Maine West's Van Fleet has qualities beyond compare
The 2019 IHSA Class 4A girls basketball state championship medal has a spot in Dylan Van Fleet's bedroom.
But Van Fleet, who helped lead the Warriors to the Class 4A state title less than 15 months ago, is a champion in many other ways.
All you have to hear is the words her teachers at Maine West High School use to describe the talented 5-foot-6 senior who earned a combined nine letters in cross country, basketball and soccer.
Irrepressible spirit. Collegiality. Insightful. Amazing human being.
Those qualities made Van Fleet the winner of District 207's 'Best Award' for Extracurricular Achievement.
The one overriding theme from her mentors is Van Fleet's tendency to always take the spotlight off herself and put it on others.
Just like she is doing with her career path.
Sure, the basketball/soccer standout would love to have her plans all set to play one of the two sports at the next level.
But with the college recruiting process shut down at the moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Van Fleet has no idea whether that is going to happen.
But she is hardly complaining. Instead, she is thinking of others.
That's why she has chosen biomedical health science as her major at Marquette University.
"It just seems like a really interesting field with this coronavirus going on," Van Fleet said. "I admire those people on the front line helping out and doing what they can.
"If I get the chance, I'd like to be a pathologist. I think studying diseases and viruses is really cool. They're so varied and it's such a broad field and really interesting to me."
It is interesting to note that Van Fleet was a catalyst for the school's second-longest basketball winning streak (44 games in a row) in program history.
The top streak was a state-record 65 in a row back in the late 1980s and it included the 1988 Class AA state title with a 35-0 record.
Guess who was part of that record streak?
Dylan's mother, Lisa Nicholson Van Fleet.
"I was hoping to get a long streak like my mother did when she played at Maine West," said Dylan, a three-year all-area performer for girls basketball coach Kim de Marigny. "I didn't know if it would actually be possible."
Could it be possible that Van Fleet, a 2020 inductee in the school's athletic hall of fame, will not have a chance to compete in athletics in her first year of college?
"I could see myself trying to walk on to the basketball team or playing club soccer (Marquette does not have a Division-I women's soccer team)," Van Fleet said. "My AAU coach for basketball (Chicago Hoops Express) has had come correspondence with Marquette for basketball. But right now things are shut down recruiting wise so I don't know what will happen."
Van Fleet hopes to play soccer with her club team based in Mount Prospect this summer but that is still up in air due to the pandemic.
"I really love both sports," she said. "It's hard to give one up for college."
But Van Fleet takes it all in stride.
"If I got the chance to play basketball there, I'd take it," she said. "But the first thing is education."
And her teachers at Maine West can attest to that.
This year, she became a Link Crew Leader and served as a PE leader. She volunteers for National Honor Society at Feed My Sheep, going beyond her required service to work there on her own. She is an engaged member of Pi Sigma Pi, the Social Science Honor Society.
Math teacher Amy Claus gave her students an extra credit assignment to write positive and uplifting letters during this COVID-19 pandemic to residents at the Moorings of Arlington Heights a month ago.
Maine West principal Eileen McMahon was quite impressed by Van Fleet's words in her letter to a senior citizen at the facility.
"She talked about her love of statistics, and how she was filling the time in this new normal we've been living in since March 13," McMahon said in her speech for the District 207 Best Award. "Dylan mentioned reading, art, puzzles, exercise, and family time. She said she was thinking about and praying for the residents of the home to stay safe and well.
"I realized while reading her letter that whether she knew it or not, Dylan had basically sketched out a playbook for how to live during these incomprehensible times. Be active, create, care about others, do something to help them."
Those words certainly fit Van Fleet to a tee.