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updated: 1/30/2012 10:06 PM

Ten years has flown by since the St. Charles split

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  • St. Charles North coach Mark Gould points to the scoreboard as the clock runs out during a North Stars win over South Elgin at Millennium Field in Streamwood. The early years for St. Charles North football were tough, but the program quickly established itself at the varsity level and became a force.

    St. Charles North coach Mark Gould points to the scoreboard as the clock runs out during a North Stars win over South Elgin at Millennium Field in Streamwood. The early years for St. Charles North football were tough, but the program quickly established itself at the varsity level and became a force.
    Daily Herald File, 2008


Perhaps I'm just getting old in a hurry.

While I have a few more gray hairs these days, I still find it hard to believe that it has been more than 10 years since the high school split took place in St. Charles.

It seems like yesterday that then-athletic director Tom Schweer was giving me a tour of the athletic facilities, including the new gymnasium, at St. Charles North.

Believe it or not, a decade has passed since St. Charles North played its first varsity football game without any seniors at the school.

While the North Stars dropped their varsity debut (41-0 to Fremd) and went on to finish 2-7 overall, the groundwork had been laid for future success.

"It was tough," North Stars coach Mark Gould admitted of their first varsity campaign. "We played against tough competition like Fremd and Lincoln-Way East.

"We had some real good kids on defense who hung in there. We had some solid offensive players, too, but there wasn't a lot of depth and we were not real strong."

The North Stars' first-ever varsity victory came during Week 4 of 2001 in an 18-15 overtime thriller over DeKalb.

One week later, the inaugural "Cross-town Classic" took place at Norris Stadium. St. Charles East won, 28-7.

Ironically, the 2001 St. Charles East-St. Charles North game was even more memorable for Gould, whose son, Kellen, started at tight end for the Saints.

"It was a little strange but fun," recalled Gould, whose daughter, Kyleigh, also stood on the opposite side of the field as a Saints cheerleader.

"I remember that first game (versus East) being more of an event than anything. We were very young as a team."

One year earlier, Gould himself was a member of the St. Charles East coaching staff.

"There were separate sophomore teams split between East and (soon-to-be) North kids so I kind of knew who we had coming up (for the 2001-02 season)," said Gould.

It didn't take long for the North Stars to build a winning football program.

During their first season with a senior class in 2002, the North Stars finished as conference co-champions. They earned a 44-13 home triumph over St. Charles East on the way to securing the first of eight consecutive state playoff berths.

"We had a good group of kids," said Gould, who owns a 59-51 record in 11 varsity seasons at St. Charles North. "We had guys who were tough and very aggressive."

Even before the football team's quick transformation, the North Stars had already experienced some success in other venues.

In November of 2000, an all-freshmen and sophomore lineup propelled the North Stars' girls swimming team to a ninth-place state finish (48 points).

Led by freshman standout Laura Fehrman, who went on to enjoy a successful collegiate career at the University of Tennessee, coach Rob Rooney's squad scored the school's first top-10 state showing.

It was the start of something special, as the North Stars placed ninth in 2001 before their fifth-place state finish with a senior class in 2002. That team earned the first of seven straight sectional championships (2002-08).

In the spring of 2001, St. Charles North's girls soccer team chose to play a varsity schedule while fielding a roster consisting of all freshmen and sophomores.

"I remember (then-athletic director) Tom Schweer telling me that we just needed to play seven varsity contests to qualify for the postseason," said North Stars coach Ruth Poulin Vostal. "We decided to do it."

Poulin Vostal was very familiar with her young but talented roster since she had coached the (to-be St. Charles North students) freshman team at St. Charles the year before the split.

St. Charles North did more than just qualify for the regional tournament.

"We played Batavia at their place in the opening round of the tournament and it was their Senior Night," recalled Poulin Vostal. "It was a whole new experience for our girls. We played most of our games on side fields that first season but this game was on the varsity field. And we definitely had not played a night game before."

There were a few lighter moments just prior to the North Stars' first regional contest.

"I literally had to teach the girls how to run through the tunnel when their names were announced," said Poulin Vostal. "It was hilarious."

Led by Randi Streng, who still holds the team record for most varsity games played, St. Charles North beat Batavia 3-1.

"We were ecstatic," said Poulin Vostal, whose squad went on to face heavily favored Wheaton Warrenville South in the regional finals.

"They were seeded first or second and it was at their place," said Poulin Vostal. "We put 11 players back in our half of the field and it was a 0-0 game at halftime. We wound up losing, 1-0, but it was an awesome experience."

The North Stars finished that first season with a highly respectable 15-4-2 record.

Two years later, St. Charles North pocketed the first of nine consecutive regional titles with a 1-0 victory over St. Charles East.

The girls' soccer team owns the most regional championships of any sport at St. Charles North. The North Stars placed second in the state in 2004 (22-5-2) and finished third in 2010 (23-2-1).

Why have they been so successful?

"A large part is the community that we're in," said Poulin Vostal. "A lot of the girls are actively playing soccer at an early age. Some are getting year-round training."

The fact that Poulin Vostal, who helped lead St. Charles to a pair of state championships and a third-place finish from 1990-94, has been the North Stars' only varsity coach doesn't hurt, either.

"The girls know what my expectations are," said Poulin Vostal. "I want my teams to out-work their opponents, become close, and enjoy their time together. I learned a lot about having a family-type atmosphere from (former Saints coach) Tim Dailey."

Trying to establish an identity has been one of the biggest challenges facing North Stars coaches throughout the first 10-plus years.

"At the beginning, some of the girls felt that beating (St. Charles) East was the biggest thing possible," said Poulin Vostal. "But I've always told them that our goal has to be much bigger than simply beating one team from the same community. I expect us to be real good every year, which means playing on the first Saturday of June (in the state finals)."

According to Illinois High School Association records, St. Charles North teams have captured 47 regional titles (26-girls; 21-boys) and 36 sectional championships (18 each) since 2000-01.

Next week, I'll reflect upon additional North Stars' team accomplishments over the first decade and take a look at what the future may hold.

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