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Konovodoff named to All-National Team

in Community Sports/Volleyball by
martha_4592

AURORA—Sugar Grove resident Martha Konovodoff, who completed her sophomore year at Rosary High School in Aurora in May, has been named to the All-National Team by the Junior Volleyball Association.

The award recognizes the top JVA-member club players in the nation (ages 15-18) for outstanding achievement on the volleyball court. The 48 student-athletes chosen are some of the top girls junior volleyball players in the country.

Winners were presented with a personalized award at the JVA Midyear Meeting during the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) National Championships in Orlando, Fla., on June 18.

A 5-foot-7 libero, Konovodoff is a member of Rosary’s varsity team and Sports Performance 16 Elite team. She is a scholar athlete at Rosary, maintaining a high GPA. She was named to the all-tournament teams for WWS, Plainfield Invite, Warrior Blast, and Presidents’ Day 2014; and the 2014 All-Conference Team and All-Area Team. She was recognized as MVP of Rosary’s varsity team in 2014.

Konovodoff, 16, is the daughter of Andrew and Mary Ann Konovodoff of Sugar Grove.

The Junior Volleyball Association is an organization committed to the growth and development of junior volleyball. For more information on the JVA All-National Team Award, visit www.jvaonline.org.

IHSA releases classifications for 2015-16 school year

in Baseball/Boys Basketball/Boys Cross Country/Boys Soccer/Boys Track/Football/Girls Basketball/Girls Cross Country/Girls Soccer/Girls Track/Golf/Softball/Tennis/Volleyball/Wrestling by
IHSA

BLOOMINGTON, Ill.—The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) released the classifications breakdown for the 2015-16, and Kaneland will not see any changes to their sports landscape from the 2014-15 season.

• Baseball: 3A (four classes)
• Basketball (boys and girls): 3A (four classes)
• Cross Country
(boys and girls): 2A (three classes)
• Cheerleading: Middle
(three classes—small, medium, large)
• Dance: 2A (three classes)
• Football: Determined at the
end of the regular season
• Golf (boys): 2A (three classes)
• Golf (girls) AA (two classes)
• Softball: 3A (four classes)
• Scholastic Bowl: AA (two classes)
• Soccer (boys and girls): 2A (three classes)
• Track and Field (boys and girls):
2A (three classes)
• Volleyball: 3A (four classes)
• Wrestling: 2A (three classes)

Enrollment for the high school is up 19 students—1,310 to 1,329 —from the 2014-15 school year to the upcoming year. Since classification cut offs vary from sport to sport depending on the number of schools that participate in each sport throughout the state, the Knights had some close calls this upcoming season. Kaneland was 49 students away from moving up to 4A in basketball, 17 students away from moving to 4A in volleyball, and 11 away from moving up to 3A in track and field.

Rich Harvest Farms hosts the Palmer Cup

in Golf/Regional/Sugar Grove by

Arnold Palmer on hand for opening ceremonies
SUGAR GROVE—Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove last week hosted the world’s 20 best collegiate players to play in the Palmer Cup, the 18th annual Ryder Cup-style amateur tournament named in honor of the legendary Arnold Palmer. Adding to the excitement of the event, Palmer attended the opening ceremonies evening of June 11.

Palmer, a former collegiate player himself, has been called America’s greatest ambassador for the game of golf.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be on the same stage with ‘the King,’” Palmer Cup U.S. Coach Bruce Heppler said of Palmer. “Thank you for your character and the way you support the game.”

Heppler, who just completed his 20th season coaching the Yellow Jackets at Georgia Tech, was serving as head coach of the USA team for the second time. He introduced his players individually, saying that there are future Ryder Cup players among this group of the best players from the best collegiate teams in the country.

The Palmer Cup, started by the Golf Coaches Association of America in 1997, includes in its mission the preparation of the players for careers in professional golf.

The tournament, which ran from Friday through Sunday, June 12-14, also included a Junior Clinic for participants of the Kids Golf Foundation of Illinois, headquartered at Rich Harvest Farms. More than 130 young people participated in Wednesday’s Junior Clinic, which the 20 players and their coaches conducted.

“It was a tremendous experience for the participants to learn from the PGA Tour stars of tomorrow” Rich Harvest Farms’ Tournament Director Vicky McGowan said in a release.
The Kids Golf Foundation is a statewide junior golf association that offers and supports several golf programs and events designed to introduce children between the ages of 5 and 17 to the sport of golf, its fundamentals, rules, history, etiquette and life lessons.

The 20 players also competed in a college-am on June 11, which is similar to a pro-am on the PGA Tour. They were required to sign numerous autographs throughout the week, something that made Palmer one of the most popular athletes in the country.

“One of Arnold Palmer’s big things is to make sure people can read your autograph,” Heppler said. “That way, you can look at it later and know who signed it. It’s about taking care of people.”

Palmer concluded his remarks during the tournament’s opening ceremony with these words.

“If you ever find 20 young men that look any better, act any better than these young men, watch them play, and you will see something that will put a feather in everyone’s cap,” Palmer said. “Let’s have a great tournament.”

Team USA wins the 2015 Palmer Cup at Rich Harvest Farms
SUGAR GROVE—Despite Europe winning five matches on Sunday, the United States reclaimed the Palmer Cup at Rich Harvest Farms by defeating Europe 18-12. The United States leads the all-time Palmer Cup series, 10-8-1.

Going into Sunday, the Americans needed just 2 points to win the Palmer Cup. Europe’s Clement Sordet earned and kept a lead early. After a birdie on 11 and par on 13, Sordet went 3-up and would go on to take the match 2 and 1, keeping Europe’s hopes alive for a short time.

USA’s Hunter Stewart went 1-up on the first hole, and Europe’s Thomas Detry battled back to go 1-up through five. After a birdie on 8, Stewart continued to win holes and went on to take it 4 and 3.

Europe’s Pep Angles led early in his match with USA’s Beau Hossler. However after a few lost balls, Angles found himself in trouble on 11 and 16, which allowed Hossler to finish 2 and 1 on 17 to clinch the Palmer Cup for USA. Ollie Schniederjans claimed his match against Europe’s Max Rottluff around the same time.

During the Closing Ceremonies, Maverick McNealy received an exemption into the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard. The honor was voted on by his teammates before play began. McNealy’s Palmer Cup caddie Zach Urwiler, a freshman at Mooseheart Academy and second-year caddie at Rich Harvest Farms, will accompany McNealy as his caddie at the 2016 event at Bay Hill. This is the first time the Palmer Cup has awarded this honor to a player.

Stewart and Robby Shelton of Team USA became the 15th and 16th players to post a 4-0 record at a Palmer Cup and the first since Andrew Yun of the United States in 2012. It was the first time that multiple players went undefeated and untied since Europe accomplished the same feat in 2006.

Matthias Schwab of Austria and Stewart of Lexington, Ken., were named recipients of the Michael Carter Award, which is presented to the Palmer Cup participant that best represents the qualities and ideals of sportsmanship, integrity and upholding of the game.

Photos by Laura Gampfer

Photos: Already working

in Football by

The Kaneland varsity football team took part in Northern Illinois University’s 7 on 7 Camp
Saturday.
DSC_9579
Senior Tyler Paulson catches a pass and takes it in for a touchdown.

DSC_9574
Senior Tanner Robertsen hauls in a pass for a touchdown.

DSC_9445
The Kaneland defense lines up against Grayslake North High School for more football training.

Fedderly to join UW-Platteville

in Football by
KHS-football-v.-Rochelle-Oct-2014-1-2

PLATTEVILLE, WISC.—The University of Wisconsin-Platteville Pioneer football team announced its 2015 recruiting class, including Connor Fedderly from Kaneland High School.

Fedderly plans on pursuing a career in accounting at UW-Platteville and will play wide receiver. While performing all four years on varsity level at Kaneland, Fedderly earned first team All State, First Team All Conference, First Team All Area, Academic All State, Academic All Conference, and the school record for receiving yards in a game. In his senior year alone, Fedderly caught 62 passes for 967 yards and 13 touchdowns.

He also played basketball for Kaneland, where he received All Conference honorable mention. Fedderly chose UW-Platteville to play football and because of his accounting major. Connor is the son of Tom and Kathy Fedderly and will join the Pioneer family as a true freshman this fall.

Over the past four years, the UW-Platteville football team has earned an overall record of 32-10 and a Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference record of 21-7. In 2013, the Pioneers accumulated a 10-1 record and reached the NCAA III playoffs for the first time in program history. The Pioneers are coached by 16-year veteran Mike Emendorfer and play in the Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium, with a capacity of 10,000.

PGA’s next big thing

in Community Sports/Golf/Sugar Grove by
SUGAR GROVE, IL - SEPTEMBER 18: The General clubhouse on the Rich Harvest Golf Links Course, on September 18, 2005 in Sugar Grove, Illinois, United States  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
SUGAR GROVE, IL - SEPTEMBER 18: The General clubhouse on the Rich Harvest Golf Links Course, on September 18, 2005 in Sugar Grove, Illinois, United States  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
SUGAR GROVE, IL – SEPTEMBER 18: The General clubhouse on the Rich Harvest Golf Links Course, on September 18, 2005 in Sugar Grove, Illinois, United States (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Rich Harvest Farms to host 2 major events this summer
SUGAR GROVE—The future competitors on the PGA Tour are likely to be spotted competing at two major amateur tournaments at Rich Harvest Farms this summer: the Palmer Cup June 12-14 and the Western Amateur Aug. 3-8.

“A lot of these players are the next big players on the PGA tour, and we can safely say that some of these players might be playing in the U.S. Open (in June),” Goodbred said.

The Palmer Cup, the collegiate version of the Ryder Cup, pits the top 10 American collegiate golfers against their European counterparts, while the Western Amateur draws the top 156 amateur golfers from around the world to compete in one of the oldest and most grueling amateur golf tournaments.

University of Texas golf team during the first day of play in The Hayt Collegiate Invitational 2015 at Sawgrass in EverBank Field Friday, February 27, 2015 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.. (Gary Lloyd McCullough)
University of Texas golf team during the first day of play in The Hayt Collegiate Invitational 2015 at Sawgrass in EverBank Field Friday, February 27, 2015 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.. (Gary Lloyd McCullough)

Both of the events are free and open to the general public, and Goodbred hopes that a large number of spectators—both golf enthusiasts and local families—will come out to see the events.

Though the collegiate players are not yet household names, many of them will be soon, Goodbred said.

On each team, six of the Palmer Cup players are selected by NCAA rankings, with an additional three players selected by the committee and one coach’s pick.

Among the biggest American names at the Palmer Cup will be Beau Hossler of the University of Texas, the 2014 Western Amateur defending champion, and Ollie Schniederjans, a Georgia Tech senior and winner of the 2014 Valspar Invitational. Prominent European players include Jon Rahm, an Arizona State junior and Spaniard who is currently the top-ranked amateur in the world, and Thomas Detry of the University of Illinois, a Belgian who helped Team Europe win the 2014 Palmer Cup.

The tournament, which started in 1997, is named after golf legend Arnold Palmer. The United States currently leads the Palmer Cup series 9-8-1.

“A lot of these players will be turning pro in a year or two,” said Vicky McGowan, Rich Harvest Farm’s tournament director. “The event bears Arnold Palmer’s name, and we’re hoping that he will be here.”

Though the Palmer Cup itself goes to the winning team, the tournament will also have an individual winner, selected by the athletes on the winning team as the player whose character is most like Palmer’s.
Thomas Detry
“The players decide even before play actually starts which of their teammates has the most attributes of Arnold Palmer, based on character and humility,” McGowan said.

The preselected player from the winning team is invited to play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Florida, a PGA Tour event and a coveted prize for an amateur golfer, McGowan said.

Though the roster for the Western Amateur won’t be finalized until July, Goodbred anticipates many of the Palmer Cup players will return to compete there. The Western Amateur, which was founded in 1899, is one of the leading amateur tournaments and draws top players from around the world.

Previous winners of the Western Amateur include some of the biggest names in professional golf, including Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Ben Crenshaw.

What makes the Western Amateur so grueling, Goodbred said, is the format.

“It’s a really grueling format, so you know when this person wins that they not only have the talent, but they have the stamina,” Goodbred said. “A lot of the future PGA stars will be playing this event.”

The five-day tournament is essentially a golf marathon, with 156 players competing on stroke play for the first two days, before being cut down to 44 players. Those 44 golfers play another 36 holes of stroke play before being cut to the top 16, and the final 16 golfers play a final 36 holes of match play to determine the winner of the George R. Thorne trophy.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Just making it into the tournament’s Sweet 16 is prestigious, Goodbred said. She noted that 30 of the last 36 PGA Tour Player of the Year awards have been won by players who had previously placed in the Western Amateur’s Sweet 16.

It’s the first time either event has been hosted at Rich Harvest Farms, a privately owned golf course in Sugar Grove that’s been named one of America’s top 100 golf courses. However, the facility has hosted other big-name golf events, including the 2009 Solheim Cup.

Goodbred said that the facility was approached by Palmer himself, along with the tournament chairman, to host the Palmer Cup a few years ago.

“It wasn’t just about the fact that we’re one of the top 100 golf courses or that we’re ranked in Golf Digest,” Goodbred said. “It was about what Rich Harvest Farms does for children and for amateur golf. The event as a whole is about teaching these amateurs, these students who are about to turn pro, how to turn pro. It is mentoring them in how to act, and Mr. Rich loved that idea and would do anything for amateur golf.”

Rich Harvest Farms is not usually open to the public, so the events are also an opportunity for local residents to stroll the grounds of one of Sugar Grove’s most exclusive spots.

McGowan said that while Rich Harvest Farms expected a number of golf enthusiasts to come out for the tournaments, she also hoped local families would turn out.

“We hope we can encourage a lot of families to come and introduce their children to golf and let them see it firsthand,” McGowan said. “Anyone who has an interest in our course can walk the course. At a professional tournament, there are marshals who rope off the fairways, so you can’t see the professionals up close. But with this kind of event, you can walk the fairways and see the players up close. You can follow them around the course.”

Both events are free and open to the public, and Rich Harvest Farms will provide free parking at 2330 Granart Road in Sugar Grove. There will be signage and traffic control to help direct spectators, Goodbred said, with about 175 volunteers working the events.

Concessions will be sold on the grounds for spectators.
Palmer_Cup_Final_2015

Schedule of events
Interested in attending the Palmer Cup or the Western Amateur? All events are free and open to the public. Rich Harvest Farms invites spectators to walk the fairways with the players throughout both competitions.

2015 Palmer Cup

Thursday, June 11
Opening ceremonies begin at 6 p.m.
Friday, June 12
Foursome matches begin at 7:30 a.m.
Four-ball matches begin at 1:30 p.m.
Sunday, June 13
Singles matches begin at 8:30 a.m.
Monday, June 14
Singles matches begin at 8:30 a.m. The
Palmer Cup will be awarded in the
afternoon, after play is complete.
All tee times for the Palmer Cup
are off the No. 1 tee.

2015 Western Amateur

Monday, Aug. 3
Players begin practice at 7 a.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 4
18 holes of stroke play. Tee times begin
at 7 a.m. and 12 p.m. off both the No. 1
and No. 10 tees.
Wednesday, Aug. 5
18 holes of stroke play. Tee times begin
at 7 a.m. and 12 p.m. off both the No. 1
and No. 10 tees.
Thursday, Aug. 6
36 holes of stroke play by the top 44
players. Tee times begin at 7 a.m. and
noon off both the No. 1 and No. 10 tees.
Sweet 16 selected in the late afternoon.
Friday, Aug. 7
Sweet 16 match play begins. 36 holes.
First round begins at 8 a.m. off the
No. 1 tee; second round at 1 p.m.
off the No. 1 tee.
Saturday, Aug. 8
Sweet 16 match play. 36 holes.
Semifinal round begins at 8 a.m. off the
No. 1 tee. Championship round
begins at 1 p.m. Trophy is awarded at
late afternoon closing ceremonies, after
play is complete.

Parking
Free parking available at
2330 Granart Road, Sugar Grove.

Attire
Rich Harvest Farms asks that
spectators wear golf attire.

05/18/2015 5:51:13 PM: We originally listed in this article the U.S. Open would take place in August. It takes place in June. The above story has been corrected. The Herald apologizes for the error.

Neahring to be inducted into coaches Hall of Fame

in Boys Basketball/Golf by
Neahring_KotW

BLOOMINGTON, Ill.—The Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) has announced that it will be inducting long-time Kaneland coach Ken Neahring into its Hall of Fame in a ceremony to be held at the Bone Center at Illinois State University on Saturday, May 2.

A former physical education and driver’s education teacher, he is being inducted as a “career coach”—a category that requires at least 30-years of coaching excellence.

Neahring began coaching boys’ basketball at Franklin Center High School, where his .825 winning percentage from 1977-86 produced multiple conference championships and the first regional and sectional championships in Franklin Center history—a period the school’s website calls its “basketball glory years.”

In 1986, Neahring accepted the head basketball coaching position at Kaneland High School where, in 1987, the Knights won the regional championship. He was replaced as head coach the following year, however.

While continuing to be an assistant football coach and girls’ softball coach at Kaneland, Neahring served as assistant men’s basketball coach at Waubonsee Community College. In 1998, he was again assigned head boys’ basketball coaching duties for the Knights, a position he held until his retirement from teaching in 2003. In total, he served as an assistant girls’ softball coach for 12 years at Kaneland and continues to be an assistant golf coach—a career that has now spanned 13 years. In all the sports in which he has been a head coach, he has posted a career winning percentage of .635.

Bruce Firchau, chairman of the IBCA Hall of Fame Committee, said Neahring was nominated for the Hall of Fame by his former assistant coaches. That nomination and Neahring’s coaching resume was reviewed last November by the IBCA Board of Directors, which approved him for induction this year.

The 43rd annual IBCA Hall of Fame festivities on Saturday, May 2, will begin with an afternoon reception at the host hotel, and conclude with a dinner at the Bone Center that is referred to as “The Academy Awards of Illinois Basketball.” The 1,200-seat dinner has been sold-out since March and is the largest banquet held on the Illinois State University campus.

“It’s a great honor to be inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame,” Neahring said. “To be included in a fraternity of so many great coaches; it was unexpected. It is much appreciated, and it is the highlight of a wonderful career of coaching several generations of great young men and women. That has truly been a privilege. I loved every minute of it, and I continue to love being involved with Kaneland athletics as an assistant golf coach.”

Building a Bronco legacy

in Boys Basketball/Boys Track/Football/Kaneland/Sugar Grove by
14-WMU-CMU FB

Sugar Grove native Fleck earns MAC Coach of the Year honors, contract
extension in 2nd year with Western Michigan University

KALAMAZOO, MICH.—After leading the biggest turnaround in Mid-American Conference (MAC) history, it’s no surprise that P.J. Fleck was recently signed to a six-year contract extension as Western Michigan’s head football coach, and named 2014 MAC Coach of the Year,

Fleck, a Sugar Grove native and 1999 Kaneland High School alum, was hired as the Bronco’s head coach in 2013 when he was just 32 years old, making him the youngest head coach in Division I FBS history and also one of only two college football coaches to have played and coached in the NFL. Fleck played for the San Francisco 49ers during the 2004 and 2005 seasons before an injury forced him to move from playing to coaching. He worked as an assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012.

14-WMU-CMU FB

“I think Kaneland taught me to believe in myself. I was a freshman starting on the varsity basketball team, and you talk about people not liking you. Well, it taught me to believe in myself and that I truly belong, and that’s what Joe Thorgeson (the head football coach) did for me, and Ken Neahring, our track coach. Because as confident as people thought I should have been in high school, I wasn’t.”P.J. Fleck

Under Fleck’s leadership, the Western Michigan Broncos last season staged a dramatic turnaround from their 1-11 record in 2013, Fleck’s first year as coach. Fleck faced widespread criticism from fans following his first season with the Broncos, something WMU Athletic Director Kathy Beauregard said was expected.

“I totally knew our first year we were going to have some issues with a coaching change and a culture change,” she said. “We only won one game. But that next year, we put together a recruiting class that was the best in the MAC, and the recruits were absolutely committed to P.J.’s philosophy. We were able to put together a year where we had the biggest turnaround in college football history.”

The Broncos went 8-4 this season—their best campaign since 2008—and played in their first bowl game since 2011. WMU lost the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to the Air Force Academy Falcons 38-24 on Dec. 20, but the Broncos’ seven-game improvement in 2014 was the biggest one-year turnaround in MAC history.

Fleck attributed the bowl loss to having a young team—most of the players, which he has recruited himself, are freshmen and sophomores—that lacks the experience and depth of other teams.

“We’re one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams in the country, and we’re playing (an Air Force) team that’s mostly juniors and seniors, and they’re very well-coached,” he said.

For Fleck, though, the most important thing is not whether the Broncos won or lost—it’s about where they are headed.

“I have people ask me, ‘Oh, you’re 8-4. Did you exceed your own expectation of the program? Is the program way ahead of schedule from where you thought?’ I use the same answer I used last year. I knew where the program was developing,” Fleck said. “You saw 1-11, but the program was developing from within with a 12-0 type feel. You might have seen 1-11, but the program was really 12-0 inside.

“And it’s the same thing this year. We’re 8-4, and when you look at where our program’s headed, it’s exactly where I thought it would be. Wins and losses, that doesn’t really matter in terms of when you’re building a program from the ground up. It’s about where you’re headed, and for me, I think we’re on track.”

He’ll get that chance to continue building a program from the ground up. In addition to being named the 2014 MAC Coach of the Year. WMU on Dec. 18 extended Fleck’s contract through the 2020 season. Under the terms of his contract, he’ll make a base salary of $225,000 per year, plus other guaranteed compensation that raise his total compensation to over $800,000 per year.
Success-based bonuses and incentives could push his total income even higher.

Beauregard, who made the decision to extend Fleck’s contract, said the team wanted to lock him into a long-term contract because they knew he would be sought after. She also wanted new recruits to know that they’d have Fleck as their coach for their entire college football career.

14-WMU-CMU FB

“As a head coach, you get scrutinized; you get evaluated every day, whether through the media’s eyes, your community’s eyes, your players’ eyes. And the only profession you can compare that to, the everyday scrutiny, is a singer or an actor. There’s so few opportunities to be normal, and everybody thinks they own a part of you. That’s made me a better man, because my skin is so much thicker than it’s ever been. Every day, I’m learning about myself.”P.J. Fleck

According to Beauregard, when she originally hired Fleck two years ago, she specifically chose him to engineer a program turnaround. She hoped Fleck, who had worked as an assistant coach under Joe Novak at Northern Illinois and under Greg Schiano with Rutgers University and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—both of whom had reputations as program builders—would be able to bring a winning record to the Broncos and transform the program’s culture.

“We made a coaching change, and we were looking for something different than what we had had,” Beauregard said.

Fleck’s experience as both a player and assistant coach at NIU, a fellow MAC school that has offered strong competition to WMU, is part of what interested the Broncos in Fleck, Beauregard said. But beyond that, the program was seeking someone who could bring a positive approach to coaching—something that Fleck has been so successful in creating, she said, that it was a major reason for extending his contract.

The change that Western Michigan sought included far more than just the team’s record. The school wanted to increase attendance at its football games, which had dwindled, and build a larger fan base. It was a long-term mission at the outset.

“Obviously, when you change a culture, it takes time,” Fleck said. “This wasn’t a football program turnaround (or) a win-loss turnaround, it was a true culture turnaround. It was the culture of the community, the administration, the alumni, the boosters who had never even been a part of Western Michigan before. So you talk culture, it’s everything—it’s a complete mindset and belief system.”

That total culture change Fleck has been working to instill at Western Michigan is symbolized by the “Row the Boat” mantra he’s brought to the Broncos—a metaphor from another sport altogether.

In rowing, Fleck noted, everyone on the team has to row together. Rowers face backward and can’t see where they’re going; they have to have faith that if they just keep rowing together in the same direction, they will reach their destination. It’s not just a mantra for the players, Fleck said, but for everyone in the Bronco community, from the administration to the students to the fans in the wider community.

“If we can get everybody rowing at the same tempo, same speed, same efficiency, same power, in the same direction, we’ll get from point A to point B quickly,” Fleck told fans when he introduced the mantra two years ago. “That’s the goal of this program: win a MAC championship, and win it now. Part of rowing the boat is changing a culture.”

He’s encouraged Broncos fans and community members to hang oars on their walls and in their businesses to show support for the team and to generate the kind of positive energy he wants to see surround the team, and he gives oars away to as many visitors as he can. He’s also brought in a new DJ to play music at home games to up the energy level of the crowd.

But the biggest piece of a culture change is recruiting, Fleck said, which he’s doing differently than most fellow Division I schools. Fleck tries to recruit new players almost exclusively from within a six-hour radius of Kalamazoo, Mich., an idea he picked up from Joe Novak, the Northern Illinois head coach he once played for.

“(Novak’s) belief system is that you’ve got to get mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, the guys at the local coffee shop engaged. They’re now following that team because they know someone on it,” Fleck said. “You have players who all have the same ethic because they’re all from the same area, and family and friends can come to see every game. That’s great support for the players, and your attendance goes up. We want to keep it local and recruit local talent.”

Beyond that, though, Fleck said that he cares as much about a potential player’s character as he does about his football prowess. The characteristics he’s looking for in his new recruits are more about the athlete’s heart than about football.

“We talk about three characteristics in our football program,” Fleck said. “That is a nekton mentality—always attacking, never full, like a Great White shark. I want to know, is he attacking life? Is he growing on a daily basis? Is he charismatic? Then we talk about a Prefontaine pace. (Steve) Prefontaine was the greatest distance runner of all time, and he could go the distance.
14-WMU-CMU FB
“The last part is our farmer’s alliance. We want players who have a very unselfish mentality. We want to know their friends; we want to interview their friends. That’s where we start, and we go from there. There have been plenty of big-time players who we’ve stopped pursuing.”

The character-based approach appears to be working. The Broncos in 2014 had the highest-ranked recruiting class in MAC history. Freshman running back Jarvion Franklin was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Year, and 10 Broncos were named to Phil Steele’s 2014 Postseason All-MAC team. Franklin, the top running back in the MAC this season, led the conference with 25 total touchdowns—24 of which were on the ground.

The focus on what Fleck dubs “heartwork” isn’t just limited to the players. Fleck wants to have total commitment from everyone associated with the Broncos, including the fans—something he’s encapsulated in his “Row the Bow” mantra, Beauregard said.

“There’s no doubt that when he first came, there was a lot of skepticism and criticism about ‘What the heck does rowing the boat have to do with Western Michigan football?’” Beauregard said. “But it’s about total belief; it’s about everybody being on the same page of wanting the best for our student athletes. Culturally, it’s been something our students have absolutely loved, and we’ve had more interest in it every day.”

Beauregard said that Fleck’s own experience with tragedy—he and his wife, Tracie, lost a son, Colt, to a heart condition in infancy—has spoken to many of the student-athletes, some of whom have experienced their own life struggles.

“One thing that’s exciting is that it’s not just about football,” Beauregard said. “It’s about keeping going in our lives; it’s a belief that things are going to turn around for you; it’s a commitment that everybody is making 100 percent effort. So they buy into it, knowing that there’s going to be a light at the end of the tunnel if you just keep rowing.”

It’s a philosophy Beauregard describes as “contagious,” noting that Fleck has led the Broncos players to do a lot of community service and also to have the second-highest GPA in team history. The team’s 2.91 GPA won it the MAC Sports GPA Trophy for a fourth consecutive year. Also, the team’s GPA has increased significantly from a 2.4 average in 2013 to the 2.91 average this season.

Fleck attributes his coaching philosophy today to the many people that influenced him throughout his athletic and coaching career, believing he’s learned something from every place he’s been, starting with Kaneland High School.

“I think Kaneland taught me to believe in myself,” Fleck said. “I was a freshman starting on the varsity basketball team, and you talk about people not liking you. Well, it taught me to believe in myself and that I truly belong, and that’s what Joe Thorgeson (the head football coach) did for me, and Ken Neahring, our track coach. Because as confident as people thought I should have been in high school, I wasn’t.”

Kaneland High School inducted him into its Hall of Fame in June, recognizing Fleck’s career achievements, as well as his leading the 1997 and 1998 Knights to back-to-back State championships. An All-State wide receiver, he set school records his senior year with 95 catches and 199 career receptions, then went on to play for Northern Illinois, where he still holds the school record for punt returns (87).

From Novak, the NIU head coach who offered Fleck a scholarship when no other Division I team was interested, Fleck learned the importance of taking a chance and giving people opportunities, he said.

From Mike Nolan, former San Francisco 49ers head coach, Fleck said he learned “how to be a class act”; from Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who gave Fleck his first coaching opportunity, he learned “how to teach young men life”; from Jerry Kill, Novak’s successor as NIU head coach, who offered Fleck an assistant coaching position, he learned how to care for the players.

“And then I went to work for Greg Schiano, and he’s probably one of the hardest people to work for in the country,” Fleck said.

Schiano, who hired Fleck as an assistant coach at Rutgers University, brought him along to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“Some of my hardest personal battles I faced (were) when I was working for him,” Fleck said, alluding to the 2010 loss of his newborn son. “He taught me how to push myself, how to never sacrifice what you really want.”

These are lessons Fleck intends to carry forward as he strives to make Western Michigan a nationally recognized program, and as he adjusts to being in a constant spotlight, something he never experienced in the relative anonymity of his previous assistant coaching positions.

“As a head coach, you get scrutinized; you get evaluated every day, whether through the media’s eyes, your community’s eyes, your players’ eyes. And the only profession you can compare that to, the everyday scrutiny, is a singer or an actor. There’s so few opportunities to be normal, and everybody thinks they own a part of you,” Fleck said. “That’s made me a better man, because my skin is so much thicker than it’s ever been. Every day, I’m learning about myself.”

Editors note: P.J. Fleck graduated from Kaneland High School in 1999, not 1998 which was mentioned in the original edition of this story. The Herald regrets the error.

Photo: A happy, chilly reunion

in Boys Cross Country/Girls Cross Country by

12-30_Alumni_Run_Mary
Alumni of the Kaneland Cross Country team for the fifth consecutive year braved the cold and met up on Dec. 30 for their annual Alumni 2 Run. The alumni met at Waubonsee Community College and ran 4 miles with head cross country coach Chad Clarey and head track and field coach Eric Baron. The group then had breakfast at the Golden Acres restaurant in Sugar Grove. Photo submitted by Chad Clarey to MPaulson@elburnherald.com

IHSA schools approve three amendments

in Fall Sports/Football/Spring Sports/Tennis/Winter Sports by

Proposed change to football rules fails

BLOOMINGTON, ILL.—Illinois High School Association (IHSA) member schools approved three amendment proposals and rejected three others in the annual referendum that ended Dec. 30, 2014.

The online ballots were tabulated and certified in the IHSA office Tuesday. All the by-law changes will take effect on July 1. Proposal 8, which removes the “dead week” from the IHSA calendar, will likely be interpreted by the Board of Directors to cancel the remaining portion of the originally scheduled “dead week,” which was to begin on June 28.

Schools rejected Proposal 10, which would have revamped the football regular season and the football playoff system, by a margin of 212 for the proposal and 395 against it. Among football-playing schools only, the proposal was rejected by a count of 306-162.

Schools also narrowly rejected two proposals regarding the Scholastic Bowl season. Proposal 17 failed by a 313-291 vote margin, and Proposal 18 failed by just six votes, 305-299. Both proposals were voted down by a 55-to-45 percent margin among Scholastic Bowl-playing schools.

Here is a summary of the proposals and the vote totals:
• Proposal 1 (passed 370-239): Allows the Board of Directors to approve international programs that do not appear on the list of the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET), and thereby confer eligibility to students in those programs
• Proposal 5 (passed 375-234): Removes the mid-summer “dead week” provision that was approved last year.
• Proposal 10 (rejected 395-212): Would have revamped the football regular season and the football playoff system.
• Proposal 15 (passed 489-96): Moves the date of the first contest of the Girls Tennis season four days earlier, to Thursday of Week 7.
• Proposal 17 (rejected 313-291): Would have removed the season limitation currently in place for Scholastic Bowl.
• Proposal 18 (rejected 305-299): Would have increased the contest limitation for Scholastic Bowl from 18 dates to 30 dates.

A total of 613 of 810 member schools participated in the amendment balloting—a significant increase from last year’s 57.3 percent. A new email voting procedure is credited with turning out the vote, yielding the second-highest percentage since 1997.

Van de Velde, Heppler to Coach 2015 Palmer Cup Teams at Rich Harvest Farms

in Golf/Sugar Grove by

SUGAR GROVE—Former Ryder Cup player Jean Van de Velde and Bruce Heppler will serve as coaches of the European and United States 2015 Palmer Cup teams, respectively, at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove. The annual Ryder Cup-style competition, put on by the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA), will be played June 12-14. The 20 players will be announced by the GCAA mid-April. Both general admission and parking at the event will be free of charge.

“We would love to see a large amount of spectators on our course in June,” said Rich Harvest Farm’s Tournament Director Vicky McGowan. “With the tournament being just six months away, both the GCAA and Rich Harvest Farms are hard at work to make the tournament a huge success. This announcement only adds to the excitement on our property.”

Consistently ranked in Golf Digest’s America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses, Rich Harvest Farms is an ultra-private, members-only club located in Sugar Grove. Owned and built by Jerry Rich, the course consists of 18 holes and is a 1,820-acre showcase of nature and agriculture.

The Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) was established in 1958 and is located in Norman, OK. The GCAA is a non-profit organization and is the professional association of men’s collegiate golf coaches. Through its established events and programs, the GCAA maintains a goal of increasing awareness and the status of men’s golf. There are over 750 members in the GCAA representing all three NCAA divisions as well as NAIA and NJCAA.

The GCAA annually administers the Palmer Cup. In addition, the GCAA administers the team that represents the United States in the Toyota Junior Golf World Cup. Through its CEO and national office staff, the GCAA is also responsible for coordinating several recognition and educational events each year. The GCAA functions as the primary award granting organization for men’s collegiate golf and has honored thousands of student-athletes and coaches since its inception.

Jean Van de Velde, European Coach
Van de Velde won the French amateur championship in 1986 and represented France in the World Team Amateur and the Continent against GB&I in the St. Andrews Trophy later that year. He launched his professional career in 1987. Van de Velde claimed his first European Tour event at the Roma Masters in 1993. In 1999, Van de Velde finished runner-up at The Open Championship and became the first French player to qualify for the Ryder Cup.

In addition to his appearances in the Ryder Cup, World Team Amateur and St. Andrews Trophy, Van de Velde represented France in 12 World Cups. He helped lead the Continent to victory over GB&I at the 2000 Seve Cup and Van de Velde captained at the 2011 event.

Van de Velde will also serve as Team Europe’s head coach for the 2016 Palmer Cup at Formby Golf Club on England’s Golf Coast.

“I feel very honored to have been appointed coach of the European Team of the Palmer Cup,” said Van de Velde. “It is a privilege, as well as a responsibility, to try guiding some of tomorrow’s future stars of the game. I hope that everyone involved with Team Europe will continue the successes our predecessors established. It is a big task, but we will try our utmost best, in doing so prolonging the values of our wonderful sport.”

Bruce Heppler, American Coach
This will be the second stint as head coach of the United States Palmer Cup team for Heppler. The Georgia Tech head coach was the first American Palmer Cup coach to face a team composed of European Players when the event was held at Cassique in 2003.

Heppler has guided the Yellow Jackets to the NCAA Championship every year since 1998, and helped author 11 top-8 finishes in the Finals, including three runner-up showings. Tech is currently on a run unprecedented in school history—seven Atlantic Coast Conference titles in the last nine years and four trips to match play at the NCAA Championship in the last five.

During his tenure, Tech has won or shared 10 Atlantic Coast Conference titles. Only two ACC coaches have led their teams to more ACC titles than has Heppler. The Yellow Jackets have captured or shared 44 team titles overall. He was named ACC Coach of the Year in 2014 for the eighth time, more than any coach in ACC history except one, and was a finalist for the GCAA’s Dave Williams national coach of the year award.

Since 2000, the Yellow Jackets have finished in the top 10 of the final Golfstat rankings 11 times, and in the final Golfweek/Sagarin top 10 twelve times. Tech has not finished lower than 14th in either ranking in any year.

Heppler has recruited and developed his share of star players as well. The Yellow Jackets have had at least a pair of All-Atlantic Coast Conference honorees in 16 of the last 17 years, and landed four members of the team on the squad twice (2005, 2011). Tech has had at least two players earn All-America honors 14 of the last 16 years, and Ollie Schniederjans became the Jackets’ 20th first-team selection in 2014. Three of his players, Matt Kuchar, Bryce Molder and Troy Matteson, have been named national players of the year.

Heppler was a 2013 inductee to the GCAA Hall of Fame and serves as the Association’s treasurer.

“I am certainly honored to be selected as part of this year’s Palmer Cup,” Heppler said. “Any time you get a chance to represent your country and peers in any form it becomes a special opportunity. I know Rich Harvest Farms is committed to having a great event for these great players. I’m looking forward to a great week for these special players.”

The United States leads the Palmer Cup series 9-8-1.

KHS announces All Conference honorees for fall season

in Boys Cross Country/Boys Soccer/Football/Girls Cross Country/Golf/Tennis/Volleyball by

Ninety athletes also earn academic honors

KANELAND—Thirty-four Kaneland High School athletes earned All Conference honors—either first team or honorable mention—for the 2014 fall sports season. In addition, 90 Knights were honored for their academic achievement during their time as student-athletes.

In addition to the honors from the Northern Illinois Big XII conference, these Kaneland
athletes also earned All State honors: Madison Jurcenko (tennis), Angelica Emmanouil (tennis), Samantha Schrepferman (tennis) and Connor Fedderly (football).

2014 Fall Northern Illinois Big XII All Conference

Football:
Connor Fedderly, Dan Hammermeister, Isaac Swithers, Andrew Kray and Drew Franklin.
Honorable Mention: Isaiah Baerenklau.

Volleyball
Ellie Dunn and Riley Hannula.
Honorable Mention: Anna Senese, Kathy Nguyen and Hollie Fedderly.

Boys Soccer
Ivan Bohorquez, Angel Escontrias and Jack Wolf.
Honorable Mention: Felipe Speraggi, Andres Tovar and Matthew Gombar.

Boys Cross Country
Brandon Park and Austin Kintz.

Girls Cross Country
Victoria Clinton, Aislinn Lodwig, Brianna Bower and Andrea Wells.

Tennis
Samantha Schrepferman, Madison Jurcenko, Angelica Emmanouil, Colleen Landers and Stephanie Karolewicz.

Golf
Jesse Denton and Jake Hed.

2014 Fall Northern Illinois Big XII All Conference Academic Honors

Football:
Mitchel Groen, Tanner Robertson, Jacob Gomes, Austin Wheatley, Connor Fedderly, Daniel Hammermeister, Kevin Fuchs and Tyler Kurzrock.
Honorable Mention: Nicholas Soucie, Austin Vickery, Jacob Marczuk, Tyler Paulson, Thomas Price, Luke Olson, Zachary Douglas, Grant Burris, Jorge Espinosa, Brandon Kigyos, Tarkan Cetinal, Steven VanHorn, Alec Aurelio, Nick Wilson and Giovanni Regalado.

Volleyball:
Samantha Burgin, Hollie Fedderly, Riley Hannula, Anna Senese, Brittany Grider, Kathy Nguyen, McKenzie McMullan and AnnMarie Franz.
Honorable Mention: Jordan Hedgren, Rachel Kintz and Ellie Dunn.

Boys Soccer
Jason Carlquist, Sam Wolf, Andrew Mathys, Mark Dhom, Timothy Wachter and John Reed.
Honorable Mention: Ivan Bohorquez, Jack Wolf, Michael Meisenger and Jonathan Turyna.

Boys Cross Country
Austin Kintz, Kyle Osbourne, Alexander Gale, Mitchell Reger, Andrew Lesak and Benjiman Smith.
Honorable Mention: Grant Gingrich, Aaron French, Brandon Cruz, Sean Spaetzel, Ian Piazza, Zach Kurz and Joshua Kasap.

Girls Cross Country
Aislinn Lodwig, Murphy Garcia, Victoria Clinton, Samantha Sommerville, Bridget Ransford, Haley Penkala, Brianna Bower, Carly Bartholomew and Lilah Klingensmith.
Honorable Mention: Olivia Galor and Jessica Kucera.

Tennis
Anna Wendling, Samantha Schrepferman, Colleen Landers, Stephanie Karolewicz, Madison Jurcenko, Emily Grams, Mallory Dugan, Emily Mirocha, Marissa Michi, Allyson McPhee, Katelyn Blaszynski and Britttany Zablocki.
Honorable Mention: Angelica Emmanouil and Heather Albrecht.

Golf
Victoria Guyton, Jeremy Faletto, Jacob Sheehan and Zachary Strayve.
Honorable Mention: Julia VanGemert, Jakob Sanders, Jesse Denton and Kevin Healy.

Goldbeck signs beach volleyball scholarship

in Volleyball by
Goldbeck_headshot

KANELAND—Although the nearest beaches are some 60-miles away on the shores of Lake Michigan, Kaneland senior Julia Goldbeck has signed a college athletic scholarship to play sand volleyball at San Jose State University.

Goldbeck’s high school volleyball career has followed a circuitous route from the indoor game to the sand game. At 5 feet, 10.5 inches tall and 150 pounds, she was a starting middle hitter as a sophomore for a Lady Knights volleyball team that advanced to the IHSA regional final. She started playing club sand volleyball as summer conditioning after her freshman year.

Following a coaching change at Kaneland after her sophomore season, Goldbeck became fully-immersed in the sand game and started playing and training for it year-around for a local club team called Team One, which has an indoor/outdoor facility in Aurora and plays in major summer Midwest sand volleyball tournaments at North Avenue Beach and Montrose Beach in Chicago, and at City Municipal Beach in Milwaukee. Team One won the 18 and under USA title at the 2013 National Beach Volleyball Championships in Milwaukee and the 16 and under team title at the 2014 AAU National Beach Volleyball Championships, in Hermosa Beach, Calif.—tournaments where lots of college recruiters saw Julia play.

Julia Goldbeck
Sport: Sand Volleyball
Intended Major:
Communications and
public relations
GPA: 3.0
Julia says: “I love the strategy of sand volleyball, having to master all the skills of the game, and having to play in lock-step with my partner. My goal is to make an impact on the San Jose State sand volleyball program and to play in the NCAA Championships before I graduate.”

Camiliere impresses behind center

in Football/Sugar Grove by
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Former Knights QB thriving as Elmhurst College senior
ELMHURST, Ill.—Down 14-0 at halftime, the Elmhurst Bluejays offense needed to get their team back on track. The quarterback, a senior and second-year starter, capped off drives of 83 and 99 yards with touchdown passes. However, the team just ran out of time, losing to Millikin 21-14.

Kaneland football fans should be familiar with who’s lining up at the quarterback position for Elmhurst.

Sugar Grove native and Class of 2011 Knight Joe Camiliere, starter for three Knight gridiron playoff teams, earned College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Player of the Week honors after a win over North Park University, and has had a career year in his second season of starting responsibilities.

Camiliere, an All-State signal-caller for the 2010 Kaneland squad that earned a Class 5A semifinalist spot, and a starting outfielder for the 2011 Class 3A champion baseball team, feels he’s at a high after some initial bumps and injuries last year.

The quarterback who had to adjust to the play of high school football as a sophomore six years ago has picked up differences on the Division III level.

“The level of competitiveness is a little different,” Camiliere said. “Everybody on a college team was ‘that guy’ on their high school team and the one to go to. I think as you come in as a freshman, it’s a lot of accepting that and learning.”

First-year head coach Ron Planz is glad to have Camiliere carry out the plans, resulting in a year when adjustments can be excused.

“We look for leadership, and someone who can get into the huddle and be somebody that leads by example and who does things right. That’s number one for someone who’s our quarterback,” Planz said.
14FB_Camiliere
Working with Camiliere has also been fruitful for members of the coaching staff who work even more intensely on the offensive side.

“You’re going to need a guy that’s going to want the ball in his hands in the pressure situations,” offensive coordinator Kyle Derickson said. “We have someone right now that will get it done.”

The Bluejays senior has passed for 1,329 yards through seven contests with
Camiliere continued on page 3BCamiliere
continued from page 1B
eight touchdowns to boot, in a better position than the early 1-2 stretch.
‘We’ve got athletic guys up front and at skill positons that we like to use. We didn’t start out the year well at all. There was a tough loss to Lewis, a tough win the next week and then a loss to University of Chicago. At the bye week, we just kind of sat down as a group. Nobody panicked or needed to change this or that and the coaches didn’t change anything up. We knew we needed to correct,” Camiliere said.
“We looked for ways that were easier for Joe to get things and worked on that. That’s where you’re seeing the success now through conference. We’ve done a really good job of making sure we’re utilizing his skill set,” Planz said.

Throwing for a season-high 262 yards in a 28-0 shutout of the NPU Vikings back on Oct. 18, Camiliere knows his skills can help the Bluejays attack in the pivotal last third of the 2014 regular season.

“It’s a similar system, and it changes up a little bit, and we do some different things up front and use our speed,” Camiliere said.

In his second year of starting and fourth year of seeing action in the CCIW and around the Midwest, Camiliere has his favorite venues to sling the ball besides his own Langhorst Field.

“As of right now, it’s Illinois Wesleyan (in Bloomington, Ill.). Being able to go down there and walk on that field is something. The 2.5 hour bus ride after a win was great. Carthage (in Kenosha, Wis.) is great, too,” Camiliere said.

With no set plans to play on at any level, the talent that tossed such memorable touchdowns, like the quarterfinal winner to Tyler Callaghan against Vernon Hills in Nov. 2010, is enjoying this final three-game regular season stretch.

“I think this last month will be the last for playing football,” Camiliere said. “Coaching would definitely be something I would enjoy, but I don’t know if it’s something I would get into right away. The game of football has definitely been a big part of my life.”

Earlier in the season, the Bluejays football squad enjoyed a four-game win streak, rallying from early troubles for a current 5-4 overall record. Elmhurst closes out the regular season at home against North Central Nov. 15.
Photos courtesy of Elmhurst College Sports Information director Kevin Juday

Dunn serves up talent, receives unique honor

in Volleyball by
DSC_2420

Future Ball St. Cardinal gets Under Armour All-American consideration
KANELAND—Despite coming up on the short end of a regional final opportunity in Hampshire late last month, senior Ellie Dunn still had something to celebrate for herself and Kaneland volleyball as a whole.

On Nov. 5, Dunn was named as one of 150 players included in the Under Armour All-America Honorable Mentions by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

“Coach Violett texted me and the AD (Peter Goff) shook my hand in the hallway and said congratulations,” Dunn said. “It’s awesome for me to be included. It’s cool to see that honor and to see people I play club with get the honor, too.”

An outside hitter, Dunn was one of seven honorable mentions from Illinois and joins first-teamer Brooklyn Goodsel of Corry, Pa., as future Ball State University Cardinal volleyball players.

Dunn feels that even with the wide variety of players and regions, there are some common threads.

“If you’re on that list, there’s a competitiveness and a drive there that they all have,” Dunn said.

Dunn, who played three years of varsity volleyball at Kaneland for coaches Todd Weimer, Kerri McCastland and Cyndi Violett, made it to three consecutive Regional finals with the Lady Knights, earning a regional plaque in 2012 as a sophomore.

“From the beginning, we always wanted to play hard, no matter who was there. We wanted to be a team and gave our best,” Dunn said.

The senior had 795 total career kills, 211 service points, 139 blocks and 525 digs to hang her reputation on, and might even give her a lift to Muncie, Ind., for future Mid-American Conference play.

“There’s going be talented girls on the team and in the conference; they were the best girls where they were from,” Dunn said. “But it’s awesome to have accomplished.”

Bower finishes her cross country season at State Meet

in Girls Cross Country/Kaneland by
KHS cross country sectionals Nov 2014-1

PEORIA, ILL.—Kaneland junior Brianna Bower on Saturday stood on the 100 yard long starting line for the start of the IHSA Girls 2A State Cross Country Championships. Looking out toward the wooded hills at the south end of Detweiller Park in Peoria, Ill., was a familiar sight for her, as was seeing the entire circumference of the historic 3-mile course ring lined shoulder-to-shoulder with more than 30,000 spectators.

To Bower’s left and right were 175 runners representing 25 advancing teams, and another 35 individual runners who, like her, had punched their tickets to Peoria by being one of the top-seven individual finishers from a non-advancing team at their Sectional.

This was Bower’s third trip to the big dance, where she had placed 32nd as a freshman and 37th last fall as a sophomore, on Lady Knights teams that placed sixth and fifth, respectively. What wasn’t familiar was being in the starting box without her teammates. The previous weekend, Kaneland had fallen one spot short of the fifth and final team qualifying place for the State meet at their Sectional championship, despite running their best race of the season and beating five ranked teams.

So for the first time in her cross country career, Bower was running solo in her silver and black Kaneland Knights checkerboard jersey.

Her focus was on placing in the top 25—a feat that would earn her All-State honors.

The weather earlier in the week in Peoria had been dry, so the footing was firm at this historically fast course. But the conditions were frigid with temperatures in the mid-40s and gusty winds, resulting in a wind chill near 30 degrees.

Bower has a condition known as “exercise-induced asthma” (or E.I.A.), which is a constriction of the airways in the lungs during exercise. It causes shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing during strenuous exercise. E.I.A. is not uncommon among endurance athletes, and it is often triggered or accentuated by cold temperatures. For Bower, it’s like trying to run 3 miles with a belt cinched tightly around her throat. There are inhalers she can, and does, use to ease her condition.

“Brianna got out well and was placed in the top 20 at the halfway mark, then slowed and gradually fell back more than 50 places. I knew right away she was having asthma issues,” head coach Doug Ecker said.

Despite her breathing issues, Bower on the final 600 yard uphill finishing straightaway moved up more than 10 places to finish 57th in the field of 210 of the state’s best 2A runners with a time of 18 minutes, 34 seconds. Bower ran 18:33 last year and 18:09 in 2012.
File Photo

Knight harrier teams 1 place short at Kaneland Sectional

in Boys Cross Country/Girls Cross Country by
KHS cross country sectionals Nov 2014-1-4

Junior Brianna Bower qualifies for State as an individual
KANELAND—The Knights’ boys and girls cross country teams were hoping for a little home course advantage at the IHSA Class 2A Sectional meet at Kaneland High School on Saturday.

To have a chance to advance to the State championships in Peoria this weekend, the Knights knew they needed to have better performances than they produced at the qualifying meet the previous weekend at the Woodstock regional, where the boys placed fifth and the girls placed fourth in the 10-team fields.

As it turned out, both teams produced their best performances of the season, but both came up just shy of a State berth.

The 18-team Kaneland sectional—one of five held state-wide on Saturday—featured the top-six placing teams from the Antioch, Belvidere North and Woodstock regional meets, plus the top-five placing individuals from teams that did not advance at those meets. It was considered the toughest 2A Sectional meet in Illinois, with 10 of the top-25 ranked girls’ teams on the starting line, including seven of the top-eight ranked teams led by No. 1 Yorkville.

In the boys’ race, five of the top 10 2A teams in the state were in the field, again led by No. 1 Yorkville. At each sectional, only the top-5 placing teams would punch their tickets to Peoria, plus the top-seven individual finishers from non-advancing teams.

At the Kaneland Sectional, it was cloudy and a brisk 37 degrees for the 10 a.m. girls’ race, but the snow and blustery winds from the previous day had disappeared. At the gun, Marengo senior Kitty Allen shot to the front, with only Belvidere North sophomore Jenna Lutzow willing to go with her. Mid-way through the 3-mile race, the duo opened a 100-yard lead on the rest of the field, with Kaneland junior Brianna Bower in the chase pack of 10 runners. In the last half of the race, Bower was in the top-15 and Kaneland senior Victoria Clinton had moved up into the top 30, with teammates Andrea Wells and senior Aislinn Lodwig in tow.

With 100 yards to go, Lutzow passed Allen to win the race in 17 minutes, 33 seconds, and Yorkville packed five runners into the top 22 places to win team honors with a 72-point total. Bower charged home in 12th place in 18:11, with teammates Victoria Clinton, Andrea Wells and Aislinn Lodwig all running under 19:00 in 27th, 35th and 39th place, respectively.

Kaneland’s No. 5 finisher, senior Jessica Kucera, ended up in 70th place in 19:30. Kucera gave the Lady Knights a team score of 171 and a sixth-place finish, ahead of ranked teams like Rockford Boylan, Marengo, Lakes and Woodstock.

Though the Kaneland girls missed advancing to the State championships by one place, Brianna Bower advanced as one of the top seven individual finishers from non-advancing teams.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our team,” head coach Doug Ecker said after the race. “I don’t think any of our seven runners could have finished one place higher today. They left it all on the course and finished our season with a great performance.”

“All I wanted to do today was run a P.R. (personal record),” Bower said. “So I went out fast and pushed hard all the way.”

Bower’s quest for a fast time led her to running an aggressive race, which resulted in her earning her third-consecutive appearance in the State Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Nov. 8, in Peoria, Ill. That, despite suffering a stress fracture in her foot last summer that saw her start the season under-trained and in the back of the pack.

In the boys’ race, things were much the same as for the girls, yet very different for Kaneland. The boys team was closer to a qualifying berth than the girls—missing by only eight points behind Prairie Ridge’s 162.

Prior to the race, head coach Chad Clarey knew an aggressive race was the only way his Knights would emerge from the tough Sectional field.

“Our goal today is to have Austin Kintz and Matt Richtman place in the top 15 individually and make a run at qualifying for the state meet—and for the rest of our team to run faster and closer together than we have all season,” Clarey said prior to the start. “That would be a daunting task with ten of the top-20-ranked 2A teams in the state standing next to them on the starting line, including 19 runners who had qualified for the state track championships last spring.”

At the start, Yorkville’s senior twins Jake and Luke Hoffert sprinted to the front of the race, and stayed there for the next 3 miles. Vernon Hills sophomore Shane Williamson was the only one who took up the chase, which proceeded at sub-15:00 pace. He ran most of the race 50 yards behind the Hofferts and 100 yards ahead of the rest of the chase pack.

A half-mile into the race, Kaneland’s Kintz, Richtman and senior Brandon Park were running in the mid-20s in the field of 147 runners. Over the last mile, Kintz and Richtman kept working their way past tiring early front-runners. Park defended his place in the 20s, and senior Mitch Reger broke away from teammates junior Sean Spaetzel, sophomore Andrew Kantola and junior Will Kuipers.

At the finish, Jake Hoffert crossed the line in 14:49, 1 second ahead of his brother Luke, and Yorkville added places 9, 27 and 28 to win the team title with 67 points. Behind them, a dogfight was being waged for the final four team qualifying spots for the State meet, with runners diving for the finish line and collapsing on the ground due to exhaustion.

In the end, Austin Kintz placed 16th in 15:33, and Matt Richtman placed 17th in 15:39—finishes that left them just two and three places short, respectively, of the final individual State qualifying spot. Park and Reger ran 3-mile lifetime bests of 15:48 and 16:28. And Spaetzel’s 69th-place finish gave Kaneland a team score of 170 points and sixth place—just eight points behind the fifth and final qualifying place for the State Championships.

The Knights’ efforts saw the team finish ahead of five ranked teams. Burlington Central senior Clay Musial qualified as the seventh individual finisher from non-advancing teams.

“This race was the start of something big for these guys,” Clarey said after the race. “It gives us momentum and confidence heading into the track season, and it sets the stage for us to end the cross country season next fall standing on the starting line at the state meet.”

In her third year qualifying for the IHSA State Meet, Bower will toe the line Saturday at 11 a.m. at Detweiller Park in Peoria. As a freshman, Bower placed 32nd with a time of 18:09, and ran 18:33 for 37th place last season. Bower represents the final fall-sport athlete still competing for Kaneland.

Photos by Laura Gampfer

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