Category Archives: Spring Sports

Knights see strong mound performances, now 6-4

Photo: Kaneland pitcher Bobby Thorson throws a strike in the first inning of their recent home game against Harlem. Photo by John DiDonna

KANELAND—Knights baseball is on a bit of a roll.

Thursday, Kaneland (6-4, 2-0 NIB-12) used two runs in the top of the second and two more in the top of the fifth to nail down a 4-1 win at Rockton, Ill., mainstay Hononegah High School.

Oddly present in the winning development, the four KHS runs were scored on just two hits, on Kyle Davidson’s double and triple.

Drew French earned his first win of the year, chewing up 5.1 innings and allowing just one run on six hits. Teammate Sam Komel amassed the final four outs for his first save of the 2011 campaign.

On Saturday against the visiting Dixon Dukes, Komel came back and pitched a complete-game five hitter for the 8-2 win. Komel fanned five NIB-12 crossover rivals in the win.

Davidson went 2-for-4 with an RBI, while Komel went 2-for-3 with a double and two driven in.

Facing East Division foe Rochelle on Monday in Ogle County, the good times on the mound continued with a complete-game one-hitter from Bobby Thorson, who also K’d nine Hubs.

Cory Landers went 2-for-3 with three runs scored and Thorson also hit a three-run shot in the top of the first inning.

For KHS, the runs came threefold in the first, followed by a run in the third, two in the ffith and one in the sixth.

On Tuesday, KHS stopped RHS in six innings, 11-1. French picked up win No. 2 and Komel drove in four runs.

Ahead for the Knights is a return trip to Rochelle on Thursday, April 14, at 4:30 p.m. and a home outing against DeKalb on Monday, April 18.

Lady Knights compete at West Aurora

Photo: Emily Heimerdinger wins the battle for possession in recent action. Heimerdinger scored four goals for the 4-5 Lady Knights this week. File Photo

KANELAND—A three-match skid left the Lady Knights scraping on the soccer pitch, but a Tuesday win over Streamwood sees Kaneland at 4-5 (1-2 Northern Illinois Big XII) through nine matches.

A year ago at this time, KHS was an astounding 8-0-1 on its way to a tournament championship in Aurora.

On Tuesday afternoon, Kaneland used a goal by Melissa Bohorquez and a second-half goal by Emily Heimerdinger for a 2-0 win over Streamood High School. On Saturday morning, the West Aurora Blackhawk Tournament featured Plainfeld East besting Kaneland by a 6-4 final.

With a goal by Sophie Blank 10 minutes into the contest, and an Heimerdinger goal six minutes later, Kaneland nursed a 2-1 lead into halftime over the Bengals.

Despite goals by Blank and Heimerdinger in the second half, Kaneland gave up five second-half goals in the loss. Jessica Coia contributed an assist on Heimerdinger’s second half goal.

Kicking off the tournament was a 3-0 loss to the host Blackhawks on Thursday.

Beginning the latest week of competition, Kaneland fell to visiting Sycamore on April 6 by a final of 4-1. The lone Kaneland goal came from Heimerdinger with 29 minutes, 42 seconds remaining in the match.

Ahead for the Lady Knights is a matchup with visiting Marengo on Monday, April 18, followed by a NIB-12 bout with the visiting Lady Redskins of Morris on Tuesday, April 19.

Andrews, Spittzeri and relays conquer Sycamore

KANELAND—What did a textbook Kaneland-Sycamore dual meet on Tuesday hold for curious fans?

How about a convincing 98-51 Northern Illinois Big XII win and a Kaneland school record in the hurdles.

Taylor Andrews, bound for West Point in the fall, broke his own school mark in the 110 meter hurdles with a time of 14.3 seconds.

Other firsts went to Matt Spitzzeri in the long jump (18-09), Marshall Farthing in the high jump (5-8), Alex Gil in the pole vault (11 feet) and Trevor Holm in the 3200m run (10:33.73).

The Kaneland relays in the 4x800m, 4×100, 4×200 and 4×400 also took firsts.

“A lot of people have stepped up so far, especially underclassmen,” Knight Tommy Whittaker said. “I don’t think we have any holes. I honestly don’t think it’s a rebuilding year, it’s a reloading year.”

Whittaker will be counted upon for a mid-to-late season surge.

“I want my strongest event to be the 4×4 because we have a tradition of being so good in it. I think the 200 or 400 will push me a lot more,” Whittaker said.

KHS goes to Ottawa on Saturday, April 16, and Rochelle on Tuesday, April 19

Softball suffers loss streak after Wednesday win

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Better to suffer through a streak like the one Kaneland softball is having now, than late-season.

Five losses have followed an April 6 tussle at Hoffman Estates that found softball emerging victorious.

KHS still remains above .500, at 7-6, with a 1-2 Northern Illinois Big XII mark.

Sycamore came into Kaneland on Tuesday and used a five-run second inning to lift to a 9-3 win over the Lady Knights.

Monday saw Kaneland score a single run in the seventh inning to no avail in a 4-1 loss. Andrea Potts went 3-for-3 with a double, however.

Saturday saw KHS get swept by NIB-12 crossover opponent, the host Geneseo Maple Leafs, 8-2 and 8-0.

On Thursday, DeKalb bested the host Lady Knights 15-4 in six innings.

Wednesday against the host Hawks, Rilee Vest got things started with a two-run home run in the top of the first.

“”The pitch was a little bit inside,” Vest said. “I just got in front of it and knocked it, I guess.”

HEHS came back with two in the third, but Kaneland erupted thanks to five runs in the fourth and two in the fifth on RBI singles by McKinzie Mangers and pitcher Alexis Villarreal.

Villarreal went six innings in the winning effort, and Taylor Velazquez shut down the Mid-Suburban League squad with runners in scoring position.

“It was all pre-determined by the coaches, we didn’t want Alexis to lose that game. She pitched her butt off,” coach Brian Willis said.

Ahead for KHS is a matchup with host Rochelle on Thursday, April 14.

Softball off to 6-1 start as Northern Illinois Big XII slate begins

Photo: Taylor Velazquez deals toward the dish in a 9-5 game-one victory over host Oswego on Saturday. The Lady Knights also took the second game, 14-8. Photo by Ben Draper

KANELAND—It appears that Kaneland High School softball was happy to get acquainted with Northern Illinois Big XII Conference action.

On Tuesday afternoon down Route 47 in Morris, Kaneland began new conference play with a 20-9 victory over the host Morris Lady Redskins, making good on its first conference action of 2011.

Kaneland had previously played four seasons in the former Western Sun Conference.

Now, the Lady Knights, with some holdover veterans but skewing young, sits at 6-1 after the win over Morris and a Saturday doubleheader sweep of the host Oswego Lady Panthers on Saturday morning, 9-5 and 14-8.

KHS also disposed of host Sandwich, 8-0 on Monday.

While Taylor Velazquez started the game, Katy Dudzinski earned the win in the pitcher’s circle after 2.2 innings of relief, allowing just one run on four hits.

Dudzinski also walloped two home runs and a double in a 3-for-4, six RBI afternoon.

Teammate Brittney Miller went 3-for-5 with two doubles and 3 RBI.

Slugger Andrea Potts went 3-for-5 with two doubles and two runs driven in.

After taking a 4-3 lead after three innings, Kaneland plated one in the fifth for a 5-3 advantage before Morris scored five in the bottom of the frame to lead 8-5.

Kaneland then took to the bases and scored seven runs each in the sixth and seventh to put the game away.

Taylor Velazquez was the game-one winner against Oswego, while Alexis Villarreal was the game-two beneficiary.

Velazquez also took the win against the Lady Indians.

KHS was set to travel to Hoffman Estates on Wednesday before hosting conference rival DeKalb on Thursday, April 7.

Girls track 2nd-place finish keyed by strong performances at BC

by Mike Slodki
BURLINGTON—Looking at indicators for how the Lady Knights track season will end up?
The Tuesday gathering at Burlington Central with the host Rockets and the Oregon Hawks is a positive one.

Kaneland finished second with 66 points behind BC’s 90-point total. Oregon finished third with 31.5 points.

Despite the exceptional showing by BC, Kaneland came up big with a number of first- and second-place finishes.

Kaneland’s 4×800 meter relay foursome took second with a time of 11 minutes, 14.48 seconds.

It was a good outing for sisters Andie and Sydney Strang in the 3200m run. St. Joseph’s College-bound Andie won the event in 12:32.56, while the freshman Strang was right behind in 12:35.24.

Freshman Lauren Zick took first in the 100m dash with a time of 13.02 seconds, a half-second better than the field.

Zick also finished first in the 400m dash at 1:01.68, while teammate Brooke Patterson was second at 1:05.62.

Sophomore Amanda Lesak was second in the 300m hurdles with a time of 55.84 seconds, and Sydney Strang appeared again in the 1600m run with a second-place finish at 6:02.90.

Standout Ashley Castellanos finished second in the 200m dash with a time of 28.43.

Patterson appeared once again in solid fashion for the pole vault event, taking second at 9 feet, 6 inches.

Zick finished her fine showing with a 16-02 effort in the long jump, good for first.

With the growing buzz, Zick is taking things meet-by-meet, and handling the early success the best she can.

“Yeah, it is a little bit overwhelming, because I’m going up against the best girls in the state” Zick said. “It’s tough competition, but it’s fun.”

The freshman doesn’t feel she’s hit her ultimate stride yet in events like the long jump.

“I’m definitely getting better at it. Each meet I’m getting about four or five more inches and today I set a new personal record,” Zick said.

In the triple jump event, Patterson and Castellanos went 1-2, with Patterson finishing at 35-02 and Castellanos at 33-03.

Ahead for girls track is the annual Kaneland-hosted Jill Holmes Invitational on Saturday, April 9, at 10 a.m.

KHS Knights finish spring trek, lose to Harlem at home

KANELAND—Looks like Knights baseball is still working out the kinks in this early juncture of the 2011 season.

However, they did pick up a win during spring break.

In the third of four clashes at Rent One Park in downstate Marion, Ill., the Knights came away with a 10-6 win over the Warren Blue Devils in eight innings on March 30.

However, KHS was stifled by the Cary-Grove Trojans in a 6-0 meeting on Thursday for the last game of their spring break stop.

On Monday, the Knights fell to the visiting Harlem Huskies by an 8-7 clip.

Coach Brian Aversa’s crew now sits at 2-4 through six games of the season.

Against Warren, Kyle Davidson earned the win in relief with three innings thrown, and one run on one hit given up.

Joe Camiliere went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI while Bobby Thorson had a 3-for-3 outing with a double and a run scored.

For Warren, Ryan Kenney went 2-for-5 with a run.

After the Blue Devils took a 5-0 lead with four runs in the third and one in the fifth, KHS exploded for six runs in the top of the sixth inning, helped by a bases-loaded triple from Sam Komel. After the game-tying hit, Tyler Heinle laid down a suicide squeeze for a 6-5 advantage.

After Warren plated one to tie the game at 6-6, Kaneland waited until the top of the eighth to pull away, thanks to an RBI double by Drew French. Brian Dixon followed up with a bases-loaded triple to take the final four-run margin.

Against the Huskies, junior Drew Peters was tagged with the loss in relief after giving up four earned runs

Bobby Thorson went 2-for-4 with a double and RBI, while Drew French smacked a homer and a double and had two runs scored.

The Knights travel to Rockton, Ill., to battle host Hononegah on Thursday, April 7, and will host NIB-12 crossover opponent Dixon on Saturday, April 9.

Kaneland CUSD looking for ‘76ers

KANELAND—Kaneland CUSD is looking for contact information for members of the 1976 Boys’ Track team, set to be inducted into the Kaneland Hall of Fame on Monday, May 2.

The members are: coach Harold Anderson, Matt Barsic, coach Rich Born, Brian Burgholzer, Bruce Burgholzer, Darryl Carlson, Jeff Carlson, Eric Carnes, Brian Christensen, Mark Claypool, Steve Fredrickson, Paul Garbe, Eric Hamann, Joel Hicks, Tim Hoffman, Mike Jorgensen, Bob Jorgensen, Jerry Klusak, Marty Lyle, John McQuade, James Morris, Gary Mueller, John Oksas, Dean Paschen, coach Bruce Peterson, Dale Plant, David Potts, Jim Sandberg, manager Mark Sibley, Randy Stayner and Chuck Swift.

If you have any information, contact Beth Sterkel in the district office at (630) 365-5111, ext. 109.

Cougars to invade St. Louis stronghold in May

GENEVA—The Kane County Cougars will play a regular season Midwest League game against the Quad Cities River Bandits on Thursday, May 26, at Busch Stadium. The game will be played during the evening and additional details will be announced as they become available.

All tickets for the game will be available through the Cardinals by calling the Busch Stadium Box Office at (314) 345-9600, and are $10 general admission tickets.

This marks the third time in the past four seasons that the Cougars will play a regular season game at a Major League ballpark, as the team took part in the first-ever “Road to Wrigley” contest against the Peoria Chiefs in 2008. The two teams played at the Friendly Confines last summer as well.

The May 26 contest will pit affiliates from both of Missouri’s big league clubs, as the Cougars begin the 2011 season as an affiliate of the Kansas City Royals while the River Bandits are partnered with the St. Louis Cardinals. The pre-Memorial Day weekend contest at Busch will conclude a three-game series between both clubs that begins in Davenport, Iowa.

KHS baseball nabs 1st win after chilly start

KANELAND—A trip down south for Kaneland High School baseball during spring break also sent their fortunes going south at this early juncture, at least for the time being.

After a 10-6 loss to Plainfield North on March 23 was called after six innings, Kaneland trekked down to Rent One Park in Marion, Ill., for games against various teams.

Monday night saw the Knights lose to the Trevians of New Trier High School 7-6 before facing old rival Glenbard South on Tuesday and winning 7-3.

Against New Trier, Bobby Thorson was tagged with the loss but contributed two runs batted in at the plate.

Joe Camiliere went 2-for-4 with a double and run scored.

Kaneland was up 2-0 after the first inning, but New Trier took a 3-2 lead after three. The Trevians added three more in the top of the fifth before KHS came back with one in the bottom of the fifth. The Trevians went up 7-3 before Kaneland chiseled into the lead.

In the bottom of the seventh and down by a run, KHS had the tying run on third and the winning run on second before New Trier executed a game-ending pickoff at second.

Drew French picked up the win against the Raiders, and Sam Komel earned the save. French also went 2-for-3 with a double and 2 RBI.

KHS had two games left at the home of the Southern Illinois Miners, Wednesday against Warren and Thursday, March 31, vs. Cary-Grove, before getting back up to the area for a Tuesday, April 5, contest against Machesney Park’s Harlem High School.

KHS postseason destination
2011 Sycamore regional

• Aurora central catholic (3-19 in 2010)

• Illinois Math & Science Academy (9-13-1)

• Kaneland (23-13)

• Sycamore (15-22)

KHS Lady Knight soccer scoring goals in bunches

Photo: Katie Taylor of Kaneland High School girls soccer made good on a goal against Northern Illinois Big XII crossover opponent Ottawa on Thursday. Taylor will be one of the Lady Knights counted on against Indian Creek
and in the tourney at West Aurora in mid-April. File Photo

KANELAND—With a mostly new lineup, one could be wary of how the offensive skills would come together for the KHS soccer group.

In two games this week, the Lady Knights lost to visiting Rosary in a regional rematch, but earned a shutout win over Northern Illinois Big XII crossover foe Ottawa.

After the March 23 loss and the Thursday win, KHS sees its record sit at 2-2 (1-1 NIB-12).

After getting shut out 4-0 in temperatures struggling to hit 35 on the thermometer, Kaneland rallied to hand the Ottawa Lady Pirtates a 6-0 drubbing on Thursday in Maple Park.

Senior leader Emily Heimerdinger got the Lady Knights on the board first with a goal after being fed by Jessica Coia. That gave Kaneland a 1-0 lead with 10:43 remaining in the first half.

Anne Marie Giese scored the first second-half goal with 17:11 to go, giving KHS a 2-0 edge.

Taylor White made the most of her scoring opportunity and found the net with 13:38 to play for a 3-0 edge.

Heimerdinger, Katie Taylor and Sophie Blank each scored within the last 10:46 to take the win over their West Division foe.

Ahead for KHS is a Monday, April 4 clash at Indian Creek.

2011 GOAL-ED STANDARD
Emily Heimerdinger 4 goals
Sophie Blank 2 goals
Abby Bend 1 goal
Anne Marie Giese 1 goal
Katie Taylor 1 goal

Ecker’s crew has young, old as formula for success

Photo: Andie Strang has established herself as a threat at any distance and looks to finish her Kaneland tenure with a flourish. Photo by Linda Bell

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Here comes Lady Knights track.

If the early practice sessions and indoor season were any indicator, many a girl in KHS garb will be finishing quite well in 2011 races.

Second-year head coach Doug Ecker is eager to see what the large roster can do, with a mostly healthy lineup.

“The indoor season was encouraging,” Ecker said. “The most encouraging thing is all the distance runners are healthy and we’ve been consistent,” Ecker said. “When we get outside, we’ll have to have a little more depth.”

So far, the three big names to pop up are senior Andie Strang in the distance and relay events, senior Brooke Patterson in pole vault and triple jump and freshman Lauren Zick in sprints and long jump.

“We knew Lauren was fast, she has the temperament and she’ll do what the coaches ask her to do. She listens well,” Ecker said.

Sophomore and state qualifier Ashley Castellanos has excelled in the jumps, as well.

Gabby Aguirre returns and looks to make a mark in the jumps.

With a Division II career ahead of her, Strang is ready to go for the distance events, but Ecker believes a challenge lays ahead.

“This conference is going to be brutal for distance. She can run extremely well one meet and get fifth in the mile. You have so many good distance runners,” Ecker said.

Sydney Strang and Kris Bowen also look to add to the distance ranks for Kaneland.

For relays, the 4x800m team could be in store for big finishes. The Strang sisters, Bowen and Castellanos, will all see time in that event along with Jessica Stouffer. The 4x200m has Sydney Bilotta and Ariana Espino ready to go with Patterson.

Kaneland looks to continue the pole vault excellence.

“Brooke is very good and works very hard, and Sydney Luse has worked very hard, and Shannon Wallace will give us some depth, too,” Ecker said.

Junior Nicole Ketza looks to rise in the weight events after a good late-season run.

Kaneland is still looking for young hurdlers to take the reins in that event.

The stronger each event is, the better for the Lady Knights in the new Northern Illinois Big XII scheme.

“Our conference is maybe one of the better conferences in the state. You throw in every event, we are really solid,” Ecker said.

Girls track captures indoor conference crown

KANELAND—If there was one surefire way to gear up for the outdoor season, Kaneland found a way on Saturday in Sterling.

With 79 team points in the Northern Illinois Big XII conference indoor meet, the KHS girls won the gathering and were crowned champs, bringing the indoor season to an end.

Geneseo finished second with a total of 72 points, and Dixon took third with 64 points.

The Lady Knights were rolling in the exceptional finishes, paced by senior Brooke Patterson’s 10 feet, six inch pole vault. Patterson added to her first-place vault with a second-place triple jump effort of 35-05.5.

Teammate Ashley Castellanos took fourth in the triple jump with a jump of 32-06.

Kaneland’s 4×800 meter relay unit finished second with a time of 10 minutes, 22.66 seconds.

Freshman Lauren Zick finished third in the 55 meter dash with a time of 7.56, and also took second in the 400m dash (1:00.15) before winning the 200m dash with a time of 27.07.

Senior constant Andie Strang took the 1600m run mantle with a time of 5:25.85, less than two second better than Geneseo’s Emily Ford.

In additional relay action, the Lady Knights took fourth in the 4×400 meter relay with a time of 4:27.01.

Knights baseball hit field fully depth-charged

Photo: Knights baseball has the luxury of Kyle Davidson for work in the infield. File Photo

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Some talented players at key positions and the last-ever Western Sun Conference regular season title made for some good memories for Kaneland baseball in 2010.

It was the regional opening loss to Hampshire that ended the season at 23-13 that left a bad taste in fifth-year coach Brian Aversa’s mouth .

“We’re definitely using that last game from last year as some incentive,” Aversa said. “We want to get moving into this season and use that as a driving force. On days when the weather isn’t cooperating and the field’s wet, the guys are really focused on what’s at stake this year.”

KHS baseball will have to be focused on competition in the Northern Illinois Big XII, after five seasons in the defunct Western Sun Conference.

“With football and basketball, it’s kind of our turn to get to that point where we are one of the top teams in this new conference,” Aversa said. “Sycamore is going to be strong, DeKalb was right there at the end, anything can happen.”

Kaneland looks to do itself favors at the plate, and although former Knight Jake Tickle’s 19-game hit streak won’t be available, Aversa likes his options.

“Drew French looks like he’s going to take Jake’s spot this year, and you have other solid people like Bobby Thorson and Joe Camaliere who can also get big hits,” Aversa said.

The Knights look for big things from their rotation, capable of eating up many an inning.

Thorson, a senior, will see time on the hill, as will junior Drew Peters and the senior French. Senior Sam Komel also provides an arm, as does junior Bryan Van Bogaert (pitcher of a perfect game in summer league action). Look for the Knights to lean on junior Tom Fox and senior Kyle Davidson in a pinch on the mound, as well.

Elsewhere around the Maple Park diamond, juniors Jordan Jones and Tyler Heinle are looking for an angle to the catcher’s spot.

Komel and Thorson stake the claim at first, while senior Brian Dixon mans second base. Davidson looks to patrol shortstop, with Trever Heinle also seeing innings at that spot, with French, Fox or Komel at third.

Senior Corey Landers takes care of leftfield, and Camaliere patrols center. Personnel like Jake Razo and John Kintz look to see innings at the rightfield corner.

Kaneland’s first conference action takes place against Dixon on Saturday, April 9. The regular season concludes on Monday, May 23, at St. Charles East.

Talent, effort goes the distance for Knights

Photo: Trevor Holm remains a key component of the Kaneland High School boys track success the last several years, especially in the 1600m run. Photo by Linda Bell

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—It was a high ceiling for Kaneland High School boys track in 2010, and by the end of the season in Charleston, Ill., it turned into a celebration.

A second-place finish in the Class 2A State meet and a State championship in two events were reason to party, and Kaneland hopes to extend it.

But, it’ll have to come with a lot of preparation, which fifth-year coach Eric Baron has already started on.

“It started at track camp in June, and we took a look at what we have coming back,” Baron said. “We looked at areas we need to strengthen. It’s a reloading program. We lost a lot of good seniors. I think the group of freshmen that’s coming in might be better than the group that just left, talent-wise.”

In terms of sprints, Tommy Whittaker’s name will come up early and often.

“Tommy is not only going to win a lot of races, he is just a tremendous leader,” Baron said. “It’s a senior class of seven. Their leadership is outstanding.”

Whittaker, Taylor Andrews, Matt Spitzzeri and Trevor Holm will be counted on to give that frosh-soph class some leadership.

“It’s gone on since before I was coach. You listen to the upperclassmen because they’ve been through the wringer,” Baron said.

Sprints and hurdlers will see an Andrews presence, who competed side-by-side with new Golden Gopher Logan Marcusson.

The entire 4×100 and 4×200 meter relays return to give KHS an added boost, fresh off a Charleston trip last year.

Brandon Cottier, Andrew Essex, Curtis Secrest and Quinn Buschbacher also look to contribute. Sophomore Dylan Pennington is also expected to make the most of his time on the track.

Holm takes care of the distance question.

“Trevor could be an All-Stater in pretty much any event we decide to go with,” Baron said.

Baron touted freshmen Luis Acosta and Kyle Carter as pleasant surprises in the early goings, especially in relays.

In the field, Frankie Furco has high jumped over six feet in indoor competition.

A young jumper looking to help the Knights is Marshall Farthing, also excelling in indoor action.

Spitzzeri in triple jump looks to make the State meet after missing by 1.5 inches last year.

“Matt Cowans is coming in in great shape off of basketball and is jumping real well,” Baron said.

Kaneland remains quite young in the throws and looks to several underclassmen to step in to spots previously held by personnel like Phil Christensen.

“There’s the potential for several Phil Christensens in our throwing crew right now, like Alex Snyder and Nate Dyer and Tom King,” Baron said.

On Saturday, April 9, the Knights begin the outdoor season at East Moline United. The Peterson Prep is hosted at KHS on Saturday, April 23.

KHS boys earn second in inaugural NIB-12 indoor tussle

STERLING—At Westwood Track in Sterling, Ill., it was prime time to see how Kaneland boys track measured up against the rest of the Northern Illinois Big XII slate. As it turns out, when it comes to indoor clashes, Kaneland was pretty good.

With 81 team points, the Knights finished second only to Yorkville’s 88 point total.

Dixon (64), Sterling (57) and Rochelle (46) rounded out the top five. Ottawa, Geneseo, Sycamore, LaSalle-Peru, Streator, DeKalb and Morris filled out the six-through-12 slots.

The accolades came quite often for KHS, beginning with Matt Spitzerri’s third place in the triple jump (39-5.5) and Marshall Farthing’s fourth place in the same event (39 feet).

The 4×800 relay team for KHS finished first at eight minutes, 36.29 seconds.

In the 55 meter hurdles, anticipated assets Taylor Andrews won the race (7.95) and teammate Chad Swieca (8.62) finished third.

The 4x200m relay finished second at 1:35.76, just .13 behind the Dukes’ unit.

Tommy Whittaker finished second in the 400m dash with a time of 52.16, and classmate Trevor Holm finished first in the 1600m run with a time of 4:37.77.

Kaneland’s Curtis Secrest took fourth at 24.48 seconds in the 200m dash.

To close out the honors, KHS won the 4x400m relay event with a time of 3:35.16.

Softball hopes ‘young guns’ are consistent

Photo: Senior Rilee Vest will be an offensive leader for the 2011 Lady Knights softball team. Vest will also see more time behind the plate, catching for a pitching staff that head coach Brian Willis hopes will find some consistency. File Photo

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Looks like the younger core of softball players will get a chance to get some more playing time in 2011.

Kaneland looks to avenge a regional championship loss to Sycamore and get back to the heights of a 20-11 season of a year ago.

They’ll have to replace three valuable seniors of a year ago, and 13 wins from former pitcher Delani Vest.

“We are still young, and only two seniors here,” said second-year coach Brian Willis. “This team will be a lot like last year’s team. Hopefully somebody will surprise with pitching. Offensively, we’ll be fine, defensively we’re a work in progress.”

Luckily, the two seniors on the team are noted contributors: Rilee Vest and Andrea Potts, whom Willis regarded as quality catchers who supply offense.

“We have pitchers that can throw the ball well, but we are looking for some consistency,” Willis said.

In the mix for the pitchers’ circle is junior Alexis Villarreal, junior Katy Dudzinski and sophomore Taylor Velazquez.

McKinzie Mangers plays the third baseman role as a junior, highly touted sophomore Allyson O’Herron is at shortstop, freshman Allison Miller debuts at second, and Potts at first.

The outfield shows the returning Samantha Hansen, a junior, while freshman Lanie Callaghan takes the centerfield slot and junior Brittney Miller in right.

Shoring up the infield is junior Sarah Kitz and freshman Lexi Roach.

Willis mentioned Miller and Hansen as players that eased into varsity roles last year and will make the most of their opportunities in 2011.

Kaneland hopes the lineup comes together in the midst of the new Northern Illinois Big XII arrangement.

“It gives us a lot to live up to, and I hope softball can play up to the level of the other sports who have done well in conference,” Willis said. “We’ve simplified a lot of things offensively and defensively, where they might have been too complicated a year ago. I think that’s going to help us.”

Lady Knights soccer splits first kicks

KANELAND—Looking to capitalize on strong finishes in consecutive seasons, the Lady Knights soccer crew began with a new look and an unfortunate opening result.

On Saturday, the Lady Knights began their very first Northern Illinois Big XII conference campaign west on Interstate 88 and lost 5-0 to the Geneseo Lady Leafs.

The Lady Knights rebounded with a 3-2 win at IMSA on Tuesday.

The Lady Knights were set to host Rosary on Wednesday and host NIB-12 crossover rival Ottawa on Thursday, March 24, at 4:30 p.m.

New-look Lady Knights try to start 2011 on right foot

Photo: Sam Wantuch participates in preseason ball drills for the Lady Knights. Photo by Mike Slodki

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—It was a season to remember, and an ending to forget.

Kaneland would love to have the regional championship loss to Rosary High School back. The season which ended at 15-3-5 under soccer coach Scott Parillo and a cohesive senior unit had a chance for redemption in 2011.

However, it will have to come with quite the new look.

With last year’s celebrated senior core gone, as well as last year’s freshman sensation in goal Jordan Ginther (playing club soccer in Naperville, Ill.), the Lady Knights break ranks as fluid as can be.

“Jordan was classy enough to tell us in advance and we had time to cry and get that out of the way,” Parillo joked. “Hopefully, she’ll be back next year. We need to replace seven starters. They’re working hard out here, and it should be exciting.”

But, the solid strengths begin with team captain and senior Emily Heimerdinger at midfield/forward, who will go down as having one of the most prolific careers in KHS girls soccer history.

“She’s not a secret anymore. She was no longer a secret at the end of her freshman year. She’s going to be similar to a point guard out there. What she may not get in goals, she’ll maybe contribute in assists and she’ll be a real leader,” Parillo said.

Returnees joining Heimerdinger that are no stranger to big-game soccer include Amy Fabrizius at goalie/defender and Sophie Blank at goalie/midfield.

Returning to a bigger role after a 2010 with limited varsity action include the likes of Abby Bend (mid/forward), Sam Wantuch (defense/mid).

Also providing a spark are returning mid/fwd Katie Taylor, def/mid Anna Heinrichs and mid/foward Taylor White.

“The girls are up to the task, the coaches are up to the task, and we hope the girls gel as quickly as last year,” Parillo said.

New on the varsity ranks for Kaneland are def/mid Amber Winquist-Bailey, mid/forward Brittany Olson, mid/fwd Jessica Coia, mid/fwd Delaney Stryzek, midfielder Delaney Stryzek, goalie/midfielder Michelle Ortiz, midfielder/forward Shelby Fredricksen, def/mid Valerie Tockstein and defender Anne Marie Giese.

With two matches already under their belt, the Lady Knights begin the Northern Illinois Big XII East Division slate on Wednesday, April 6, against Sycamore. The regular season concludes on Tuesday, May 10, in Rochelle.

KHS girls track takes fourth at Byron Indoor Preview

BYRON, Ill.—Kaneland girls track fans can only hope the Lady Knights excel this well without a roof on top of their efforts.

On Saturday, Kaneland competed at the Byron Indoor Preview and came away with a fourth place finish.

Kaneland’s 43 point team total edged Hononegah High School’s 38 point total.

Wheaton-Warrenville South (118), Naperville Central (83) and Rochelle (54) rounded out the top three.

In the 1600 meter run , senior leader Andie Strang boasted a second-place time of five minutes, 27.59 seconds, six seconds behind Wheaton-Warrenville South’s Mikayla Kightlinger.

Teammate Abby Dodis took third in the 3200m run with a time of 12:33.26, besting the next fastest entry by 11 seconds.

Kaneland also did well in the 4x400m relay, as the unit of Sydney Bilotta, Ashley Castellanos, Arianna Espino and Brooke Patterson took fourth with a time of 4:25.07.

Lady Knight Patterson also did well in the pole vault, a la last season. Along with being a relay asset, she took second in the pole vault with an effort of 10 feet, six inches.

Patterson was also crowned Indoor Preview champ in the triple jump (33 feet), two and one-half inches better than Rochelle’s Taylor Jenkins.

Right track at Byron

• Andie Strang:
2nd place, 1600m run
• Abby Dodis:
3rd place, 3200m run
• Bilotta, Castellanos,
Espino and Patterson:
4th place, 4x400m relay
• Brooke Patterson:
2nd place, pole vault
• Brooke Patterson:
1st place, triple jump

Knight boys raise roof for 4th at Byron

BYRON, Ill.—Saturday brought some indoor track competition to Byron, Ill., and also brought some fine numbers and totals for Kaneland boys track.

Looking to get the 2010-11 season on the right foot indoors, Kaneland finished tied for fourth out of 12 teams.

Their 43-point total tied with Rockford Jefferson. Rockton’s Hononegah had 97 points, followed by Burlington Central’s 69.5 total and Belvidere North with 47 points. The Knights were the lone representative from the Northern Illinois Big XII conference.

Tommy Whittaker of the Knights took second in the 400 meter dash with an effort of 53.97 seconds, behind Hononegah’s Kassidy Freeman by .9 seconds.

Taylor Andrews ran 7.9 seconds for second place in the 55m hurdles finals event, and was also part of the first place 4x400m relay team with Whittaker, Brandon Cottier and Chad Swieca (3:37.90).

Frankie Furco acclimated himself well in the finals of the high jump, finishing third in the group with a six-foot effort.

Finally, Matt Spitzzeri took second in the triple jump group by completing his turn at 41-4.5.

The boys’ next challenge is the Northern Illinois Big XII indoor meet in Sterling on Saturday, March 19.

KHS Hall of Fame looking for ‘76ers

Kaneland CUSD is looking for contact information for members of the 1976 Boys’ Track team, set to be inductedinto the Kaneland Hall of Fame on Monday, May 2.

The members are: coach Harold Anderson, Matt Barsic, coach Rich Born, Brian Burgholzer, Bruce Burgholzer, Darryl Carlson, Jeff Carlson, Eric Carnes, Brian Christensen, Mark Claypool, Steve Fredrickson, Paul Garbe, Eric Hamann, Joel Hicks, Tim Hoffman, Mike Jorgensen, Bob Jorgensen, Jerry Klusak, Marty Lyle, John McQuade, James Morris, Gary Mueller, John Oksas, Dean Paschen, coach Bruce Peterson, Dale Plant, David Potts, Jim Sandberg, manager Mark Sibley, Randy Stayner and Chuck Swift.

If you have any information, contact Beth Sterkel in the district office at (630) 365-5111, ext. 109.

Cougars add tunes to fireworks nights

GENEVA—The Kane County Cougars announced the organization’s fireworks show musical themes for the 2011 schedule as a mix of various soundtracks will back each of the popular post-game light shows this season.

Traditional musical themes returning in 2011 include a pair of patriotic fireworks shows on July 3 and July 4. Other returning theme shows include disco and pop music on select nights.

Building off some of the newly created promotional theme nights for fans in 2011, the Cougars will set the fireworks music to those corresponding evenings this summer: a Jimmy Buffett fireworks show on June 17, a Harry Potter-themed fireworks show on July 1, a Christmas music fireworks show on July 29 and a country music-infused show on Aug. 19, among many others.

The music of Coldplay (July 28) and Chicago-area band Wilco (July 9) will also be featured for a pair of shows this season.

Only one of the Cougars’ 28 fireworks show music themes has not been decided yet, and is in the hands of the organization’s Facebook fans. The Cougars recently designated the July 14 game as “Facebook Night,” and if the Cougars reach 5,000 fans on the team’s official Facebook page by May 5, Cougars Facebook fans will be able to choose several elements of the July 14 game, including the fireworks show theme in a Facebook-only fan poll.

The Cougars’ first fireworks show of the season is set for Friday, May 13—a Halloween-themed fireworks show sponsored by Nicor. Nicor will sponsor the following evening’s Halloween-themed fireworks show as well.

Single-game tickets are on sale for each of the Cougars’ 70 regular season games, and can be ordered by calling the Cougars at (630) 232-8811 or at www.kccougars.com. Group outings are on sale as well, with all-inclusive picnic pricing for several of the Elfstrom Stadium group hospitality areas.

Lady Knights take third in Rockton

Photo: Ashley Castellanos, shown here in recent indoor action, took home a sixth place in the triple jump at the Hononegah Girls Indoor Classic. File Photo

ROCKTON, Ill.—Here’s a way to measure your early-season progress in girls’ track: Compete at a 24-team Track Classic.

Here’s a way to be happy about your early-season progress: Finish third in said 24-team Track Classic.

The Lady Knights continued on their indoor track slate on Friday in Rockton, Ill., at the Hononegah Girls Indoor Classic.

West Aurora won the meet with 102 points, followed by Downers Grove North at 74.5. Kaneland had 59 points, edging Lake Park with 56, and Vernon Hills rounded out the top five at 52.5.

For Kaneland, Brooke Patterson enjoyed a monopoly on first place in her solo events, the pole vault and triple jump.

The senior vaulted a 10 foot, six inch distance and won the triple jump by two inches with a mark of 33-7.25.

Second-places were gathered by Lauren Zick in the 400 meter dash (1:02.40) and by the 4x800m relay squad of Kris Bowen, Ashley Castellanos, Andie Strang and Sydney Strang, with a time of 10:23.91.

Third-places went to the freshman Zick in the 200m dash with an effort of 27.55 seconds.

In the distance medley, fourth place went to the unit of Bowen, Maggie Brundige, Abby Dodis and Jessica Stouffer, running in 14:15.59.

Fifth place for Kaneland was secured in the 4x400m relay, thanks to a 4:30.76 finish by Sydney Bilotta, Castellanos, Ariana Espino and Patterson.

The Lady Knights also added a couple of sixth places to their early indoor season coffers, in the form of a 55m dash time of 7.76 seconds by Zick.

In a solo effort, Castellanos took sixth in the triple jump at 31-11.25.

Finally, Andie Strang wrangled seventh place in the 1600m run with a time of 5:38.58.

Saturday, March 12, brings the Byron Indoor Invitational on the KHS docket, beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Lady Chiefs earn two early wins

Photo: Former Lady Knight Sara Rose is expected to contribute heavily to coach Perry Clark’s Waubonsee softball roster. WCC Sports Info

WAUBONSEE—WCC Softball ready for fun in sun to start 2011 season.

Waubonsee Community College began 2011 with a 2-1 record after stops in St. Louis and St. Charles, Mo.

Under 14th-year coach Perry Clark, the Lady Cheifs beat Florissant Valley CC 6-0 on Thursday, beat Lindenwood University’s JV team 12-10 on Saturday and lost to Fishbonne University 8-1.

Additionally, in a suspended game on Thursday, stopped after WCC went up 10-0 after two innings, former Kaneland standout Sara Rose doubled and homered.

In the win over Lindenwood, freshman Brittany Davis, 2010 graduate of KHS, went 2-for-4.

Kane County Cougars get in on Social Networking

GENEVA—The Kane County Cougars are designating the game on Thursday, July 14 as Facebook Night, a new venture for the organization in social media. If the Cougars reach 5,000 fans on the team’s official facebook page (www.facebook.com/kanecountycougars) by May 5, the organization will offer Cougars facebook fans $5 off box or reserved seats for the July 14 game.

After achieving this goal, Cougars facebook fans will select several elements for the July 14 game in a series of polls posted on the Cougars’ facebook page in the weeks leading up to July 14. Some of these include choosing the Cougars’ uniform choice, in-game music and the soundtrack to the post-game fireworks show. Randomly selected Facebook fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the on-field fun by throwing a ceremonial first pitch and taking part in between-inning promotions.

“We’re really looking forward to seeing how far our loyal Facebook fans can take this promotion,” said Cougars Director of Public Relations Shawn Touney. “Social media is an important means of communications for so many organizations, but we feel like hosting a night such as this one could take our involvement with social media to a new level of fan interaction.”

As of Monday, the Cougars have nearly 2,800 Facebook fans, meaning that if each Cougars Facebook fan tells one person between now and the May 5 deadline, the first part of the Facebook Night promotion will be achieved, and facebook fans can help direct the agenda for the July 14 game, as well as receive the ticket discount.

The Cougars will keep fans informed of the “The Drive For 5,000” progress through regular updates on www.kccougars.com, the Cougars’ online newsletter and the Cougars’ Facebook page. If the Cougars reach 5,000 fans, the organization will then post regular polls on their Facebook page, asking fans to choose various in-game elements and announcing contest winners leading up to the July 14 date.

Strang to keep running at St. Joseph’s

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Those that compete in college cross-country and track compete at a higher level.

That being the case, Kaneland High School senior Andie Strang has been doing that since 2007.

Strang officially committed to run cross-country and track for Division II St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind.

Housed in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, St. Joseph’s College was home to the Chicago Bears summer training camp from 1944-1974.

Now in the midst of basketball season for the Lady Knights, Strang has an eye on the future, ready to duplicate her success for Puma athletics.

Strang has also zoned in on her future career.

“I want to go into pre-medicine,” said Strang. “They have a tremendous program. The first thing I was looking for was majors, and it was definitely positive with that school.”

Strang has been a reliable entry for Kaneland athletics and has often found herself in the postseason thick of things in the fall and spring.

The senior qualified for the State final in cross-country her freshman year, and has qualified for State in track, competing in the 800 meter run three times and the 4x800m relay twice.

“I love the 800 here, and I think I’m going to have to do something a bit longer, just because I don’t have enough leg speed for 800 to be my specialty. I think I’ll have more success in something a little bit longer,” Strang said.

Strang is well aware that things will be different in Puma-land.

“It’s a whole other level of competition. Being a D-II school, I’m excited to see what it has, and they compete against a lot of smaller schools. I think it’ll be fun, though,” Strang said.

Strang feels St. Joseph’s is a great venue and feels like home.

“I love the coaches, I love the campus, I love the girls on the team. It’s a small school and that all came together.“

Kane County Cougars praised by Baseball America

GENEVA—With Major League camps opening in less than three weeks and baseball on the horizon, the Kane County Cougars organization received news on Tuesday afternoon that Baseball America has rated the Kansas City Royals farm system as the best in all of baseball in the soon-to-be-released 2011 Prospect Handbook.

The Cougars are the Class-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and announced a two-year player development contract with Kansas City last September, making for a “KC/KC” relationship and the most Midwest-centered affiliate the Cougars have held since the organization’s inception in 1991. The Cougars have held past affiliations with Baltimore, Florida and Oakland.

“The Royals have one of the deepest and most talented farm systems in recent memory,” said Jim Callis, Executive Editor at Baseball America. “It’s unusual to see a system with three stud hitters like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Wil Myers, or four quality lefties like John Lamb, Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy and Chris Dwyer, and the Royals have both. To show how highly we regard the Royals system, we ranked it No. 1 before the Zack Greinke trade, which netted more top prospects.”

Seven of the Royals’ Top 10 prospects will be in Major League Spring Training camp next month in Surprise, Ariz. The group includes first baseman Hosmer (ranked No.1), third baseman Moustakas (No.3) and left-handed pitcher Lamb (No.4).

The Cougars’ home opener is set for April 11 and tickets for all 70 regular season games, including group outings, season tickets and packages are on sale now.

Royal events planned for next weekend:
The Cougars will host a pair of events next weekend as anticipation for the 2011 season grows and the organization prepares for its first year as an affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. The Cougars will host a “Meet the Royals” event on Friday, Feb. 4, beginning at 6 p.m. inside Elfstrom Stadium’s Old Second Bank upper deck level. The event will provide fans a introduction to Kane County’s new affiliation with the Kansas City Royals, complete with a speakers series including Vance Wilson, first-year Cougars manager. Royals coaches are also expected to attend.

In addition to meeting members of the Royals family, fans can enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet and complimentary draft beer. A cash bar will be available. Tickets are $30 for the general public and $25 for season ticket and ticket package holders. Fans can purchase tables of 8 for $200. Space is limited and fans are encouraged to get their tickets by visiting www.kccougars.com or by calling the Cougars at (630) 232-8811.

French goes Under for baseball

KANELAND—On Sept. 21, Drew French, a varsity baseball player at Kaneland High School, made an Under Armour Baseball Factory National Tournament Team in Oak Creek, Wis., after trying out at Milwaukee Technical Institute College.

French is playing on their team that goes to the Arizona Fall Invitational, Wednesday through Sunday, Oct. 6-10, in Peoria, Ariz., which is the spring training home of the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres.

French will play third base and also pitch. Besides playing for Kaneland baseball’s Brian Aversa, Drew also plays for Coach Tom Siebert with Team Illinois Baseball.

The Under Armour Baseball Factory sees 10,000 baseball players from around the country each year.

Track Roundtable: Baron & Valle reflect

Editor’s note—To further commemorate the noteworthy accomplishments of the recently completed track season, in which Kaneland’s team finished second in the state, the Elburn Herald is pairing a Knights track personality with a storied history, and a recent graduate. Their comparison of stories and memories will be a regular feature this summer. Eric Baron is the current head coach of Kaneland High School boys track, after succeeding Ralph Drendel, and a teacher at Kaneland Harter Middle School. Distance runner Edgar Valle is a State champion and will compete in Rock Island, Ill., for the Augustana Vikings in the 2010-2011 school year.

ELBURN HERALD (EH): Getting involved with cross-country and track, with this monster year, now that you’ve had four years to look back on it, was it a burning ambition to compete and succeed and stand up on the podium at the end of the year, or was it something that just fell into your lap where it’s “oh, i know a bunch of people and I’m friendly with them, let’s see how this goes?”

EDGAR VALLE (EV): Track and field is something I’ve always loved doing. It’s a sport I think I have the most passion for. Being able to compete with my teammates and fight for what we really wanted and to succeed, and at the end of the year, being able to stand on that podium, it was an amazing feeling. That’s what I was fighting for.
EH: Eric, what about you as an athlete?

ERIC BARON (EB): My beginnings were here at Kaneland in Cheryl McCoy’s P.E. class. Track was a way of life here at Kaneland. There was no baseball at the time. You ran track in the spring. I was lucky enough to stand on that podium, and unlucky enough to miss being on that podium. It was a great learning experience, and every day I’m glad I made choices to lead me into the sport.

EH: People have said on occasion that this past season cemented the fact that Kaneland was a track school, and people can remember that again.

EB: Our numbers keep going up. We’ve fought for the three-class system. We thought we were a great track school, and going against the Neuqua Valleys and Yorks was really hard for our school. It deterred the big goal at the end of the season. Now that we’re competitive again, people are saying “hey, there’s some great track athletes at our school and great coaches with abilities that really lend themselves to big things.”

EH: Being involved in track with the 800m and the 1600m, it seemed like you might have been one of these kids who had a stamp of versatility. You could take an event, and maybe not be totally experienced, but take an event and make it yours. To be an asset in three or four events and just sort of plug yourself in. You didn’t know what your ceiling would be, but you knew what your floor was.

EV: Yeah, that’s how I kind of figured things out my first couple of years. The first time I did the 1600, I was competing and doing really well and actually won once and I was like “wow, I surprised myself.” With Coach putting me in different events, I realized I could do a lot of these different things. I knew what I had to do and tried not to let the team down.

EH: When you finally had your roster that qualified for State, did you feel that versatility was a big key, or did you think that kids specializing in one or two events was more important?

EB: I really coach the guys to be versatile. As someone who pays attention to the sport, I look for ways we can do best as a team. If we run guys in the 400, then we run guys in the 400. If I see there’s a weaker event that we can capitalize on, then that’s the direction we try to go if they’re versatile.

This year, I trained the entire team to basically be 400 and 800 guys. I thought if we did that, then we could be very competitive, and it turned out real well. The guys that we had this year, I knew they had a lot of leg speed, which you need for the 400 and 800. But, versatility is a huge thing. You look at Edgar and Logan (Markuson) and Nick Sinon. I mean, these guys will do any event I put them in.

EH: Going against other athletes from the CCIW (College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin) next spring, have you heard or figured that college track is almost a different sport or even a profession?

EV: I’ve heard that college track is like a whole new start. You have to rebuild everything. It’s a lot more competitive. Run twice a day, multiple practices, schedule your time; and there’s school and everything. It’s a lot more difficult and very time-consuming, but I know the coaches at Augustana are really good guys.

EH: Plus, there’s going to be a familiar Kaneland touch with some former teammates on there. So, it won’t be too foreign of a setting.

EV: Yeah, that’ll be nice to go into.

EH: In what ways was this senior core of 2010 really special and uniquely qualified to get the team to State?

EV: We’ve noticed ever since our freshman year that our class was a really good class. One of our freshman invites, we had nine guys on the team, and were going with Geneva and Batavia and we thought we had a really good team. It was a really good group of guys.

EH: Eric had coached this 2010 group since they were freshmen.

EV: He kneeled down to us after that meet and said “You guys are real good.” He was really excited for us and for what we could do over the next couple of years.

Us being seniors this past year, we demonstrated leadership qualities. We showed the younger kids what we’d been through. We tried to teach them how to run well.

Us as seniors, we tried to do everything we could succeed, and we wanted it. We were all so competitive as well. Competing with each other at practices and everything pushed us farther and farther.

EB: I think one of the things with this group—I had a great group of friends in high school track—they left the competitiveness on the track and at practice. It never carried over to their personal lives. Edgar could run with Logan or Derek (Bus) or Matt (Reusche), and I’d kick them out at the end and they’d go out and have hamburgers or whatever. Their competitiveness as a team was channeled correctly. As much as I’d like to take a lot of credit for it, I think a lot of it was just their personality.

EH: There’s still the coach-student dynamic, but in a way, was having that senior core of guys almost like having another set of coaches on the track?

EB: It was like having a set of coaches. These are guys that I’ll probably know for the rest of my life. You know, I look back at my coaches that I’ve had. I’ll be talking to my former coach later; he’s up from Florida. We’ll go for a run; he’s 65 years old. I think these guys are going to be like that and talk to me whenver they need to.

EH: (Mark) Claypool mentioned that he talks to his coach down in Florida on a regular basis. Regarding this past year’s team, what was it about this year, specifically, that made them unique compared to any other year?

EB: The end result was big. Before sectionals, I told them that no matter what we do, we’ve already been a great success. I look at this group of people and tried to help them become great leaders out there. I look at Logan (Markuson), and what he did this season took great pressure off of me. We set standards, but we remembered it’s still a sport, still a game. It’s supposed to be fun, and if we’re not having fun, then I’m not doing a good job. We had a lot of fun as a team. Things fall into place when you’re having fun.

EH: Asking Logan a couple weeks ago about trying to give a sense of what running the 1600m relay is like—toward the end of the meet, can mean a big difference in team placement. Can you take us through what your experience is like running that event?

EV: The 1600m relay is one of my all-time favorites. It’s like, to have three other guys that are so talented and work together so well and like to run together is amazing.

Everyone knows a lot of the time it comes down to that one race to make or break the meet. That’s happened to us a few times. I know with the great group of guys that we have, we can pull it off. This happened a lot this year, where the race would be over by the second guy. A lot of pressure gets taken off. I’d say we really got our streak of competitiveness about mid-season. But, just thinking about running that 400, the adrenaline starts going. When you see those first guys go around and you know it’s close. You just want to go after it and fight for that first place.

EH: Is it that big of an event where it can influence how the next week of practice goes or how the next meet goes? Or is it pretty much self-contained?

EV: Not really in the first half of the season, because we usually won. But the way the coaches set the practices up, they usually try to have us peak at a certain moment. If we feel we did really well, we feel awesome going into practice. We’re excited to talk about the next meet. Days and meets that we don’t do so well, we feel a little sluggish but we come back and practice hard.

EH: It seems we have a winner for favorite event here, but Eric, what was your favorite event as a younger athlete, and do you feel your tastes evolving as a coach?

EB: Well, for me personally, it was always the 1600. Edgar reminds me of the way I ran in high school and college, in that I liked being with my teammates and liked to run with them. I loved running the 4×4. If I had to step in and run that relay, I would. It’s a very unique event, because anyone on your team can run it. You just have to go as hard as you can. It’s almost whoever has the most guts ends up winning it. You want to run that 4×4. What people might not understand about this team was that we ran three teams that could have qualified for State. They were that talented and that deep. Taylor Andrews didn’t make our varsity 4×4, but (he was) probably a 51-second quarter-miler. It was fun. Running with your team is a different thing than running by yourself. Running the mile was always the highlight of the meet.

EH: Edgar, what aspect of your track talents improved the most over the four years?

EV: I think physical endurance. Pacing was up there, as well. I did the 800 a lot and 4×8, and you used to hate that race, but I’d still do it anyway. Then came my junior year, once I finally broke two minutes, and I kicked down one of the best runners Sycamore’s ever had. I was thinking, “Oh my God, I could actually be good at this.”

Track Roundtable: Claypool talks with Markuson

Editor’s note—To further commemorate the noteworthy accomplishments of the recently completed track season, in which Kaneland’s team finished second in the state, the Elburn Herald is pairing a Knights track personality from years past, and an athlete who is a recent graduate. Their comparing of stories and memories will be a regular feature this summer. Mark Claypool is Chairman and COO of Optima Worldwide Limited. He was a member of the class of 1977 and is the all-time leader in points garnered for the Kaneland Boys Track team. Claypool went on to compete for the University of Illinois track team and was a Big Ten champion and All-American. Multi-event athlete Logan Markuson is second all-time for points gathered in Kaneland boys track and is joining the University of Minnesota track team in the 2010-2011 school year.

ELBURN HERALD (EH): Mark, you came along and gave this year’s team whatever experience and wisdom that you could give them. How did your arrival to the team this year come about?

Mark Claypool (MC): I’ve been watching the teams over the years. Coach Drendel and Coach Baron have asked me to come in and speak to the team at different parts of the year, and I used to run against Logan’s dad,
Jay, and he ran for Batavia. So we got to know each other pretty well back then, and I’ve watched Logan since he was a freshman and seen how well he was doing at scoring varsity points. I was interested in Logan’s progress and saw how well the team was doing as a whole, and saw that this team could really do something down at county and State.

I wanted to be there somehow and support them and show them that Kaneland history lives on and that somebody from the past cares about it. So, I went to a couple of the meets, and initially nobody even knew I was going to be there except for Mickey Marin, a sophomore who actually found me on Facebook and asked how to run a 400, and so I gave him some pointers and went out to see how he and the team would do, and went to the Peterson Prep first. I had a chance to see some of the other guys run, and saw Logan come out of the starting blocks and thought he might need some pointers. So a couple of the guys and I struck up a friendship and to know I was there to support them.

I went to the County meet as well and thought they had a real shot to be the first team since ’75 to win. It’s real hard to compete against big schools like that and to have the kind of showing Kaneland had. They gave it their best.

Anyway, I was interested in the team as a whole and then in the individuals as I got to know them, just because they’re quality young men and they worked hard and the coaches all said it was a special group. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of team.

EH: Talking with Baron for the Preview article in March, he mentioned the team had a very high ceiling. He didn’t know how far they’d go, but that they were capable of great things.

Logan Markuson (LM): Definitely. Back in seventh or eighth grade we had like eight kids in track, I think it was 12 actually. But our coach called us “The Dirty Dozen.” I knew that as our group moved through high school, as a group like that moves through high school, you become friends. We hung out throughout the years and that was nice. It was nice to see how we worked out and how we progressed during those four or five years. I think just having that friendship and training, it just went hand in hand.

EH: Did your team have a senior core that you came up with, similar to Logan’s?

MC: Yeah, we had a pretty good cross-section. Back then we seemed to have sophomores, juniors and seniors all participting, but we had a pretty good core group of seniors, in the 4×880 relay and the 4×440. We had a good group of seniors for sure in ‘77. In ‘75, we had the Ackermans, the Bishops and Larry Will. A big thing for Bruce Pederson was senior leadership. He always talked about that as a key.

EH: With both of you being relay guys, you hear people often say the 4×400 is the biggest event of the meet. Describe what you go through in a very competitive event like that.

MC: Often times, it can decide who finishes first or second or third.

LM: We came down to a few of those this year.

MC: There’s always a lot riding on it. There’s a lot of pressure on those four guys to go out and perform and not drop the baton. It’s something where the teams all know that this is it. It’s often the last race, and you’re performing as a group. As you get to the end, you see your team colors and the team is jumping up and down. I never heard a whole lot. I never paid too much attention to the buzz but I could tell there was excitement. At State championships there was always the roar of the crowd, but you’re in such a zone you don’t even pay any attention. For us, that’s what it was like, and I saw it was like that downstate for you guys.

LM: Yeah, it was like that for us. In the 4×4, it’s definitely lots of pressure. I like to think of it as a “who’s got the most guts” kind of thing. It’s at the end of the meet, and some of these bigger schools like to run a fresh team. For a smaller school like us, we’re coming back after two or three races. It’s like “this is my last event of the night and I don’t have to run any more,” and lay it all down on the field.

EH: Can the finish dictate your mood for the week, or how you practice leading to the next meet?

LM: Yeah, it can a little. In indoor conference, I was supposed to run the 4×4, and was having some injuries, and ran on a different team. It was a two-point difference headed into that race, and our alternate team won it. That whole week, going into our first outdoor meet, we were stoked. We were like “that was amazing.” Training ahead, it just sets the mood for the whole week.

We just came off of that and see what we could do next week.

EH: Coaching has to be quite strong in a season like this. What did your coaches stress and what kind of personality did they show while coaching?

MC: Track and field is so diverse. You’ve got weight events and pole vault, hurdles, sprinting. Every one of these events has it’s own set of techniques. It’s a very difficult thing for a finite group of coaches to be real good jacks-of-all-trades. But Kaneland’s been very fortunate over the years. Back when I was there, Bruce Pederson was an icon, and everybody looked up to him. He’s still my greatest mentor, and I still talk to him a couple of times a year and he’s in St. Augustine, Fla. He would set the tone mentally.

LM: I’ve loved the coaching. It’s not just “go to practice and do your workout.” It’s “go to practice, and if you’re feeling bad, give them a call.” They’re not just your coaches, we really got to develop a friendship. Just the time and effort they put into it, you can tell they’re really dedicated. I would think it’s hard to do with a family and everything. I was fortunate to have such great coaches. I really don’t think I’m going to find something like this anywhere else.

EH: Mark, you competed in Big Ten track, what was the time like for you and what can Logan expect?

Claypool and Markuson
Knights track great Mark Claypool shares some mementos from his athletic career with KHS standout Logan Markuson at the Elburn Herald office. Photo by Ryan Wells

MC: Well, I went down to the University of Illinois on a full ride. It is a whole different ballgame. You’re suddenly living on your own, you’re away from family, and your freshman year is a whole different scenario. It becomes almost a profession that you’re doing, because you’re expected to be there at such and such a time and you arrange your class schedule around that. You get tutors to help you because you’re spending so much time in the afternoon and early evening, and you’re really working hard. With what Logan’s going to be doing, decathlon and heptathlon indoors along with everything else he’ll do, he’s going to be working on an awful lot of stuff. It is entirely a different ballgame. You’re going from a team with some real standouts like Logan with some success at State, and you’re amongst others who also are at the top of their game. All of the sudden, you’re not just a standout on your team. You’re one of many, many fine athletes on a team of fine athletes. So, it’s an eye-opener the first time you run and you’re wondering “why is everyone right here with me?” Leave your letter jacket at home, don’t take it to school there. That was high school, now you have to perform at an entirely different level. Minnesota’s a powerhourse and returning Big Ten champions.

LM: I’m looking forward to it. I know, with the different ballgame, how busy it’s going to get. I’ve already kind of scheduled my classes, and I’ll probably have to work out in the mornings. Then class and then practice and maybe another class. They expect you to study two hours for every hour you’re in class.

EH: It’s only for four years, though.

LM: I’ll catch up on sleep when I’m older.

MC: Time management’s going to be key. It’s not just going to school, it’s school and athletics in there.

EH: In college sports, you’re not looking at a three-month season, especially nowadays. It’s almost a year-round profession.

MC: Absolutely, even in high school, you had to find something to keep yourself in shape. We were typically running three-lappers around the school. We would get heavy sweats and wrap towels underneath in the wintertime. We were outside in January and Feburary, below zero. I played basketball my freshman and sophomore years and that kept me in shape in the offseason. After sophomore year, I went to Purdue basketball camp and got hurt.

EH: Was Gene Keady not happy?

MC: Well, Bruce Pederson wasn’t happy. He said, “okay, that’s it. No more basketball for you.” I got my cast off in August and couldn’t run on it just yet, so I went out for the golf team.

EH: Mark, it obviously meant a lot to come back and be involved. Logan, can you see yourself coming back in 30 years if asked?

LM: If I was asked to come back and coach or do something else, I’d be happy to. My mom told me that she sat next to Mark Claypool at the Kane County Meet, and said he’d be willing to work with me on starts and I was just like, “Mark Claypool? That’s awesome.” I’d love to come back and help any way I could. Just because it’s really cool when others come back to share their memories.