A cross country photo finish 20 years in the making

Sometimes you’ve got to wonder about the grand design of things ...

Back in the early 1990s, young professionals Mike Gschwendtner and Dave Borger worked together as air traffic controllers at San Francisco International Airport.

Borger trained Gschwendtner in the job, in fact. They became workplace pals until Mike and Anita Gschwendtner (the “G” is silent) moved to back to Illinois in 1995. It wasn’t Pontiac, where they both attended high school, but Lisle was a good place to raise a family.

Five years later, Dave and Trish Borger moved their young family to St. Charles. Dave Borger got hired as a controller at O’Hare International Airport. Lo and behold, Mike Gschwendtner was already there doing the same thing. This time Gschwendtner eagerly volunteered to train his old buddy.

The two men rekindled their fast friendship at work. At home Mike and Anita raised their children, Ellie, Kerry and Tracey. Dave and Trish brought up Emily and the twins, Nick and Michael. Things went along fine.

Until one day in November 2003. Despite no personal or family history of heart trouble, while playing hockey at Seven Bridges in Woodridge the seemingly fit Mike Gschwendtner died of a heart attack at age 39. Later it was found his arteries had been severely clogged, and plaque had broken loose and entered the heart. It happened on Dave Borger’s 42nd birthday.

“He was a strong guy, he seemed real healthy,” Borger said. “It took a while to get over that. I still miss him and work misses him because he was a real good controller at O’Hare. He was the best of the best.”

Zip forward nine years, to the Class 3A St. Charles East cross country sectional last Saturday. The field at Leroy Oakes included Naperville North and sophomore Kerry Gschwendtner, and St. Charles North with senior Nick Borger. Dave Borger knew the boys would both be competing; he’d actually followed Kerry’s times and noted they were similar to Nick’s.

“I kind of prepped my son a little bit,” Dave Borger said. He told how close he’d been with Mike Gschwendtner and even told Nick to keep an eye out for Kerry. But in a field of 160 runners and with only a vague description, good luck.

The day of the event, Anita found the Borgers.

“Trish and I were laughing at how funny it would be if they were running together,” Anita Gschwendtner said. When she looked out upon the course that didn’t seem to be the case.

“The next thing I know,” she said, “is they’re coming to the finish and Dave’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re neck and neck.’”

Helping their respective teams advance to the 3A finals, 0.5 seconds separated Nick and Kerry, who finished in 23rd and 24th place, respectively.

“Kind of eerie,” Anita called it.

“Wow, that was amazing,” Dave Borger said.

Finally meeting each other, Kerry commented he’ll see Nick again in Peoria.

This coincidence suggests they may not be alone.

“Part of me,” Anita Gschwendtner said, “wondered if Mike was up there watching.”

Downstate Destiny

Wheaton Academy’s boys soccer team on Tuesday advanced to the Class 2A semifinals. Grant Stoneman’s 28th goal off a corner kick by Gareth Flynn beat Lake View 1-0 in the program’s first supersectional victory.

The Flynns have a history of excelling under pressure. Gareth’s older brother, David, was a three-time all-state golfer for the Warriors. In 2008 he won the 2A title and is now golfing at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas along with former teammate Blake Biddle, a two-time all-stater.


Neuqua Valley’s varsity football team, 10-0 for the first time in history and a No. 1 playoff seed, looks to advance to the IHSA Class 8A quarterfinals with a win at Bolingbrook on Friday.

Neuqua already has one state championship football team in house.

In flag football the Wildcats defeated Lake Forest 14-12 Saturday at the Walter Payton Center in Lake Forest to capture the championship of the 19th annual Chicago Bears Intermural High School Flag Football Tournament.

“It was really cool, it was awesome,” said receiver Matt Wollnik, part of Neuqua’s 2011 squad that lost to Waubonsie Valley in the second round of the five-round playoffs. Neuqua has won the 32-team, single-elimination tournament five times in eight years, back to back in 2009-10. Waubonsie won the 2000 and 2001 championships, said Patrick McCaskey, senior director of special projects for the Chicago Bears.

“Last year we were thinking we had such a good team that we could have won it,” Wollnik said. “This year coming back my senior year to win it, it feels really good.”

The Wildcats defeated Geneva, Waubonsie, 2011 champ Joliet Catholic and 2011 runner-up Oak Park to win the West region.

In the semifinals held at the Payton Center-Halas Hall, Neuqua beat North Town Academy out of Chicago, 22-0.

In the title game Neuqua rallied from a 12-0 Lake Forest lead in the fourth quarter, keyed by a Brad Mikulecky interception to change momentum, Wollnik said.

Wildcats quarterback Darien Miskel scored on a run, then threw a touchdown pass to Mike Riesner. Miskel’s 2-point conversion pass to Brennan Pawelski was the game-winner, earning the team tickets to the Bears’ Nov. 25 game against the Minnesota Vikings and invitation to be recognized on the Soldier Field turf at halftime.

The day also included lunch and a tour of Halas Hall, and the Bears got kudos for hosting a top-notch production all-around. A nifty thing is every active flag player wears a T-shirt displaying the number of a Bear such as Walter Payton or Brian Piccolo whose number has been retired, McCaskey said,

Along with the players mentioned above, Neuqua’s flaggers included Cody Coll, Sam Trevino, Eric McClellan, Trevor Davis, Trevor Komarynsky, A.J. Iskalis, Dylan Goss, Cal Rafferty, Ian Welsh, Pat Kenny and Kurt Warkenthien. All but Riesner are seniors.

“The game on Saturday, everyone contributed,” Wollnik said. “We had good defense. Our defense was carrying us through our whole championship game.”

May the mojo continue Friday.

Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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