Glenbard East scores an IHSA first with varsity TD by a girl

Like other Glenbard East football parents, Colleen Lane was milling around in the tent behind the north end zone last Friday when there occurred something relatively ordinary yet totally unique.

The Rams completed a pass deep in East Aurora territory that was fumbled. The football bounced off an East Aurora player and was recovered in the end zone by another Ram for a Glenbard East touchdown.

That will happen. The player who scored is what made it special.

“When I heard the referee yell, ‘Let go of her!' I'm like, ‘I know that her. That's my kid,'” Lane said.


Yes. Her.

Senior Rebecca Deluca-Lane recovered that fumble in the end zone to record a touchdown. According to an unofficial state media survey conducted by Illinois High School Association assistant executive director Matt Troha, who also asked around the IHSA offices in Bloomington, it's the first known touchdown scored by a female varsity high school football player in Illinois.

Girls have started on the offensive line, they've played receiver and on the defensive line. There have been plenty of female kickers, including Olivia Vatch, who became the first girl to score in a state championship football game when she converted 2 extra points in Immaculate Conception's 36-17 victory over Casey-Westfield in the 2008 Class 2A title game.

But Deluca-Lane apparently is the first prep girl to register a touchdown in Illinois. She had to battle two East Aurora players in a wrestling match to retain possession of the ball and the achievement.

“I was holding onto the ball for dear life,” said Deluca-Lane, a 5-foot-5, 140-pound senior receiver in her second year on the team.

“The ref was saying, ‘Get off her, get off her,'” she said. “And then I said, ‘Is this a touchdown or no?' And he said, ‘Yes, it's a touchdown.' And then everybody screamed.”

Deluca-Lane celebrated by jumping up and down, and later with a convenience-store raspberry “Slurpee.”

She said Rams coach John Walters gave her a high-five and a pat on the shoulder. Asked this week about the touchdown, Walters said it was “pretty cool” but didn't go on about it. Scoring touchdowns is what football players do.

“I hate to say this,” Walters said, “but she's one of the guys. She's a part of the team. I don't even think about her being a girl. She does everything everybody else does.”

Deluca-Lane admitted it hasn't always been easy as a female football player. It's sometimes hard to fit in.

Her motives to play were simple, and pure. She went out as a junior to honor her twin brother, Jeremy Lane, also a Glenbard East senior. As a sophomore he tore a labrum in his right throwing shoulder playing baseball. Cleared to return to athletics after surgery, he decided to save his wing for the U.S. Army Infantry, which he'll join upon graduation.

As Colleen Lane said, Rebecca “took over.”

“To keep it in the family,” Rebecca said. “I never tried football before — I never tried a lot of things — but I figured, why not try out, maybe I'd like it. And I tried out and I love it.”

She said she'd often prayed to score a touchdown for the Rams, for whom she's been mainly a junior varsity player. The landmark touchdown didn't come exactly as she'd hoped, via pass reception, but the prayers have been answered.

“It was shocking to me, and also a joy to have people say, ‘Nice job,'” she said.

“I'm very proud of her,” Colleen Lane said. “Her self-esteem has gone through the roof. She used to be very introverted and shy, and this experience really gives a person great confidence.”

Rarefied air

On Wednesday North Central College announced that pole vault coach Tim Winder will be inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame on Oct. 24.

This is a no-brainer. A former assistant at Naperville Central, Winder has coached 14 individual national champions, 73 Division III All-Americans and 53 College Conference of Illinois-Wisconsin champions.

In a North Central career spanning 22 years, Winder's first national champion was Downers Grove South graduate Megan Rossi in 2007. His most recent is his own son, Luke, who won both indoor and outdoor Division III titles last season. Tim Winder's other sons, Jake and Josh, won three and two national titles, respectively.

Hanging up the shingle

A pair of new businesses catering to local athletes has either opened or is in the works.

Next Level Wrestling, on the border of Naperville and Plainfield off 111th Street, opened in August. It's got 7,000 square feet devoted to wrestling with strength training equipment and “lots of mat space,” said Kevin Swier, director of marketing and a partner in the business.

“This is exclusively for high schoolers looking for some additional training to get themselves to the next level,” he said.

Director of wrestling training is Ryan Prater, a three-time all-state wrestler at Plainfield Central and the 2007 Class AA champion at 135 pounds his senior year. He also won a Division III national title at Elmhurst College.

Currently, Neuqua Valley freshmen Koshal Shah and Drew Massie are among the 30-35 young wrestlers training at Next Level, Swier said.

“We pride ourselves on building a competitive environment because we know that's what it takes to succeed,” he said.

Near the same area, at 248th Street and Wolf's Crossing in Aurora, is the site of a building and colorfully known as “The Diamond Mine,” named after the Naperville Diamonds Softball Association. The finishing touches are being applied to what will be a year-round indoor facility targeted for an early October opening, said Diamonds communications director Bill Kugelberg.

“If you want to be recognized as a top-tier organization, a higher-end organization, that indoor space is important,” he said.

The site will offer 12,000 square feet, including 10,000 square feet of unobstructed space housing a full artificial turf softball infield and partial outfield, two 55-foot-long tunnels for pitching and batting practice, changing rooms for the girls and other amenities.

“We've been looking for a facility for probably two years and the challenge was there were always stanchions, always poles in the middle of it that we'd have to work around,” Kugelberg said.

The Diamond Mine — which eventually will be renamed — will serve more than 325 girls who play for the Diamonds' 28 teams from 8-year-olds to college exposure teams. In the future the Diamond brain trust may rent out the facility to other softball organizations.

Current Diamonds players include Neuqua Valley's Molly Price, Waubonsie Valley's Calley Gautschi and Stephanie Wilczynski and Naperville North's Bailey Engle and Rachel Aiardo.

Graduates include former Naperville North player Sammy Marshall, Western Illinois University's all-time hits and runs leader who, as the Chicago Bandits' 2015 first-round draft pick, helped the club to the National Pro Fastpitch title.

“You can't get much better than her,” Kugelberg said.

Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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