartans made it 32-31 with 2:58 remaining.

Two foul shots by Grams with 1:41 to go extended the lead to 34-31, but an SHS basket with 28.3 to go made it 34-33.

Sycamore would get one last possession, and a Prost foul sent the visitors to the line with .1 second left.

“It wasn’t a position we wanted to be in,” KHS coach Ernie Colombe said. “We just got fortunate and caught a break.”

After the front end of the two shots was made, it was on to overtime, where Brooke Harner scored the first two baskets and KHS kept the lead doing with foul shots from Aly O’Herron, Prost and Grams.

“Our main goal is to make the other team take a time out within the first two minutes and keep up the defense, and the offense will follow after,” Harner said.

Kaneland led 10-8 after one quarter, and trailed 14-13 at halftime.

“They had us dribbling too much early on, kind of got us frustrated. They had us throwing the ball for longer passes than we wanted to, and they got to us that way,” Colombe said.

In the third, baskets by Prost and Harner, along with a free throw from Emma Bradford, gave KHS a 20-16 lead.

Marina Schaefer’s two baskets made it 24-19 with 1:14 left, setting the state for the final quarter.

The streak ended at seven games when DeKalb stifled the Lady Knights offense. Kaneland fell 31-17 in a game that saw just three Kaneland players change the scoreboard.

Bradford led the way with 11 points, O’Herron contributed five points, and Marina Schaeffer added one.

Kaneland sits at 7-1 (2-1 Northern Illinois Big XII). The team gets set for a new holiday tourney entry beginning Saturday, Dec. 15, with the Ottawa Tournament.

Boys step into pressure cooker

Photo: Kaneland varsity head coach Brian Johnson (right) tries to settle down his players in the third period at Sycamore. Photos by John DiDonna

Sycamore ‘D’ too much; KHS nabs win over H-BR
by Mike Slodki
Kaneland—There would be no duplicating the last-second magic of late November like the Kaneland boys basketball team had against Morris. The host Sycamore Spartans made absolutely sure of that on Friday along Spartan Trail.

However, another game came down to the wire on Tuesday against Hinckley-Big Rock (H-BR), and this time the Knights came through in a 44-42 win.

Against Sycamore, a stingy press meant Kaneland was playing catch-up for the entire duration of the Northern Illinois Big XII meeting between the rival Knights and Spartans, with Sycamore earning a 60-46 win.

For Sycamore, Devin Mottet had 17 points, while KHS was paced by Matt Limbrunner’s 19. Dan Miller added nine.

Kaneland was 7-for-10 from the foul line.

A Tyler Carlson jumper with 4:24 remaining in the first deadlocked the affair at four apiece, but Sycamore went 4-for-5 from the field and made six foul shots to go up 19-7 at the end of the first, and continued its run into the next quarter to go up 23-7 before Miller’s offensive putback with 4:53 remaining in the half. Kaneland’s scoring drought lasted 5:20.

Down 27-11, the Knights went on a 9-2 run to close the half, thanks to a three-point play by Limbrunner, two foul shots by Bailey Harvell, two foul shots by Carlson and a basket by Limbrunner.

Sycamore’s fortunes were lifted by a fast tempo and key baskets by Mottet to go up 41-22 with 3:36 left.

Kaneland closed the third frame on an 8-2 run, stamped by a Cole Carlson putback with 22.6 to go.

Sycamore saw its lead go up to 15, but Kaneland got within 10 on four occasions, only to get no closer.

KHS coach Brian Johnson surveyed the difficult task with an improved Spartans contingent.

“This isn’t the Sycamore of the last few years; they’re a good team,” Johnson said. “They’re well coached and played extremely hard. We have to stick to our philosophy in beating those types of presses, and we didn’t really do it.”

Against H-BR, Kaneland used an 11-4 third quarter advantage to overcome a three-point halftime deficit to propel them to a much needed victory.

Matt Limbrunner led the team with 14 points, including three three-pointers. John Pruett added 12 points, and Carlson chipped in 10.

Kaneland now sits at 2-4 on the season. The Knights will battle host DeKalb Barbs on Friday, Dec. 14.

Tough week for Knight matmen

Photo: Kaneland’s Stephen Gust doesn’t let his opponent attack him during his match
at DeKalb on Dec. 6. Photo by John DiDonna

KANELAND—If a team is going to have a difficult week, it is much better to have them in early December than in February.

Kaneland High School dual action through 2012-13 has it at a 4-5 record, after losses to Cary-Grove 66-12 and host Crystal Lake Central 46-18 back on Dec. 5, as well as a Thursday loss to DeKalb.

At the still-new digs along Dresser Road in DeKalb, the NIB-12 offering featured three key wins by the Knights.

At 145-pounds, Dan Goress took a technical fall, while 220-pounder Nick Sharp earned a pinfall, as did 285-pound teammate Justin Diddell.

Kaneland’s odds were more daunting with four forfeit loses on the night.

The Knights also learned their individual postseason assignment, as they’ll head to Sycamore.

The grouping also features Belvidere, Belvidere North, Burlington Central, Glenbard South, Rockford Boylan, Rockford East, Sycamore and St. Francis of Wheaton.

Top finishers in the regional head to Rochelle for the sectional.

In the thick of things by the end of the season could be those included in the current Class AA illinoismatmen.com rankings, like 113-pounder Stephen Gust (No. 4), 132-pounder Esai Ponce (No.2), Goress (No. 5), Sharp (No. 7) and heavyweight Zach Theis (No. 12).

The Knights strap on the singlets to host fellow conference cornerstone Yorkville on Thursday, Dec. 13.

Kaneland senior Sonny Horn (138 pounds) tries to pull down his opponent at DeKalb on Dec. 6. Sonny went on to win this match. 											           Photo by John DiDonna
Kaneland senior Sonny Horn (138 pounds) tries to pull down his opponent at DeKalb on Dec. 6. Sonny went on to win this match. Photo by John DiDonna

Cougars to host meet-and-greet with Santa, Ozzie

Event at ballpark to include ornament, cookie decorating
GENEVA—The Kane County Cougars will host a Christmas Meet and Greet event, featuring Santa Claus and Ozzie T. Cougar, on Saturday, Dec. 15, from 9 a.m. to noon inside the upper deck level at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.

Children can meet Santa and Ozzie, pose for photos, as well as take part in numerous holiday activities inside the upper deck level. Those activities include a coloring station, ornament decorating station and a cookie decorating station.

The event is free, although there is a nominal cost for participating in the ornament and cookie decorating activities. A portion of proceeds will benefit Ozzie’s Outreach, the Cougars’ charitable foundation.

Fans are also asked to bring a gently used coat or sweatshirt. All collected items will be donated to area residents who are in need of warm clothing this winter. Fans who donate an item will receive four undated ticket vouchers, valid for a 2013 regular season Cougars game.

Additional information on the Christmas Meet and Greet event is available by calling (630) 232-8811 or visiting www.kccougars.com.

Photos: Christmas in Kaneville

Riders (right) return from a tour of the town during the Kaneville Christmas celebration.


Gunner Barrett (left), 21 months, really liked seeing Santa at the Kaneville Fire
Department during the Christmas in Kaneville event.


Katee Werrline hands out free snacks and drinks at Hill’s Country Store in Kaneville.




Photos by John DiDonna

Christmas crafts

Saturday’s Holiday in the Grove event featured events all over the village of Sugar Grove, including a craft show and ornament making at Kaneland John Shields Elementary School. Helen Touchton of Sugar Grove helps her son, Alex, 3, with his ornament, as Kyra Warren, 3, of Sugar Grove, makes her own. Matt Seidel (below, right), 7, of Sugar Grove, shows his St. Bernard T-shirt to Ziggy Stardust from the Fox Valley Therapy Dog Club. The therapy dogs were at the library again this year as part of the village-wide Holiday in the Grove event. Visitors of the Sugar Grove Public Library (below, left) had a chance to read to the dogs of the Fox Valley Therapy Dog Club. The Fox Valley Therapy Dog Club is a volunteer organization providing a wide variety of canine-assisted therapy programs and services in the communities of Kendall, Kane and DuPage counties in Illinois since 2002.


Photos by Ben Draper

SG native stars in ‘found footage’ thriller

Photo: Summer Bellessa (left) recently starred in the film “Amber Alert,” written and directed by her husband Kerry (right). Photo courtesy of Trever Hoehne

by Cheryl Borrowdale
SUGAR GROVE—When Sugar Grove native Summer Smith Bellessa and her husband, Kerry Bellessa, saw an AMBER Alert notice as they drove down an Arizona highway, they began debating what they would do if they actually saw the suspect’s car—would they follow it? Would that put the victim in more danger?

The couple never saw the car, but the idea for their first movie was born.

The thriller, “Amber Alert,” stars Summer, 32, as Samantha, a woman who spots a suspected child abductor (Jasen Wade) on the highway and begins chasing the vehicle with her best friend Nate (Chris Hill). It’s a defining moment for the characters, writer/director Kerry said.

“At the beginning of the film, we see them both. They’re having a good time together; they’re good friends and love life. Then things take a turn, and when they’re put in this situation, you see who they are,” he said. “I wanted to have two main characters with different opinions on what to do. Things kind of start going sour for them.”

As the frightened Nate urges caution, Samantha risks everything to save the abducted girl.

“Before she’s put in this situation, she’s the more responsible of the two,” Summer said. “But I think with women, if there is a child in the balance, we tend to become little mama bears and do things outside the realm of what we think we would do. She does anything in her power to help the child.”

The 80-minute film is rated R and had a limited release in 10 theaters on Nov. 2—none of them in Chicago—and is now available everywhere through Xfinity On Demand.

Critical response has been polarized, Kerry said.

“Either people really, really like it or they really, really hate it,” he said. “At the end of the day, I wanted the main question of the film to be ‘What would you do?’ Was it correct what they did? Some people think it was noble. Other people think they were crazy. People definitely have a reaction to it. People who are parents, and women especially, have a reaction because they relate to it. At the end of the day, whether they like it or not, at least they’re watching it, and I’d rather have something polarizing that people are talking about than something that’s forgettable.”

Actor Chris Hill, director Kerry
Bellessa and
Summer Bellessa on the set of “Amber Alert.”
Photo courtesy of Raquel Hansen

The story is told from the perspective of Samantha’s 14-year-old brother, who is in the backseat with a video camera and recording everything as it unfolds. The documentary-like style is known as “found footage,” a genre popularized by films such as “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity,” Summer said.

“It’s as if a character in the film is shooting, but he isn’t really,” she said. “It adds to the feeling that this could have really happened, especially in this day where we all have cameras on our phones, and you could be driving down the highway and see this.”

The found footage style makes the film seem so realistic, Kerry said, that some viewers don’t realize it’s fiction.

“I get emails constantly from people saying, ‘I’ve googled these people, and I can’t find them. Can you tell me how to get money to the victims?’ It kind of tricks people and makes them think it’s real,” he said.

It’s also a style that fit neatly into the Bellessa’s budget. The film was financed entirely by the couple and their business partner, Joshua Oram, and made with a crew of no more than 15 people.

“At times, it was only the three of us and the other two actors. That was it on some days,” Summer said. “We had a microbudget, probably less than what “Transformers’’ (budgeted) for bottled water. We had to be creative so that we could stay in our budget and still make a film that did what we wanted to do.”

Kerry had done a number of commercials and music videos when he began raising money for his first feature film. But when the real estate market crashed in 2007, his largest investor dropped out and Kerry had to start over.

“We kind of came to the realization that no one is waiting around to give us a few million dollars to make a film,” Summer said. “We paid for the film between the three of us.”

The gamble paid off when distribution company Wrekin Hill, which often works with smaller independent productions, picked up the film at the beginning of this year.

“Wrekin Hill bought the rights to it for a certain number of years,” Summer said. “We retain ownership of the film and get a percentage of the box office take.”

Though the Bellessas were working on the film together from the beginning, Kerry originally intended for Summer to help him produce the film. He didn’t plan on casting his wife in the starring role.

“I didn’t want to have it be ‘writer/director husband and actress wife,’” he said. “It sounded like a recipe for disaster or low-budget stuff, you know, because that’s what everyone does.”

Kerry held casting calls and considered several actresses for the part, but something made him keep coming back to the idea of using Summer.

“I kept having this gut feeling it should be Summer,” he said. “She was good for this because she was the kind of person I was looking for, and she never once asked me to choose her. She’s gotten a great response from everyone, and I think it was a good decision.”

Though the project was Summer’s big screen debut, she’s been modeling and doing commercial work since she was a child. By the time she was a junior at Kaneland High School in 1997, she was traveling to Japan, Paris, Miami, New York and Los Angeles for modeling jobs.

For the past three years, Summer’s also been hosting an online variety show, “The Girls With Glasses,” with her friend Brooke White, a singer/songwriter and former “American Idol” contestant.

The two met on MySpace “back when it was cool,” Summer said.

“One day she called me up and said, ‘Let’s meet at IHOP and figure out something we could do together.’ We thought doing something television-oriented would be a lot of fun, and we started putting them up online,” Summer said. “We’ve had a lot of success monetizing it.”

The pair interview musicians and bloggers, write jingles, give fashion tips and work with various brands.

“It’s a way (for brands) to get the word out about their products in a fun, entertaining way,” Summer said. “With Kate Spade, we kind of wear their clothes and talk about fashion trends. For Method, we interviewed one of the founders of their company.”

Viewers often catch a glimpse of the Bellessa’s two children, Rockwell, 1, and Phoenix, four weeks, as well as White’s child, on screen—something that Summer said adds to the show’s personality.

“We have kids screaming and wanting stuff between takes, but we have a really good time. It was important for us to have something that was kid-friendly and to do something that was creative while also being able to be moms,” she said. “We kind of embrace it. For a few takes, Rockwell’s on my lap, and for another few takes, he’s not. Our viewers embrace that because we have a lot of moms who watch us. It’s kind of fun like that.”

Summer hopes the online show will lead to a network television deal.

“We’ve had a lot of networks want to possibly develop it into something on television, and following us and our crazy lives becoming mothers and trying to do it all. We haven’t found a perfect fit yet,” she said.

“Amber Alert” is available through Xfinity On Demand, Amazon Video or Apple iTunes. To watch episodes of “The Girls With Glasses,” visit www.thegirlswithglasses.com.

Too much for Morris

Photo: Senior Ashley Prost fights for the ball in the third period of Kaneland’s easy 56-27 win at Morris on Friday. Photo by John DiDonna

Lady Knights lay hurt on rival Redskins in NIB-12 tilt
by Mike Slodki
Kaneland—Lady Knights basketball doubled its pleasure on Friday evening in Grundy County.

They did it by doubling the point total of host rival Morris.

Tipping off the third-ever Northern Illinois Big XII season, the Lady Knights put up double figures in every frame en route to a 56-27 win.

KHS now sits at 5-0 (1-0 NIB12).

“Our strong start has allowed us to get to see a lot of players early on. This has allowed us to focus in on ways to improve both individually and as a team,” KHS head coach Ernie Colombe said. “This is a great group of players. They work real hard and have great attitudes.”

Leading the way point-wise was Aly O’Herron, who nailed four three-pointers for a 12-point night. Kaneland hit five treys on the evening.

Kaneland also saw eight points from teammate Amber Winquist-Bailey. Eleven players found the scoring column on the night.

On the defensive side of the floor, Sydney Strang had a team-high three steals in an effort that produced nine overall.

KHS was ahead 14-1 after one quarter, and 34-11 at the halftime buzzer. The Lady Knights were up 46-18 at the end of the third before outscoring Morris 10-9 in the final eight minutes.

Meanwhile, the sophomores also got the best of Morris by a 33-22 margin. Ally VanBogaert had a team-high nine points.

Kaneland varsity sharpshooters host familiar foe Sycamore on Thursday, Dec. 6.

Tylertown!

Photo: Senior Dan Miller works some defense during the varsity boys exciting 32-31 comeback victory over Morris on Friday. Photo by Kimberly Anderson

Carlson’s putback buzzer-beater gives KHS win No. 1
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—It was a case of right place, right time for Kaneland junior Tyler Carlson.

But that ending sequence couldn’t have taken place without a battling mentality, which helped the Knights crawl back the entire game against Morris on Friday night.

Carlson’s (four points) rebound and putback off the glass after a John Pruett (11 points) three-point miss gave Kaneland a 32-31 win over Morris in Northern Illinois Big XII action.

It was the first win of the young season for the Knight unit after a hard-luck 0-3 start.

“I just saw the shot go up and it was the right place at the right time,” Carlson said. “It was my first buzzer-beater and it felt pretty good.”

Morris fell to 2-2 with the setback.

The fourth quarter marked the first time Kaneland actually had a lead after a three-point play by Dan Miller made it 27-26 with 6:20 remaining. Pruett connected on a foul shot with 4:47 to go to make it 28-26 before a Ben Ortiz basket with 4:10 to go tied the game.

Ortiz’ three-pointer with 1:18 to go gave Morris a 31-28 edge, setting up the final exchange.

Two missed shots by Kaneland hindered a comeback attempt, but Miller’s two charity stripe shots with 57.5 to go made it 31-30.

KHS got the ball back, but a time out was called with 17.7 seconds to go after no shot opportunities opened up, setting the stage for the final sequence.

“The last one was a lucky one,” KHS coach Brian Johnson said. “Ty just happened to crash and got the ball and barely got it off. We’re very fortunate to come away with the win.”

Morris led 13-7 after one quarter. A three-point play by Pruett with 2:38 remaining closed within 10-7 before an Evan Bjelland three with 58.7 to go upped the lead to six.

Morris led by as much as seven in the second quarter, but baskets by Pruett and Matt Limbrunner closed it to 18-14 with 34.9 remaining in the half.

Kaneland kept matters close, and a Miller basket with 3:15 to go in the third made it 23-22 before a Bjelland three with 33.3 to go set the stage for the final frame.

Sycamore represents the next challenge for KHS, in a match-up along Spartan Trail on Saturday, Dec. 8.

Knights power through

Photo: Kaneland Senior Sonny Horn gets the upper hand on his opponent at Sycamore on Nov. 29. Horn went on to win the match. Photo by Patti Wilk

Wrestlers slammed by Sycamore, split Saturday triangular
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Area teams know when they’ve been on a mat with the Sycamore Spartans—the KHS grapplers are no different.

The Knights traveled to Spartan Trail on Thursday for a Northern Illinois Big XII matchup and fell 55-16 in head-to-head action. Kaneland acclimated itself better with a triangular meet that led to a 36-35 slim loss to Plano and a 54-21 handling of the Lemont Indians on Saturday in Maple Park.

Through six dual encounters, the Knights are 4-2.

Against the Spartan program that had a top-tier finish in the IHSA dual meets in February, Kaneland fell victim to an onslaught that began with a 6-1 loss by Adam Mish to Bryce Hansen in the 106-pound match, a 17-1 technical fall win by Kyle Akins over 113-pound Stephen Gust, and a forfeit in the 120-pound match.

David Barnhart lost to Jesus Renteria 10-1 in the 126-pound clash, and George Strang was pinned in the 132-pound match in 2:40.

Kaneland’s first positive development happened with Sonny Horn’s 3:28 pin of Andrew Larsen at 138, followed by Dan Goress’ 12-4 decision over Dylan Foster at 145.

Sycamore went on another roll with an Austin Culton 19-4 tech fall over Knight Austin Parks at 152, an Austin Armstrong pin of Knight Zach Russell in :51 at 160, a major decision by Ren Swick over KHS rep Zach Parker at 182, followed by two forfeits.

The final two matches of the evening had 220-pounder Nick Sharp of Kaneland lose to Martin Malone by 13-5 major decision, but heavyweight Zach Theis pinned Devin Knight in 3:20.

“We weren’t on the attack like we were in the (practice) room the last couple of weeks,” KHS coach Monty Jahns said. “We’ll get it back. They’ve got it, they just didn’t bring it tonight. We wrestled well last Saturday. Sycamore’s a different caliber team, but I expect us to wrestle much better the next time.”

Indicative of Theis’ importance to the squad, the anchor knew he had to come through, regardless of the team score.

“I was in the mindset that I needed to do something good,” Theis said. “I was working on moves all week in practice. I’m just going to keep moving and keep learning.”

Jahns said he hopes the Knights don’t serve up a repeat performance of the Knights-Spartans skirmish anytime soon.

Saturday’s encounter with the capable Plano Reapers contingent began with an 11-2 major decision loss by Mish to give Plano an early edge, but Kaneland went on a roll thanks to a Gust tech fall (15-0), a 15-12 win by 120-pound rep Diego Lobo, a forfeit, a 9-0 major decision by 132-pound Esai Ponce, a 2:56 pin by Horn and a tech fall 20-5 win by Goress.

Plano closed the deficit after a pin of Parks at 152, a 3:10 pin of Zach Russell by state-qualifier Wes Brown, a loss by Zach Parker in 9-6 fashion at 170, two forfeits and a 10-2 win by Derrick Maisonet over Sharp.

Theis had a 5:20 pin of Junior Nunez in heavyweight action, but the tiebreaker edge of decisions went to Plano for the razor-thin win.

Kaneland regained its footing with a win over south suburban fixture Lemont, beginning with a forfeit and a 4:56 pinfall win for Gust.

After a Lemont forfeit win, Barnhart picked up a 5-0 decision to lift Maple Park’s spirits. Ponce acted on a 1:20 pinfall, but Horn fell victim to a 7-2 decision in the next two matches.

Goress earned a quick :30 pinfall at 145, and Parks followed up with a 1:28 pinfall. Russell pinned Mike Fragner in 3:52 to send KHS on its way. Kaneland took a forfeit win followed by two of the same for Lemont, before Sharp won a 5-2 matchup at 220, and Theis won a forfeit.

Kaneland was set to head to Crystal Lake Central on Wednesday, with results unavailable at press time. The Knights will then face host DeKalb on Thursday, Dec. 6.

Photos: Here’s the steeple

Father Bob Jones (left to right), Scott Resetich and Keith Rich, both of Rich
Harvest Farms, and Ted McCannon, building committee chair, cut the ribbon for the St. Anthony Chapel at Saint Katharine Drexel Catholic Church in Sugar Grove on Monday.


The ribbon cutting was followed by a luncheon and a tour of the new chapel. Visitors (above) check out the interior of the new chapel. The event was presented by Schramm Construction. Exterior view (below) of the new St. Anthony Chapel.

Photos by Patti Wilk

Photos: Turkey Bowl time


The 7th Annual Blackberry Creek Turkey Bowl brought out neighbors both young and old for a little touch football before the big Thanksgiving dinner later in the day. The annual event started at 8 a.m. and resulted in about 200 pounds of food for the Elburn Food Pantry, as well as a few pulled muscles. Elburn’s Mark Wilson (above) goes for the flag with defenders in hot pursuit. Randy Blakeslee (below) of Elburn looks for an open receiver. Photos by Kimberly Anderson

3’s a welcome crowd

Photo: Senior varsity wrestler Esai Ponce gets pulled down during his winning match against Freeport on Saturday. Kaneland hosted a quad tournament against Freeport, Wheaton-Warrenville and Burlington Central. Photo by Patti Wilk

Wrestlers get on right side of mat with sweep at KHS
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Coaches and wrestlers have often said the Knights tend to be a different tournament team than a dual team.

Freeport, Wheaton-Warrenville South and Burlington Central probably wish neither showed up on Saturday in Maple Park.

The Knights took it to the Pretzels 54-18, the Tigers 51-16 and the Rockets in a slim 34-33 affair to go 3-0 on the young 2012-13 season.

In last year’s head-to-head clashes, the Knights went 11-12.

Against the NIC-10 staple Pretzels, two forfeits gave the Knights an early 12-0 lead before Adam Mish was beaten 7-2 in the 106-pound encounter. KHS 113-pound entry Stephen Gust continued his trajectory from a year ago with a pin, and teammate Connor Williams won his 120-pound encounter in :50 over Brett Spradlin to go up 24-3.

Williams felt good about the ending, with his skills ready to give the team a boost.

“I’m feeling good; I’m taller this year,” Williams said. “The chance for six points is always there. We have to fill out a lot of weights, but I think we’ll be a pretty solid tournament team.”

Adding to the solid nature of the Kaneland group is Gust, who looks to capitalize on the sixth-place finish at 106 a year ago.

“It’s the first meet and so you get kind of nervous, but as soon as the whistle blows, you just start going,” Gust said.

After David Barnhart dropped a 5:26 pin against Nate Anderson in the 126-pound match, four more forfeits went the Kaneland way.

Zach Parker lost a 4-2 match against Brian Meiborg in the 170-pound match, with a double forfeit and a forfeit in the 195-pound match completing the scoring.

Against the DuPage Valley Conference rep Tigers, Kaneland got on the board with three straight forfeit wins for an 18-0 lead before Barnhart was pinned to make it 18-6.

Dane Goodenough emerged with a 7-5 win in 132-pound action, followed by a Sonny Horn win by 7-0 count at 138 to make it 24-6.

Knight 145-pounder Dan Goress took a 3-1 win for a 27-6 edge before a forfeit win and a 160-pound pin by Kaneland’s Zach Russell in 2:54 for a 33-6 lead.

After WWS secured a major decision, followed by a double forfeit and a 195-pound forfeit, 220-pounder Nick Sharp pinned his way to a win in 1:48, and Zach Theis’ 3:13 pin in heavyweight action closed the scoring and 35-point margin.

Facing the Rockets, KHS enjoyed an opening 17-0 lead after an 11-9 overtime win by Mish, a 13-2 major decision by Gust, an 8-2 decision by Williams, a 12-4 major decision for Barnhart and a 4-0 decision for Esai Ponce at 132 pounds.

Sonny Horn dropped a 7-3 encounter at 138 to make it 13-3, before Goress’ 1:51 pin gave KHS a 23-3 edge.

BC then went on a tear, earning pins at 152, 160 and 170 before taking forfeits in the 182 and 195 categories.

Down 33-23, Sharp stuck a three-minute pin at 220 to make it 33-29 before Theis’ 11-0 major decision tied the score, allowing the tiebreaker of most decisions to go Kaneland’s way for the win.

Ahead for Kaneland is a trip to Sycamore for dual action on Thursday, Nov. 29.

Knight boys have early uphill climb

Photo: Tyler Carlson goes up for a shot to close up the score against Crystal Lake South on Friday at Batavia. Photo by John DiDonna

KHS drops first 3 contests as part of Windmill Invite
KANELAND—Good news for Kaneland boys basketball is that it’s still November.

The bad news is there will be time spent negating the rough start in November.

With the season beginning in Batavia as part of the popular Windmill City Basketball Classic, Kaneland dropped a 47-45 game to the host Bulldogs on Nov. 21, a loss to Crystal Lake South, 63-55 on Friday, and a 63-50 loss to St. Francis on Saturday to set its mark at 0-3.

Against Batavia, Tyler Carlson led KHS with 13 points, followed by nine from Connor Fedderly.

Batavia was enjoying a 9-2 lead after one quarter before the Knights stormed back to 21-21 at the halftime buzzer. Hoops matters were deadlocked at 34 apiece going into the final frame.

KHS was 12-for-16 from the foul line on the evening.

The Knights couldn’t solve the Gators of Crystal Lake South despite the best intentions of Matt Limbrunner, who had 26 points, leading to the encounter with the Wheaton-based Spartans.

In the 13-point setback, John Pruett had 20, while Limbrunner added 11, including two three-pointers. The Knights were 17-of-25 from the charity stripe.

Kaneland and St. Francis were tied at 15 after one quarter of play, but the Spartans took a 33-26 lead at the end of the second quarter. The Knights saw the lead balloon after three to 57-38 before the final shrinking margin.

KHS coach Brian Johnson isn’t dismayed with the effort put forth, and the prospect still exists in the young 2012-13 campaign to turn the team’s fortunes.

“At this point in the season we are still trying to mix and match and see what line-ups have success during different times of each game,” Johnson said. “The boys have done a nice job of staying focused and putting forth their best effort thus far.”

Up next for Kaneland: a home matchup with Grundy County rival Morris on Friday, Nov. 30.

Bowlers stopped by Marengo

Photos: Senior Amanda Strayve stays calm under pressure during Kaneland’s home match against Marengo on Monday. Photo by John DiDonna

KANELAND—The Kaneland High School bowling team dropped a pair of meets this week, starting out the season 0-3.

Looking to get its first win in its second meet, Kaneland bowling instead fell victim to a high-powered Marengo unit.

The Indians took a 3,099-2,524 win at Mardi Gras Lanes in DeKalb on Monday. Their high game was 1,048, compared to 868 for KHS.

Marengo’s Dominique Bailey’s total knockdown of pins was 607 to lead the winners. Kaneland was paced by junior Christie Crews with a 480 series and senior Angela Charhut with 458.

Kaneland dropped Tuesday’s meet against visiting Sterling, with the Knights hosting at Mardi Gras Lanes in DeKalb.

Sterling won all three games by a combined total of 3,267-2,795.

Christie Crews led the Lady Knights with a high game of 192 in game three, as well as with high series with 537.

Kaneland travels to Dixon on Thursday, Nov. 29, for Northern Illinois Big XII crossover action.

KHS fall athletes earn accolades

Kaneland—A number of Kaneland High School fall athletes were recognized for their performance from throughout the 2012 season.

Leading the way for Kaneland’s post-season honors was senior offensive lineman Zach Theis. He was named to the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association All-State Team, was the NIB-12 East Division Offensive MVP and All-Conference.

Joining Theis as Kaneland football All-Conference Team members were senior offensive lineman Nick Sharp, junior offensive lineman Alex Snyder, senior wide receiver Zack Martinelli, junior running back Jesse Balluff, junior quarterback Drew David, junior defensive lineman Justin Diddell, junior defensive lineman Jaumaureo Phillips, senior defensive back Blake Bradford, senior defensive back Kory Harner, junior linebacker Gary Koehring, senior linebacker Ryan Lawrence, and junior kicker Matt Rodriguez. Balluff was also an All-State Honorable Mention. Balluff, David, Snyder and Koehring were each named to the All State Academic Team.

Earning All-Conference honors from the Kaneland High School volleyball team were sophomore Ellie Dunn, senior Lauren Banbury and senior Ashley Prost.

Girls cross country All-Conference honors went to sophomore Victoria Clinton, freshman Brianna Bower, senior Abby Dodis, junior Sydney Strang, and senior Amanda Lesak.

Junior Kyle Carter earned All-Conference distinction for boys cross country.

All-Conference golf team members were juniors Matt Yonkovick and Brody Kuhar, and seniors Luke Kreiter and Connor Williams.

Photos: A night on the town

Kaneland High School presented its performance of “You Can’t Take It With You,” a comedy by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, on Nov. 16, 17 and 18 in the High School auditorium. It is the story of two families, one wild and eccentric, one straight laced, who are thrown together. Chaos is created (right) when fireworks go off outside while the IRS is visiting.


Paul Sycamore, Essie Carmichael and Grandpa, played by Andrew Tobin, Kyra Trynoski and Mitch Bateman, go about their evening routines.


Tony Kirby and Alice Sycamore, played by Beau Ott and
Kelsey Cotton, having a toast.


Boris Kolenchov (Austin Doyle) gives Essie Carmichael (Kyra Trynoski) a twirl in a scene from “You Can’t Take It With You.”
Photos by Patti Wilk

Photos: A good cause, a good time

Grace United Methodist Church in Maple Park hosted its annual Turkey Drop on Sunday. The church, working in partnership with St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Maple Park, collected donated turkeys, hams and canned goods for families in the area. Over 150 turkeys were collected. Volunteers (right) fill bags with food to go along with the turkeys.


The event also included refreshments, and live music was provided by the band Back Country Roads.


The event had some serious coloring done by sisters Kathryn and Lauren Kleckner.

Photos by John DiDonna

Goodbye, Cottonwood Farm; Hello, Autumn Lane

Photo: The former Cottonwood Farms of Big Rock is now open under new ownership. Autumn Lane Equestrian has full barns and individual stalls available for boarding. The equestrian facility was recently purchased and renovated by Joe Ludwig and his daughter Gianina. Courtesy Photo

by Keith Beebe
HINCKLEY/BIG ROCK—Gianina Ludwig has lived in Hinckley and Big Rock her entire life, and at a very young age was raised around horses. So it made perfect sense when her father, Joe, purchased Cottonwood Farm in Big Rock on Oct. 1, 2011, and then immediately leased the 21-acre property to his daughter as a way to “fulfill her lifelong equine dream by transforming the property into a high-end boarding facility at an affordable price.”

Gianina reopened the farm a month later under a new name: Autumn Lane Equestrian Center.

The farm, located on Dauberman Road, was reintroduced as a horse boarding facility rather than a breeding ground, and featured one other very noticeable facelift.

“(We’ve added) an indoor riding arena, heated club room, bathrooms, bridle path, outdoor arenas and much more,” Gianina said.

The changes made to the former Cottonwood Farm weren’t purely cosmetic, either, according to Gianina.
“We have recently introduced winter layups for race horses to our previous boarding packages, stall boarding and pasture boarding,” she said.

Gianina also recently opened a tack store on the property, and offers feed sales as well. She said the fact that the equestrian center was a former breeding facility makes it a fantastic property for a boarding facility, thanks to its very large double-sized stalls, 42 pastures, solid wood fencing, open layout, and top-quality amenities throughout the facility.

An Autumn Lane Equestrian Center press release states that the Pasture Board Plus is the highlight of Gianina’s facility, offering an affordable pasture board with the luxury of using the entire facility. The Pasture Board Plus program includes “indoor shelter, use of the indoor and lighted outdoor riding arenas, use of the bridle path, wash bays, tack rooms and, of course, the clubhouse.”

Entire barns are also available for lease, including the likes of a 36-stall barn with 8,640 square feet, and a 40-stall barn with 10,368 square feet.

The facility also features over 21,000 linear feet of wood board fencing with 42 private pastures and a bridle path. Simply put, you name it, this place probably has it. And given her deep connection to horses, it’s only fitting that Gianina live on the Autumn Lane premesis, as well. She does so to ensure she oversees everything that goes on around the farm.

“(Autumn Lane is) a must-see to believe,” Gianina said.

2 Elburn residents charged with cannabis trafficking

ELBURN—Two Elburn residents were among the five suspects recently arrested following a three-month-long investigation into cannabis trafficking that yielded a seizure of 598 pounds of cannabis.

Matthew A. Westerlin, 28, and Crystal L. Westerlin, 29, both of the 300 block of Nebraska Street in Elburn, were arrested on Nov. 13 and each charged with cannabis trafficking, a Class X felony; unlawful possession of cannabis (more than 5,000 grams) with intent to deliver, a Class X felony; and unlawful possession of cannabis (more than 5,000 grams), a Class 1 felony.

The investigation began in September after law enforcement personnel obtained information regarding a cannabis-trafficking organization, based in Kane and McHenry counties, that transported “hundreds of pounds of cannabis” from Arizona to Illinois.

Agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group, North Central Narcotics Task Force, Illinois State Police, and the DuPage and Kane County state’s attorney’s offices, used surveillance to gather additional information regarding the organization, including the date of the next cannabis shipment.

During the shipment, agents followed the suspects, who traveled from Arizona to Illinois in four seperate vehicles, and performed simultaneous traffic stops in Kane County—one of which took place at the intersection of Route 47 and Jericho Road in Sugar Grove. The other stops occurred on Orchard Road in Aurora.

Agents also performed a search of the Westerlin’s home.

The five suspects appeared in Kane County Court on Nov. 14 for a bond hearing, with Matthew and Crystal’s bonds each set at $27 million.

3 goals at a time for State Champ Clinton

Photo: Kaneland sophomore Victoria Clinton (1059) competes against familiar foe Skyler Bollinger of Yorkville at the Nov. 11 Nike Cross Midwest Regional in Terre Haute, Ind. Clinton was joined in Terre Haute by Lady Knight teammate Brianna Bower (not pictured). Runners from five states—Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Missouri—competed in the Regional for a chance to move on to the National meet in Oregon. Clinton has a chance to be invited to the National meet, but that information wasn’t available as of press time. Photo by Ben Draper

Class 2A cross-country queen applies skills to triathlon circuit
by Mike Slodki
Kaneland—Many fellow cross-country runners were witness to Kaneland High School sophomore Victoria Clinton’s success at the Class 2A State meet in Peoria two weeks ago, specifically the back of her jersey.

From November through August, area followers of Clinton can also keep up with her on the triathlon circuit.

Clinton won the Class 2A State meet with a time of 16:56, but a foot race that asks everything of an athlete would only be a third of the task asked of her as part of the run-bike-swim elements of a triathlon.

Clinton competes as part of the Multisport Madness Triathlon Team (MMTT) housed in the western suburbs. The group boasts more than 20 individual national champions as part of the youth triathlon world, and Clinton doesn’t mind the extra work.

“For triathlons, you have to have endurance,” Clinton said. “You have to have technique and know what to do. It’s swimming, biking and running; and you have to have more strategy.”

MMTT team director John Lorenz has seen what area standouts like Geneva’s Kelly Whitley can do when competing, and has been privy to athletes reaching success under the USA Triathlon banner as part of the U.S. Olympic Committee. He feels Clinton’s skillset is amplified by her work ethic.

“It takes a unique athlete to compete, and she’s always had a desire to want more. Swimming is the hardest for a new athlete coming in, and she showed she was up to the challenge early on,” Lorenz said.

Back in August, Clinton was second overall in the 13-15 category at the National Championships in Westchester, Ohio, and moved up to the 16-19 category this season.

“I’ve always had a love for running, but as I’ve trained and competed, I’ve become fond of swimming, and I’ve felt like it’s helped my running,” Clinton said. “It’s helped me cardiovascularly and made me more flexible.”

Lorenz feels that the sophomore’s triathlon possibilities are limitless.

“She has the drive and talent to compete for Team USA one day, and the world championships are an achievable goal,” Lorenz said.

In just her second season, Clinton isn’t intimidated by what could lay ahead.

“The World Championships would be great, and then there’s the Junior Olympics. It’s my second season, and we’ll see what happens,” Clinton said.

Clinton’s MMTT outfit looks to compete in March as part of a competition in Claremont, Fla. The team website is www.mmtt3.org.

Photos: Scoring some spaghetti

The Kaneland boys basketball program held it’s fourth annual spaghetti dinner on Nov. 15 at the high school cafeteria. Proceeds benefited the program, and the food was served by the basketball players. Marty Scialabba, 11 (right), gets his helping of food
during the dinner.


A group of kids make a party out
of the dinner by acting silly and
eating treats.

Photos by John DiDonna

‘Miracle’ Meagan turns 3

Photo: Luellen Seals holds her daughter, Meagan during her third birthday party at the Lord of Life Church in LaFox on Sunday. Meagan was born with several health problems and wasn’t expected to survive but now she is beating the odds. The Seals family has a Facebook page, “Meagan Seals, Miracle Baby,” which is set up to tell her story. Photo by John DiDonna

by Chris Paulus
ELBURN—Doctors three years ago advised Elburn resident Luellen Seals to terminate her pregnancy because of the slim chance of her unborn daughter surviving.

Luellen’s daughter, Meagan, who suffers from the conditions encephalocele, microcephaly and lissencephaly, celebrated her third birthday on Sunday at Lord of Life Church, located on the corner of LaFox Road and Route 38 in LaFox. The event was open to the public.

“We were told that she was not going to be living this long. Most do not survive the encephalocele,” Luellen said. “Doctors said that the CT scan looked like someone that had gotten hit by a car going 100 miles per hour.

Luellen said it’s been a trial-and-error type of experiment in trying to figure out which combinations of treatments work best for Meagan’s seizures. She recently had a good visit with the neurologist.

Since her birth, Meagan has been making great progress. She can accomplish many things she wasn’t able to a year ago. She can now say words like “mama,” “up” and “hi.” She’s able to track movement. She still responds positively to music and other sounds. She acknowledges her name, and she smiles and shows other facial expressions.

A specially-designed wheelchair, donated by community members and Lutheran Church Charities, has helped with Meagan’s physical development. Although she cannot sit up and walk on her own, her back is getting significantly stronger because of the support of the wheelchair, which allows her to build muscles. She can also army crawl around the room and move around.

“Doctors said that she wouldn’t be able to do most of that. The wheelchair has been extremely helpful,” Luellen said.

Meagan’s had a lot of pleasant surprises in the last year, and has had her share of stardom, too. She met Christian music artist Jeremy Camp, who dedicated the song “Walk by Faith” to Meagan and sang it to her at the Compass Church in Naperville, Ill. She also won a Halloween costume contest that gave the family a month’s worth of baby formula. For a family that spends about $80 a week on high-calorie formula, that’s quite a relief.

Meagan is the youngest of the Seals’ four children, and she now has a Facebook page—“Meagan Seals Miracle Baby”—that helps keep the Seals in touch with other families that have members afflicted with the same disorders. The page also features Meagan’s medical records, videos of news coverage and updates on how she’s doing.

“There’s nothing positive when you search these disorders on Google. We’re kind of hoping to use (the Facebook page) as a tool for change,” Luellen said. “We’ve gotten in touch with other families that have children that have the same afflictions. We share ideas on what kind of treatments work the best and what doesn’t.”

Luellen said her family has met most of these families in person, some even overseas.

“We carry on conversations about how our kids are developing,” said Luellen.

For community members and local residents interested in donating, there is an account set up for Meagan at the Old Second Bank. Residents can also visit www.lutheranchurchcharities.org/ to donate to the Meagan Seals Fund. Donations are tax-deductible through the church and will go 100 percent toward Meagan’s medical bills and purchase of a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.

Two spirits

Photo: 11-year-old Madison Tegtman, a sixth-grader at Kaneland Harter Middle School, with her horse, Preston, navigates over an obstacle during one of their rides. She has been riding horses since she was only three years old. Courtesy Photo

Sixth-grader and derby horse both get life experience
by Mike Slodki
MAPLE PARK—Located on Lees Road in Maple Park, Silver Spur Farm houses a youngster diligently working toward doing the very best in competition—and that’s just the sixth-grade student from Kaneland Harter Middle School.

11-year old Madison Tegtman doesn’t pick up a ball or racket. Her idea of unwinding is working in tandem with a 10-year old Oldenburg horse named Preston.

Tegtman has six first-place events under her cap, and most recently competed in Gurnee, Ill.

With an attentive and solid support group like her mother and horse owner Gina, grandparents Ed and Polly Ruzic, and trainer Tasha Lasiowski, Tegtman—who’s been a rider since she was 3—can focus on equestrian events and caring for Preston.

“I come here to spend time with him,” Tegtman said. “When we come here and get ready for everything, we have to clean all our stuff, clean the horse, practice, take lessons, and get ready to have competitions on Saturdays and Sundays.”

Preston just got back into the fold in early September after recovering from a damaged femur, the result of getting kicked by a fellow horse.

“That was my favorite place to compete at (Crosswinds in Marengo, Ill.), because it was his first show with me after his injury,” Tegtman said.

Specifically, Preston competes a hunter jumper horse, similar to obstacle courses that have walls, gates and fences, and has had quite the long road back. The recovery process took 18 months, and the injury occurred six weeks after Preston was acquired from Michigan.

“It’s a long wait, but I was patient and I was happy for everyone else, and they finally let me ride,” Tegtman said.

It was Madison’s patience that helped Preston recover, because Preston’s prognosis was not good.

“Every day, Madison was out there working with him. The vet would check him out and say it was doubtful he would be able to get back to where he was, but they kept at it,” Gina said.

Preston is the first Oldenberg horse owned by the family after owning two ponies previously.

It takes not just a level of commitment, but temperament, to take on the task of loving and caring for a prize animal.

“You definitely have to be patient. The horses are so good for the kids. It teaches them patience and responsibility, and you’re caring for a live animal,” Lasiowski said.

Lasiowski also owns and operates Escapar Farms within the grounds of Silver Spur, and has dealt with her share of local animals.

“It’s a big animal, and it’s got a mind of its own. It’s about learning to read your horse. Going forward in life, I think it teaches you how to read people,” Lasiowski said.

Tegtman and crew are enjoying what they do, and eventually would like to ease into different events.

“There’s higher jumps; more derbies in the future, I think,” Ed said. “All around the Midwest, you have an opportunity to see terrific horses and terrific riders.”

“I want to take him to hunter derbies, so he can get recognized more,” Tegtman said.

Hunter derbies, now moving on to an international stage, involve larger courses that are inclined with the horse’s natural way of moving about, and measures overall brilliance.

Brilliance is what Tegtman seems to strive for, along with her 10-year-old partner.

“When you go to compete, you hope you have a good horse to go with, and I do.”

WCC names Paralympic gold medalist October Featured Alumnus

Photo: Joe Berenyi of Oswego won three cycling medals at the recent 2012 Paralympic Games in London, and has been named WCC’s Featured Alumnus. Berenyi played baseball for the Chiefs before losing his right arm in an accident. Courtesy Photo

SUGAR GROVE—Over the last few months, Waubonsee Community College graduate Joe Berenyi, an Oswego resident, has won gold, silver and bronze medals at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, met President Barack Obama, and been hailed as a hero at local and national appearances.

In recognition of all of these recent accomplishments, as well as the many years of dedication and strength that went into achieving them, Waubonsee is proud to name Berenyi its Featured Alumnus for October.

Growing up in Aurora, Berenyi was always an athlete. He played football and baseball at Aurora Central Catholic before playing baseball at Waubonsee in 1988 and 1989. A pitcher and outfielder, his school record of three doubles in a single game still stands.

“Joe was a quiet, tough player,” said Waubonsee baseball coach Dave Randall. “And he’s used that competitiveness to excel in what he’s doing now.”

After graduating from Waubonsee in 1989, Berenyi’s playing days were over, but his competitive fire still burned.

“I had always liked riding my bike, and I started to do it more for exercise,” he said. “But I like to compete, and so entered a few local races.”

Then, in his second year of cycling, the day before a big race, Berenyi was involved in a construction accident that resulted in a broken leg, shattered kneecap and the loss of his right arm.

Needless to say, recovery was not easy, but after a few years, Berenyi decided it was time to try out the truth of the old axiom about not being able to forget how to ride a bicycle. Prairie Path Cycles was able to modify bikes to include electronic shifting gears and brakes that work with just one lever so Berenyi can ride using only his left arm.

By 2009, Berenyi was back in local races, and in 2010 he was at the Paracycling National Championships.

“I was interested to see how I would fare there, because everyone I had raced around here had been able bodied,” Berenyi said.

Berenyi took silver in that first paracycling race and hasn’t looked back since. In this, his first year of international competition, Berenyi won medals in three of his five events at the Paralympic Games—a gold in the 3 kilometer individual pursuit, a silver in the men’s individual time trial and a bronze in the track cycling mixed sprint competition.

“It was bigger, better and more impressive than I expected,” Berenyi said of his Paralympic experience.

At 6,000 strong, the crowd at the games was large and especially loud, given that Berenyi’s competitor in the gold medal race was British.

“The decibel level was like a jet engine, but it didn’t distract me,” Berenyi said. “I knew what I had to do—just pedal.”

Pedaling is mostly all Berenyi had time for while in London. He and his family were able to take the train to Paris for a day, but otherwise, Berenyi was training, recovering and competing. And, of course, living life in the Olympic village.

“The food in the village was very good,” he said. “They have stations with food from all over the world.”

Berenyi will have plenty of chances to sample more international cuisine as he continues to paracycle on the world stage over the next few years. While he hasn’t ruled out competing in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, right now he’s trying to enjoy being home and adjusting to his newfound celebrity.

After receiving a hero’s welcome when he returned home to Oswego on Sept. 10, he was off to the White House on Sept. 13, where he and a group of 400 other Paralympians and Olympians got a chance to meet the Obamas and Vice President Biden.

“I don’t know how it happened, but I was chosen to stand in the front row right behind the president,” Berenyi said. “I was right next to [Olympic sprinter] Tyson Gay and two down from [Olympic swimmer] Michael Phelps. I think that photo might end up being the family Christmas card this year.”

Zumba’ing for Elburn Countryside Food Pantry

Photo: Lola Salamon (front) of Elburn and the rest of the class get into the swing of Jennifer Olsem’s session during the charity event at the Community Center on Saturday. Photo by Kimberly Anderson

by Keith Beebe
ELBURN—The opportunity to teach a Zumba class and raise funds for the Elburn Countryside Food Panty was so important to Jennifer Olsem, she traveled all the way from Suwanee, Ga., to do it.

Olsem, formerly a resident of Blackberry Creek subdivision in Elburn, taught the Zumba fundraiser on Saturday at the Elburn Community Center.

I wanted to come back to Elburn and give back, and Lola (Salmon, event coordinator) had the great idea of the Elburn Food Pantry,” Olsem said. “With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I’m sure the Elburn Food Pantry can use all the help they can get.”

Salmon said the event had a pretty good turnout, and some people actually brought non-perishable food items and still paid the class’ $10 admission fee.

“Jennifer had a wonderful time, and she stated it felt great to give back to the community of where she once lived,” Salmon said. “Jennifer was full of pep and energy, and did a wonderful job on boosting all the ladies’ spirits while in the Zumba session.”

Olsem hopes to make the Zumba fundraiser an annual event for the food pantry. And with the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, Salmon and Olsem want to remind people to drop off non-perishable items at the Elburn Community Center anytime before 5 p.m. each day.

The jaunt from Suwanee to Elburn is a long one, but Olsem doesn’t seem to mind at all.

“I’m happy to be coming back to a community that was so pleasant to live in, and give back,” she said.

Photos: Snakes, lizards and gators—Oh, my!

Photo: Dave DiNaso gets some assistance with “Axl,” an American alligator, from Natalie Foss, 5, of Sugar Grove. Photos by Patti Wilk


Dave talks to kids about “Zainy”, a Black Throat Monitor. Dave brought his “Traveling World of Reptiles” to the Sugar Grove Library on Oct. 27. Dave shared his reptile friends with Halloween-costumed kids and their parents, during the library’s Halloween Event. “Traveling World of Reptiles” is an “up-close, live, hands-on experience” with snakes, lizards, turtles, spiders, alligators, frogs and more.


The kids pet “Dino” the Green Iquana.


Zach Tate, 12, of Sugar Grove is covered in snakes, and even his glasses are decorated. Chiquita, an Albino Burmese Python, sits on his lap.

Victorious Victoria

Photo: Kaneland sophomore Victoria Clinton (908) battles with the top group shortly after the half-way point at Saturday’s IHSA State Cross Country meet at Detweiller Park in Peoria. Clinton would eventually break away from the pack with less than a mile to go, winning the 2A girls State championship, and leading the Lady Knights to 6th place in the team standings. Photo by Justin Vacha

Clinton takes State crown in cross country
by Mike Slodki
Peoria, Ill.—Victoria Clinton, your spot is ready.

The Kaneland sophomore earned her way into IHSA and Kaneland High School girls cross country history by becoming State champ in the Class 2A race at Detweiller Park in Peoria, Ill., on Saturday.

It’s the first individual crown in the school’s history.

Clinton, who also finished second at the Belvidere Sectional and first at the Kaneland Regional, topped the three-mile course with a stellar time of 16 minutes, 56 seconds. The pace of a 5:39 mile helped best her sectional time by 43 seconds. It was a personal best for the sophomore.

Senior Stephanie Saey of Galesburg was in second place—11 seconds behind Clinton’s winning time.

Clinton strode ahead in the final 800 meters of the competition.

The sophomore athlete helped Kaneland to a sixth-place team finish with 180 points overall.

“(Victoria) ran a very smart race,” KHS coach Doug Ecker said. “(She) ran with the front pack for the first two miles, took the lead and pulled away the last half-mile. Earning a State championship pretty much says it all.”

Kaneland’s Victoria Clinton is congratulated after being crowned the IHSA Class 2A Individual Cross Country Champion. Photo by Justin Vacha

It was a dream come true and a job well done for the Kaneland standout.

“I felt great, and the Lord allowed me to do the rest,” Clinton said. “As we started closing in toward the second mile, I said I needed to pick it up. With a half-mile left I had to give it my all.”

Fellow Northern Illinois Big XII school Yorkville took the team crown with a total of 66, followed by Normal University at 112.

Montini Catholic finished third in a tiebreaker over Glenbard South at 172, and Marengo finished with 174 points for fifth.

Kaneland’s effort outpaced Crystal Lake Central, which took seventh with 203 points.

“Our team has really been working hard. We all have positive attitudes,” Clinton said.

After Clinton wowed the crowd, the next Lady Knight to cross the finish line was freshman Brianna Bower, who concluded her first campaign in 32nd place with a time of 18:09. Next for KHS was Sydney Strang, who was 38th with a time of 18:14.

Fourth for KHS was sophomore Aislinn Lodwig, who battled through the field with a finish of 18:36 for 69th place, while senior teammate Amanda Lesak finished, 81st with a time of 18:42.

The Lady Knights’ two-through-five runners all ran personal bests in Peoria.
Maggie Brundige finished her final State race with a 98th-place finish at 18:54. Fellow senior Abby Dodis took 120th at 19:15.

“Girls cross country is back to being the successful program it once was,” Ecker said.

Photos: Honoring our Veterans

On Wednesday, Kaneland John Stewart Elementary School held a veterans celebration and flag raising. VFW veterans were honored and students gave short speeches about their appreciation of our war heroes. Photos by
John DiDonna


Elburn Scout Pack 107 helped raise the colors during the Veterans ceremony
on Wednesday at John Stewart elementary school.


The Mattina Brass Ensemble, a group of seventh and eighth grade brass players from Harter Middle School, played during the Veterans ceremony.



On Wednesday morning, Kaneland John Stewart Elementary School held a veterans celebration and flag raising. VFW veterans were honored, and students gave short speeches about their appreciation of our war heroes.

No-Way for Knight football

Photo: Quarterback Drew David looks downfield under good blocking during the second quarter at Lincoln-Way West on Saturday. Photo by Patti Wilk

Lincoln-Way West builds big lead, eliminates Kaneland in second-round action
by Mike Slodki
NEW LENOX, Ill.—It’s been awhile since the Knight football team has seen that kind of offensive and defensive output from a playoff opponent.

The newest of the four Lincoln-Way schools, the Warriors from the West, used their playmakers to the best of their ability while employing their stingy defense on the way to a 31-15 upset of the Kaneland crew on Saturday afternoon.

In the first meeting of the two schools on the football field, the Warriors pressured Drew David and also broke long gains throughout the day in a meeting of No. 1 and No. 9 seeds in the Class 5A playoffs.

For Kaneland, it marks the earliest exit for the squad since 2009, when rival Sycamore bested the host Knights, 40-13, in a first-round matchup.

The Warriors improve to 8-3 on the year, while KHS finishes the season at 10-1, but still is 6-4 in its last 10 playoff encounters. The Knights will also enter 2013 with its 28-game regular season win streak intact.

Junior Drew David had his toughest game of the 2012 campaign, still nursing an injured hand. He was sacked seven times and threw for 84 yards with three interceptions.

L-WW saw its first scoring drive end with a nine-yard touchdown pass from Justin Keuch to Nick Andrade with 5:20 left in the first for a 7-0 lead.

L-WW struck again in the second quarter on a 10-play drive that ended with a 26-yard touchdown run out of the Wildcat formation by senior transfer Lavonte Blackful on fourth down for a 14-0 edge with 7:47 to go before halftime.

Kaneland fell victim to an interception on the ensuing drive’s second play, and runs by Blackful and Javier Montalvo set up a 22-yard field goal from Joe Leo with 2:00 left for a 17-0 lead going into the break.

The Warriors expanded on their lead when the running attack set up a 10-yard TD strike to Jake Robbins with 8:01 remaining in the third for a 24-0 edge.

Jesse Balluff (30) comforts quarterback Drew David (4) at the end of their playoff loss to Lincoln-Way West on Saturday. Photo by Patti Wilk

A dagger came after a KHS punt set up the hosts at their own 18, but Blackful went 82 yards for a score on a sweep with 2:24 remaining in the third for a 31-0 lead.

Kaneland finally found the end zone thanks to a nine-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Carlson to Zach Martinelli with 2:06 to go. Martinelli ran in the two-point try to make it 31-8. On its next possession, the Knights’ Carlson ran it in from the four with :47 left for the final 16-point margin.

KHS coach Tom Fedderly gave credit to the Warriors, a force to be reckoned with.

“It was tough, but we kind of got behind so much that we really had to go to our passing game,” Fedderly said. “We knew going in that we’d have to mix things up. To their credit, those guys did a great job. Offensively, they moved the ball on us.”

Lincoln-Way West faces Joliet Catholic in the third round, as the Hilltoppers beat Tinley Park on Saturday, 42-21.

Power in Peoria

Photo: Kaneland junior Kyle Carter (1296) and senior Conor Johnson (1298) battle a Yorkville runner shortly after the 2-mile mark at Saturday’s IHSA State Cross Country meet at Detweiller Park in Peoria. Johnson finished a team-best 15 minutes, 18 seconds, good enough for 36th place, while Carter was just behind in 15:22 (48th place). The Knights placed 13th in the meet. Photo by Justin Vacha

Knights’ 13th-best program in State after Detweiller Park run
by Mike Slodki
Peoria, Ill.—The Kaneland High School boys cross country team set a number of personal and team records at the State Finals in Peoria on Saturday.

The Knights finished 13th overall, improving upon last year’s 15th place finish at State.

Yet, even more important than inching up the team final totals, the Knights set an all-time school record for team time of scoring runners, 78:34. Kaneland’s previous best mark of 78:43 was set by the 1987 State Championship team.

KHS head coach Chad Clarey said the team came to Peoria with a gameplan consisting of a list of goals, both on a personal and team level.

“The team executed our race plan flawlessly, in the deepest and fastest (Class) 2A field ever,” Clarey said. “We averaged 15:42 for our scoring runners, and even that wasn’t fast enough to make the top 10 of this class.”

Keyed by top-40 finishes from leaders Conor Johnson and Kyle Carter, Kaneland finished 13th overall with a team score of 351 points, 20 better than in 2011.

With an 85-point total, Chicago’s Jones High School took the top team trophy, followed by Belvidere North at 126 and Knight conference rival Yorkville at 129.

Former conference-mate Glenbard South was fifth overall at 190, while fellow Northern Illinois Big XII outfit Dixon was 10th.

Kaneland finished 10 points behind East Moline United, and ahead of Fenton’s 376.

“The team has worked so hard through summer heat, cold ice baths, intense intervals and exhausting races,” Clarey said. “We are so proud, and even more blessed to have had this opportunity come and then be answered by seven courageous young men and their teammates.”

John Wold of Glenbard South ran the course in 14 minutes, 16 seconds for the individual title, followed by Crystal Lake Central’s Alex Baker at 14:21, and Riley McInerney of Charleston rounded out the top three at 14:33.

The top-seven of the Knights proved itself formidable in chilly conditions, with the senior Johnson running his final high school race at a 36th-place clip of 15:18, good for a 5:06 pace, shaving 42 seconds off his state run the year prior.

“His (Johnson) senior leadership has been a major reason why we made it this far,” Clarey said. “We are very proud of his character, as well as his running talents.”

Carter was next for the KHS lineup at 15:22, completing his junior season in 48th place in the state. Carter’s time shaved 23 seconds off last year’s appearance at the State Finals.

“We are so proud of Kyle, and all he has managed these past four weeks with an IT band injury,” Clarey said. “He’s overcome a lot, and certainly been a leader on the course and in practices.”

Junior Nathaniel Kucera was 103rd overall at 15:51.

“Nathaniel Kucera didn’t even make our state roster last fall. He turned that disappointment into fuel for a fire that allowed him to post an incredible 15:51 PR,” Clarey said. “His story from 2011 to 2012 will be long remembered, and cherished.”

Senior teammate John Meisinger took 111th at 15:53.

“Seeing seniors like Meisinger leave the course smiling and fulfilled is probably the best part of our day, as coaches,” Clarey said.

Junior Luis Acosta was fifth-best on the team and 139th overall with an effort of 16:12. Kaneland senior Brandon Huber was 157th overall at 16:22, while junior Ryan Bower finished the State lineup at 16:32 for 165th place.

“There isn’t a trophy for what this team achieved, but there’s great satisfaction in knowing that their group set the new standard over another that was Coach Eddington’s greatest cross country team,” Clarey said. “Granted, we are twice the size of a school now than when Larry’s crew won in ‘87.”