North Shore preps: Short sports year is long on successes
That March 13 boys basketball Class 4A Elk Grove sectional final between No. 1 seed Loyola and No. 3 Evanston certainly felt tenuous.
People were wary even during semifinals on Tuesday, March 10, when 30-4 Loyola beat Niles North, and Glenbrook South's landmark 29-5 season ended against Evanston.
There came an idea -- limit attendance to 60 people from each team, the Illinois High School Association announced at 8:04 a.m., March 12.
By 6:51 p.m., the other shoe dropped. Due to COVID-19, the IHSA announced the season was over.
The rest is history.
An assessment of 2020 high school sports highlights is incomplete. Like a driver new to manual transmission, sports and seasons have started, sputtered, lurched forward, rolled back.
Dom Martinelli, Glenbrook South's all-time boys basketball scoring leader, had to be content with consecutive regional titles for the first time in Titans program history. Loyola forward Bennett Kwiecinski and Chicago Catholic League Tony Lawless Award-winning coach Tom Livatino had a case of the "what-ifs."
At Glenbrook North, 25-year head coach Dave Weber walked off the basketball court for the last time -- to date -- after a regional semifinal loss to Evanston. He was the longest-tenured coach ever at Glenbrook North, said Spartans athletic director John Catalano.
"Along the way Dave is, and was, a very professional, conscientious person. He was very thorough in all his work, everything he did around the basketball program," Catalano said.
"He never lost his enthusiasm for his coaching or his enthusiasm for competition, or his practices. It was just great to see someone who gave a lot to the community, gave a lot to the school, and then reaped a lot of the benefits, a lot of the rewards."
They included the 20005 Class AA state championship.
The girls played a full season. Fremd's Class 4A title run included a Conant supersectional win over 30-4 Maine West and Angela Dugalic, the five-star Oregon recruit who averaged a double-double and earned both Ms. Basketball and 2020 Illinois Gatorade state player of the year. She's currently averaging 4.4 points and 4.9 rebounds at Oregon.
Loyola and Maine South won girls basketball regionals, too.
Then a sophomore, Glenbrook South's Will Collins went 20-2 on the wrestling mat at 145 pounds. His championship-season run included Central Suburban League, Prospect regional and Barrington sectional titles, setting him up for a trip to Illinois' State Farm Center. Collins finished tied for eighth in Class 3A.
In 2020 boys swimming, runner-up Loyola and third-place Glenbrook South were hot on champion St. Charles North's heels.
Glenbrook South junior Max Iida won two events, the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 breaststroke. He also swam on a second-place 400 freestyle relay, in days of yore when meets held actual relays.
Loyola Maurer-ed the competition. Senior Luke Maurer won the 200 freestyle and finished second in the 100 free -- with New Trier senior Pearce Bailey in fifth.
Maurer's brother, freshman Rex Maurer, placed fifth in the 200 free and followed senior Everet Andrew, a teammate, in the 500 freestyle. The Maurers bookended Loyola's victorious 400 freestyle relay with Andrew and Andrew Kelly in between.
Glenbrook North's competitive cheer squad advanced to February's state competition out of the Niles West sectional with the seventh-best coed team score. The Spartans finished 20th in the state coed standings.
"Once a team that struggled to be competitive," Catalano said, "now is in the mix for a trip to state each year."
In girls gymnastics Glenbrook South won its own regional. Junior Sheena Graham earned the all-around title and won vault and parallel bars. She went on to capture the all-around title at the Mundelein sectional, finishing second on bars and beam.
New Trier won the Lake Forest regional, where senior Maeve Murdock won the all-around title with victories on floor exercise, bars and balance beam, second in vault.
At state, where New Trier placed fifth, Glenbrook South's Graham tied for sixth all-around, placing third on beam, seventh on bars and ninth on vault. On Nov. 30, she committed to the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse.
Fall sports athletes, denied state championships due to an abbreviated schedule, repeatedly said they were just happy to have an opportunity to compete. They made the most of it.
Regina Dominican tennis player Laura Strenk won the singles championship at the Class 1A Vernon Hills sectional.
Both Glenbrook South and New Trier won 2A sectionals on their home courts. Junior Jenna Horne and senior Elle Stewart took first place in doubles at Glenbrook South while New Trier freshman Madison Liu won singles and seniors Macy Zaban and Emma Bhote took the doubles title.
At Glenbrook South, Maine West freshman Lilliam Dockal won the singles title over Glenbrook North freshman Rina Matsunaga.
Pool records fell at the Glenbrook South girls swimming sectional, courtesy of champion New Trier junior Kaelyn Gridley in the 100 breast stroke and senior Greta Pelzek in the 200 individual medley, the 100 butterfly and the 100 back stroke. Trevians junior Sydney Holder won the diving competition. Glenbrook North junior Nya Robinson placed top-three in three events.
In girls golf the Perakis sisters of Glenbrook South, senior Maria and sophomore Effie, placed second and third at the Class 2A New Trier regional, won by the host and medalist Audrey Tir. Tir repeated the next week at the Rolling Meadows sectional, which brought a tie for second between Glenbrook North's Claire Choi and New Trier's Amy Beanblossom.
In boys golf, senior Kevin O'Regan and sophomore Jason Gordon paced Glenbrook North's conference-regional-sectional sweep, its first since 2013. Gordon medaled at the Conant sectional and the Notre Dame-bound O'Regan did it at the Conant regional. At sectional O'Regan cinched the title, by a stroke over New Trier, with a 2-putt from 80 feet away on the last hole.
In the final IHSA sports of 2020, cross country sectionals on Halloween, New Trier junior Nick Falk and senior Charlie Siebert finished 3-4 at Class 3A Hoffman Estates. A week earlier Falk placed second in the Trevians' win at the Loyola regional. Elsewhere, Maine South senior Matt Coyle finished eighth at the tough 3A Lyons Township sectional.
Glenbrook South junior Brian Hiltebrand finished 3rd at the 3A Hoffman Estates regional, right ahead of Maine West seniors Jesus Vallego and Adam Gorcyca.
Like her team, Loyola freshman Morgan Mackie was runner up at the girls Class 3A Hoffman Estates sectional; at Loyola's own regional, Mackie's third-place finish helped the Ramblers win the team title.
At the girls 3A Hoffman Estates regional, Glenbrook South junior Molly Durow and sophomore Maggie Jortberg finished fifth and sixth, respectively. At the Hoffman Estates sectional, Durow and Central Suburban League South winner Natalie Sandlow, a senior, placed in the top 24.
Those were the days.
"Since everything is very up in the air we just want to get back in the gym and see one another," said Glenbrook South's Sheena Graham, now a senior. "I think that'll be the first step. Then we can compete again."