The Daily Herald's Prep Sports Excellence event Sunday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates provided a platform to recognize some amazing achievements from the finest high school athletes and coaches.
Winners were selected across four categories as top achievers.
Prep Excellence Heart & Soul Award
For a male and female athlete who have inspired through their actions (presented by Marquardt Buick of Barrington, GMC).
Noreen Caporusso, Prospect High golfer
Noreen Caporusso returned quickly from a knee surgery just in time to help the Prospect girls golf team win a state championship in dramatic fashion and helped the Knights win their second state championship in the last three years.
Mike Kolzow, Naperville Central football player
Mike Kolzow, a junior who excelled on Naperville Central's state championship football team, made his biggest play after the season was over. On a subzero February morning, he helped an elderly neighbor who'd become disoriented warm up in his car; Kolzow quite possibly saved a life through his quick thinking.
Prep Excellence Overcoming Obstacle Award
An honor reserved for an athlete of each gender who overcame an unusual challenge to succeed (presented by Alexian Brothers Health Network).
Caitlin Inamoto, Barrington softball player
Caitlin Inamoto is a softball player who excels as an outfielder. She has the full use of only her left arm, and she puts it to amazingly good use, using the same method of fielding used by former big-league Jim Abbott. Inamoto catches the ball in her mitt with the left hand, nimbly extracts the ball and quickly throws the ball in with that same left hand.
Johnathan Harrell, Aurora Christian basketball player
Johnathan Harrell excelled at basketball at Aurora Christian, and his involvement in sport ended up helping him through a family tragedy. Johnathan's older brother was killed in a head-on collision on the way home from attending one of Johnathan's Christmas tournament games in Plano. Less than 24 hours later, and with the support of his mom, Johnathan was back on the court playing the game he loved, as all the fans at Plano cheered his courage.
Prep Dazzling Moment Award
An award devoted to the top individual moment of the school year for each gender (presented by Woodfield Mall).
IC Catholic Prep and St. Francis girls volleyball teams, coaches
St. Francis girls volleyball coach Peg Kopec and the Spartans have made a habit of winning state championships, and this year they had company at Redbird Arena as IC Catholic Prep also won under longtime coach Jean Field. In a sport where change is a constant, Kopec and Field have steadily been leaders and winners. Kopec led St. Francis to a 10th state championship in a dominant performance, and the weekend downstate provided a fitting finale for Field, who capped an amazing 39-year career by announcing her retirement from coaching after the season.
Jalen Brunson, Stevenson basketball player
Jalen Brunson, a junior guard drawing the attention of the nation's top college programs, produced his best performance of the year in the Class 4A state semifinals against powerful Whitney Young. Though the Patriots fell short in a close game, Brunson produced the top scoring performance ever in the 106-year history of the state tournament finals setting, finishing with 56 points at Carver Arena in Peoria.
Prep Spirit of Sportsmanship Award
Recognizing a team or individual from each gender which demonstrated exemplary conduct (presented by Aquafina Flavorsplash).
Elise Titiner and Metea Valley softball team
Elise Titener and the Metea Valley softball team represent the best of seeing beyond one's self. Though not directly affected by pediatric cancer, Titener and her teammates were inspired by the plight of children and their battles, and they decided to do something about it. The result was a highly successful fund-raising effort as Metea Valley and rival Waubonsie Valley united in an effort to Strike Out Cancer.
Westminster Christian football team
Westminster Christian only started playing varsity football this fall, and the first win was proving elusive for the program. That didn't stop the team from being able to see the bigger picture, as they rallied around quarterback Max Tucker, whose father Jim was fighting cancer. In Week 8 of the football season, the team supported its QB with 'Win for Jim' eye-black -- and they happily chanted that same slogan after Westminster Christian picked up its first victory against Christian Liberty.