Elgin, Larkin women savor the opportunity to face each other again
Well, hello again, Fox Valley sports fans.
A slow night during finals week gave me the opportunity Wednesday to venture to Larkin High School, where the first Elgin-Larkin alumni girls basketball game was played prior to the second annual alumni battle between former Maroons and Royals boys players.
It took about five seconds after walking into the gym to start recognizing -- and not recognizing -- faces from the past.
At this point I should probably correct myself and say that this was a women's basketball game. These ladies are far beyond their "girl" years, although you couldn't tell it by the way they competed on the floor for 40 minutes (and, yes, it was a running clock of two 20-minute halves).
The final score mattered little. For the record, the much younger group of alumni from Larkin won the game 49-26. But no one was really paying attention to the scoreboard (wouldn't that be a breath of fresh air in an actual high school game today?).
What the players and coaches paid attention to was the competition and the memories before a good-sized crowd on Elgin's west side.
You will find as you read forward that we'll be referring to most of these ladies by their maiden names because, well, that's how we all remember them.
Participating for the winning Larkin team were: Tissanie Simmons (2003), Ellie Bravo (2004), Sarah Thomas (2004), Paris Patterson (2013), Victoria Patterson (2014), Jennifer Krueger Martinson (2007), Courtney LaFerle Massie (2004), Lauren Gabler (2008), Jill Thomas Kowaslyszyn (2007) and Marlee Kyles (2017).
Elgin's team consisted of Jennifer Kiefer Gumm (1993), Apryl Rodman Lowe (1993), Anna Hallock (1997), Ramona Aguado (1998), Monica Ludeks (1998), Kristin Groth Lukasik (1999), Jonovia Aguado (2000), Eumeka Aguado (2001), Katie Grens Dunkan (2002), Sarah Anderson (2002), Aimee Corn Doughtery (2004) and Lakiya Harvey (2016).
"It's wonderful to see these kids," said former Elgin High assistant coach Mark Sharf, who along with fellow former assistant Bob Kaplan "coached" the Elgin women Wednesday night, although the Maroons may have fared better had Sharf and Kaplan had the mentoring of their former boss, Lee Turek, who now spends his winters in Florida.
"What's even better than remembering when they played is finding out what great people they've become and how successful they've become. I'm very proud of them all."
Groth was one of the women who helped organized the Elgin team. A prolific point guard in her high school days, and a heck of a softball player as well, Groth savored the opportunity Wednesday presented.
"It was a blast," she said. "The only difference was we weren't on the winning end.
"One of the better feelings in high school was playing in an Elgin-Larkin game. It didn't matter who the next game was or who the game before it was, you had to beat Larkin. It was nice to be out here tonight with some of those same girls and have good memories of how in shape we used to be. Hopefully it will continue next year."
There was even some nervousness before the game as well.
"I actually had some butterflies before the game," said LaFerle who, like Groth, was also an outstanding softball player. "But it was fun walking back into the school, into the gym, and playing against Elgin and players like Katie Grens and Aimee Corn again."
Grens got the award for the quickest, and longest, trip back to Elgin to play in the game. She is now a physical education and health teacher at South Lyon High School, just north of Ann Arbor, Mich.
"It was totally worth it," said Grens, who had to rush to O'Hare International Airport right after the game for a flight back to Michigan. "Just playing with all my teammates again ... I was a varsity player for four years and played with or against most everyone out here.
"It's too bad it wasn't at Elgin High this year and we could have finally used the girls locker room that we never got to use from the Title IX lawsuit," Grens added, jokingly.
All the players involved are hoping alumni event organizer Brandon Grissette keeps the event going.
"Hopefully after this year we get more alumni to join and we can have a new school game and an old school game like the guys," Grens said. "It was great being out there no matter what the score was. It was great to play with my teammates again and have our coaches on the bench with us."
And it was great for the fans (and this guy, too) to see all the faces from years gone by, and not care one iota what the scoreboard said.