Taking their talent national
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They don't call it cross country for nothing.
Eight days after finishing in first and fourth place, respectively, at the Class 3A girls cross country state finals in Peoria, on Nov. 12 Glenbard West sophomore Katelynne Hart and Naperville North senior Sarah Schmitt ran at the Nike Cross Nationals (NXN) regional in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Hart won that race and Schmitt finished fifth, each advancing to the national meet Saturday at Glendover Golf Course in Portland, Oregon.
The NXN features individual and team standings. Schmitt will be joined by Huskies teammates Alex Morris, Hannah Ricci, Claire Hill, Megan Driscoll, Audrey Mendrys and Maggie Gamboa in the hunt for the national title.
Downers Grove North's Jacob Ridderhoff, Nick Chudzik, Miles Christensen, Ryan Birkmeier, Sam McCool, Brendan Lockerby and Jack Roberts will challenge for the NXN boys team title. That group, and the Naperville North girls, won IHSA Class 3A team championships.
Following the NXN regionals came a brief respite before the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships Midwest Regional, last Saturday at University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha.
There, Hart placed second and Schmitt fourth, which qualified each to the Foot Locker National Finals at Balboa Park in San Diego, on Dec. 9.
Naperville North coach Dan Iverson will attend both races, but even for Glenbard West's husband-and-wife coaching duo Paul and Kelly Hass making back-to-back treks is hard to pull off.
Paul coaches cross country, and Kelly coaches Hilltoppers girls track. Not officially his cross country assistant she nonetheless attends every meet. This year they'll have to settle for a trip to Portland and watch the San Diego race from home.
"Unquestionably," Paul Haas noted, "we will be cheering for Katelynne as we watch the race through the live broadcast online."
Bowling for underdogs
The second annual Red Grange Bowl, between two of the top nonscholarship National Junior College Athletic Association football teams, will kick off 1 p.m. Saturday at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn. Tickets are $10 and all ticket proceeds go to Ronald McDonald House Charities.
The Chaparrals (6-3) will host 7-4 Mesabi Range College out of Eveleth, Minnesota. The Daily Herald DuPage County Red Grange All-Area Football Captain will be honored at halftime. The winner will be announced in Friday's Daily Herald.
College of DuPage coach Matt Foster pushed to create the bowl game as a forum for athletes like Grange himself.
"I love the underdogs," said Foster, who gladly extols the many virtues of the "Wheaton Ice Man," who worked through high school and college while a multisport athlete.
"It's old school," Foster said. "They're not getting anything and they're working their butts off to create an opportunity to get a scholarship, and most of these kids do."
While attracting homegrown products such as Andy Livingston, Matt Rahn, Trevor Cipriano and Joe Furco as assistants, Foster has made a concerted effort to draw Illinois players. Of the 64 athletes on his Grange Bowl roster 41 are in-state players such as Glenbard East's Tom Flood, Wheaton Warrenville South's Christian Harris, Naperville North's Matt Malan, Wheaton North's Tony Williams and Westmont's Quintin Brown.
The tie continues with Western Michigan University coach Tim Lester, a star quarterback at Wheaton Central, who will share keynote speaker duties with retired Brig. Gen. Brian Layer at a $25-a-plate banquet Thursday at the Hilton in Lisle.
In the football ranks Foster repeatedly refers to himself as "small potatoes," but that is absolutely false. His heart is as big as one of those old pigskins Grange used to play with.
"We're just trying to do a real nice thing for these students, and they deserve it," he said.
Behind 18 points from Amari Benbow and 11 from Julie Kaspari, on Tuesday Fenton's girls basketball team beat Illiana Christian 57-44 in the Bison's Metro Suburban Conference Blue Division opener.
Executing the Grinnell system, that made Fenton 1-0 in conference play and snapped a 36-game losing streak in the Metro Suburban Blue.
Glenbard North graduate Justin Jackson, the Northwestern running back who earned his fourth all-Big Ten honor Wednesday with a consensus second-team selection, is among five college athletes who will speak at the Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, a two-day event Dec. 6-7 at the Crowne Plaza Times Square in Manhattan, New York City.
Jackson will speak Dec. 6 on a panel addressing "The Student Athlete Perspective on the State of Intercollegiate Athletics."
It'll be a busy week for the Wildcats running back and senior economics major.
Jackson is among 13 finalists for the National Football Foundation's William V. Campbell Trophy, in which the NFF "recognizes an individual as the absolute best football scholar-athlete in the nation."
"I'm definitely looking forward to it, and it's a huge honor," Jackson said Tuesday.
Already in line for an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship, he'll find out if he wins the 28th Campbell Trophy and sees that scholarship bumped to $25,000 at the NFF's 60th Annual Awards Dinner, Dec. 5 at the New York Hilton Midtown. Held concurrently with College Football Hall of Fame inductions, the event will be streamed on ESPN3.
Bound for New York next Monday, Jackson never contemplated this sort of thing while at Glenbard North.
"I can't even imagine thinking about something like this with all the stuff you focus on day to day," he said. "For me it was just working hard, staying focused. Sometimes you get lucky that something like this comes your way, and it's just a consequence of all that work."
He humbly estimated his grade-point average was "good enough," around a 3.3 or 3.4. This season Jackson ran for 1,154 yards to join only Wisconsin's Ron Dayne to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in all four seasons. Jackson's career total of 5,283 yards rushing ranks third in Big Ten history and 11th in NCAA history.
He said he'd make the decision "100 times over" to attend No. 20 Northwestern (9-3), whose bowl opponent will be revealed Sunday.
"I'm very blessed and very proud of this university and very thankful for what it's done for me," said Jackson, the sixth leading all-time rusher in Illinois high school history and No. 2 in a season with 3,171 yards for Glenbard North in 2013.
"I'm really thankful to everyone who's helped me get to this point," he said.