The best local high school sports moments of 2023
Sometimes the size and scope of the Daily Herald coverage area overwhelms me.
Because the Daily Herald spans so many suburban counties and communities, it can be tough to wrap your head around a coverage area of 80 high schools. And when it comes to prep sports, well, let’s just say we’re accustomed to hoisting trophies.
So let’s tip our caps to the success by presenting the top 10 prep sports moments of 2023. We typically save these lists for the end of the school year but, heck, I’m sure we’ll unveil another list then as well.
First, a disclaimer. It would take the entire sports section to name every champion of 2023, so we’ve limited the list to 10. We know there are many more deserving teams and athletes.
Take pity on me ... this wasn’t easy.
Feb. 17, Palatine
Teamwork makes the dream work.
The Downers Grove co-op girls gymnastics team, made up of athletes from North and South high schools, comes together to win the program’s first state title.
The Trostangs claim no individual state titles, showing the depth throughout the team.
Feb. 24, Bloomington
St. Charles East’s wrestling team wins its first team title, edging Marmion behind A.J. Marino’s major decision in the final match of the Class 3A championship dual.
The Saints continue their season dominance on the heels of individual state titles from Jayden Colon, Ben Davino and Dom Munaretto.
Feb. 24, Westmont
Hinsdale Central wins its 19th (19th!!!) boys swimming and diving state title in dominating fashion, outdistancing second-place New Trier 253-134 in team points.
It’s not difficult to see why the Red Devils roll. They take first in the 200-yard freestyle relay, the 400 free relay and the 200 medley relay, all in state-record times.
The 253 points are the state’s most since the 307 in 1975 by, who else, Hinsdale Central.
May 12, Hoffman Estates
This is a sad one.
Lake Park wins its first boys gymnastics state title ... in the final year of IHSA competition for the sport. Hersey sophomore Nate Mabry wins the all-around title.
Forty teams compete throughout the state, which means the sport no longer meets the participation threshold to maintain IHSA backing.
Just this week, though, the member schools voted to eliminate the organization’s bylaws governing the sport, which will allow schools to continue scheduling gymnastics meets on their own.
May 18, Charleston
Have a field day, ladies.
Huntley’s girls track and field team wins the Class 3A state title with an amazing effort in the field events.
Ally Panzloff takes first in the discus while Alexandria Johnson wins the long jump and Dominique Johnson wins the triple jump (with Alexandria right behind her in second place).
June 2, Hoffman Estates
The Glenbard West boys volleyball dynasty rolls on.
The Hilltoppers win their second straight title and fifth in eight seasons with a victory over Lyons Twp. In the five championship runs, the program has lost a combined total of eight matches.
Nov. 11, Westmont
Becky Rentz, ladies and gentlemen.
The Rosary junior wins four state titles -- two individuals and two relays -- while helping her team top New Trier 243-204 in points.
It’s the program’s eighth state title, all of them since 2007.
Nov. 11, Normal
Another legendary program makes the list.
St. Francis girls volleyball -- for the 14th time -- wins the state title in one of the most exciting matches in tournament history. The Spartans rally to beat Lincoln 23-25, 25-23, 26-24 in the Class 3A championship match.
Nov. 25, Normal
No surprise here.
Cary-Grove’s football team stuns powerhouse East St. Louis with a 23-20 victory in the Class 6A final.
The Trojans take the lead for good with 1:19 left in the fourth quarter after an epic 19-play, 71-yard drive eats up nearly 11 minutes.
Dec. 20, Illinois
OK ... no championship, so I’m cheating a bit with this last one.
By an overwhelming margin, the state’s member schools vote to establish girls flag football as a sanctioned IHSA team sport.
Welcome to the club!