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updated: 8/31/2017 10:09 AM

Catching up on a summer's worth of news

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  • Morolake Akinosun competes at the 2017 Nike Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon.

    Morolake Akinosun competes at the 2017 Nike Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon.
    Photo courtesy USATF

  • Photo courtesy of the Village of Glendale HeightsBill DePue

    Photo courtesy of the Village of Glendale HeightsBill DePue

 
 

Summer went by fast, but not Morolake Akinosun-fast.

Running the third leg of the United States women's 400-meter relay at the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Championships earlier this month in London, Akinosun joined Lincoln-Way East graduate Aaliyah Brown, Allyson Felix and Tori Bowie to win in a world-leading 41.82 seconds.

"It felt good," said Akinosun, the 2012 Waubonsie Valley graduate's excitement dimmed by time and the businesslike demeanor of a world-class athlete.

The 23-year-old spoke Tuesday from Brussels, Belgium, where on Friday she'll run the 100 dash in the IAAF Diamond League Final, the last event on a 14-meet schedule whose eight finalists are determined by a point system. Akinosun joins a field including the USA's Tianna Bartoletta, Jamaica's Elaine Thompson and Christania Williams, Trinidad & Tobago's Michelle-Lee Ahye, the Ivory Coast's Marie-Josée Ta Lou and Nigeria's Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor, Olympians all.

Akinosun didn't say so, but the world title also seemed like a redemption.

At the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games she anchored the USA's semifinal 400 relay for teammates English Gardner, Bartoletta and Felix. Bowie replaced Akinosun in the final.

"I knew it was always possible that it would happen," Akinosun said of that time. "It was just a part of life."

The United States is "so stacked" with great female sprinters, as Akinosun said, she had no choice but to bounce back with the required attitude in London.

"I wouldn't say like, 'Oh well, we're going to win,' but every time you step on the track you really should have the confidence that you have the ability to win," she said.

The baton exchange can mean the difference between victory, defeat and even disqualification. In London the exchange between Felix and Akinosun was like butter; while not as smooth between Akinosun and Bowie they passed the stick.

"As soon as I got the baton in her hand I knew that we'd be fine," said Akinosun, who growing up adorned a bedroom wall with a poster of Felix.

The event reunited Akinosun and Brown. Teammates with the Aurora Flyers club track program, they had many showdowns in high school -- in 2011 Brown and Akinosun went 1-2 in the Illinois High School Association Class 3A 100-meter final, the places switching in 2012 -- and in college. Akinosun started at Illinois but transferred to Texas, where she bumped up against Texas A&M's Brown during the regular season and at NCAA meets.

"It was really cool," said Akinosun, whose older sister, Moriyike, is in her third year of medical school at the University of Chicago, with younger sister, Anjola, a junior in show choir at Waubonsie Valley.

"We've been running against each other for a very long time," Akinosun said of Brown, "so it was cool to run full circle and be on the same team again."

A mile in his shoes

Jeff and Alyssa Pawola devised the perfect way to celebrate Jeff's 30th birthday.

A 2005 Neuqua Valley graduate, he played soccer and ran track in high school, has qualified for the Boston Marathon and in 2015 did an Ironman triathlon in Madison, Wisconsin. Along with his job at McDonald's Corporation he works part-time for the Naperville Running Company.

For his golden birthday on June 30, in an event they dubbed "30 for 30 on the 30th," the couple -- mainly Alyssa, Jeff conceded -- organized 30 people who would each run a mile with Jeff on a 30-mile course throughout their neighborhood, downtown Naperville and the McDowell Forest Preserve with a few "rally spots" along the way.

"We wanted to combine the three things I enjoy the most -- running, friends and family," Jeff Pawola said.

Beginning at 8 a.m. at the house of his parents, Ken and Jackie ("because that's where it all began," Pawola said), Jeff ran a mile at the pace of an ever-changing lineup of loved ones outfitted with personalized running "bibs." Though his younger brother, Danny, lives in Philadelphia, they got him on the phone where Danny ostensibly joined Jeff for a long-distance mile.

"He did sound like he was huffing and puffing," Jeff Pawola said.

Alyssa ran with her husband for the last mile back home, where just under 4 hours, 45 minutes after he started the whole group convened for a party.

"It was a lot of fun," Jeff Pawola said. He added, "It was really tiring."

Congratulations

Bill DePue, lead recreation supervisor for the Glendale Heights Parks, Recreation and Facilities Department, on Aug. 8 was named the IHSA official of the year for boys basketball. In addition to reffing Glendale Heights leagues, DePue has done IHSA Class 3A and 4A boys finals, also officiates high school football and has officiated men's basketball at the NAIA, NJCAA and N4C levels.

In July Naperville Central graduate Emily Westlove was named a third-team National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association/Speedo 2016-17 All-America for water polo. A three-time all-stater and four-year starter for the Redhawks at center defense, Westlove took her skills to McKendree College in downstate Lebanon. Kent Emden, a junior goalie for the Redhawks boys team, was a fifth-team selection.

Caroline Dolehide, Hinsdale Central graduate, won a 2017 Dorothy Kohl Future Star Achievement Award in June. That goes to girls playing at the 14-, 16- or 18-year-old divisions at national, International Tennis Federation and/or professional levels to aid tournament or development expenses. Dolehide turned pro in September 2016 and has since won three singles events and two doubles events, with partner Kayla Day. Dolehide, who will turn 19 on Tuesday, is ranked No. 159 singles on the ITF rankings, a jump of nearly 200 spots since 2016. This year she's earned $46,350 in prize money, according to the Women's Tennis Association.

All-around great guy Dan McCarthy, the retired West Chicago business teacher and coach, followed women's basketball coach Samantha Quigley Smith to Lewis University from the University of St. Francis. For the past five seasons with Quigley Smith as head coach and McCarthy as assistant the St. Francis Fighting Saints went 101-62, including last year's mark of 34-2 that earned the No. 1 slot in the final NAIA Division II poll.

Another old pal, Brendan Mullins, out of Downers Grove South, has been hired as an assistant men's basketball coach at Illinois State. He went to the Redbirds after two seasons as an assistant at University of Chicago-Illinois. Mullins, whose younger brother, Bryan, is a Loyola men's assistant, has led a nomadic life typical of a college basketball assistant. Since his playing career at St. Michael's College in Vermont, Brendan Mullins has coached at Mercyhurst, Green Bay, Wright State, UIC and, now, Illinois State.

In more Redbirds news, graduated Illinois State middle-distance runner Paul Steeno, out of Wheaton North, was among four athletes to earn Missouri Valley Conference postgraduate scholarships. A two-time indoor all-MVC miler during his Redbirds career, Steeno carried a perfect 4.0 grade-point average in journalism and won the MVC's President's Council Academic Excellence Award last spring. He was admitted into DePaul's master's program in journalism.

We've written about her quite a bit over the years and why not? Erin Herrmann, out of Wheaton Warrenville South, runs long distances very fast. A couple weeks after winning the NCAA Division III steeplechase with the ninth fastest time in Division III history she recorded the fourth-fastest time, 10 minutes, 13.39 seconds, at the Music City Distance Classic in Nashville. Herrmann ended her career at Hope College by claiming the Michigan Collegiate Athletic Association's top honor for a female student-athlete, the Sheila Wallace Kovalship Scholar Award.

The Illinois High School Association named 12 individuals as 2017 Distinguished Service Award winners. They included Mark Kreiter, of Still Middle School in Aurora; Paul Schmidt, who did a lot of everything at Jefferson Middle School in Naperville; and Ross Truemper, an administrator at five high schools over a 35-year career. Each of the honorees was cited for their work with wrestling.

doberhelman@dailyherald.com

@doberhelman1

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