My Hyundai Sonata is gassed up for its third road trip to central Illinois for state tournament weekend -- just one indication of how memorable this high school season has been.
DuPage County was home to many a memorable moment in girls athletics this school year. Here are the top 10, in chronological order:
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Oct. 18-20, 2011: MT. PROSPECT -- The state tennis title returns "home" to Hinsdale, in dominating fashion. After a runner-up finish in 2011, Hinsdale Central wins its fifth state tennis title in six years and 13th overall. Marika Cusick and Caroline Lorenzini repeated as doubles champs, while Alex Solovyev took third in singles by beating top-seeded Keisha Clousing of Wheaton Warrenville South.
Nov. 5, 2001: PEORIA --Amanda Fox didn't need the state meet record. Winning the race was reward enough. The Naperville Central senior ran away with the 3-mile race at Detweiller Park in 16 minutes, 24 seconds, just two seconds off the record set by Woodstock's Kayla Beattie in the 2010 2A race. Fox, who shook off Hinsdale Central's Jill Hardies and Lake Park's Kaylee Flanagan in the second mile and a late surge by defending champion Ariel Michalek of Oswego East, did set a new 3A meet record.
Nov. 12, 2011: NORMAL -- Maddie and Meghan Haggerty made their last match together a memorable one. Senior middle Meghan Haggerty had 18 kills and 22 service points and sophomore sister Maddie 16 kills to lead Benet past Cary-Grove in the Class 4A volleyball championship match. Meghan Haggerty served 12 consecutive points -- with Maddie delivering 6 of her kills during the point run -- as Benet broke away from a 10-10 tie in the third set for its first state title.
Nov. 18, 2011: NAPERVILLE -- Andy Nussbaum's year of milestone wins continues. Five months after winning his 500th game as Naperville Central softball coach, Nussbaum captures win No. 500 with the basketball Redhawks, beating Metea Valley 45-25. Nussbaum went on to turn another impressive coaching double play. In February he was inducted into the Illinois Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and in April he joined the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
March 10, 2012: NORMAL -- It isn't this easy, is it? Montini sure is making winning state title look like a snap.
The Broncos girls basketball team bolts out to a 21-point halftime lead on Vernon Hills en route to a 56-38 to capture their third straight Class 3A championship. Montini joins Teutopolis and Bolingbrook as the only girls basketball teams to win three straight titles. This title, though, came with a twist. Montini did it with four new starters, after graduating three girls playing Division I basketball this year. Jasmine Lumpkin, who hit the eventual game-winning shot to beat Hillcrest in a stunning semifinal comeback, scored 14 points in the final, Kateri Stone 13 and Nikia Edom 13. Of Montini's last 18 playoff wins, 17 came by a double-digit margin.
May 12, 2012: CHARLESTON --Naperville North's Ellen Lin upset top seed Wan Wan Liu in the singles final of the state badminton tournament, becoming the school's first state badminton champion. Lin's win lifted Naperville North into a first-place tie, the Huskies sharing its first team title with Stevenson. Hinsdale South's top-seeded Brittany DeClouette and Emma Adcock capped a 52-1 season by winning the doubles championship.
May 19, 2012: CHARLESTON --In a star-studded 100-meter dash field that included two-time defending champion Aaliyah Brown of Lincoln-Way East, it was Waubonsie Valley senior Morolake Akinosun who bolted out of the blocks and never relinquished the lead, her 11.41 time tying Alex Anderson's seven-year-record in the event. Earlier, the WW South 3,200-meter relay team of Amy Yong, Erin Herrmann, Hope Schmelzle and McKenna Kiple became the first group in state history to break the nine-minute barrier, holding off Glenbard West's quartet in 8:59.03 at the state track meet.
June 2, 2012: NAPERVILLE -- Taylor Bucaro delivered a free kick for the ages. With overtime fast approaching in the Class 2A championship match, Bucaro's 24-yard kick from the right side found a home slightly under the left side of the crossbard and the extended fingertips of the Chatham Glenwood goalkeeper. It gave St. Francis a 2-1 win, and the Spartans' first state soccer championship. Junior Kate Roback earlier made a critical save, as St. Francis finished the season with nine consecutive wins.
June 2, 2012: NAPERVILLE --Just 42 seconds shy of 120 minutes of soccer, Naperville North could finally celebrate. Christa Szalach's goal in the fourth overtime of the Class 3A championship at North Central College gave the Huskies a win over St. Charles North and their first state soccer title since 1988. With a penalty-kick shootout looming, Hunter Drendel dropped off a pass to Szalach, who drilled the game-winner from 15 yards out. Naperville North finished the season ranked 24-1-2, fourth in the nation in the ESPN Powerade Fab 50 national rankings.
June. 8-9, 2012: EAST PEORIA -- ???Glenbard South is making its fourth trip to the state softball semifinals in five years but isn't satisfied with just being in East Peoria. The Raiders are there to win it all. Should they do it, it would be Glenbard South's first state championship and only the second DuPage County school to do so in softball -- joining Downers Grove South from 1993.
Congratulations once again to all of the athletes on an outstanding season. Best of luck to all you seniors on your future endeavors. And to all you underclassmen, let's do it again in a few months.