Hillner staying close to soccer

  • Former Lake Park boys soccer coach Norm Hillner is now the Northwestern University men's soccer team director of operations.

      Former Lake Park boys soccer coach Norm Hillner is now the Northwestern University men's soccer team director of operations. Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

Updated 10/17/2012 11:36 PM

Some people aren't quite the retiring type.

On June 1 Norm Hillner retired from Lake Park after 32 years as an assistant dean and a teacher of several subjects over the years and 28 seasons as the Lancers' boys varsity soccer coach.


Three days later he was working Northwestern University's annual golf outing to support its men's soccer team, among the many facets of his new job as the soccer program's director of operations.

"It's fun, it's amazing," he said. "I get to stick around the game."

He's around it inside and out, said Hillner, a 2007 Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee whose 369 career wins at Lake Park ranks fifth in Illinois.

He describes his new position as "all-encompassing behind-the-scenes-type stuff."

Hillner assembles the pass list for home games, organizes data on recruits. He sets up alumni functions and summer camps. He shows opponents and officials -- some of whom he knows from his long high school career -- where their locker rooms are. He schedules travel plans. Hillner attends practices and games, on the road and at Northwestern's Lakeside Field in Evanston.

"That's the fun part, is being around the kids and seeing Division I venues," Hillner said.

He did help with a training camp in New Jersey but unfortunately missed Northwestern's visit to South Carolina over the Labor Day weekend. A 1979 graduate of Knox College, where he's a member of its athletic hall of fame for soccer and baseball, Hillner was back on campus at a speaking engagement.

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Another speaking engagement, not necessarily his own, helped land his role with Northwestern soccer. While IHSSCA president, Hillner met Wildcats coach Tim Lenahan at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America national convention where Lenahan was serving as a clinician. The contact was forged and later, when the position opened up, Hillner came in. Perfect timing.

The job is right in his wheelhouse, but maybe moreso for his wife, Kathy, a 1979 Northwestern grad who with Norm holds Wildcats season tickets for football and basketball. She's a speech pathologist in School District 54 in Schaumburg, committed to retiring herself in June 2014.

Once that happens the couple may re-evaluate their options for a true retirement together, one that lasts longer than three days.

"I don't mean to make this sound wrong," Norm said, "but not having to grade papers is smelling the roses enough."

Into the chute

Girls and boys cross country teams will fan out Saturday for regional competitions. Some may be encouraged by results of the seventh and final Illinois Cross Country Coaches Poll, headed by girls coaches Rob Harvey of Wheaton Warrenville South and Mark McCabe of Hinsdale Central.


As they have all season, coach Joe Newton's York Dukes enter regionals in the No. 1 position on the boys poll, followed by O'Fallon and Neuqua Valley. Surging Hinsdale Central, Wheaton North and Naperville North occupy slots 7-9 with Downers Grove North getting a few votes in the "Best of the Rest."

Dan Iverson's Naperville North Huskies were the runaway leader on the girls side of the Coaches Poll. Like York's boys, they got every first-place vote to outdistance No. 2 Glenbard West on a board laden with DuPage County talent.

Defending Class 3A champion New Trier follows in third, with leading 3A individual returnee Kaylee Flanagan and her Lake Park Lancers tied with Palatine in fourth. Downers Grove South, York, WW South, Naperville Central and Hinsdale Central are sprinkled from slots 6-15.

She's No. 1

Following up last week's item about North Central College women's volleyball, Cardinals coach Karen Bunkenburg indeed set a new program record for career victories.

Saturday at North Central's Tiffany Robinson Memorial Tournament, Bunkenburg notched win No. 267 in a three-set sweep over Aurora University. Helping Bunkenburg surpass the 266 wins of Marcy Thurwachter were Naperville North's Jessie Fiala with 3 service aces and Downers Grove North's Sarah Eggert with 16 digs.

Tune in

Comcast SportsNet will broadcast the football playoff pairings from 8-10 p.m. Saturday, announcing all 256 qualifiers spanning the eight classes.

The show, hosted by Downers Grove North alumnus Susannah Collins with Dave Bernhard and bracketologist Steve Soucie, will release all 16 first-round playoff games in each bracket interspersed with highlights and analysis, interviews with coaches, shots of schools' playoff parties and state championship picks.

Comcast SportsNet will also broadcast each of the state championship games. Classes 1A-4A will be aired from Champaign's Memorial Stadium on Nov. 23 and 5A-8A on Nov. 24, starting at 10 a.m. both days.


Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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