Antas an athletic director on the rise
Colleen Antas is a woman for our time and a role model for the future.
A 2007 Wheaton North graduate and soccer player, Antas is the first female athletic director in Community High School District 218, which represents Eisenhower, Richards and Shepard high schools and Delta and Summit learning centers.
Antas accepted the Eisenhower position last spring and started at the Blue Island high school July 30.
"It's a very male-dominated position, the athletic director position, so I think to be the first female it's exciting, first and foremost," she said. "I hope to inspire other female athletes and teachers, coaches and administrators that want to get into the athletic director position -- or any other male-dominated position, quite honestly, whether it's the athletic director position or not."
A former teacher, girls soccer coach and athletic director at Schurz High School in Chicago before departing to pursue a second master's degree while also teaching at Wheaton North's Day Academy for at-risk students, for years Antas has worn as many hats as a baseball team.
At Wheaton North she was just getting warmed up. Soccer star for the Falcons and Chicago Fire Juniors, adapted physical education teacher's assistant, senior class president, Key Club member, Spanish and Math honors student.
At Northwestern she graduated Magna Cum Laude in the double major of human development and psychological services, and Spanish. Antas earned two Big Ten Distinguished Scholar awards and won a Big Ten sportsmanship award her senior year. Meanwhile, she was a peer mentor for Northwestern athletes and coached Special Olympics track and swimming.
Professionally she favored administration over teaching, then narrowed her focus further.
"When I thought about it, I had been a coach, I'd been a player for 20 years, and athletics has made me who I am today, it's been a huge part of my life," said Antas, a Chicago resident who's also executive director of the Urban School Foundation.
"I've always felt that sports is one of the best vehicles for character development. The life skills that you can learn through athletics whether it's teamwork, commitment, time management, learning how to deal with setbacks, learning to deal with success, it's a great learning vehicle to develop so many skills. And for athletes, it's a great motivator to succeeding in the class room as well."
As a society we're still learning about setbacks and successes. Women such as Antas, Downers Grove North athletic director Denise Kavanaugh and retired Neuqua Valley athletic director Barb Barrows help light the path toward equity.
"This is exciting and I'm happy that this is happening," Antas said, "but I think it's also something that should be happening at high schools across the country. I'm hoping this becomes commonplace."
Going deep for Short
On location at Willowbrook High School to film this week's DuPage County football preview video, the Warriors may have been amused by the sight of one reporter interviewing another.
Few sources, however, are as qualified to comment on the late Denny Short as Daily Herald sports writer Kevin Schmit. He followed Short, sometimes literally, from 2000 through the 2018 baseball seasons with Waubonsie Valley and Neuqua Valley.
Short passed away Aug. 27 after decades coaching at East Aurora, Aurora University, Waubonsie and Neuqua. In 2014 he was inducted into the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
"A super-nice guy," Schmit said. "Honestly, when he was at either Waubonsie or at Neuqua he'd be the first guy I'd go talk to because I just liked talking to him about stuff."
Tales of Short being a magnet for hot foul smashes while in the first base coach's box will fly along with baseballs at Neuqua Valley on Saturday at the inaugural Denny Short Derby, a long ball-hitting contest with registration starting at 9 a.m. Individual cost is $20 with proceeds split between the Denny Short Scholarship Fund, a cash prize to the winning team and Neuqua's baseball program. Wildcats coach James Thornton is your contact, at email@example.com.
"I always like to refer to Denny as 'Dinosaur School' because he was somehow beyond old school," Schmit said.
"He was a guy who just loved the old ways of doing things because they were good, you know? I think that's one of the reasons he was so beloved by so many players because I don't think they'd really been exposed to someone like that, who could be that historian or a guy who could maybe show them a different way of doing things. I think that crustiness was endearing."
Former players may still hear Short yelling "Eyes down the barrel" as they take their cuts Saturday.
"Just a really, genuinely, enjoyable man," Schmit said. "He will be missed because it's a presence that you just don't forget."
Former Falcons flock
In 1972 Wheaton North's football team, under legendary coach Jim Rexilius, went 8-0. The next season the Falcons went 9-0 in the first year of a nine-game schedule, a season before the first football state series.
This year is as good a time as any to hold a reunion dinner of players who contributed to Wheaton North's longest winning streak.
"Guys haven't seen each other in 45 years and we've lost some guys, and looking forward to the next 45 years the math doesn't look very good, so we want to get together and spread some love," said Doug Classen, an all-Tri-County Conference defensive back in 1972 who is running the event with Falcons teammate, all-conference linebacker Carson Atwater.
The Class of 1973 went undefeated as freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. The Class of '74 capped their high school years outscoring foes 369-49 with 5 shutouts. Their closest halftime score was 21-0 over West Chicago, which won a state title the next season.
"It's too bad they didn't have state playoffs back then," Classen said.
They can commiserate over that at 5 p.m. Friday at Wheaton Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2164 on Papworth Street off Geneva Road, near Wheaton North.
Between the 50 players Classen and Atwater have tracked down, their spouses and significant others, players from other classes such as Randy Pfund from the Class of '69, Falcons graduate and the famed coach's son, J.R. Rexilius, a few of the era's cheerleaders and possible spillover from a concurrent Wheaton North all-class reunion who may not even have played football, the VFW better have lots of fish to fry.
"I guess the more the merrier, but it's going to be a crowd, it's going to be huge," Classen said.
And another chance to relive the "Big Fight of Ridgewood," in which people spilled from the stands fists flailing after Wheaton North's 20-12 victory in 1972.
"If you said, 'C'mon guys, get your helmets, we're going to play Ridgewood one more time,' we'd all suit up and get out there," Classen said. "It'd be one more fiasco."
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