Combine some altruism, an expansive high school campus and lacrosse -- lots of lacrosse -- and you have Marmion's seventh annual Cadet Challenge Lacrosse Tournament.
Eleven high school programs supplying 18 teams spanning freshman-sophomore, junior varsity and varsity levels converge on the Aurora school's Fichtel Field and four other fields for a round-robin tourney between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday.
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"It's an amazing day, all the kids have a wonderful time. They're playing all day long. Despite the fact that it's a long day, it's a lot of fun for everyone involved," said Linda Wheeler, the event co-chairperson along with her husband, Ray.
This is the Wheelers' third year involved. They're grooming another couple, John and Diann Witte, who have a Marmion sophomore named Michael in the program, to take over next year.
The tournament is open to B-level lacrosse programs. Marmion is contributing varsity, JV and frosh-soph teams. Geneva and Batavia are participating as are West Chicago, Naperville Central, Bartlett, IC Catholic Prep, Minooka, Notre Dame, Belvidere and a club out of Orland Park, the Chiefs.
A component of the event has Marmion's lacrosse program joining Reebie Storage and Moving Company to benefit the Salvation Army's Move for Hunger effort. In 2013 Marmion lacrosse directed more than 2,260 pounds of nonperishable food items its way.
Throughout the day T-shirt sales, concessions and a silent auction will take place. Along with trophies awarded to the winning squads at each of the three levels, first-place finishers will also receive "dog tags," an ode to Marmion's military history that's been a hit with the players.
"It's really a neat thing," Linda Wheeler said. "The kids are coming for fun, and also coming to do a good thing for the community."
Speaking of contact sports
On April 22 the Illinois High School Association announced the results of a March 18 Special Legislative session concerning a summer football rule.
Bylaw 3.157 addresses summer football activities and padding. The bottom line of the bylaw modification, passed 170-87 by member schools, was the elimination of full pads during summer.
Till April 22 players could wear helmets the first two days of summer camp and add shoulder pads the third and fourth days. From the fifth day through the rest of the 25-day summer contact period full pads were OK.
Revised bylaw 3.153 allows helmets only those first two days and just helmets and shoulder pads day three and beyond. If there's a seven-day break between practices it reverts to helmets alone the next two days. Essentially, this eliminates live play during the summer. Helmet-only 7-on-7 competitions are unaffected.
This development, somewhat expected by coaches, is a corollary to the "acclimatization" procedures which debuted last year concerning the number and duration of preseason practices. The policy's title indicates a weather-related component but the risk of injury also is part of the rationale.
Through email we asked several area coaches what they thought about this bylaw change. The unanimous response: It wouldn't much affect their current practices. Opposition mainly centered on a "big brother" perception that coaches need guidance in running their operation.
Batavia coach Dennis Piron said his school's representative voted no "on principle, not because of restrictions."
"I do feel that we (Batavia coaches) have always taken the kids' health and well-being into consideration in all the planning and prep we do," wrote Piron, who noted that proper technique -- another IHSA emphasis -- starts as early as the first grade through Batavia Youth Football.
Piron said he has no live tackling in summer sessions; Geneva coach Rob Wicinski said the Vikings don't use full pads in the summer. Both veteran coaches took umbrage with the allusion they don't know how to safely administer things -- Wicinski more critically.
"Extremely irritating to have (the) IHSA in my business. Feels like big government," Wicinski wrote.
" ... As a coach, the safety and welfare of your players is No. 1 ... Any coach not taking care of his players and the layers that this includes will not be around very long," he responded.
In the April 22 release IHSA executive director Marty Hickman noted the majority of those with whom leadership spoke felt this revision wouldn't make that much difference. He touched on the positive aspect of an "even playing field regarding football activities in the summer."
West Aurora coach Nate Eimer ran two sessions in full pads last summer; Aurora Central Catholic coach Brian Casey had his varsity players in full pads five of 23 days last year, starting slow and building up to a 15-minute live scrimmage at the end of summer camp.
"In the two years we've done it we've never had anyone get hurt, and we hardly had people go to the ground," Casey said over the phone. "It affects us in the sense that, yes, we have worn pads before, but outside of that it's no big deal."
Eimer said West Aurora held concussion training last year, and both Piron and St. Charles North coach Rob Pomazak noted their programs undergo annual reviews of proper tackling technique.
Pomazak added St. Charles North also voted "no" to the bylaw revision, but sounded positive toward the implications.
"I believe this will benefit the teaching of tackling," he wrote in an email. "It will force coaches to spend more time on the cognitive and non-padded progression to tackling."
Alternately, in regard to his program Wicinski wrote: "Teaching tackling will not be affected."
In 2013, the first year of the acclimatization policy, coaches scrambled to install their playbooks and condition their athletes in a reduced amount of time which dramatically reduced if not eliminated "doubles." In response the IHSA has given programs more space by starting the season two days earlier. After the IHSA took on the preseason, coaches knew it was a matter of time before the summer contact period was addressed.
"With everything going on in the world of football we knew this was coming," Eimer said. "We will all adapt and in the end we all learn how to coach our kids. The high school game has always been the safest level to play and will continue to be that way."
Piron had another handy suggestion regarding adolescent health.
"Want to make 'kids' safer," he wrote in his email, "no driving till 21."
All in a month's work
Some girls need to make the hard decision whether to play soccer or run track in the spring.
Not Geneva sophomore Foster Ignoffo.
A member of the Eclipse Select Under-16 Elite National League team, she helped her team go 3-0 at a National League confab in Del Mar, Calif., from April 12-14. She scored twice, including a rebound game-winner against a side from Massachusetts.
On April 26 Ignoffo was back on track at the Sue Pariseau Invite at Glenbard West. She opened by running a leg of the Vikings' fourth-place 400-meter relay, followed with a leg of a fourth-place 800 relay and ended her day in the last event, helping Geneva take third place in the 1,600 relay.
Aurora Christian senior Johnathan Harrell hadn't run an open 400-meter race in a year. Still recuperating from a serious freak knee injury that occurred the week of the 2012 boys state track meet, his slim time on the track his junior year was limited to running relays.
On May 3, at the 38th annual Mooseheart Relays, Harrell returned to his bread and butter. He won the 400 with a time of 49.25 seconds, timed with a stopwatch.
The rule of thumb is to add .24 seconds to a manual time to approximate the preferred fully-automated timing measurement, achieved by camera and computer technology. Round up Harrell's time to 49.30, add .24 seconds, and his adjusted manual time would be 49.54.
So, in his first 400 race in a year, according to the Dyestat website that's the fastest time at the Eagles' competition level, Class A, and would rank 14th among all three classes.
Incidentally, the next day at the Daily Herald's Prep Sports Excellence Awards at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, the charming Harrell earned an "Overcoming Obstacles" award. The name of that award doesn't do Harrell justice. One day after a car accident resulted in the death of a brother who had come to see him play basketball at the Plano Holiday Tournament, Harrell was back on the court to honor his brother the best way he knew how.
It's not typical fodder for this space, but a unique opportunity arrives May 15-17. An NCAA Division I men's golf regional, hosted by Northern Illinois University, will be held at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove. Rich Harvest also hosted a regional in 2007.
This 14-team regional features four colleges ranked among the top 25: No. 4 California, No. 8 Illinois, No. 18 Alabama Birmingham and No. 21 Southern California.
Admission is free, and volunteer opportunities may still remain.