Morris leads the way for Naperville North

  • Naperville North's Alex Morris crosses the finish line during the girls Class 3A cross country finals in November at Detweiller Park in Peoria.

      Naperville North's Alex Morris crosses the finish line during the girls Class 3A cross country finals in November at Detweiller Park in Peoria. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer


Alex Morris' closest teammate pulled in a minute after she did. Her most distant teammate finished 174 positions behind her.

One of the great things about high school cross country, though, is this: While Morris finished seventh among 202 female runners at the Nike Cross Nationals (NXN) last Saturday in Portland, Oregon, the Naperville North senior said every girl in the Huskies program had made an impact.

"Even though seven of us get to race, at the end I feel all 80 girls just really work hard for it and are a huge part of it. And I feel that we wouldn't be the team we are without all 80 contributing to something really special," said Morris, back at it this Saturday at the Foot Locker Nationals in San Diego.

For sure, coach Dan Iverson's Huskies are special. A month after winning a third straight Class 3A championship, on the traditionally soggy course in Portland, Morris, Claire Hill, Megan Driscoll, Campbell Petersen, Lucy Westlake, Audrey Mendrys and Maggie Gamboa equaled last season's second-place NXN finish. Naperville North has run at NXN each of the last seven years and in 2005.

Morris' finish was one spot higher than those of former Naperville North stalwarts Judy Pendergast and Sarah Schmitt.

"That's the best (individual) finish we've ever had in the program at that meet, and that's saying something. We ran a good team race, no question about it, but her race was definitely the highlight of that," Iverson said.

Morris took off among the top 25 runners then "continued to pick people off," Iverson said.

"My focus was just to continually pass as many people as I possibly could, to finish the race knowing that I left it all out on the course," she said. "I just ran as fast as I could, and I think all my teammates did an amazing job."

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After she crossed the line in 17 minutes, 25.3 seconds over the 5,000 meters she waited for her teammates to pull in, whereupon "we bunched around each other and congratulated each other," Morris said.

Glenbard West's Katelynne Hart finished 16th. On the boys side York's Ethan Kern placed 26th individually and Wheaton Warrenville South's boys team -- Scott Maison, Bill Hauenstein, Sean Maison, Jacob Kluckhohn, Ethan Seng, Jared Peaslee and David Zeller, by position -- placed 13th of 22 teams.

Hart, Kern and Morris plus Hersey's Josh Methner will be running at the Foot Locker Nationals on Saturday. Though this race is more individually based than the Nike event, Morris remains a team player.

"I'm just excited to run as hard as I possibly can and represent Naperville North and the Midwest as best I can," she said.

Not just football

Brilliantly executing an onside kick after it opened the scoring and leading 24-6 by halftime, Nassau Community College (New York) rolled to a 46-6 victory over Northland Community & Technical College (Minnesota) at the third Red Grange Bowl on Saturday at College of DuPage's Bjarne Ullsvik Stadium.


College of DuPage football coach and assistant athletic director Matt Foster was there that cold, wet day. He takes pride in the fact that the Red Grange Bowl invites top nonscholarship junior college football programs for one more shot at a game and a title.

Foster also relishes the charitable aspects of the game. In its first two years more than $14,000 from ticket sales was donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities. The numbers weren't in for this year.

Foster ensures each team playing in the Grange Bowl does a little community service while they're here. In fact, like the earmarked ticket proceeds, he has it written into their contracts for participation.

On Friday the Nassau and Northland teams went to Feed My Starving Children in Aurora for a two-hour competition to see which team could pack the most boxes of food. They combined to box 113,832 meals that will be shipped throughout the world. Those meals will feed 312 children for one full year. Score.


Bowling for Kow

Also Saturday, a fundraiser was held at Fox Bowl in Wheaton for Scott Kowalczyk, who we wrote about in this space on Nov. 1. An assistant coach with the Naperville Diamonds 16-Under College Exposure travel softball team, "Coach Kow" had a bone-marrow transplant on Sept. 20 in a latest attempt to stem non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

The event raised more than $8,000 to push relief efforts past the $55,000 mark over the past year. Various publics have helped out, from the entire Naperville Diamonds organization to friends donating to the "Karing for the Kows" Go Fund Me website.

Much of that money will go toward "points" to pay for Kowalczyk's long residence hotel stay in Oak Brook, attempting to avoid infection while recuperating from the bone marrow transplant. Those points have managed to pay for 47 days of what's anticipated to be a minimum 100-day term.

As Diamonds 16U Exposure coach Bill Kugelberg said, "We certainly hope next year we have a bowling event that is a celebration instead of a fundraiser."

Thomas remembered

Montini boys basketball coach Daryl Thomas passed away last spring.
Montini boys basketball coach Daryl Thomas passed away last spring. - Daily Herald File Photo

Montini hosts St. Joseph in boys basketball on Dec. 14. The two Chicago Catholic League teams have grabbed this perfect opportunity to honor the legacy of the late Daryl Thomas.

Thomas died of a heart attack at age 52 on March 28, shortly after completing his third season as Montini coach. A 1983 graduate of St. Joseph, where he was a McDonald's and Parade All-American, after starring at Indiana University and then playing professionally, he returned to St. Joseph as an assistant for nine years under his former prep coach, Gene Pingatore.

Montini and St. Joseph players will wear special shirts during warmups, and representatives from both schools will sing the national anthem before the 7 p.m. tipoff. Money raised that night will go toward planting a tree in Thomas' honor on Montini's campus and in setting up a Daryl Thomas Scholarship Fund.

Montini and St. Joseph also will be selling commemorative T-shirts leading up to the game. Those wearing the shirts at the Dec. 14 game get in free.

Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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