Plackett takes the plunge as Naperville Central athletic director

Over 22 seasons coaching the girls team at Naperville Central, Jeff Plackett has been one of the finest water polo coaches in the state.

A 2018 inductee into the Illinois Water Polo Hall of Fame, Plackett’s 543 victories rank fourth all-time, according to Illinois High School Association records. His teams reached the state finals tournament 11 times and earned six trophies.

Naperville Central’s four runner-up finishes included the 2016 and 2017 seasons in which the Redhawks lost the championship on 1-goal losses in overtime.

Should Naperville Central win a girls water polo title, Plackett may still jump in the pool with the trophy in celebration, for old time’s sake. Because it won’t be as coach.

Starting July 1, Plackett will be Naperville Central’s new athletic director, taking over for two-year AD Chris Kirkpatrick.

When news of the open position broke in March, Plackett had to jump into that pool.

“It’s just one of those things where you get that little voice in the back of your head saying, ‘If you’re ever going to try this, now is the time to do it.’ You get in the final third of your career and you don’t know if something like this is ever going to open up again.”

Plackett lives on Central turf but graduated in Naperville North’s Class of 1997. Starting in 2002 at Naperville Central, he taught English through the 2016-17 school year, then served as a counselor before becoming the department chair of counseling in 2023.

He’ll work with Kirkpatrick to transition into the athletic director role while hoping to remain on the pool deck this summer to work with athletes as he has for decades.

Plackett’s new position coincides with the arrival of incoming Naperville Central freshman Claire Plackett, the oldest of Jeff and Megan Plackett’s four children.

They’ve also got a rising seventh-grader, a fifth-grader and, well behind, “the biggest preschooler in the world,” Jeff Plackett said. Zeke Plackett already has Redhawks offensive line coach and counseling co-worker Tony Colletti giving him tips on technique.

“We’re at the start of 13, 14 years of our own kids being athletes at Naperville Central,” Plackett said.

“I’ve got an opportunity now to work with coaches whose commitment to student athletes I see every single day, the work that they do, day in and day out, to create a good experience for their kids, and that’s something I felt I wanted to be a bigger part of,” he said.

It’s a keeper

On May 22, Batavia resident Joy Richmond was going through boxes of keepsakes when she discovered a Sidelines column from the Dec. 14, 2012 Daily Herald.

The lead item highlighted Don Beebe’s improbable rise from Kaneland star to NFL receiver and the book he wrote about it.

But Richmond kept it because the column also included an entry about her daughter, Taylor, a 2005 West Aurora graduate then in her first season as physical education teacher and head coach of downstate Lincoln’s girls basketball team.

“This is my dream job,” said the then-25-year-old woman, now Taylor Rohrer.

She was concerned neither by the Railsplitters’ winless 2009-10 season nor by the 2-8 start to that 2012-13 season.

After an 8-53 start in her first two years, in the last three seasons Rohrer’s girls have gone 24-9, 36-1 and second in Class 3A, and 38-0 this season, the 3A champs.

Thanks to Joy Richmond for pointing out the joy of scrapbooks.

  Elmhurst York’s Cash Langley explodes out of the blocks in the 100-meter dash at the IHSA boys state track and field championships at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston on Saturday, May 25, 2024. John Starks/

Happy endings

As Daily Herald Associate Sports Editor Kevin Schmit pointed out in a May 15 column, “The drama and pageantry of the IHSA state (track and field) meets at Eastern Illinois University have no rival among the many spring sports.”

The boys finals May 23-25 provided another example, shared by 17 years’ worth of cicadas buzzing O’Brien Field.

Nothing is ever a sure thing in Charleston. Downers Grove North senior Vince Davero, seeded first in long jump and second in triple jump in Class 3A, suffered an apparent hamstring pull on his final preliminary attempt in long jump. He still earned fourth place and 6 points toward the Trojans’ eventual sixth-place finish.

Most leave the meet happy and excited about the future.

A little banged up, Glenbard West senior Luke Benson placed fourth in 3A triple jump. He relied on grit.

“It’s a good way to end the season,” said Benson, who will compete at Tufts. “I bruised my heel a little bit, but I gave it my all. I had to tough it out.”

Kaneland senior David Valkanov set the program’s 3,200-meter record, with junior Evan Nosek in the No. 2 spot. Both Nosek and Palatine sophomore Alex Krieg earned all-state honors from the “slower” Section 2 of the 3A 3,200, which is hard to do. Kaneland traditionally is 2A in track.

“It’s a struggle and everything, coming from 2A, but it doesn’t disappoint me. I’m really happy to be at this,” Nosek said. “The summer’s going to be a blast, I’ll say that.”

Prairie Ridge, though, dropped to Class 2A from 3A.

The Wolves’ 800-meter relay of Colin Witowski, Ben Stech, Jack Demakis and Eli Shoufer were ecstatic with their seventh-place finish. It was Prairie Ridge’s first all-state sprint relay.

“This is the first year of a new start,” Demakis said.

York senior sprinter Cash Langley brought positivity all season. He even humbly described his wind-aided No. 5 seed in the 3A 100-meter dash as “a bit generous.”

Langley proved it correct in Saturday’s finals, placing fifth at 10.70 seconds. Metea Valley senior Daniel Pere was eighth, the Mustangs’ first 100 medalist.

“I can’t find the words to express how excited I am. It’s definitely something that I’ve been dreaming about for years,” said Langley, who will run at Wisconsin-Whitewater.

“Just move on to the next chapter,” Langley said. “Going out, no complaints. It’s the best way I could have ended this, I’m so excited.”

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