St. Charles East honors four with Harrison Award
An outstanding 2-sport athlete, a pioneer in girls' high school soccer, a member of 3 swimming state title teams, and a 2-time state wrestling champion will be spotlighted this weekend at St. Charles East.
Honored as Jodie Harrison Lifetime Achievement Award recipients for 2019, the quartet will be inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame prior to Friday's 7 p.m. boys basketball game against St. Charles North.
Steve Alf (Class of 1995)
Alf, a 2-time team captain in football and wrestling, earned all-state wrestling honors as a result of his 4th-place state finish at 171 pounds during his senior season in 1995.
He carried a 40-0 record downstate and extended his win streak to 42 before suffering his first loss -- a 4-3 overtime semifinal decision and finished at 43-2 following a double-overtime loss to Wheaton North's Steve Havard in the third-place match.
"The semifinal loss was the toughest," said Alf, a 4-time all-conference wrestler, 2-time conference and regional champion, and 2-time state qualifier.
Alf went on to enjoy a successful collegiate wrestling career at Wisconsin.
"I believe those losses gave me a chip on my shoulder when I got to college," said Alf. "I was in a room surrounded by high school state champions but I knew I could hold my own."
Alf did that -- and more -- becoming a 2-time national qualifier for the Badgers.
"I wrestled at heavyweight as a 187-pounder my freshman year because they needed me at that spot," said Alf, who competed the next 2 years at 184 pounds before closing out his senior season as a 197-pounder.
Alf also started at middle linebacker on the Saints' 1993 and 1994 football state playoff teams.
Alf credits legendary wrestling coach Mick Ruettiger for his influence.
"It was a little scary because he was so intense but it worked for me," said Alf, who now owns St. Charles Toyota. "He wasn't a huge yeller or screamer -- he just gave you a look. We had crazy respect for him because we didn't want to disappoint him."
Alf fondly remembers his high school days.
"It was a cool time to be a Saint," he said. "We were good for two or three state champions every year."
Danielle Thomas Galvin (Class of 1985)
A member of St. Charles' first girls soccer team, Thomas helped lead the Saints to a pair of second-place state finishes and a third-place state showing during her illustrious 4-year prep career.
A 3-time all-state soccer player and 2-time all-American, her 102 goals rank second among boys or girls in school history.
"I played with a lot of juniors and seniors my freshman year," said Thomas, who now lives in Tallahassee, Fla. "We were all pioneers and we were all learning. Our coach, Tim Dailey, was also learning about the sport."
They caught on quickly, as the Saints compiled a record of 53-4-7 during Thomas' 4-year career.
"We played a lot of coed soccer back then," she said. "I think it really helped improve my game."
Thomas helped set the stage for the Saints' soccer dominance of the 1990s -- 7 state titles.
"We coached a lot of those kids at camps," she said.
She also was a 4-year member of the Saints' girls basketball team, guiding the team to back-to-back regional titles as a point guard in 1984 and 1985.
She went on to play soccer collegiately at Central Florida, where her teams finished 47-14-4, highlighted by the Knights' Final Four appearance in 1987.
"I played with a lot of great players who shared the same feeling as me," said Thomas. "Our focus was to do anything we could do to win."
UCF lost a 2-1 overtime decision to UMass in the national semifinals.
"I still say the winning goal was offsides," she said. "We were so close from a national championship but I can say I was there in the Final Four."
Thomas ranks second on UCF's all-time list with 33 assists and 6th all-time with 81 total points.
"I was shocked," she said of the HOF induction. "It means a lot more being so far removed from it. Many former players are coming back for the ceremony. I'm completely humbled."
Jason Potter (Class of 1999)
A 3-time all-state and all-American wrestler, Potter became the first 2-time state individual champion in Saints' history, capturing state titles in 1998 and 1999 at 171 pounds.
He also placed fourth in the state at 152 pounds during his varsity debut season as a sophomore.
"I didn't wrestle varsity as a freshman," said Potter. "Coach (Mick) Ruettiger did a great job of keeping me under the radar."
Following in his older brother's (David -- a 2011 HOF recipient) footsteps, Jason compiled 3 consecutive 40-win-plus seasons, highlighted by his back-to-back state championships.
As a junior, Potter capped a 44-2 campaign with his 5-3 title triumph over Antioch's Jeff Ultes.
One year later, Potter wrapped up an unbeaten season (42-0) with a come-from-behind, 7-6 title victory over previously unbeaten Bill Kopecky of Maine West.
"There was a lot of buildup for the match," said Potter, who suffered 1 of his 2 losses as a junior to Kopecky. "I spotted him a few points when he put me on my back early but I think it just helped me focus. I think it made the moment that much more special."
Ruettiger remembers Potter for his competitive drive.
"Placing fourth in the state in his first varsity season showed Jason's toughness and willingness to battle," said the former Saints' coach. "He battled Kevin Milligan and his brother, David, every day at practice and never backed down.
"I remember battling Waubonsie Valley for the conference championship and we were down 18 points, needing to win every match. David tech'd (technical fall) a kid and it was a fresh start for us. We went on to win.
"He's a special kid."
Potter, who began his coaching career at Leyden after wrestling at Illinois, returned to his alma mater as the Saints' head coach in 2012 and has led the Saints to 6 conference titles and a regional crown.
"Coaching is more difficult (than competing)," said Potter. "So much is out of your control.
"I really want to bring a team state championship to St. Charles, and I believe the talent is here in the community."
Aaron Gabriel (Class of 1983)
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