Another opportunity to remember the legendary Joe Newton
The legend of Joe Newton advances even after his passing.
Already immortalized in myriad halls, on Thursday in New York City the late York boys cross country and track coach will be among the inaugural inductees of the National High School Track and Field Hall of Fame, a creation of the National Scholastics Athletics Foundation.
Newton, whose death on Dec. 9, 2017, was followed 27 days later by the passing of his wife, Joan, is among 30 selections, 26 of them athletes. Joe Newton will go in as a "contributor," one of only two coaches honored. Athletes include luminaries Jesse Owens, Jim Ryun, Steve Prefontaine, Mary Decker, Michael Carter, Alan Webb and Allyson Felix.
Newton's son, Thomas, will accept the award at Thursday's gala at the New York Athletic Club. The Newton contingent will include Thomas' sister, Cindy Carbaugh, and brother, John.
"One of his greatest fears, when he and I would have conversations about things, was his fear of being forgotten. He never wanted to be forgotten," Thomas Newton said.
That seems inconceivable for a man whose innumerable accomplishments over six decades as York coach included 28 Illinois cross country titles plus the 2000 Class AA track title in his final year as coach.
"I think this award at this time certainly lends itself to him not being forgotten," Thomas Newton said. "I think it speaks to him and to the man that he was and his dedication to the sport."
Thomas asked event organizers if he could wear a black tuxedo as his father did when presenting his team with a state trophy.
"'Absolutely,'" they said, Thomas noting the organizers' familiarity with his father's tradition.
Along with the tux and Dukes-inspired Kelly green bow tie and vest, Thomas Newton will wear a ring engraved with his father's fingerprint.
"It's just a constant reminder to me that he's there and looking down and saying, 'How sweet it is,'" Newton said.
Blessed with a 19-year-old son, Matt, born with autism, opportunities for special-needs athletes is a topic that directly affects Bob Reczek.
Opportunities have become more plentiful through Special Olympics, Unified sports (athletes with partners) and regional associations. Still, someone needs to officiate those levels. That's where Reczek, an IHSA basketball official, is uniquely qualified to lead.
"There's nothing more special to me than promoting this effort. This means everything to me," said Reczek, whose 40th year refereeing basketball ended Feb. 7 with the Benet girls' 65-62 win at Marist to earn the East Suburban Catholic Conference title.
Reczek, a former sports writer who works with the Lincolnway Special Recreation Association, and Jerry Blum -- each enshrined in the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame as officials -- have worked to increase volunteerism for officials to work basketball games for special-needs players.
Energized after serving as basketball referees at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, last year Reczek and Blum met with the IHSA and the Athletic Officials Association to present plans to get more officials involved statewide. To aid the cause they recruited like-minded people like Nate Henry, director of state championships for Special Olympics Illinois; and Special Olympics ambassador Nick Lorenz.
Blum and Reczek succeeded by gaining an option to volunteer included in the rules video Illinois officials must view annually. Sixteen percent, or 767, of 4,728 officials indicated they would be interested in volunteering.
"For a first-time initiative I couldn't be prouder," said Reczek, who quickly added that he's certainly not satisfied.
Reczek said 10 volunteer officials will work the IHSA's Unified championships held in conjunction with the Class 3A and 4A boys finals in Peoria March 16-17. He has "close to 100" volunteers for the Special Olympics finals March 16-18 in Normal and Bloomington.
It's a cost-effective effort that also won't exhaust the help: "People won't get stuck working six games in one day," Reczek said.
Reczek plans to work with the IHSA to expand volunteerism throughout all sports, with a long-term goal of making Illinois a national leader so "we can become one nation with volunteerism," he said.
He estimated that 90 percent of officials who volunteer for special-needs athletics will do it again. He's personally felt the benefit.
"When's the last time that the losing team or coach comes up to you and gives you a handshake or a hug?" Reczek wondered rhetorically. "I think all of us are here on this earth for the purpose of making a difference. I can't think of a greater purpose than to help somebody else out."
In on the ground floor
The potential, said Neuqua Valley graduate Andrew "A.J." Housholder, is there. Until this season, though, Augustana men's intercollegiate volleyball wasn't.
The startup Vikings, who play in the Midwest Collegiate Volleyball League, entered Wednesday with an overall record of 6-12 and a roster of 11 freshman, one senior and junior setter Anthony Acitelli of Willowbrook High. Brett Kliegl, a libero from Neuqua, is among the frosh.
"We just wanted to make a statement as a first-year team, to be a team not to look past," said outside hitter Justin Murphy, a freshman out of Glenbard East. "We've had a lot of ups and downs, but it's been a success for the most part."
Coach Mark Lau, a 1995 Maine West graduate who was an All-America club player at Augustana, met his wife there -- the former Tracey Machala, a 1995 Lake Park grad -- and raised their four children in Glendale Heights, Naperville and Carol Stream before he got into college coaching.
Lau sent the Vikings right into the fire, three top-10 foes in their first 10 matches. The biggie was a five-game win over No. 7 Benedictine in which Housholder and Murphy started a Game 3 rally from a 16-9 deficit, down two games to none.
"Definitely that was a game we could look back on as a time that we performed really well," said Housholder, who like Murphy has played in all 18 matches. Housholder was considered for this week's MCVL offensive player of the week, Lau said.
"Having completed our spring break we are hitting our stride and playing our best volleyball of the season nearly every day we are in the gym," Lau said. "We continue to define and redefine ourselves as a team and the players are starting to grasp how good we can be."
Murphy said a main challenge on this new squad is time management, a common denominator for freshman student-athletes. For team-building purposes it helps that all the freshmen players live in the same dormitory.
The Vikings set an ambitious goal of reaching the MCVL Tournament in their first season. Seven of their last nine opponents are conference foes. Anything can happen.
"We're starting to click more as a team, and the bond on and off the floor gets stronger day by day," Murphy said.
Benet senior Claire Byrne, an all-East Suburban Catholic Conference outside hitter on the Redwings' girls volleyball team, received "highest honorable mention" on the 2017 PrepVolleyball.com High School Volleyball Academic All-American list. Voted Benet's "hardest worker" by her teammates, the Illinois State Scholar carries a 3.9 grade-point average and is headed to rigorous Washington University in St. Louis.
Thought we were done with field hockey? Not so fast!
Nine Glenbard West Hilltoppers were named to the National Field Hockey Coaches Association High School National Academic Squad: Claire Bletsas, Amber Bode, Tessa Erickson, MaryBeth Feeley, Lauren Galitz, Caroline Morawski, Ellie Ostroff, Kailey Schmidt and Kaitlyn Schultz.
Erickson, Feeley, Galitz and Schmidt each were designated Scholars of Distinction for carrying at least an unweighted, cumulative 3.9 grade-point average on a 4-point scale through the first quarter of 2017-18.
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