The plan, in part, was to stop and smell the native prairie grasses of Decatur's Red Trail Run Golf Course. The Rosary golf team did that in last weekend's Class A state finals without finding the tall stuff too often.
The Beads' 10th-place finish in the program's first state appearance as a team surpassed first-year head coach Joe Hughes' expectations.
"Honestly, it's a pretty big achievement," he said. "I knew the girls were talented, I knew the girls were good, but I'm not sure this was our goal."
The goal, or goals, were simple -- avoid big numbers, savor the moment, and when the going got tough, focus on the next shot and forget the last.
"I wanted them to be able to enjoy and appreciate the gravity of the situation, how big a stage they were on," Hughes said.
Rosary pared 9 strokes off its score from Friday to Saturday to vault into 10th place. Senior Victoria Phipps, who placed 50th individually in 2012, shot her two best rounds of the season to tie for 22nd, with a 50-foot birdie putt on Saturday.
Senior Annika Strolle and junior Jenna Streich also shot their best rounds while senior Emily Bakala improved 11 strokes Friday to Saturday. Senior Nina Doyle and sophomore Morgan Martinez rounded out the group.
A former six-year assistant at Rosary, Hughes looks to add continuity to a program that during his tenure hasn't retained a head coach longer than two years.
"Absolutely," he said. "We've got the program started and are getting nice things done. We've got some good underclassmen coming up. I'm looking forward to the future."
The littlest philanthropists
Charity can start at home and it can start young. Ally Michaels and sisters Lauryn and Camryn Streid, of the Academy Bullets Swim Club, started their "Real Swimmers Wear Pink" fundraiser clinics in 2010 before they were even teens. Even now Camryn is only in eighth-grade.
Ally's mother, Joanna Michaels, said her daughter "wanted to make a difference, just wanted to do something. Camryn and Lauryn, many years ago, they actually lost their grandmother to breast cancer so to them it was a much more personal thing."
It became more personal to Ally when her grandmother was diagnosed with and treated for Stage One breast cancer after the first "Real Swimmers" clinic.
After the girls approached Academy Bullets head coach Todd Capen to clear their charity clinic idea, the girls have since raised more than $20,000 toward the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Their goal this year is $11,000. Ally's a freshman at Benet, Lauryn's a sophomore at Rosary whose coach, Bill Schalz, is also involved in the clinics.
Given the choice of charity, naturally the clinics will focus on the breast stroke. They will be held in two sessions on Oct. 29 at the Vaughan Athletic Center in Aurora as well as at Bartlett High School, where another Bullets chapter trains, and at locations in Riverside, Romeoville and Springfield.
A future goal is to involve teams across the state, perhaps in conjunction with Illinois Swimming. Currently the fundraiser is open only to Bullets members. Still, there are donation options if interested.
Along with raffles for mini-golf, pizza, laser tag and more, a popular one offers Bullets swimmers the chance to splat their coaches in the face with a pie.
"The kids love it," said Joanna Michaels. As if they wouldn't.
To learn more about BCRF and "Real Swimmers," visit fundraiseforBCRF.org/realswimmerswearpink_acad
The Simoncelli Sneak
By halftime of last Friday's football game at Batavia the hosts led St. Charles East 40-0. About the only remaining drama was whether Daniela would say yes.
In a heartwarming and amusing bit of halftime entertainment, the stadium announcer summoned three women to the field to claim their prize from what -- unbeknownst to one of them -- was a fake raffle drawing.
The Batavia cheerleaders concluded their performance then walked behind unsuspecting "raffle winner" Daniela Morgante carrying a banner that read, "Daniela, will you marry me?"
Back onto the field strode the football team led by guest star Frankie Simoncelli, who delivered the official proposal. After Morgante's initial shock a passionate hug indicated her approval, whereupon Frankie's younger brother, Batavia senior defensive tackle Dino Simoncelli, produced a sign stating, "Congrats from the best man."
The happy couple will be wed one year from the date of the proposal, Oct. 18, 2014, at the Pennsylvania resort, Skytop Lodge, in the Pocono Mountains.
For executing the stunt in the 90 seconds they had, Frankie and Dino's mother, Cheryl, credited all involved from Batavia athletic director Dave Andrews and Bulldogs coach Dennis Piron to the cheerleaders and female accomplices Kellie Knox and Wendy McKenna.
In an email, Cheryl Simoncelli wrote that when her son met his fiancee three years ago she knew nothing about football. That's changed.
"She has attended every Bulldog game since they started dating and loves the Bulldog atmosphere," Cheryl noted. "It is truly a unique place to be."
Catching up with ... Jenny Mizikar
It was a landmark year for Batavia senior tennis player Jenny Mizikar. The right-handed brunette broke Hannah Potter's program record for total victories, now at 127. After a second-place sectional finish, she and doubles partner Amelia Cogan became Batavia's first girls doubles team to qualify for state three straight years. (Thursday they kicked off their quarterfinal draw at Rolling Meadows, part of a five-girl Bulldogs contingent.) Playing tennis since she was 9, Mizikar entered state 32-5 overall this fall and 28-2 in doubles with Cogan, who finished in the top 32 in state as juniors. The duo won the Upstate Eight Conference River Division the last two seasons, and Mizikar teamed with Kaitlin Mills to win it in 2011. Thus, Mizikar also owns the program doubles wins record, with 117. Her brother, Alek, was a Bulldog tennis player before moving on to Grand Valley State. Lighthearted Jenny also is a two-year secretary for Batavia High's Key Club; her highlight of that is the Mr. BHS pageant, which she said last year raised more than $9,000 toward research on spastic paralysis.
Q: Doubles, doubles, doubles. Why not singles?
A: I love doubles. Going into my freshman year I wanted to play singles because I didn't really know a lot of people on the team, so I went, 'I'll go for singles.' But then I hurt my back and coach (Brad Nelson) said, 'How about doubles, because you don't serve as much?' Ever since then I've loved doubles. If you are feeling down they can cheer you up and help you out. I also love how strategic it is. There's a lot of thinking before the point and during the point.
Q: What's your partner Amelia like?
A: She's awesome. She's definitely a go-getter, so I enjoy having her as a partner. We both have the drive to do well and do our best. It's definitely awesome having a partner who wants it just as bad as you do. Like during a match, we may get upset with each other but we've never put each other down or gotten made at each other on the court. We have to share the court, so we have to work with each other. It's nice to have someone who works well with you.
Q: What's the nuttiest thing you've done with her off the court?
A: Every summer we go down to Hilton Head (with a tennis group). There's this teen dance club that we got ourselves into and we just felt like dancing, so we got ourselves into it. It was weird, so we quickly left.
Q: If you could request a birthday dinner, what would it be?
A: My grandma's spaghetti and meatballs.
Q: What's your college situation like?
A: I'm talking to a few coaches now -- at Wisconsin-Whitewater, Adrian in Michigan, and Southern Indiana. Those are kind of my top three. I've visited Wisconsin-Whitewater and Adrian and liked both of them.
Q: What's it mean to you to have a record at Batavia?
A: It means a lot. I put in a lot of work during the season and the off-season. It definitely makes me feel better that it pays off in other ways. It just makes me feel good that people that I don't really know say, 'Oh, you're good at tennis.'
Q: How close were you to predicting the time when you would surpass Hannah Potter's mark?
A: It was pretty close. The day before the first match of the season I wasn't really feeling well, I was sick. (Mizikar missed five days of tennis with mononucleosis before classes started.) I went to the doctor and he said I could be out four to six weeks. At that point I was really afraid, like that was half my season, I didn't want that to come true. A few days later I was back to being me. I only missed my first match. Ever since then I've felt fine.
Q: Entering your third state finals, are you more comfortable?
A: Yeah. It's still always a little nerve-wracking, but I feel like more nerves kick in to get to state but once you do get to state you kind of do the best you can and whatever happens, happens. Especially with more of my teammates going down there this year. It's not that I don't take it seriously, because I do, but it's fun to say you made it to state with your teammates. It's a team-effort sort of thing.
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