The victories adding up for Colucci

  • Dan Colucci

    Dan Colucci

 
 
Updated 5/15/2019 6:35 PM

You can have your sabermetrics. This nifty baseball stat requires only remedial math.

With the 53 victories Dan Colucci contributed to as a varsity catcher at Lake Park from 1986-88, plus the 402 games he'd won through Tuesday as the Lancers head coach since 1999, he's been part of 455 wins wearing the navy blue and white.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

According to Lancers stats, Lake Park has won 908 varsity ballgames, meaning Colucci has participated in 50.1 percent of all Lake Park victories since the program began in 1957.

That is an amazing stat ... but not so much to Colucci.

"I don't make a big deal out of it. It's more about the kids than it is about me," he said.

No. 400 came May 10, when the Lancers broke open a 6-4 game at Glenbard North with a 7-run seventh inning to win 13-4.

"I appreciated the extra cushion in the seventh inning to ease our mind a little bit," he said.

Also appreciative, Lake Park parents saluted Colucci with a poster and broke out the cupcakes and cookies for a postgame celebration. After the Lancers' senior day game on May 13, a 6-5 win over St. Charles East, a "big blowout" ensued with pizza and such.

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Echoing many a coach, Colucci, a former player at Northern Illinois University, provided the stock answer to his secret of accomplishing a landmark win.

"I'm old," he said.

He's also proud to be coaching at his alma mater and sharing all those wins with longtime assistant Kevin Johnson.

"They're as much his wins as they are mine. We kind of enjoy working with the kids more than what we get out of it," Colucci said.

Head coach for 20 years and an assistant four seasons before that, the old catcher noted his passion for the community and school he grew up in.

"It's a little humbling," he said. "I just go about my business, try to be a good coach, and try to teach the kids how to play the game."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Onward and upward

Following the Greg Foster Invitational indoor track meet on Feb. 16 at Proviso West High School, Metea Valley coach Aaron Lewis named senior Carl Calarde the Mustangs' athlete of the meet.

A rare honor for a boy who finished 27th in the 1,600-meter run. But his is a rare story.

"That was the first meet I ran as a freshman, I ran the mile as well," Calarde said. "It's funny how that all works out."

It ends in triumph, but there were no laughs down the hard road Calarde traveled since he first felt the effects of Stage III cancer, which knocked him out of two track seasons while somehow he ran in at least three cross country meets all four years.

Calarde was a capable, middle-of-the-pack runner in frosh-soph cross country meets his first two years at Metea. He was a consistent 3,200-meter runner his freshman track season in 2016, the last season Lewis recorded any results from Calarde until the Proviso meet.

The most athletic of the three children of Reiner and Jacqueline Calarde, who in 2008 brought the family to Naperville from the suburbs of Manilla in the Philippines, Carl Calarde's healthy lifestyle provided no clue why he developed a persistent and increasingly racking cough.

"In the fall of 2017, he started to complain to me about chest pain and just not feeling himself," said Metea boys cross country coach David Schumacher.

"He was still running," Jacqueline Calarde said, "but was having a hard time."

The chronic cough had both of them "Googling like crazy" for a cause, she said, and beating a path to the doctor's office. One opinion was a case of postnasal drip; another was a viral infection.

Weeks without resolution, Jacqueline Calarde brought Carl to an otolaryngologist, an "ear-nose-and-throat" doctor. He decided to order an ultrasound on Carl's neck, which had swollen. The specialist left a voice message the next day requesting a meeting. The ultrasound showed enlarged lymph nodes.

Things started accelerating.

"It was more confusing than scary," Carl said, "because I didn't really know what was going on."

A chest X-ray was ordered, and a computerized tomography, or "CT scan." The news was bad.

"It was heartbreaking," Jacqueline said. "They were talking to my son and telling him (he) might have cancer. Carl, I remember his face dropped and I saw his spirits falling. He just kept silent."

On Oct. 26, 2017, Calarde was diagnosed with Stage III diffuse large B cell lymphoma. Stage III, Jacqueline said, because a tumor that measured roughly 5 inches by 3 inches by 5 inches had wrapped dangerously between his lungs above the heart.

On a pediatrician's orders Reiner and Jacqueline quickly delivered Carl to the University of Chicago's Comer Children's Hospital, where his chest and lungs were drained of fluid, a byproduct of the tumor. His right lung had collapsed 75 percent, Jacqueline Calarde said.

Because the tumor had intertwined with main veins and arteries, surgery was not an option. Following the diagnosis Calarde began a series of five chemotherapy sessions, one every three weeks -- plus twice-daily injections of blood thinner to avert pulmonary embolism and a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap, to prevent the cancer from spreading to the brain.

Jacqueline Calarde said Carl didn't leave Comer from Oct. 26 until Thanksgiving Day. On Christmas Eve he was there taking chemo. He got a lift by visiting teammates, coaches and friends.

"All the support I got from them really kept me positive the whole time," he said.

On April 1, 2018, Calarde had his final chemotherapy session. Two weeks later a biopsy showed no sign of cancer. Calarde's next checkup will be June 24, which will include one last scheduled CT scan to check blood cell counts, chest, kidney and liver functions.

He started running again last summer and returned to cross country competition at the St. Charles North Invitational on Sept. 29. His times weren't great in the three meets he ran last fall, which he anticipated after losing so much of his base. But he was running.

Returning to the track team, Calarde enjoyed a complete season, including running a leg of Metea's varsity 1,600-meter relay last Thursday at the DuPage Valley Conference Championships.

Not part of the Mustangs' sectional lineup, Calarde still practiced with his teammates this week to help them prepare for Thursday's Class 3A St. Charles North sectional.

"I think he's the true measure of what it means to overcome adversity and persevere in the face of that adversity," coach Aaron Lewis said.

"Just his determination to make it back to compete, it's something where he could have not followed through on his level of running. I think that just shows his determination and his willingness to enjoy life."

Calarde, who will follow the family path by studying engineering at the University of Illinois-Chicago, close to home in case of a recurrence, drew emotional at the end of a long telephone conversation.

"It kind of made me realize what I took for granted," he said, surely looking forward to his 19th birthday on May 18. "Having this illness kind of opened my eyes that I'm not invincible, that anything can happen to me."

Calarde quoted the legendary runner, Steve Prefontaine.

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift. I didn't really know what that meant before, now I kind of do. Before, if I had a bad race, I wouldn't keep trying. Now I regret not trying," he said.

"Now I'm not in a position to do that again."

It's a date

Westmont boys track coach Rainy Kaplan has trained her athletes well.

May 4 was the date of the 52nd Carlin Nalley Track & Field Invitational. Starting with warmups at 9 a.m., it meant the Sentinels had to board a bus for Bolingbrook High at 7 a.m., less than nine hours after they returned from the Interstate Eight Conference meet at Manteno.

May 4 also was the date of Westmont's prom. But one by one, Kaplan had a simple question for the Sentinels as they gathered at the end of what turned out to be their second-place finish in the Class 1A portion of the meet.

"Who's your girlfriend?" Kaplan asked.

"Track and field," said hurdler Ishmay Kone.

"Track and field," said pole vaulter Gavin Carr.

"Track and field," said distance runner Matt Gedraitis, sprawled on the turf.

"Track and field," said sprinter Isaac Lischalk.

"Kwentin -- he may not say, he hasn't been here very long," Kaplan said of senior jumper Kwentin Brookins, who'd transferred to Westmont this school year from Hinsdale South.

"Kwentin, who's your girlfriend?"

"Track and field."

doberhelman@dailyherald.com

@doberhelman1

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