Category Archives: Sports

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House of Steel

Lekkas brothers have lived lives on ice
ELBURN—There’s a whole lot of hockey talent in Elburn.

Much of it is courtesy of one household.

The Lekkas brothers of Elburn have long shown an affinity for hockey, having all participated to various degrees. Even when not participating, the chill of the sport was always around.

“Hockey was always on TV in the house, always that instead of MTV,” said Stefanos, who graduated high school in Springfield this past December and has donned the goalie mask for the NAHL’s Springfield Jr. Blues and currently for the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede.

Older brother Stelios, a sophomore in the medical program at University of Illinois-Chicago, also participated in cross country at Kaneland and played hockey before shoulder surgery put his ice career on the backburner. Youngest, but not least, is eighth-grader Evan, who attends Kaneland Harter Middle School and is currently playing “AAA” level with the Chicago Young Americans this spring.

“There was always 110 percent support for each other. Our house was definitely a hockey home,” Stefanos said. “I think it was great my parents (Angelo and Lisa) followed it.”

Angelo, principal of Genoa-Kingston middle school, is able to view the sport as a bonding experience for any family, not just the Lekkas’ of Elburn.

Courtesy photos
Courtesy photos

“Hockey is a very family-oriented sport,” Angelo said. “Due to the long distances and overnight trips, families and players spend many hours together in rink lobbies and hotels. Very strong bonds develop. The relationships they build last a lifetime.

“Each of the boys drove their decision to play and the level to which they take their game,” Angelo said.

Stefanos, who was named team MVP in Springfield at the conclusion of the last season, was called up to Sioux Falls and got thrown into the fire on ice, having to step into goal in the middle of the April 5 regular season finale against the Omaha Lancers. Stopping 12 of 12 shot attempts in the 3-2 loss, the netminder was cognizant of the level of play.

“Every level you move up, the players that move up with you are better,” he said. “You’re playing for an opportunity and trying to go to college for free.”

The Stampede, facing the Waterloo Black Hawks this week in the USHL playoffs first round, led the league in attendance with over 127,000 fans in 2013-14 at the Sioux Falls Arena.

“Springfield is the capital, and it’s a good team, but hockey is big in Sioux Falls. They get a lot of support there and the arena is packed and the whole town rallies,” Stelios said. “I’ll always try to give him a shoutout on Facebook after a game or call him.”

The Tier 1 junior hockey level club has accented the strides Stefanos feels he’s made in the two years since suiting up for the Chicago Mission U16 club in Midget-level hockey.

“I’m just mentally able to handle adversity better and whatever comes along,” Stefanos said. “I just try to go out every day and stick with what works.”

Stelios had to make a decision after shoulder surgery stopped his forward momentum and championship run with the “AA” level Northwest Chargers of Hoffman Estates, Ill., but can still be supportive and offer experience.

“I still wanted to play, and it kind of sucks to stop,” Stelios said. “I talked it over with my parents, who played a big role, and it was tough at the time, but it ended up being the right decision.”

The current UIC Flame student can point at his mask-donning brother as taking the passion to a new level in the family.

“Hockey is definitely our No. 1 sport. I’m not as crazy as my brother about it, he was only hockey. We would watch it all the time on TV, but we still have our stupid shows we watch,” Stelios said.

Now with Evan coming up through the ranks, the elder brothers can relive a bit of what they went through, and even issue perspective.

“Evan’s getting up there now, and it’s cool to see and to see him go through some of the same things I went through,” Stefanos said. “I’ll do anything I can for him.”

“He’s a real hard worker, and it’s going to turn out all right for him,” Stelios said. “He’s very focused.”

With the brothers having spent countless hours in chilly ice arenas, pride for the hockey accomplishments don’t need to thaw.

“I’ve been very fortunate to spend hundreds of hours with each of my kids coaching them on the ice,” Angelo said.

Stefanos and the Stampede began the first round of the Western Conference semifinals in Waterloo, Iowa, on Friday, losing 7-4 to Waterloo. Saturday saw the the Stampede lose 6-3, they now travel back to home ice tonight at 7:05 p.m.

When not picking
up the stick, the brothers are also musically inclined.
Stelios plays piano,
Stefanos plays trumpet
and Evan plays violin.


Triple jump

April always time for KHS track atmosphere to shine
KANELAND—KHS track always seems to rise to the occasion, no matter the location.

For the month of April, the chance to rise, and go a little farther happens in a setting that has been home to top-of-the-class track competition.

For a handful of years, the Jill Holmes Invite, Jenni’s ABC Invite and the Peterson Prep have occupied three Saturdays in April, giving the best Kaneland and its invitees have to offer.

Renamed in 2001 for the Kaneland Hall of Fame member and former athletics director of the school, the Jill Holmes Invite has seen KHS girls track athletes shine since 1979.

Jenni’s ABC Meet—done in tiered “A,” “B” and “C” levels according to ability—is held in memory of former KHS athlete and cross country captain Jenni Kirwan, who died in a car accident in September of 1998.

The Peterson Prep, capping off the whirlwind track tour, yields the best boys track has to offer from Kaneland and others, and has a chance to do it again in its 45th year. The showcase, named after Bruce Peterson and recognizing his four-decade body of work as coach and AD, allows Kaneland to win consecutive Prep showcases.

“I think the meets offer solid competition and I think teams know when they come to any of those three meets, that it’ll be efficiently run,” interim AD Ralph Drendel said.

The month makes for a busy time on the organization end, but worth it.

“The Jill Holmes Invite offers great competition, Jenni’s ABC meet celebrates a young lady taken away too soon, and the Peterson Prep gets great teams up and down the Fox River Valley and has pretty good competition, and they know it’ll run smooth,” Drendel said.

The Peterson Prep, which housed 18 teams last year and saw KHS nab three of four relay events en route to a team trophy, offers KHS head coach Eric Baron a showcase.

“The Peterson meet has had some amazing talent over the years,” Baron said. “We take great pride in putting on a meet that shows respect to the talent of that meet. Bruce Peterson and Ralph Drendel set the bar very high for hosting quality meets that are set up for the athletes to perform well at. I try my best to continue that level of meet.”

With the Holmes invite history for another year, a level of greatness has made its way through the lanes, as eight of the meet records still standing were set by IHSA State champions.

It’s cause for a level of pride for the girls track program.

“Hosting a meet gives parents, relatives, friends a chance to see the KHS athletes compete without traveling,” KHS coach Doug Ecker said. “We have a tradition here at KHS of hosting quality meets with very good competition, The Holmes has been going on for 40 years, one of the oldest girls invitational meets in the state. Some of the best track & field athletes in the state have competed in this meet through the years.”

The Peterson Prep’s starting gun goes off on Saturday, April 26, at 10 a.m.


Turf battle

Soccer troops take to Zimmerman Field for Blackhawk Invite
AURORA—Don’t look now, but the Lady Knights are winners with regularity. Granted, it’s still early.

Finally getting out to a regular rhythm of play after a long spring break hiatus, the Lady Knights took the turf at Ken Zimmerman Field on the grounds of West Aurora High School for the beginning of the Blackhawk Invite this past week.

After wins against West Aurora and Rosary to begin the Invite, the Lady Knights earned a conference win over Morris Tuesday. KHS is now 5-1 (1-0 NIB-12 play). A year ago, KHS sat at 1-3-1.

“I am pleased with how well the girls are doing,” KHS coach Scott Parillo said. “The girls are working extremely hard, and the results show. We have many tough games coming up in the next few weeks, so we can’t rest on our laurels.”

Gelling a bit quicker and with youth turning into experience, the Lady Knights’ win over the invite hosts had Courtney Diddell score off of a Brittany Olson assist just 82 seconds into play. KHS scored again in the second thanks to Diddell and an assist from Holly Collingbourne with 19:49 to go.

Facing Rosary, now victim twice over to KHS, Kiandra Powell scored with 8:13 to go in the first half on a Diddell assist for a 1-0 lead. Heather Ortiz, one of three sisters on the varsity roster, punched in a penalty kick try with 20:04 to go in regulation to cinch matters.

Against Morris, Diddell, Collinbourne and Michelle Ortiz all found the back of the net for Kaneland.

Kaneland’s penultimate match at the Blackhawk Invite was set for Wednesday against the East Aurora Tomcats, with results unavailable for press. On Thursday, April 17, Northern Illinois Big XII challenges begin with a home match against Rochelle.

4x100 Nicole Sreenan

Second best

Photo: Freshman Nicole Sreenan has transitioned well in her first year at KHS, winning the 100m and 400m dashes Saturday, and also taking part in the champion 4x100m relay for Kaneland. Photo by Mary Paulson

Kaneland girls track has great day, but Hononegah takes Holmes
KANELAND—Saturday’s usual mid-April staple, the Jill Holmes Invitational, yielded plenty of great girls track efforts.

KHS just wishes one of the opposing teams didn’t have it in them.

It was only Rockton’s Hononegah, with 144.25 points, that eclipsed the capable Lady Knights roster, which had 133.25 points tallied.

Rosary (94.75), DeKalb (77) and Burlington Central (74.75) rounded out the top five. Sycamore (67), Dixon (51) and Rockford East (30) took the sixth, seventh and eighth spots, respectively, while Dundee-Crown (20) and Rockford Jefferson (10) rounded out the field.

In the 100m dash finals, it was rising freshman Nicole Sreenan, with a time of 12.79, that was crowned queen of the event. Classmate Carly Elliott took sixth with a 13.79 effort.

In the 200m dash, senior Lauren Zick aced her final Holmes Invite challenge with a 26.14-second effort for first place in the finals, and sophomore Allie Heinzer took fourth at 27.31.

“We’re definitely feeling good, the weather is great,” Zick said. “We’re really excited about that. We’ve been really working hard this week to specialize things. We also worked on relays that we’re running today. We’re basically injury-free, and that’s really nice.”

Teammate Heinzer is also taking the good atmosphere and circumstances to heart.

“My coach always says to just beat the first 100 so you can save enough energy for the rest of the race,” Heinzer said. “It’s exciting so far, and the energy is building up my confidence.”

The 400m dash was taken by Sreenan with a 59.31 effort.

In the 800m run, freshman Becca Richtman, with an effort of 2:32.78, took second overall. The 1600m run featured Brianna Bower’s 5:39.40 effort for fifth place, and her 11:52.01 third place in the 3200m run.

The 100m hurdles finals had Kyla Goodine in fifth (17.60), Taylor Eaves in seventh (17.75) and Rachel Steinmiller in eighth (17.84).

The 300m hurdles sweepstakes had Eaves take seventh in the finals (54.35).

In relay action, the Lady Knights took the 4x100m with a time of 49.48, the 4x200m at 1:48.81, finished fourth in the 4x400m at 4:31.51 and third in the 4x800m event at 10:30.61.

Field events also saw a degree of success, with Maddie Keifer finishing fifth in her first-ever Holmes meeting with an effort of four feet, 10 inches, and teammate Sydney Davidson taking eighth at 4’ 8”. Davidson also took eighth in the pole vault at 7’.

The long jump saw Zick battle through a stacked event to take third at 17’ 6”.

Going into the finals, Zick was liking her odds after breaking into the elite group.

“I felt pretty good,” Zick said. “The wind was definitely a factor in everyone’s jumps. We were talking about it at the end of the runway.”

Triple jump action had Keifer strike again at 32’ 8”, for fourth place.

Throws for KHS were highlighted by Elle Tattoni’s third in the shot put with a heave of 33’ 9.5”, and Brittany Kemp in fourth (31’). Tattoni also took second in the discus at 112’ 1”.

On Thursday, April 17, Kaneland heads to the Ottawa ABC Invitational, and hosts Jenni’s ABC Girls Track Meet on Saturday, April 19.

KHS adds to luck in Quad Cities

Boys track hits the usual outdoor opener in East Moline, Ill.
KANELAND—It doesn’t seem as if the learning curve for the Knights boys track roster will be that steep, if the East Moline United High School Boys Kiwanis Invitational held at the East Moline Soule Bowl is any indication.

KHS, with a total of 113 points, was a runaway winner in group “A” over the likes of Rock Island (94.5), Pleasant Valley (80.5) and T.F. North (79).

Galesburg (78.5), the hosts (78) and Sterling (67.5) were fifth through seventh, respectively, while Geneseo (60), Rock Island Alleman (44) and Sherrard (39) rounded out the top 10. Moline (26) and Freeport (8) completed the “A’ 12.

Kaneland’s 58-point total was good for fourth in the “B” group, while it gathered 31 points in the “C” group.

The meet could have gone even better by Kaneland’s perspective, according to head coach Eric Baron.

“The meet went well for the most part, but it was a meet we could have won if everyone was healthy and in the lineup,” Baron said. “I was really pleased with how several of our younger athletes stepped in and did great jobs for us, but in general it wasn’t what we had hoped for.”

The “A” accolades came often for the Knight group, beginning with Brandon Bishop blazing a 11.99 second trail for fifth place in the 100-meter dash. Teammate Isaac Swithers took fourth in the 200m dash at 24.61. Nathaniel Kucera managed a first-place in the 800m run by navigating a 1:56.94. Kyle Carter continued the distance success with a time of 4:31.60 in the 1,600m run, for second place. Ryan Bower took fifth for Kaneland with a 10:22.64 in the 3,200m run. Brock Robertson took third in the 110m hurdles with a time of 15.95, and added to his Saturday by nabbing second in the 300m hurdles with a 41.57.

Relay action in “A’ had KHS taking fifth with a time of 44.28, thanks to the efforts of Robertson, Ben Barnes, Bishop and Swithers. The 4x200m relay foursome of John Delach, Bishop, Brandon Cruz and Swithers took fifth at 1:34.33. The 4x400m relay foursome of Robertson, Bishop, Carter and Kucera took the race with a time of 3:27.41.

The field events in “A” saw highlights like Dylan Kuipers’ meet-winning pole vault effort at 14 feet and Barnes’ 20’ 11.25” first place in the long jump. Nate Dyer took the shot put with a 52’ 1” and finished second in the discus at 153’ 7”.

“B” highlights for the Knights group came courtesy of personnel like Luis Acosta’s 4:41.47 first place in the 1,600m run and Tanner Robertson’s 42.82 first in the 300m hurdles. Kaneland’s 4x400m relay foursome also won at 3:40.01. The “B” field saw a 12’ pole vault by Dan Evers for first place.

In the “C” landscape, the 100m dash saw a second by Cruz with a time of 11.74 and a 4:45.94 by Ryan Bower for second in the 1,600m run.

In the field landscape, the Knights’ Mitch Groen took first in the vault with a 12’ effort. Thrower Alex Snyder managed a first-place 44’ heave in the shot put, while Shane Jorgensen took second in the discus with a 127’1”.

A meet with DeKalb and Sycamore in Maple Park set for Tuesday was rescheduled for Thursday.


Softball recovers vs. Batavia after taking it on helmet

Photo: Morgan Weber
scored six runs, and had
three hits and a home run
in the Knight’s doubleheader
wins over Batavia

Runs come home after two non-conference losses
KANELAND—While it might be nice to be close to home, the Lady Knights softball team would like to cross home itself and stop the other team from doing so.

Fresh off a trip to Tennessee, the Lady Knights hosted Oswego High School of the Southwest Prairie Conference on April 9, only to fall 3-0. On Friday against Marengo in Maple Park, the Lady Knights lost 7-4, before the non-conference three-headed tour ended with a 12-2 and 19-5 five-inning sweep over former Western Sun Conference foe Batavia.

KHS sits at 6-5, thus far, after the split week.

Against the Lady Panthers, the Lady Knights fanned 11 times in the loss, and laced just three hits, with the Panthers’ go-ahead run coming in the third inning.

Facing off against the Indians, the visitors scored four in the top of the third inning, with Courtney Davis getting tagged with the loss. Morgan Weber had a two-run homer to her credit in a four-run fourth inning. Middle-of-the-order presence Paige Kuefler went 2-for-3 with a double and run scored, while Lady Knight teammate Meg Cohrs had a double and RBI.

In the prolific doubleheader solving of the Lady Bulldogs, Weber had three hits and a HR, while scoring six runs. Kuefler starred again with three doubles and a single in the sweep.

Burlington Central transfer Angie Morrow earned the game one win, while Anissa Becker took the back-end win.

A Monday matchup with West Aurora was cancelled due to inclement weather, while a Tuesday conference matchup against Rochelle in Ogle County was postponed until Friday, April 18.

On Thursday, April 17, the Lady Knights attempt to handle the visiting Yorkville Lady Foxes.


Unger to take over Chiefs program from Randall

SUGAR GROVE—Former Waubonsee Community College player Brad Unger has been named to succeed long-time Chiefs head baseball coach Dave Randall. After 37 seasons and nearly 1,850 games at Waubonsee, Randall is relinquishing the reins of the program that he built into national prominence at the conclusion of this season. Randall is one of only three NJCAA Division III (non-scholarship) coaches to have over 800 coaching victories. He has led the Chiefs to the NJCAA Division III World Series three times including a third-place finish last spring. Randall will remain Waubonsee’s Athletic Manager, a position he has held since 1984.

In 2001, Unger was the Chiefs’ starting catcher, earning All-Skyway Conference honors that spring before representing Waubonsee in the Region IV All-Star Game. Currently the head varsity baseball coach at Hinckley-Big Rock High School, Unger guided the Royals to the Little Ten Conference title and the Regional Championship game last spring as the number one seed. Unger has coached the last 15 years in the Aurora American Legion League, guiding his teams to over 200 wins and a league title in 2011. He has served on the league’s Board of Directors, oversees the league’s annual fundraiser, and built and maintains the league’s website.

Unger played his freshman season at Mt. Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he earned the team’s Top Newcomer Award. He transferred to Waubonsee for his sophomore year to play for Randall’s Chiefs. The following summer, Unger competed for International Athlete’s Team USA squad that traveled to Italy to play against professional teams in the Italian Games. Unger then moved on to Elmhurst College and was the Bluejays’ team captain the next two years. His senior year, he was selected to the All-CCIW First Team, was tabbed an NCAA Division III Second Team All-American, and was named Elmhurst College’s Male Athlete of The Year.

Unger earned his Associate’s degree from Waubonsee in 2001 and his Bachelor’s degree from Elmhurst College in 2003, majoring in Marketing and Business Administration. He is currently completing his Master’s degree in Coaching and Athletic Administration from Concordia University in River Forest. The Plainfield resident is self-employed and owns the NewLife Companies.

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Rodriguez named NACC Athlete of week for track and field

AURORA—Aurora University freshman Lisa Rodriguez of Sugar Grove was named the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Student-Athlete of the Week.

Rodriguez helped lead the Spartans to a second place finish at the Wheaton College Invitational April 5, winning the 200-meter dash (26.08 seconds), finishing third in the 100-meter (12.70) and participating in the winning 4×100 relay team (49.72). The times in the 200-meter dash and 4×100 relay set AU school records.


Measure of Revenge

Photo: Junior Heather Ortiz (left) maneuvers around a Rosary defender Monday. Photo by Mary Paulson

Kaneland evens up mark after two contests with win over Royals
KANELAND—There was a KHS soccer sighting on Monday.

After a 17-day layoff due to weather and spring break, Kaneland took to the Maple Park surroundings against a foe that has meant the end of the season for the Lady Knights three of the last five seasons.

KHS (2-1) beat a struggling Rosary club, which had lost to both Oswego schools before the matchup. On Tuesday, the Lady Knights took on Rockford Auburn and came out with a 4-0 victory.

“Honestly, it was nice to get a win, period,” KHS coach Scott Parillo said after the matchup with Rosary. “With the long layoff, we certainly didn’t know what we were going to look like, and we looked decent.”

Senior Brittany Olson had a hat trick for the hosts, thanks to first half goals with 27 minutes left and 24 minutes left, with Courtney Diddell dishing off for the goal. With roughly 21 minutes left, Olson put in a third goal to effectively ice it.

Emily Chapman had nine saves between the posts in the winning effort.

“We crashed the net constantly, and we were able to knock three in,” Parillo said. “We missed a PK and had another called back so it could have been a larger margin of victory. This team looks like they want to work extra hard to score this year. Yes, it was Rosary, but this is the regular season. We just want to improve every game in case we meet in the regional at Rosary.”

Against Rockford Auburn, Diddell, Madison Jurcenko, Jessica Coia and Michelle Ortiz all found the back of the net for the Lady Knights.

KHS learned some logistics of its postseason quest. The Class 2A Rosary Regional in May will feature Illinois Math and Science Academy, host Rosary, Kaneland and Rochelle, with the winner headed to the Hampshire Sectional.

Kaneland softball steers clear of Tenn. trouble

CLARKSVILLE, TENN.—With the struggles of most area teams in northern Illinois to get softball games in, Kaneland went with a tried and true formula: get out of the state.

Visiting Clarksville, Tenn., for the Play It Again Classic and set in the gold division, the Lady Knights lost to Union County of Kentucky by a final of 4-0 in six innings, and also dropped a 4-2 matchup in five innings against Christian County of Kentucky on Saturday. KHS also lost to Peoria Notre Dame by a 3-2 margin on Friday.

Kaneland is now 3-3 on the season. KHS was set to host Oswego on Wednesday, April 9, with results unavailable for press, and hosts non-conference rival Marengo on Friday, April 11, at 4:30 p.m.

Toward the end of last week, the Lady Knights learned of their postseason assignment, and compete in the Class 3A Burlington Central Regional along with rivals BC, Genoa-Kingston, Hampshire and Sycamore. The winner of the regional moves on to the Marengo Sectional.


Kaneland baseball hits Ohio

KANELAND—Playing at the University of Cincinnati against Ken Griffey Jr.’s former high school team was the highlight of a spring break trip for the Kaneland baseball team that featured more cancelations than games.

The Knights’ ability to get out to a field and get regular season action underway had been hampered by the difficult winter and early spring, but were able to find their way to Ohio for a Friday game against Archbishop Moeller at the Bearcats’ home, Marge Schott Stadium. Moeller defeated the Knights 8-4.

The Knights made the most of a trip down south, where there were more cancellations, even taking in a Cincinnati Reds-St. Louis Cardinals game at Great American Ballpark.

“Even though we didn’t play more than one game, we got a lot accomplished as a team as far as team bonding and having fun goes. We also rented an indoor facility on two different days and got some good practice in,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “The good thing is, we played with the best, we know what we are capable of doing, we just have to go out and do that now. So if anything, this trip got these kids believing in what we are capable of doing.”

On Tuesday, KHS suffered a 7-2 setback at the hands of host West Aurora.

Kaneland is now 0-3 on the young season.

Against Moeller, the 17th-ranked team in the nation in the USA Today rankings, KHS took a 2-0 lead after the top of the 1st and a 4-1 lead after its turn in the 3rd. Moeller returned the favor and then some with five in the 4th and two more in the 6th to ice it.

Hurler Anthony Holubecki (pictured above) was tagged with the loss after 4 1/3 innings and six runs (one earned) on three hits.

Curtis Thorson went 2-for-3 with an RBI and Joe Laudont went 1-for-3 with an RBI triple.

“We will make small adjustments here and there throughout our lineup and our pitching staff,” Aversa said. “The toughest part is going a full week, or in last year’s case, two weeks, without consistently playing games. Once we get into that groove, I think we will be much more comfortable with what we are doing both at the plate and in the field. We’ve played two games and have only had one practice on our field. We just have to take advantage of every opportunity that we have when we can get on a field to practice.”

Against West Aurora, KHS got an early 2-0 lead in the top of the second before surrendering five runs in the bottom of the second. The Blackhawks added another run in both the fourth and sixth innings to claim victory. Joe Laudont and Austin Wheatley went 1-3, while Joey Panico went 1-2 with a run and a walk. Nick Stahl took the loss for the Knights.

The Knights were scheduled for a road game at Plano on Wednesday, followed by a home matchup with Hononegah in Rockton, Ill., on Thursday, April 10, and a Northern Illinois Big XII crossover tussle with host Sterling on Saturday, April 12.


Lucky 13

Photo: Senior Kyla Goodine won the 100m Hurdles in 17.93 Tuesday. Photo by Mary Paulson

Outdoor opener nets 13 event wins for girls track and field
KANELAND—With favorable conditions compared to the majority of the spring thus far, the Lady Knights track and field team took advantage and coasted to an easy triangular win over visiting Oregon and Burlington Central.

KHS totaled 111 points, easily eclipsing BC’s 45 and Oregon’s 30.

Thirteen event wins highlighted the afternoon.

In the field events, Lauren Zick won the long jump with a 17 foot, 4 inch leap and Christina Delach put up a 10’ 3” Pole Vault to claim first.

On the track, Kyla Goodine won the 100m Hurdles in 17.93 seconds, while Nicole Sreenan won the 100m Dash in 12.97. Jessica Kucera won the 800m Run in 2:35.43, while Sydney Strang took the top spot in the 400m Dash with a 1:05.42. Taylor Eaves won the 300m Low Hurdles in 52.68. Brianna Bower won the 1600m Run in 5:30.64, and it was Zick again, this time winning the 200m Dash in 25.94.

In relay action, the Knights reigned supreme, sweeping all four events. The 4×800 led off the relay winning streak with a 10:39.03, while the 4×100 followed with a blistering 50.2, winning by almost 8 seconds. The 4x200m won with a 1:55.02, while the 4×400 notched a 4:11.9.

Saturday is a big day for the Lady Knights, as they host the Jill Holmes Invite at the Kaneland track starting at 10 a.m.

More KHS results from Tuesday: Pole Vault: Guerra (3rd, 7’6”) High Jump: Keifer (4th, 4’10”) Triple Jump: Keifer (2nd, 31’ 8.5”) Discus: Tattoni (2nd, 94’ 11”), Schafer (3rd, 86’ 4”) Shot Put: Tattoni (2nd, 34’ 6”), Kemp (4th, 32’ 6”) 100m Hurdle: Eaves (2nd, 18.04), Weber (3rd, 18.56) 100m Dash: Elliott (2nd, 13.48), Keinzer (3rd, 13.64), Spencer (4th, 13.83) 800m Run: Ritchman (2nd, 2:35.64), Lodwig (4th, 2:46.61) 400m: Bartholomew (3rd, 1:11.60) 300m Low Hurdle: Steinmiller (2nd, 55.44), Sanchez (3rd, 56.71) 1600m Run: Shaw (2nd, 6:18.05), Carlson (3rd, 6:19.96) 200m Dash: Sreenan (2nd, 26.36)

Easter weekend event at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark

GENEVA—The Kane County Cougars will host an Easter weekend breakfast event on Saturday, April 19, from 9 to 11 a.m. at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. The event will include a breakfast buffet served inside the Super Suite with guest appearances by Ozzie T. Cougar and the Easter Bunny, along with an Easter Egg hunt on the field. The Cougars are currently accepting reservations at or by phone at (630) 232-8811. Prices are $19 for adults and $12 for children age 3-10. Children age 2 and under are free.

Attendees will enjoy an appetizing breakfast buffet inside the Super Suite that includes French Toast, pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and hash browns along with coffee, water and an assortment of breakfast juices. The buffet will take place from 9-10:30 a.m. while Ozzie and the Easter Bunny mingle with guests and pose for photos. Following breakfast, children can enjoy an Easter Egg hunt on the field. The hunt will be broken down into 3 age groups: 5 and under, 6-9 and 10 years old and up.

“We’re extremely excited about our Easter weekend event as fans, particularly those with young children, will have a great morning here at the ballpark on April 19,” Cougars Director of Promotions Jenni Brechtel said. “We’ve had tremendous success with our Christmas and Valentine’s Day events over the past few years and encourage fans to make their reservations today for our newest holiday event!”

Additional information is available at or by calling (630) 232-8811.

Knight boys track makes presence felt at IPTT

BLOOMINGTON, Ill.—Illinois Prep Top Times meet action down in Bloomington, Ill., always serves as a barometer for a team’s progress before the outdoor track season begins in earnest.

The Knights seemed to deflect the pressure.

At the Shirk Center on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan University, the Knights sent qualifying athletes to the event and competed in nine total events.

Ryan Bower ran a 3200m race in 10:22.22 for distance action.

Teammate Brock Robertson had a prelim effort of 8.84 seconds in the 60m hurdles. Robertson also joined Brandon Bishop, Dylan Nauert and Isaac Swithers for seventh place in the 4x200m relay at 1:36.20. The foursome of Robertson, Nauert, Kyle Carter and Nathaniel Kucera ran a third-place 3:28.21 in the 4x400m relay. Relay events concluded with the 4x800m relay event win for Andrew Lesak, Luis Acosta, Carter and Kucera at 8:07.62.

Kaneland was also able to boast a Shot Put champ in Nate Dyer, who threw a 56-08.75. Shane Jorgensen finished 10th at 47-01.5.

Field events also saw Ben Barnes’ 22-07.25 in the Long Jump for second place, followed by Dalvell Triplett’s ninth at 20-01.5. Triplett would go on to take the Triple Jump at 45-02.

Dylan Kuipers (14-00) and Dan Evers (13-00) took third and sixth, respectively, in the Pole Vault.

Saturday, April 12, marks the beginning of the outdoor campaign with a trip to East Moline United.


Knights can’t find friendly diamond

CAROL STREAM, Ill.—Knight baseball were finally able to get out on the field to begin the 2014 regular season.

It shall have to wait a bit longer for its first win to be in the books.

Housed at the American Legion fields in Carol Stream, Ill., the Knights took on former conference rival Batavia, only to lose in a 2-1 squeaker.

“It was nice to see some things that we did well and it was good to see what we need to still work on,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “We will be able to figure things out here pretty quickly, and hopefully we can get in a rhythm getting some games in if Mother Nature cooperates.”

The Bulldogs scored single runs in the bottom of the third and fifth innings, while Kaneland plated a run in the sixth inning.

Curtis Thorson led Kaneland with two hits in the losing effort, and Nick Stahl earned the loss on the mound.

The Knights were bound for the Cincinnati area for a three-game spring break trip, beginning on Thursday, April 3, at Bishop Elder. On Friday, April 4, the Knights square off against Archbishop Moeller, alma mater of Ken Griffey, Jr., and face Dixie Heights on Saturday, April 5.

Kaneland softball gets in more outdoor swings

DEKALB—It was only one contest, but the more outdoor diamond time the Lady Knights get, the better.

On Monday, the lone contest of a Spring Break week, the Lady Knights met their former conference mates Batavia out at the DeKalb Park District fields and won 4-0.

The Lady Knights improve to 3-0 on the young season.

Burlington Central transfer Angie Morrow dealt a one-hitter against the Bulldog lineup, with outfielder Lanie Callaghan smacking two hits.

“Hayley Contorno also played well offensively, laying down two key bunts that led to runs,” KHS coach Brian Willis said.

A scheduled meeting against Northern Illinois Big XII West division foe Ottawa was cancelled on Thursday, while a Saturday doubleheader against Oswego was postponed to Wednesday, April 9.

Kaneland begins a Volunteer State stay in Clarksville, Tenn., for a tournament beginning on Friday, April 4.

Lady Knights try to wow at Wesleyan

BLOOMINGTON, Ill.—Illinois Prep Top Times meet action, held at the Shirk Center on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan University, boasts the best the indoor track season has to offer.

You can include Kaneland girls track in that offering after performing admirably in the qualification-only setting.

“It is a meet that the kids always enjoy. As they always do, all the girls competed well,” KHS coach Doug Ecker said.

The Class AA 60m Dash featured finalist Lauren Zick, who finished sixth in the finals with a time of 7.93 second after a 7.87 effort in the prelims. The senior also managed a fifth place in the 200m Dash with a time of 26.16, .22 ahead of Mt. Vernon’s Charde Golliday.

Distance matters had Sydney Strang of KHS finish fifth with a time of 2:25.94 in the 800m Run, while younger classmate Brianna Bower took an eighth place in the 3200m Run thanks to an 11:47.46.

The 4x200m Relay squad of Olivia Galor, Nicole Sreenan, Zick and Carly Elliott ran a 1:46.76 for third place, and the Galor/Zick/Sreenan/Strang foursome took second with a time of 4:08.51 in the 4x400m Relay.

The field events saw Lady Knight Maddie Keifer manage a tie for 16th in the High Jump at four feet, eight inches. Teammate and State qualifier Christina Delach vaulted to a 9-06 in the Pole Vault for fifth in the standings.

Zick was at it again in the Long Jump, leaping to a 17-5.75 effort for third place.

An encouraging development, especially early on, is the performance of the lower-class tier.

“The freshman and sophomores continue to improve and gain confidence as they show that they can compete against very good competition,” Ecker said.

Outdoor track happenings begin in earnest out in Maple Park on Tuesday, April 8, with Burlington Central and Oregon invading at 4:30 p.m.

Lexi Roach

Joy Division: Knight athletes know what they’ve signed up for at D-I peak

KANELAND—High school athletes’ talent can bring them amazing things: wins, titles and even the chance to keep playing the sport they love.

With powerhouses like senior Joe Komel, future Central Michigan University Chippewa, it also brings certainty.

“I think every kid wants to ideally compete at that next level,” Komel said.

That’s echoed by speedster classmate Kyle Carter.

“I just knew I wanted to go to the next level and I knew I didn’t want to stop,” Carter said.

Last month, 13 Kaneland High School athletes participated in National Signing Day, with several athletes signing letters of intent with Division I schools.

For a speedster like Brandon Bishop, who signed as a preferred walk-on at the University of Iowa, he’s aware of the unique task and slot that awaits him on the gridiron.

“I just look at it as I get to do a sport that I love to play. I don’t look at it as a job,” Bishop said.

One of six Knight football players that signed to play with various levels of college programs, Bishop doesn’t know how big of a role he’ll have as part of the Hawkeye program, but will take what comes.

“Any level of college football is big time,” Bishop said. “I was originally with a D-II school, but once you experience a Big 10 program, you dream about that stuff. It’s a big-time mentality there.”

Bishop was also present at a Hawkeyes practice when the squad was practicing for the Outback Bowl in Tampa, that resulted in a 21-14 loss on New Year’s Day to LSU.

“It’s an eye-opener, and I was fortunate to see it,” Bishop said. “They have great facilities in the Big 10.”

Bishop, who wishes to major in social work and possibly be a position coach, is no stranger to the work as a gridiron and track standout.

“It just matters that I compete. I believe in myself to play at that level,” Bishop said.

Bishop joined fellow Knight football gladiators Justin Diddell (Indiana State), Gary Koehring (St. Cloud State), Komel (Central Michigan), Dylan Nauert (St. Cloud State) and Tyler Slamans (Western Illinois) in the Class of 2018 football group.

Komel joins a Mid-American Conference outfit that also boasts former Knight offensive threat Blake Serpa.

“Blake is good friends with my older brother, Sam, and he was able to help me meet with officials from the football program. I had been looking at MAC and Missouri schools,” Komel said.

Komel, part of the solid offensive line that yielded three consecutive Northern Illinois Big XII championships, feels the success at KHS helped buoy him and his chances at the top collegiate level.

“When CMU talked with me, they told me that I came from a program that knows how to win, and that’s what a lot of those schools are looking for,” Komel said. “Kaneland prepared me for that and they know how to win.”

The spring season action in the higher collegiate ranks look to highlight Sydney Strang (Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne) and Carter (Southern Illinois), who are joined by Nathaniel Kucera, who recently committed to Stanford track.

Kucera’s options opened up after receiving a packet from universities following the June Midwest Distance Festival at Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill.

“Things really opened up for me after that,” Kucera said. “I would have competed at any level after high school, Division III, whatever, but I jumped at the chance.”

Kucera, who’s a verbal commitment to the Pac-12 Conference school, visited the Palo Alto, Ca., institution in the fall.

“It was a surreal moment whenever you get out there. They are such high-caliber athletes, but I was able to talk to everyone on the team. There’s no big egos there,” Kucera said.

The senior looks to be taking a different path than his fellow classmates, all the way to the west coast.

“The first time I got there, it was mindblowing and not something I pictured. It’s a really beautiful city,” Kucera said.

Carter, who’s excelled at cross country and track for his four years as a State qualifier, always had a continuation of his gifts in mind.

“I was getting contacted by D1 schools. I think going to State multiple times and being the best in the NIB-12 prepared me,” Carter said.

Strang, headed to Division 1-AA territory, echoes her distance counterpart.

“I’m glad to move on,” Strang said. “Running is such a part of me. I have so much passion for it. My teammates and (coach Doug) Ecker helped me through it all and help keep that. I just want to continue getting better and keep my love for it.”

Commonplace among the Knight athletes that get picked is a flexibility that comes with the wide-eyed enthusiasm.

“I’ll be able to go anywhere, and wherever they need me next year,” Carter said. “I just want to compete with the best.”

Kaneland’s presence of Division I athletes, which includes the trio of Lanie Callaghan (Valparaiso), Lexi Roach (Youngstown State) and Lauren Zick (St. John’s) that committed to D-I softball outfits in late 2013, not only have the athletic talent, but also seem to know what to expect.

For those that have seen the group in action, that comes as no surprise.


Downright dominant

Photo: Senior Dalvell Triplett placed third in the Long Jump and first in the Triple Jump for the Knights as they rolled to a conference victory Saturday in Sterling, Ill. Photo by Marshall Farthing

Kaneland boys track talent on NIB-12 indoor display
KANELAND—When a boys track outfit like Kaneland gets used to a certain level of output, it’s not a bad thing, especially where Saturday’s Northern Illinois Big XII indoor conference meet is concerned.

Much like last year, the Kaneland boys took it to the rest of the rival conference field at the Westwood Sports Center.

With 130 team points, the Knights ran away with the meet, as 130 team points came their way. The total eclipses the 107 output from a year ago.

Dixon, Sycamore, Geneseo and DeKalb rounded out the top five, with 68, 59, 58 and 51, respectively. Yorkville (41), LaSalle-Peru (27), Sterling (24) and Rochelle (9) rounded out the scoring portion of the team sweepstakes.

Brandon Bishop got things started for the Knight side, with a fourth-place finish overall in the 60m Dash, on account of a 7.35-second effort.

Kyle Carter bested the competition in the 400m dash with a time of 52.09.

The 800m run field saw a double shot of Kaneland accomplishments, with Nathaniel Kucera taking a first (2:01.42) and teammate Austin Kintz working his way toward a fourth, thanks to a 2:08.87.

KHS leapt over obstacles in the 60m hurdles event, as seniors Dylan Nauert (8.68) and Brock Robertson (8.79) finished second and third, respectively.

In the 4x200m relay, it was the Knights taking the mantle with a time of 1:35.35, and the 4x400m did more of the same, with a first-place nod of 3:33.16. The 4x800m relay followed suit at 8:07.72 for first, a whopping 11.77 seconds faster than Dixon.

On the indoor field side of things, KHS acclimated well in the pole vault area. Senior duo Dylan Kuipers (13-9) and Dan Evers (13-3) swept the top two spots.

The Long Jump had Knight Ben Barnes grab first with a 21-1.25, and teammate Dalvell Triplett take third at 20-10. The Triple Jump saw Triplett and Barnes reverse the Knight order, with Triplett’s first (43-11.5) and Barnes’ fourth (40-2).

The indoor aspect of the Kaneland track attack yielded some pleasant surprises as the team gears up for the outdoor season, whenever the elements subside.

“(There were) lots of surprises,” KHS coach Eric Baron said. “Biggest was Danny Evers going 13-3 and just missing 13-9, and Dalvell Triplett in both jumps, but his Triple Jump of 43-11 was a personal best.”

Finally, Nate Dyer took care of the Shot Put conference threat with a first-place effort of 55-5.

Kaneland’s next challenge is the well-regarded Illinois Top Times meet hosted by Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Ill., on Saturday, March 29.


An early jump

Photo: Sophomore Brianna Bower placed third in the 3200m run Saturday in Sterling, Ill., with a time of 12:00.28. Photo by Marshall Farthing

KHS girls track takes NIB-12 bragging rights in Sterling, Ill.
KANELAND—There’s only so much you can do to improve on a second place indoor conference meet finish from 2013.

That’s going straight to the top in 2014.

Kaneland girls track made an impact in Sterling, Ill., at the Westwood Sports Center at the Northern Illinois Big XII indoor conference meet on Saturday, and won the day with 108 team points. Yorkville took a close second with 102.

Sycamore was third with 76 points, followed by rival DeKalb with 56. Geneseo had 47 to round out the top five and lead the West division field. LaSalle-Peru had 23 team points, followed by Dixon with 21. Morris (18), Sterling (8) and Streator (6) rounded out the scoring teams.

Success came early and often for Lady Knights track, beginning in the 60m dash, thanks to Lauren Zick’s first-place 7.84-second time in her final indoor conference challenge. Teammate Nicole Sreenan finished third with an 8.01 time in her first conference gathering.

The Lady Knights (above) completed the meet sweep with the boys team Saturday in Sterling, Ill. Both teams won the titles at the NIB-12 Indoor Meet.  Photo courtesy of Keith Snyder
The Lady Knights (above) completed the meet sweep with the boys team Saturday in Sterling, Ill. Both teams won the titles at the NIB-12 Indoor Meet.
Photo courtesy of Keith Snyder

Zick got into the act again in 200m dash competition with a first-place 26.07, while Sreenan took third at 26.63. Sreenan’s classmate Carly Elliot won fourth at 27.83.

In the 400m Dash, Sreenan continued her torrid pace with a first-place effort of 1:00.05, while Lady Knight Allie Heinzer took third at 1:04.11.

In long-distance matters, Brianna Bower took third on 3200m turf with 12:00.28 effort.

The 4x200m relay was taken by KHS with a time of 1:50.91, besting Sycamore by 1.05., while Kaneland finished third in the 4x400m relay at 4:21.86, and fourth in the 4x800m at 10:29.69.

The field arena yielded more accolades for the Lady Knight troop, beginning with the Pole Vault crew of Christina Delach (10′ 0″) and Lexee Guerra (7′ 6″), who took the top two spots.

In Shot Put action, KHS competitor Elle Tattoni’s 34-9.25 was good for fourth.

The Lady Knights now travel to the Illinois Wesleyan’s Shirk Center Saturday for the Top Times 2A Meet Saturday morning before opeing up their outdoor season April 8 at home against Burlington Central and Oregon.

Cagers are champs

The seventh-grade boys Cagers basketball team won the league tournament championship over March 15-16. The team includes Sam Weigand (front row, from left), Brett Wallner, John Schaefer, Spencer Brown, Head Coach Hunter Emigh (back row), Declan McDonald, Joe Such, Sheldon Bartmann, Luke Brost and Ben Saloga. Not pictured are Drew Hahn and assistant coach Brian Schaefer.
Photo submitted by Neil Wallner to

Team Harvell wins KYBL Tournament

The Kaneland Youth Basketball League title went to Team Harvell during the March 15 tournament that took place at Kaneland Harter Middle School. The team included Aiden Watkiss (front, left to right), Daniel DiChiarro, Caleb Hubbard and Dylan Lederman; coach Bailey Harvell (back), Aaron Glover, Mason Kottmeyer, Owen Branson, Wyatt Harvell, Ryan Rinella and coach Henry Harvell.

Photo submitted by Henry Harvell to the Elburn Herald office


Knights qualify 23 to Top Times meet

Kaneland High School will be well-represented at this Saturday’s Illinois Top Times track meet at Illinois Wesleyan’s Shirt Center in Bloomington, Ill.

The meet kicks off at 9 a.m. Saturday morning, and will reportedly be broadcast at

For more information on the meet, visit For the meet program with seeds, click here.

Below is a list of the KHS qualifiers, plus where they rank in their events heading into the meet.

Boys Qualifiers Girls Qualifiers
• Long JumpBen Barnes 4th

Dalvell Triplett 7th

• Pole Vault

Dylan Kuipers 4th

Dan Evers 7th

• Shot Put

Nate Dyer 1st

Shane Jorgensen 11th

• Triple Jump

Dalvell Triplett 5th

• 3200m Run

Ryan Bower 18th

• 60m Hurdles

Dylan Nauert 13th

Brock Robertson 17th

• 4x800m Relay

Lesak, Acosta,

Carter, Kucera 2nd

• 4x200m Relay

Robertson, Bishop,

Cruz, Swithers 5th

• 4x400m Relay

Robertson, Acosta,

Carter, Kucera 2nd

• Long JumpLauren Zick 5th

• High Jump

Maddie Keifer 13th

• Pole Vault

Christina Delach 4th

• 3200m Run

Brianna Bower 6th

• 60m Dash

Lauren Zick 6th

Nicole Sreenan 10th

• 200m Dash

Lauren Zick 3rd

• 800m Run

Sydney Strang 11th

• 4x200m Relay

Galor, Sreenan,

Zick, Elliott 9th

• 4x400m Relay

Galor, Sreenan,

Richtman, Strang 6th


Kaneland bowling shoe-in for awards

Photo: Kaneland High School Interim Athletic Director Ruby Keller (right) presents head coach James McKnight with a crystal bowling pin in honor of his 25 years of coaching girls bowling at KHS March 13. Photo by Mary Paulson

DEKALB—Last Thursday evening at Mardi Gras Lanes in DeKalb, the Kaneland bowling program held its Senior Night and also dished out some special awards.

For his 25 years of service as varsity head coach of the Lady Knights, Jim McKnight was given an engraved crystal bowling pin. Assistant coach Beth Trafton and the team were given matching shirts commemorating McKnight’s tenure.

The shirt depicted a rat poking its head out of a set of bowling pins, a reference to McKnight having a hospital stay with a bacterial infection after being bit by a pet rat last school year.

“I thought it was a cute way to commemorate what happened to me, McKnight said. “Twenty-five years is a long time, of course, but I’ve always enjoyed myself and look forward to even more.”

After a Thursday night of bowling with families , food and alumni, McKnight reflected this week on if anything has changed.

“Bowling has changed over 25 years, that’s true,” McKnight said. “We now have better equipment, automatic scoring, and more schools participating. We also have a longer season with more competition dates. We also added the new regional/sectional format this year. When it comes down to it, though, it’s still one girl throwing one ball at 10 pins, and it’s just as much of a challenge as ever—just as much fun, too.”

Dominique Lee won award for High Series, High Game and High Average. Rena Wojciechowski, Katie Hill and Michelle Bohanek took Most Improved and Grace Lindgren took Rookie of the Year.


2014 Boys Track & Field Preview: Sprint toward success

Photo: Relay, distance and sprint runners resort to running laps through school halls due to poor weather so far this season. Photo by Patti Wilk

Sixth-place finishers from a year ago, Knight boys track takes charge
KANELAND—It looks to be more of the same for Kaneland High School boys track in 2014.
That’s the last thing area rivals need or want.

Despite the loss of state qualifying anchors like Brandon Cottier, Conor Johnson, Marshall Farthing and Tanner Andrews, ninth-year coach Eric Baron and company have their sights trained on exemplary, yet attainable, goals in 2014.

The Knights crew took the Northern Illinois Big XII by storm, taking both indoor and outdoor conference titles on their way to a sixth-place State finish for Class 2A.

“We should contend for the championship of every invite we compete in,” Baron said.

Among the important cogs returning for the Kaneland victory machine are Kyle Carter, future Southern Illinois Saluki, and Nathaniel Kucera, future Stanford Cardinal. Carter and Kucera, along with graduate Johnson and Luis Acosta, won the 4x800m relay event at State a year ago with a 7:50.26 time. Kucera also managed ninth in the 400m dash at 50.76 on the Eastern Illinois University track. Carter, Kucera and Acosta shore up the middle distance area, while ninth-place shot put State-goer Nate Dyer returns in the field category with outstanding prospects, and is joined in the throws by Shane Jorgensen.

Other returning field personnel primed for a big year include Ben Barnes for jumps, and Dylan Kuipers (11th in State) and Dan Evers in the pole vault.

Hurdles features State warrior Dylan Nauert, along with Brock Robertson. Brandon Bishop (returning medalist) and Isaac Swithers take care of the sprint category. Ryan Bower returns to take care of the distance matters, as well.

Newcomers to the varsity ranks expecting to contribute are sprinter Brandon Cruz, mid-distance athletes Austin Kintz, Drew Franklin, Sean Spaetzel and Andrew Franklin.

The mix between upper-and-lower classmen usually provides positive output on the track, the earlier the better.

“Getting individuals off to a good start is important. Our older athletes help make sure they understand training is structured to make our athletes peak in May,” Baron said.

With talent coalescing around experienced coaching and a tradition that speaks for itself, the Knights look to ward off challenges throughout the season, including the Kane County Meet on May 9 at Millennium Field in Streamwood, Ill., and the NIB-12 meet in Maple Park.

Baron knows if the conference meet is a reflection of the talent, KHS will be right up there.

“It will be an outstanding meet with a high level of competition. Expect teams from Yorkville, Dixon, DeKalb, Sycamore, Sterling, Geneseo and Ottawa to contend with us for the title,” Baron said.

KHS gets set for the first outdoor challenge of the year hosted by East Moline United on Saturday, April 12, with conference action beginning on Tuesday, April 15, against Sycamore.

The Peterson Prep, hosted by the Knights, is on Saturday, April 26.


2014 Softball Preview: A slugger’s chance

Photo: Junior All-State catcher Paige Kuefler drives a ball off the tee during a recent practice indoors.
Photo by Patti Wilk

Kaneland softball lineup primed and ready for ’14 season
KANELAND—With a regional rally at Rosary that fell just short last May, it would be easy to be discouraged.

But Kaneland softball brings back a wealth of talent in all aspects of the game.

“It’s impossible to put that feeling in the past, because they’re going to know it when the time comes,” fifth-year head coach Brian Willis said. “It left a bad taste in our mouths. Rosary played well; we didn’t. That’s sports.”

KHS finished 24-4, but still has much to prove after last season’s end. Even with the loss of six seniors from the 2013 squad, the Lady Knights sport two Division I signees in top-of-the-order hitter Lexi Roach (Youngstown State) and middle-order presence Lanie Callaghan, both All-State.

More help is always available for the squad that has lost just 11 games in the last two seasons on the way to back-to-back Northern Illinois Big XII titles.

Seniors include infielders Roach, Allie Miller and Hayley Contorno, and outfielders Callaghan and Caroline Heimerdinger. Juniors are Burlington Central transfer Angie Morrow in the pitchers’ circle, All-State slugger Paige Kuefler at catcher, infielder/pitcher Shannon Herra and pitcher/infielder Anissa Becker. Sophomores include infielder Meg Cohrs, back after an exposure to varsity play a year ago, and catcher Mary Clausen. Two freshmen join the ranks in outfielders Morgan Weber and Rachel Goress.

Becker, off of a commitment to Wisconsin, could serve as the steady presence in the pitchers’ circle.

“If you believe all the hoopla, she’s going to get the ball, but we have to see them pitch live,” Willis said. “Anissa Becker was great last year when Ellissa Eckert wasn’t throwing. We can’t throw Angie every game. We have some good competition with three pitchers.”

Kuefler provides the backstop help, with Contorno supplying the glove at first. Miller mans second base, and shortstop is up for grabs in a position battle. Cohrs gets a chance to take the mantle at third base after driving in a handful of runs a year ago.

“She had a lot more good games than bad games last year. She was a freshman last year, and hopefully she’ll stay away from the sophomore slump,” Willis said.

Manning everyday outfield looks to be Roach, Callaghan and Heimerdinger supplying upper-class experience.

The Lady Knights are looking forward to warmer weather and a spring break trip to Clarksville, Tenn.

“We’ll be playing in the gold division against some upper-echelon competition, and I have confidence in the girls,” Willis said. “We have six before we go to Tennessee, and I don’t expect to play any of them.”

With the tumultuous elements having put a wrinkle in the season opening, and a potentially tough trip in Tennessee ahead, the 2014 beginning could prove interesting.

“I don’t anticipate a big dropoff,” Willis said. “I don’t believe our older girls will lose that edge, even if the younger girls lose that confidence. They’re not going to settle.”

The Northern Illinois Big XII setting is ripe for the taking once again if the KHS lineup plays to its capabilities.

“Our record speaks for itself. The last couple of years, we were picked by coaches and the media to finish in the middle of the pack. That goes back to our pitching, I don’t think we got credit for the staff that we had and what the coaching staff does with these girls. The other teams want to take that conference championship away, and we’re going to give our best effort,” Willis said.

The season was scheduled to begin on Tuesday at home against Marengo, weather permitting. Conference action begins on Tuesday, April 15, in Ogle County against Rochelle.

Kaneland softball will be brandishing cans during the season for its “Change for Cancer” promotion for donation to Delnor’s Cancer Center, while partnering with Rochelle for its traditional cancer awareness game on May 8.


2014 Girls Track & Field Preview: Making their mark

Photo: Freshman Nicole Sreenan looks to make an impact on the varsity level this season for Doug Ecker’s Lady Knights. Photo Submitted by Jocelyn Ocon

Lady Knights have rivals bracing for impact
KANELAND—Kaneland High School girls track always seems to have personnel that gets hot at the right time.

The postseason honors and red-hot streaks come sectional time are only possible thanks to hard work put in by young and old alike on the team.

KHS is hoping it’s no different in 2014.

“Overall, the team has been healthy, except for the normal illness from time to time,” KHS coach Doug Ecker said.

A year ago, Kaneland was chock-full of state finalists with PRs. Of those returning, Lauren Zick, future St. John’s University softball player, finished 11th in long jump. Aislinn Lodwig, Jessica Kucera and Sydney Strang were part of the ninth-place 4x800m relay. Brianna Bower broke a 26-year-old school record in the 3200m run, good for seventh. Victoria Clinton returns off a Florida triathlon and a 1600m qualifying berth from a year ago, as well.

The Lady Knights that have been to the elite grouping have a work ethic, but keep working. It also provides a dynamic with coaching.

“In track, for coaches who coach more than one event, it allows you to give a workout to one group to do on their own, at least in part while you can work with another group. In track and field, if they do not learn to be at least partly self-reliant they will not be successful,” Ecker said.

The veteran set is not only highlighted by Zick in the long jump, but fellow state-goer Christina Delach in the pole vault and Elle Tattoni in the throws.

“We have some freshmen along with several upperclassmen who may make an impact down the road, as we have a chance to develop them,” Ecker said.

On the track side, middle distance and distance personnel who know success are Strang, Bower, Kucera, Lodwig. They’re joined by freshman Becca Richtman. Sprints and hurdles include Zick, 4x400m State-qualifying member Allie Heinzer, Olivia Galor. Also invading the distance ranks is Kyla Goodine, who saw flashes of brilliance in regular season action. The Lady Knights are also joined by junior rookie Taylor Eaves, Nicole Sreenan and Carly Elliot for distance.

The Northern Illinois Big XII is no different in 2014, in terms of capable teams fighting for supremacy.

“Yorkville may be the team to beat. Geneseo is the three-time defending conference champions. It will come down to who has the most depth and can stay healthy,” Ecker said.

The outdoor season begins on Tuesday, April 8, at home against Burlington Central and Oregon. Kaneland’s Jill Holmes Invitational is Saturday, April 12, with Jenni’s ABC on Saturday, April 19. The Kane County Meet is hosted by Kaneland on Friday, May 2, with Dixon the host for the NIB-12 meet on Friday, May 9.


2014 Girls Soccer Preview: Cornering competition

Lady Knights eye regional nod, another winning campaign
KANELAND—Eventually, Kaneland High School girls soccer would like to rid themselves of a couple nagging points.

Those would be being eliminated by Rosary in the playoffs, as has been done three of the last five years, and getting stopped short of a regional title, as has happened four of the last five years to the Royals and Crystal Lake Central.

Still, the journey ahead doesn’t seem to faze the KHS group, coming off an 11-5-3 (7-1-2 Northern Illinois Big XII) season from a year ago.

That could be the returning talent’s effect, softening the blow of seven seniors gone.

“We’ve got 22 on varsity this year, that gives us some nice depth,” KHS coach Scott Parillo said. “They’re pretty talented. They’re gelling quickly and they can maybe get over that hump.”

Parillo, in his 10th year of coaching the girls, would like to see the recent postseason troubles cease once they’re able to get on a regular routine.

“We’ve had three days outside, and not on our field. We’re trying to get acclimated to the weather. Most of the other schools are dealing with it, too,” Parillo said.

Kaneland was able to find scoring output from a wide array of girls a year ago, with a handful returning, namely Madi Jurcenko, Brittany Olson and Kiandra Powell.

“Brittany Olson had 15 goals, Kiandra Powell, once we finally found a good spot for her, she tore it up at the end there,” Parillo said. “We have a chance to have some scorers.”

Taking over for current Purdue Boilermaker Jordan Ginther between the posts is sophomore Emily Chapman.

At defense resides talent like Taylor Opperman, who moved back after a year in Michigan, Taylor Zitkus, Nicole Koczka, Taylor Emigh and Colleen Landers, with Heather Ortiz able to fill in, when not up front.

Ortiz is joined by older sister Michelle (forward/mid) and younger sister Lauren (midfield) on the pitch.

“The three Taylors, the two Emilys and the three Ortiz sisters, that won’t get confusing,” Parillo added.

Jurcenko, Michelle Ortiz, Courtney Diddell, Jess Coia, Delaney Stryczek and Holly Collingbourne aim to fill in the midfield ranks.

Olson takes care of the forward ranks, along with several of the midfielders donning Lady Knight colors.

Other seniors include Mary Piazza and Stephanie Zwick, and juniors include Emily Grams.
Sophomores include Ashley Crotteau and returnee Gabby Cano, while Paige Guyton adds a freshman spark.

Parillo would like the girls to get on a regular routine, made more complicated with the epic winter.

“We get this game in Tuesday on turf and then we have to sit, and there’s the spring break. The Rosary game we want to win; they’re our nemesis,” Parillo said.

The NIB-12 landscape is for the taking, if goals come Kaneland’s way.

“We should be there,” Parillo said. “DeKalb is always strong, Sycamore is always good, and Yorkville’s getting better every year, as it should.”

On Tuesday, Kaneland went to Rockford Auburn, and the first home matchup was scheduled for Thursday, March 20, against IMSA. Conference tilts begin on Tuesday, April 15, in Morris.


2014 Baseball Preview: Big hopes in Big XII

Photo: Junior catcher Danny Hammermeister and senior catcher Sean Dunphy practice indoors with the baseball team. Photo by Patti Wilk

Diamond crew looks to turn page, rebound from a year ago
KANELAND—Knights baseball in 2014 represents, in essence, a new beginning.

One year after getting bumped in its own Class 3A regional final by Wheaton’s St. Francis to finish just 13-18, KHS said goodbye to 15 seniors and the last remnants of the 2011 State champs.

This year, a somewhat new gaggle of varsity players take the field and look to remedy the first losing campaign for Kaneland baseball since 2006.

Bright spots can be located in the fact that the 2013 roster had current contributors around for the first regional game win in two years that occurred over Sandwich High School, and the talent familiar with the winning tradition of the last decade.

“It kind of feels that way every year, we bring in a bunch of guys,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “This class is a junior-dominated baseball class. We have seven seniors, and those guys have experience, but not all are position players. We have a young squad and brought up two sophomores.”

At the head of the positive contribution could be returning all Northern Illinois Big XII standout Tyler Carlson, getting a late jump on things due to basketball. The senior will switch to first base in 2014, putting the pieces in place for other returnees.

“He’s going to move over to first, and he was an all-conference third baseman for us. We see that we can move him around where we need him the most. We lost Joe Komel but, we have guys like Curtis Thorson, who’s going to be great in the outfield and guys like Nate Hopkins who can pitch and play the outfield, and Nick Stahl who we’re going to be leaning on a lot this year,” Aversa said.”

The pitching staff taking the Maple Park mound will be on the young side, as well, but with room to grow.

“We feel confident in what we’re doing with these guys and what we’ve seen so far,” Aversa said.

Hopkins, Anthony Holubecki, Thorson and Stahl look to make up the four-man starting rotation, with a by-committee angle to the late-inning outs until someone emerges.

Juniors Nick Stratman and Colton Fellows could see time on the bump for the Knights during 2014, as well.

“We’re going to feel our way through spring break and see who’s our short-inning relief guy,” Aversa said.

Joining Carlson around the infield are personnel like Joe Panico, Austin Wheatley, Jake Bilotta and Jake Bachio. Sophomore Joe Laudont and senior Sean Dunphy don the “tools of ignorance” behind home plate.

Outfielders include Thorson, Lucas Wolski, Connor Fedderly, Hopkins and Holubecki.

For diamonds in the rough, the head coach feels two of the capable arms could surprise.

“We had two guys we weren’t sure about in the summer in Stratman and Fellows. Both have kind of really opened our eyes off the mound. We’re pleasantly surprised,” Aversa said.

Other Knights looking to make a contribution include seniors River Dunne, Nick Henne and Kevin Kassinger, and juniors Jordan Bock, Kevin Fuchs, Dan Hammermeister and Steve Limbrunner.

The Northern Illinois Big XII landscape will provide a just testing ground for the Kaneland ranks in 2014.

“Sycamore’s always great with a great coach, and Yorkville—they’re the two top teams and everyone’s going to be chasing them,” Aversa said.

The schedule features a spring break trip the first week of April while the area thaws, to the Cincinnati area and schools like Moeller High School—defending state champs and alma mater of Ken Griffey, Jr.

“We’re going to be tested and see what good baseball looks like, and hopefully by the time we get back from our spring break trip, we’ll be going into conference playing at such a high level that teams are going to be ‘holy cow’,” Aversa said.

The season begins on Tuesday, March 25, at Plainfield North, with conference battles beginning on Monday, April 14, against visiting Rochelle. Monday, May 19, has the usual Fifth Third Bank Ballpark matchup in Geneva against Batavia.


Elburn bowler runner up in “Best of the Best” tournament

WHEATON, Ill.—Elburn seventh-grader Mabel Cummins was second in Sunday’s “Best of the Best” Tournament hosted by the Fox Valley Bowling Proprietors Association (FVBPA). Sixty young bowlers were invited to contend for over $2,500 in college scholarship funds at a season-ending event for regional travel teams held at Fox Bowl in Wheaton, Ill. Cummins was only seven pins behind eventual the champion, a high school senior. Cummins was part of the Funway Youth Bowling travel team.


Postseason party

Photo: Senior Tyler Carlson was named co-Player of the Year for the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference. Fellow seniors Drew David and John Pruett also made the all-conference squad. File Photos

Knight boys see sectional berth pay off
KANELAND—It wasn’t the end of the good times for Kaneland boys basketball last week, even with the season-ending loss to Rockford Lutheran.

On Thursday, the Northern Illinois Big XII All-Conference list was released, featuring three unanimous first-team selections from the Knight roster.

Seniors Tyler Carlson, Drew David and John Pruett were all named to the first team in the East division. Carlson was also named as co-Player of the Year.

“Tyler Carlson had a very good season. He had the best season in my tenure at Kaneland since David Dudzinski,” KHS coach Brian Johnson said.

Other East first team selections included Morris junior Austin Patterson, Sycamore seniors Devin Mottet (co-Player of the Year) and Ben Niemann, DeKalb junior Rudy Lopez and Yorkville junior Kyle Shimp.

Knight senior Cole Carlson’s senior campaign resulted in an honorable mention for the All-Conference list.

Note: Carlson will also be competing in this weekend’s Three-Point Showdown at Carver Arena in Peoria, Ill., as part of the IHSA 3A and 4A State finals. Preliminary round shooting begins on Thursday, March 20, at 5 p.m.

Carlson, who put up 70 points combined in regional final and sectional semifinal action, emerged with Belvidere’s Maurice Jackson, Burlington Central’s Drew Wiss and Marian Central Catholic’s Kyler Hardie out of the Hampshire Sectional as qualifiers.

One of 32 3A competitors, Carlson is joined by fellow NIB-12 competitors Patterson of Morris and Zach Rehmert of Sterling, Ill.