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updated: 10/10/2012 7:04 PM

St. Francis hoping to build 'athletic jewel for the community'

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When it's all said and done, St. Francis' new football stadium will be anything but spartan.

The 55-year-old college prep school is beginning a campaign that will spend upward of $4 million on updating and adding to the facility, said St. Francis president Tom Bednar.

"Our goal is to have the permitting approved here by January and the fundraising completed by May and construction beginning in May so we can open in August," Bednar said.

The centerpiece will be a new synthetic-turf football field and six-lane, 400-meter track, built upon a vastly improved drainage system to accommodate what essentially is a floodplain. The school is weighing options from FieldTurf and AstroTurf. The track would be of a rounder, Olympic-style oval so as not to encroach into the Belleau Woods Forest Preserve bordering on the west.

New home and visitors bleachers and an improved press box are part of the plan. So is a two-story building that would house locker rooms for officials, soccer and lacrosse players, storage and concessions; a second story would be dedicated to wrestling and dance team use.

Like track athletes who run anywhere they can including the school parking lot, Bednar said the wrestling and dance teams have used any available space from St. Francis' old Slant Dome to Hubble Middle School to the school atrium.

St. Francis has hired a local engineering firm to study wetlands and water flow issues and process the required permitting with the City of Wheaton and the DuPage County Stormwater Management Division.

Once all the hoops are jumped through and funds procured, Bednar foresees "an athletic jewel for the community."

"(For fans) it'll be a great venue for sitting down and watching their children. For students here at St. Francis, to come back as an alumni, it'll be a great draw," Bednar said.

"The idea is we're looking to have a great venue for teams to compete in and fans to enjoy in the great St. Francis atmosphere that has been part of the tradition since the late-'50s when we opened."

A new beginning

The story broke Friday but wasn't official till Tuesday when Lake Park athletic director Pete Schauer sent out an email announcing Lake Park was filling the DuPage Valley Conference spot vacated by West Chicago's move to the Metro Suburban. Effective next school year, the Lancers' move quenched a thirst that's existed since before West Aurora replaced departing Glenbard South in 1997.

Lake Park has been in the Upstate Eight Conference since 1979. While stressing his "utmost respect" for the conference, Schauer's email stated the closer proximity to the Roselle high school will help foster greater rivalries, as would playing each DVC school every year in every sport. Lake Park athletes also share feeder programs with students from other DVC schools, notably nearby Glenbard North.

Schauer also welcomed greater conference participation in lower-level athletics and varsity sports such as gymnastics; Lake Park offers a boys gymnastics squad, but Schauer noted it's the sole Upstate Eight school to do so.

On the cusp

North Central College women's volleyball coach Karen Bunkenburg is on the cusp of the program record for career victories.

Sitting at 264 wins, the 12th-year coach is 3 from surpassing Marcy Thurwachter's 266 lifetime wins from 1985-97. Bunkenburg directed the best record in Cardinals history, 35-5 in 2009, and has the top career winning percentage at .627.

North Central (18-5) hosts the Tiffany Robinson Memorial Tournament this Friday and Saturday, bringing in Rockford College, Aurora College, Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Wisconsin-Platteville. Should the Cardinals win their first two tourney matches against Rockford and Oshkosh, the noon Saturday contest against Aurora could be the record-setter for Bunkenburg, who is married to Benedictine University men's basketball coach Keith Bunkenburg.

Among the Cardinals' key members are a pair of liberos, sophomore Jessie Fiala of Naperville North and junior Sarah Eggert of Downers Grove North.

Welcome to the club

Wheaton Academy on Saturday inducted four graduates into its Alumni Hall of Honor at halftime of the Warriors' 12-7 football victory over St. Edward.

Julius "Julie" Fliehler, Class of 1949, was a starter on the Wheaton Academy offensive and defensive lines, a varsity letterman all four years. Also a baseball catcher in high school, he went on to gather four letters at Wheaton College, earning Little All-America status his senior year.

Dick Holt, Class of '52, earned 12 varsity letters. He played tennis, ran track, lettered all three years on the baseball team, was an all-Private School League selection in basketball and gained three more letters in football. Like Fliehler, Holt earned All-America honors as a Wheaton College lineman.

Mary Novak Sand, Class of '56, didn't compete for Wheaton Academy but earned international honors in speedskating. From 1951-60 she won 13 national indoor and outdoor championships and became the first United States skater to win national outdoor championships in every age group, midget through senior. She won five North American titles, set records in seven events, won more than 400 medals and was named first alternate to the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team. She was named to the Speed Skating Hall of Fame in 1972.

Dave Sullivan, Wheaton Academy Class of 1961, was both strong enough to play tackle in football, athletic enough to be named a preseason Sport All-America center on the basketball team and fast enough to lead the Warriors to a PSL track title. Sullivan won the PSL 440-yard dash three straight years and the 100 and 220 both twice. He played all three sports at Taylor University.

Settling in nicely

Right about now Darren Howard would really get rolling -- basketball season.

For 12 years Howard coached the Immaculate Conception boys basketball team and for the last 10 served as the school's athletic director.

That era ended last spring when he was told his contract would not be renewed, despite earning an Illinois Athletic Directors Association AD of the Year award three years prior.

A new era dawned June 11 when Howard was approved as Oswego's athletic director. He's been "doing very well" in his new job.

"I think it's a really good fit for both them and for me," said Howard, a 47-year-old Bloomingdale husband and father of five.

One thing IC's winningest boys basketball coach misses is coaching basketball. But he said both Oswego boys coach Kevin Schnable and girls coach Chad Pohlmann have invited him to help in practice, and Howard is working with Naperville North athletic director Jim Konrad on the annual Hoops for Healing boys Thanksgiving tournament. It's a strong field -- Benet, Metea Valley, Naperville Central, Naperville North, Oswego, Oswego East, Andrew and newcomer Proviso East.

Howard finds the main difference to be volume. More paperwork. More athletes, teams, coaches, programs, a more elaborate football production. More administration.

Less laundry, though. Howard misses the IC folks, but with a maintenance department at Oswego he doesn't miss doing laundry.

"I haven't painted a football field or swept a floor or cleaned a uniform," he said.

doberhelman@dailyherald.com

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