DuKane Conference getting itself organized for next year

 
 
Updated 5/30/2018 8:03 PM
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  • The next time Wheaton North and Batavia play a football game, it will be as part of the new DuKane Conference.

      The next time Wheaton North and Batavia play a football game, it will be as part of the new DuKane Conference. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Like it or not, in a manner of speaking the DuKane Conference is underway.

On April 23 principals, athletic directors and head coaches from Batavia, Geneva, Glenbard North, Lake Park, St. Charles East, St. Charles North, Wheaton North and Wheaton Warrenville South met at Batavia.

"It just kind of set the tone for next year," said Wheaton North athletic director Matt Fisher, DuKane treasurer and the new conference's resource director for football.

"The whole goal and purpose of the meeting was to get all of the head coaches together as a large group but also as individual groups (by sport), basically just a meet-and-greet, get-to-know-you, and then also to go over the basics of the conference," said Batavia athletic director Dave Andrews.

Andrews is president of the DuKane Conference athletic directors. Batavia principal JoAnne Smith is president of the conference Board of Control in this initial planning year. In 2018-19, the first year of competition, Geneva's Dave Carli and Tom Rogers will hold those respective positions, which will be rotated annually in alphabetical order by school.

Aside from rubbing elbows the main task was to determine how different levels of sports would be configured.

"You're blending multiple operating procedures together," Andrews said. "... It wasn't cut and dried. In some sports the school is better off building a program with a freshman-sophomore level. But that's not the case in every school."

The decision was made, he said, to take each sport individually. As an example, Andrews noted softball will work on varsity, junior varsity 1 and JV 2 levels, whereas in the DuPage Valley Conference it was run with varsity, JV and freshman levels.

"I just think everybody, including the coaches, they're excited for a new league but even more so they're excited for the consistent opportunities that all of their athletes are going to have," Andrews said.

Fisher said a preseason meeting will be held Aug. 8 at Batavia for athletic directors and head and assistant coaches of all fall sports.

A merry go-round

A baby's birth is a joyous occasion -- and it launched a chain of events in the Lake Park boys and girls track programs.

Lake Park boys track coach Jay Ivory and his partner, Beth Hanses, had a baby girl, Nova Sky, on Jan. 31. Since Hanses is an assistant girls and boys track coach at Ridgewood, the couple figured they couldn't burden their parents with baby-sitting duties from January through May.

Compromising, they decided Hanses would stick with her Ridgewood teams and Ivory, who also coaches Lancers girls cross country, would remain in that spot while relinquishing the boys track team he'd led to consecutive Class 3A titles from 2010-13.

Going back to the boys side as head coach will be Tom Kaberna, whose work as Ivory's assistant in horizontal jumps was a big part of those championships. Kaberna coached Lake Park's girls team the last three years.

Succeeding Kaberna on the girls side will be 2005 Naperville Central and 2009 North Central College graduate Jeff Helberg. Helberg is wrapping up the school year as a social studies teacher at Wauconda, where he coached boys and girls cross country and assisted in boys track.

His father, retired Wheaton Warrenville South boys track coach Ken Helberg, was beaming at the May 19 Glenbard North boys sectional, where he served as an official.

Jeff Helberg is the grandson of Ron Helberg, retired coach of Palatine, Maine East and Evanston. Ron and Ken -- Uncle Don, too, at Wheaton North -- are members of the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

A hurdler and jumper in his day, among other accomplishments Jeff Helberg coached five of Wauconda's fastest girls cross country runners in its history, led the 2017 boys team to its third sectional ever, and coached boys track state qualifiers in long jump, the 300-meter hurdles and the 400 dash.

"Lake Park is very proud to be the school where the third generation of Helberg track and field head coaches is getting his start," said Lake Park athletic director Pete Schauer. "He will do a great job for us."

Wildcats on the Wildfire

Neither Dylan Power nor Jeremy Burril were storied athletes at Neuqua Valley. As members of the Chicago Wildfire, a six-year member of the American Ultimate Disc League that plays its home games at North Central College, they've solidified their niche.

Burril, a 2014 graduate, played football and baseball until concussion issues nixed him from the former and he got cut from the latter his junior year at Neuqua, leaving him with no competitive outlet.

Power, Neuqua Class of 2016, admitted that whatever prep sport he tried, he just wasn't very good.

While in high school both found relief in the sport formerly known as Ultimate Frisbee.

"I came out to a couple practices and fell in love with it," said Burril, who went on to captain Illinois State's club team from his sophomore through senior years.

Power started playing the sport in seventh grade. He immediately felt embraced by the NV Ultimate Frisbee Club, one of the country's biggest and best. Starting out on the junior varsity or "B" team that competes in the Chicago High School Ultimate League, as a sophomore Power moved onto the "A" team, which competes in, and wins, national tournaments. He captained that unit his junior and senior years.

"It's different in the Frisbee community, it kind of welcomes anyone and everyone," he said. "That's something you don't really find in other sports."

He and Burril have found that to also be the case with the professional Wildfire squad, whose 35-man roster includes players from 14 states plus coach Adrian King out of Portland, Oregon. The team includes Lake Park graduate Alex Rummelhart.

"I'm loving it," said Burril, who has had no concussion problems since playing Ultimate. "It is a completely different experience than I've had with any other team. The game is so much more fast-paced than any other game."

The Wildfire takes a 2-4 record into Saturday's road game against the Detroit Mechanix. After playing the Madison (Wisconsin) Rascals June 9 in Rockford it returns to Naperville's Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium for a rematch with Detroit at 1 p.m. June 17.

The Neuqua graduates are among the Wildfire's younger players trying to make headway toward regular playing time, but Burril said a "huge crowd" of friends and family came to the last home game May 19.

"A lot of people don't realize how exciting it is until they come out and actually watch," he said.

doberhelman@dailyherald.com

Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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