Seems like only 11 months ago we embarked upon the 2016-17 high school sports year. Before signing off, here are a few things to take into summer.
This just in
Returning to where she averaged better than 24 points for a third-place Class AA girls basketball team in 1999, Kristi Faulkner has been hired as Glenbard West's girls basketball coach. She succeeds Karen Persinger, who after three seasons with the Hilltoppers heads to Hinsdale Central, where Persinger teaches.
Faulkner played guard at Iowa from 2001-04, earning Academic All-Big Ten three times and third-team all-conference twice after racking up 1,242 points and 138 3-pointers for the Hawkeyes. She's worked with the Chicago Sky and Virginia Commonwealth University and lives in Glen Ellyn.
While on the subject, new Wheaton Academy athletic director Kevin Lubbers announced that Wheaton sporting legend Steve Thonn will serve as the Warriors' interim boys basketball coach in 2017-18.
A Wheaton College Hall of Honor inductee in 1995 and a former Arena Football League player and coach, Thonn was a Warriors varsity basketball assistant the prior two seasons and also is the football team's offensive coordinator.
Racing across District 87 turf, Glenbard North cornerback Greg Newsome is among six Illinois football players out of the Class of 2018 to earn a nomination to play in the 2018 U.S. Army All-American Bowl next January in San Antonio. Out of 400 players nominated, 100 will make the cut.
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Newsome intercepted 2 passes and was the Panthers' second-leading receiver with 224 yards and 4 touchdown catches. A three-sport athlete, Newsome played basketball and was among DuPage County's top track sprinters.
Back to the south side of District 87, where recent Glenbard South graduate Bella Bauman gets a final feel of Chicago sand between her toes before heading to play beach volleyball at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, where the Antelopes' new stadium opened in March. She plans to major in biology with a pre-med focus.
(Neuqua Valley product Molly Turner, a Grand Canyon junior, earned American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America honors this spring and is one of three Illinoisans on the Division I program's roster.)
All-Metro Suburban Blue and the Raiders' most valuable player last fall, Bauman prefers the outdoor game and said she never was interested in playing indoors in college. Though she plays with the Team One volleyball club, Bauman took up beach as a freshman and stopped playing indoors year-round after her sophomore year.
"My focus was always to get a beach scholarship," she said, gamely, having had her wisdom teeth pulled Tuesday.
A right-side hitter for the Raiders, Bauman gained that exposure during twice-yearly tournaments in California, on Huntington Beach and Hermosa Beach. During the summer she plays every weekend in Chicago at the Montrose Beach or North Avenue Beach hot spots. Her main goals this summer are the AAU National Championships and the Beach Volleyball Club Association Championships, both in California.
Her reasons for favoring beach are multifold: loads of action and tons of touches requiring mastery of all skills; less reliance on a coach, whose counsel is limited to breaks between sets; and the teamwork necessary in a two-person game.
Bauman believes that since players often officiate their own matches, beach volleyball even fosters independence and morals.
"It helps you grow not only as a player but as a person," she said.
"You have to be honest. It really forces you to think about what is the right thing to do."
There's another reason players may favor beach volleyball over the indoor version.
"Beach also is a sustainable game for the body because it doesn't take the same toll as the hard court on joints and muscles. That's why an old guy like me can still play," said Kevin Ritchie of Wheaton.
Class of '79 at James Madison Memorial High School in Wisconsin, Ritchie said when he played only four states in the country had boys high school volleyball. At Madison he played for Niles Pederson, whose future wife, Nancy, eventually coached Mother McAuley to nine girls state titles.
Ritchie has coached volleyball "off and on" for 35 years, he said, including the men's club at Wheaton College and the North Central College women's team. Three years ago he started the Wheaton Beach Volleyball Club, which operates junior high and high school camps in June and July at American Legion Post 76, on the Wheaton-Carol Stream border. Over the past two years he's installed 40 tons of fine beach sand on those courts.
"Beach volleyball is wonderful, seasonal," said Ritchie, who once watched Wilt Chamberlain play in California.
"I have a motto that once the ponds thaw there should be no more hockey and once the sun comes out no one should play indoors. There are nuances, but in general you just like to be outside."
Again the worm turns
The Illinois High School Association's ninth Bass Fishing State Finals have been rescheduled yet again.
Initially to be held at downstate Carlyle Lake on May 19-20, high waters moved the dates back to July 23-24. On Monday those dates were deemed to conflict with summer demand, so the competition was moved up to this Friday and Saturday.
The field of 66 includes boats from Downers Grove South, Glenbard North, Glenbard South, Naperville North, St. Francis and Wheaton Warrenville South. Happy angling.
Imagine a chance meeting with a personal hero, asking if they'd like to hang out some time, and getting the answer, Yes.
That's basically what happened to York boys track and cross country coach Charlie Kern, who will share his luck.
Last summer Charlie and Lynne Kern attended the United States Olympic Trials for track and field in Eugene, Oregon, with their children Charlie, Ethan and Emma, all Dukes runners.
Also in line to enter Hayward Field was Alan Webb, who at the 2001 Nike Prefontaine Classic in that same stadium set the high school mile record at 3 minutes, 53.43 seconds. Though no longer competing, Webb still holds the American mile record at 3:46.91.
"Through my comings and goings with various Nike activities I've gotten to know him," the elder Charlie Kern said.
Well enough that after a group photo and conversation with the Kern kids about -- what else -- running, Webb accepted an invitation to stay with the Kerns and attend a few functions as well from June 26-28.
Webb will run and talk with runners at Kern's Championship Training Academy and visit with the York boys team each morning he's in Elmhurst. At 7 p.m. June 27 Webb will headline a talk, open to the public, in York's auditorium.
"We're jacked, we're super-excited," Kern said. "We're looking forward to all the things he's going to share."
Speaking of running ...
With a few hours remaining before registration ended Wednesday, 12 states were represented for Saturday's annual Midwest Distance Classic, 7 p.m. at Benedictine University.
From boys and girls races spanning 800 to 3,200 meters plus steeplechase, local entries included Glenbard West's Janie Nabholz and WW South's Allison McGrath, Glenbard North's Ryan Czaja and York's Sean MacGregor.
For a second straight year DuPage Valley Special Athletes (DVSA) has qualified a soccer team into the Illinois Special Olympics Summer Games, which will be held this weekend on the campuses of Illinois State in Normal and Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington. DVSA is an all-volunteer organization started by parents in Naperville Districts 203 and 204.
DVSA soccer players include Mike Brennan, Tom Hamill, Eddie Martinez, Ryan McDonough, brothers Elliot and Jeremy Richer, Peter Sacks, Amanda Schmidt, Louis Pisani and Cooper Mullin.
Some 4,100 athletes and Unified partners will compete at the Summer Games in soccer, aquatics, athletics (track), bocce, gymnastics and power lifting.
Disc-over the Wildfire
It would be worth it this summer to take a flier to Lane Tech High School and watch the Chicago Wildfire, the local entry in the 24-team American Ultimate Disc League.
"It's called the ultimate sport because, as I like to say, it takes the best pieces of all the best sports out there," said 2008 Lake Park graduate Alex Rummelhart, in his third season as a defensive handler with the Wildfire.
By trade Rummelhart is a sixth-grade reading and language arts teacher at Shepard Middle School in Deerfield.
By passion the former high school 800-meter runner sounds like he's all about ultimate disc. He writes regularly for the Ultiworld.com website and has penned what that site called the first novel to focus on a story about ultimate disc, "The Ultimate Outsider." He even started a team at Shepard Middle School and hopes to develop a youth program.
Like many track and cross country runners, Rummelhart got into the football-like pursuit as a fun way to cool down after practices or long runs. Of course, that led to competition against other schools, which developed into a summer league started in 2007 by Neuqua Valley track athletes Sean Parker and Alake Kashyap. (Rummelhart proudly recalls Lake Park winning the first championship.)
When Rummelhart arrived at college Parker was already there, on an Iowa team of "really good athletes who have just missed the cut for scholarships." By the time Rummelhart graduated in 2013, he was team captain.
Two years ago the Wildfire switched home fields to Lane Tech from Benedictine University. With new ownership, free youth clinics, a new team bus, pregame tailgating and after-parties, Rummelhart sounds excited about the prospects. Five hundred people attended the home opener; in Madison, Wisconsin, the crowd was 1,500.
"It's pretty fun to play in front of that many people," he said.
In what he said was a rebuilding year the Wildfire is 2-6 but comes off a 22-21 win over the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds and all its games have been close. The 28-man squad, which includes 2006 York graduate Von Alanguilan, has four home games remaining, the next at 7 p.m. June 17.
Rummelhart said ownership is looking long-term, and he's heartened each time ultimate makes ESPN's Top 10.
"It is a little more popular, and it's growing every single day," he said.
Have a great summer.
Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1