The 2023-24 Herald Cup: No. 5 Downers Grove North

Editor’s note: Now that the high school sports year is over, we devised a points system based on team state finishes to measure which of the 85 high schools from the Daily Herald circulation area had the best athletic year in 2023-24. Last week we announced the top five small schools. This week we’re unveiling the top large schools, one per day, starting with No. 5 on Monday through No. 1 on Friday.

Some teams surprised. Others lived up to expectations.

But they all got the job done at Downers Grove North.

From a runner-up finish in Class 7A football to a sectional title in baseball, this school year was one to remember for the Trojans.

The Trojans finished fifth in the 2023-24 Herald Cup standings for large schools with 89 points that were calculated by weighing team finishes throughout the fall, winter and spring.

How they did it

The football team’s second-place finish brought in a bunch of Herald Cup points for the Trojans. They entered the playoffs as the 13th seed and upset No. 4 Hersey, No. 12 Lincoln-Way West and No. 1 Normal Community before falling to Mt. Carmel in the 7A title game.

A second-place finish in girls cross country, a sectional title in boys basketball and top-10 finishes in girls gymnastics and boys track and field kept the good times rolling all school year.

Who made it happen

Three girls cross country runners finished in the top 14 at the Class 3A meet at Detweiller Park in Peoria, headed by sophomore Lily Eddington’s 10th-place individual finish.

The boys basketball team, after taking fourth in the state the year before, won a second straight sectional behind senior guard Jack Stanton, who is headed to play at Princeton.

Quarterback Owen Lansu, just a sophomore, already has a bunch of scholarship offers, including from Illinois and Northwestern. He threw for 2,061 yards and 25 touchdowns while leading his team to its first title-game appearance since 2005.

Another sophomore, Philip Cupial, won the 1600 meters and ran on the title-winning 3200-meter relay team at the Class 3A track and field meet in Charleston.

Key stats

The Trojans’ football team may have finished third in the West Suburban Silver, but a 31-7 victory over Glenbard West was an absolute highlight.

It marked the program’s first win over the Hilltoppers since 2006.

The boys track and field team’s victory in the 3200-meter relay was the program’s second state title in the event. It was also the Trojans’ 12th time as medalists in the event. Their first top-10 finish came in 1988.

Key fact

Downers Grove North Athletic Director Denise Kavanaugh retired at the end of the 2023-24 school year. She served as the school’s AD since 2005.

Kavanaugh spent 33 of her 35 years in education in Community District 99, including several years at Downers South. As girls volleyball coach, the Mustangs won seven trophies in the state tournament and three state titles.

David Rose was hired as the school’s new athletic director in February. He joins the program after being the AD at Woodstock North.

They said it

“I made it, and it was very painful — I knew it was going to be painful.” — Cupial after winning the state title in the 1600.

“We all had the belief in ourselves. We had something to prove.” — football player Noah Battle after the Trojans fell to Mt. Carmel in the Class 7A title football game.

“The last two years, wouldn’t want to play with anyone else. Best time of my life playing basketball.” — Stanton after a season-ending loss to Normal Community in the Class 4A Normal supersectional.

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