To conclude the school year, let's review some of the top moments in Tri-Cities prep sports in 2011-12. We'd normally do a top 10 but what the heck, let's turn it up to 11.
Here we go, in chronological order:
Oct. 12-13, 2011: NORMAL -- Surpassing three teams in second-round action at the Class 2A boys state golf finals at Weibring Golf Club, Marmion rallies to a second-place finish behind champion Belleville Althoff. Headed by senior Matt Fazio, who ties for seventh individually to earn all-state honors, fellow seniors Zach Woytoych and Marshall Kanute, juniors Liam Creamer and Brett Koskinen and sophomore Joe Fritz give the Cadets their best ever state finish. "I knew we had the depth and the firepower to make a run," coach Doug Roberts says.
Nov. 3, 2011: PEORIA -- There may have been more jostling between St. Charles East and Naperville North after the girls Class 3A state cross country championship than on the famed course at Detweiller Park. Naperville North's sixth runner finishes before St. Charles East's, so Naperville North is awarded third place. But since both teams tallied 183 points, Saints coach Denise Hefferin and Naperville North coach Dan Iverson are called back to the officials tent and told they'd share third place. Shortly, though, officials cite a National Federation of High Schools ruling about the sixth-runner and Naperville North is again awarded third outright. Returning home, Hefferin describes the case to her co-athletic directors, who appeal to the Illinois High School Association. After a review the IHSA states the two schools would indeed share third place. "They did the right thing," Hefferin says. "They're doing what's best for the kids in this situation."
Nov. 3, 2011: FRANKFORT -- Ending its best season ever, Marmion falls 1-0 on penalty kids to Peoria Notre Dame to finish fourth in the Class 2A state tournament at Lincoln-Way North. A scoreless tie is broken when Notre Dame's 4 penalty kick goals outweigh the successful shots by the Cadets' 42-goal scorer Mike Frasca and Eddie Graham. It marks the final game for retiring Marmion coach Kevin O'Connor, a 300-game winner. "For my last game I told the guys to play with their heart and they did that," he says.
Nov. 10, 2011: NORMAL -- The rare team that ends its season with a victory, St. Charles East's girls volleyball team claims a third-place trophy at the Class 4A finals in Redbird Arena. Saints outside hitter Meghan Niski slams a match-high 15 kills in the 25-23, 22-25, 25-21 win over Marist. "I'm really sad that it's over," Niski says, "but I'm really glad to end my senior year on a winning note."
St. Francis enjoys the same scenario in the Class 3A series, making short work of Marian Catholic, 25-20, 25-11, to earn third place. It's the Spartans' 15th trophy in 16 appearances at the state tournament. "I'm just happy for these girls that they got to go out like the winners they are," says coach Peg Kopec.
Nov. 16-17, 2011: WINNETKA -- Claiming her school's first individual girls swimming title in 11 years, St. Charles East senior Emma Smith wins the 200-yard individual medley in the second day of competition at the state championships at New Trier. The key is her breaststroke that pulls her ahead. "I was actually just a breaststroke swimmer when I was 8-and-under," says Smith, who also finishes third in the 500 freestyle. "I swam the breaststroke and that was about it."
Securing its 12th state swimming trophy, Rosary places third for a second straight year. The Beads score in every event, headed by multiple all-staters Molly Coonce, Rachel Burke, Emily Launer and Sarah Sykstus, who trailed only Smith in the 200 IM. "It's been a good four years and it's crazy that it's already been four years," says senior Sykstus.
Nov. 23, 2011: CHAMPAIGN -- Aurora Christian dismantles downstate Mt. Carmel 34-7 to win the Class 3A football championship at the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium. On the Eagles' third play from scrimmage, 22 seconds in, Western Michigan-bound quarterback Anthony Maddie busts a draw play 72 yards for a touchdown. Maddie runs for 192 yards and 3 touchdowns and passes to Cory Windle and Noah Roberts for two more scores, and the Eagles get a key goal-line stand and interceptions by Brandon Mayes, Ryan Suttle and Cody Slamans. It's the first Aurora team to win a state football title. "Everybody remembers the first," says Eagles coach Don Beebe.
A week before, Batavia, which went 9-0 in the regular season for the first time in history, ends its season with a 33-22 loss to Prairie Ridge in the Class 6A semifinals. Kaneland loses for a second straight year to Montini in the 5A semifinals, 35-31. Both foes go on to win titles.
Feb. 16, 2012: CHAMPAIGN -- Excelling at the lower weights, Marmion bags two state champions and two runners-up at the Class 2A individual state wrestling tournament in Assembly Hall. At 113 pounds Johnny Jimenez's last-second takedown of Rock Island's Barlow McGhee earns a 4-2 decision in the final, the second two-time state champion in program history and still just a sophomore. The Cadets' Angelo Silvestro (138 pounds) avenges a regular-season loss to Crystal Lake Central's Clayton Lutzow by downing Lutzow twice in the last round to earn a 7-3 decision, and the title. Marmion's Anthony Bosco (106 pounds) and George Fisher (126) both place second while in 3A, West Aurora's Greg Jacquez (138) takes third. "Defending my state championship was my main goal this season," Jimenez says.
Feb. 23, 2012: NORMAL -- Continuing its ascent under coach Mark Fitzgerald, Aurora Central Catholic finishes fourth in Class 2A at the girls state finals at Redbird Arena. The Chargers own a 40-39 lead over Stillman Valley on 2 Alex DeCraene free throws with 16 seconds left, but surrender the game-winning basket with 9 seconds left. Jackie Cardona, ACC's second all-time scorer, ends her prep career with 6 points. "The pendulum has swung here for Aurora Central," Fitzgerald says. "I think these ladies showed that they belonged here."
March 13, 2012: HINSDALE -- The big news for West Aurora's boys basketball team may actually have come four days prior, a 69-61 win over Metea Valley in the Class 4A East Aurora sectional final. But this Tuesday supersectional at Hinsdale Central's atmospheric old gym is also landmark. Despite 17 points by Juwan Starks, who becomes West Aurora's all-time leading scorer during the game, the Blackhawks can't claim their first supersectional title since 2006, falling to eventual 4A runner-up Proviso East, 62-51. "No disrespect to Billy Taylor (West's former career scoring leader)," says a disconsolate Starks, "but right now I'd rather have that win than have that record."
May 25-26, 2012: CHARLESTON -- Four days after losing anchor runner Johnathan Harrell to a knee injury in an innocent lunchroom accident, Aurora Christian's 1,600-meter relay regroups at the Class 1A boys state track meet at Eastern Illinois' O'Brien Stadium. Under the pressure of improving upon third-place in 2011, the foursome of Billy Howorth, Jake Gehman, Nate Jensen and subbing anchor Dillon Howorth, Billy's young brother, wins its preliminary heat. In the finals they cut more than three seconds off the preliminary time to capture Aurora Christian's first boys event title in history. "We just wanted to lay all that we possibly had on the track and we did that," Billy Howorth said.
June 2, 2012: NAPERVILLE -- On a direct kick with 5 minutes, 13 seconds remaining in the Class 2A girls state soccer championship against Chatham Glenwood, St. Francis junior Taylor Bucaro lines a 24-yard laser between a leaping keeper and the crossbar, the winning goal in the Spartans' 2-1 victory at North Central College. Sydney Fox assisted on Andrea Ravlin's first-half goal, and defender Kate Roback made -- as termed in the IHSA box score -- a "non goalie save" in the first half to preserve a first-half tie. In the 3A title game, it takes Naperville North four overtimes to defeat St. Charles North, 1-0. Of her bad-angle, championship-winning goal, St. Francis' Bucaro says: "The shot was perfect. There are no words to describe it. I was numb."
Congratulations to all.
Mascot vs. Mascot
West Aurora Blackhawk
(first round: defeated the Geneva Viking; second round: defeated the Kaneland Knight)
Namesake Black Hawk (1767-1838) born in present-day Rock Island
Actual name: Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak
Sauk leader and warrior
Fought with the British in War of 1812
Wrote an autobiography
St. Charles East's
King Charles the Great
(First round: defeated St. Charles North's Polaris the Polar Bear; second round: defeated the Aurora Central Catholic Charger)
Descendant of King Charlemagne (742-814), Frankish king also known as Charles the Great
Bequeathed small inheritance, mainly textiles and livestock liberated during the Carolingian campaigns
Commanded armies of brave male and female warriors
Skilled with fleur-de-lis-topped scepter
Outcome: Sallies from each side strike critical blows, and the wily Blackhawk's tenacity and strategy earn respect from King Charles as it did the British. In the end, though, King Charles' more advanced military technology and vast support troops sap Blackhawk's strength and force surrender.
Winner: King Charles the Great.