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School Board discusses charter school concerns

in Featured/Kaneland/Regional by

by Mary Parrilli
KANELAND—The Kaneland School Board on Monday held a public hearing on the charter school proposal submitted to the district by Virtual Learning Solutions (VLS). The board was also given a proposal presentation by a representative from K12, a management company that is seeking partnership with VLS.

John McMurray, a representative from K12, on Monday presented to the board and proposed an online charter school called Illinois Virtual Charter School at Fox River Valley, a completely online school system for grades K-12. It is a public school, funded by public money, with no cost to parents. It operates much like a regular public school, with standardized tests, a common core curriculum and daily classes.

VLS has proposed to District 302 a charge of $8,000 allocated to them per student.

“The establishment of a charter school will have an impact on Kaneland finances,” Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler noted to the board. “It is important for the board to prioritize the impact that the charter school will have on the local taxpayer, given that there would be less money available from the state.”

The board voiced many questions and concerns regarding the online charter school; one such concern was that K12 is a for-profit company, making money off of taxpayers.

“K12 is a for-profit company, and as far as I know, they are making a sizeable profit, millions of dollars. I don’t like the fact that you (K12) are making profits off the backs of taxpayers,” School Board trustee Joe Oberweis said.

Members of the community in attendance also voiced their concerns, including Sharon Beck, high school math teacher and president of the Kaneland Education Association.

“We need property taxes to pay for schools that provide our community with high-quality education,” Beck said. “The fact of the matter is that charter schools take from public schools.”

The board will make a decision and vote within 30 days to grant or deny the proposal.

Local couple re-launches The Lodge on 64

in Featured/Regional by

Photo: Aaron and Kristie Perez recently purchased and re-launched The Lodge on 64 in Wasco. Kristie is an Elburn native who attended Kaneland High School and Waubonsee Community College. Photo and story by Elizabeth Rago

WASCO—The timing was perfect for husband-and-wife entrepreneur team Aaron and Kristie Perez as they were presented in late 2012 with the opportunity to become owners of The Lodge on 64 (formally known as Niko’s Lodge).

The daughter of a local farmer, Kristie was born and raised in Elburn and attended both Kaneland High School and Waubonsee Community College.

“We couldn’t say no to this location and its proximity to all the great surrounding towns and communities,” the Perezs said.

With their lease up, the restaurant’s previous owners did not execute their option to purchase the property. Kristie and Aaron, who together have more than 29 years of experience in the restaurant business, eagerly said yes to the opportunity.

The three-day process (yes, Kristie and Aaron re-launched The Lodge on 64 in three days) posed challenges similar to what other turnkey businesses face when opening. Numerous repairs, new licenses and permits and an update of existing computer software were on the punch list to get The Lodge ready for business.

“The biggest obstacle was taking the restaurant from being closed to making it fully functional and operational as The Lodge on 64 in three days,” Aaron said. “The process was definitely hectic and a little stressful, but we knew what to expect trying to get The Lodge up and going.”

Kristie said that she and her husband have been in the business long enough that they have experienced the ins and outs of what makes a restaurant succeed or fail.

“We have always talked about where and when to open our own restaurant,” Kristie said. “Entering into this venture with The Lodge, we feel like it is right fit us and the community.”

Upon entering The Lodge, eyes are immediately drawn to the mural created by local artist B.J. Wagner on the walls of the entryway. The warmth of the live rotisserie displayed behind the host station, combined with prints and original newspaper clippings of the history of the space, previously known as “The Farm,” brings a relaxed and cordial feel right off the bat.

The Lodge offers American fare featuring ribs, “Braveheart” steaks, burgers, seafood, pasta and salads. The rotisserie oven selections include: wood-roasted chicken, duck, pork and turkey. Fresh homemade appetizers like baked mushrooms stuffed with garlic cream cheese mix or spinach artichoke creamy crab dip, served hot with grilled pita bread, and hearty entrees like the Braveheart burgers are just a few options on the menu.

Monday through Friday, The Lodge will offer all-you-can-eat specials like ribs and fish fry. Monday-through-Thursday “Lodge Dinner Deals” for will be available $10.99.

The Lodge also features complimentary s’mores, which guests can roast on outdoor fire pits, adding to the friendly atmosphere of this Midwest-version of a mountain lodge. From a casual venue to watch your favorite sports team to an intimate night out with your significant other or close friends, The Lodge on 64 serves up homemade American cuisine.

“We want to be known as the place to go for any occasion,” Aaron said. “Whether it is date night, family night out, graduation, birthday and engagement parties, or even a place to watch your favorite sporting events. We cater many events and offer banquet services, but we want to be known for is our quality food and great service.”

For more information about The Lodge on 64, visit thelodgeon64.com or call (630) 443-8000. The Lodge on 64 is located at 41W379 Route 64 in Wasco, just west of St. Charles.

Sterling is gold for KHS boys

in Boys Track/Featured by

Knights rule NIB-12 indoor track at Sterling
by Mike Slodki
Kaneland—The Kaneland’s boys track squad amassed 107 points by the end of Saturday’s Northern Illinois Big XII Indoor conference meet housed by Sterling High School’s Westwood track.

The remaining field would have to be competing a fairly long time to match that total.

Geneseo’s 67, DeKalb’s 62 and Yorkville’s 55 rounded out the top four. Sycamore (52), Dixon (44), LaSalle-Peru (23), Ottawa (22), Sterling (17) and Rochelle (16).

The field event accolades began with senior stalwart Marshall Farthing, who took third at six feet, three inches. Teammate Dylan Kuipers’ 12-09 effort in the pole vault was good for third.

The long jump was accented by KHS duo Tanner Andrews in third at 20-07, and Ben Barnes in fourth at 20-05.5.

The triple jump featured Knight Andrews in second at 41-02.25 and teammate Dalvell Triplett in fourth at 40-08.25.

Junior Nate Dyer’s 49-06 in the shot put was good for second place to round out the field festivities.

Kaneland’s winning edge increased thanks to personnel like Brandon Bishop, who’s second-place time in the 60 meter dash came as a result of of a 7.15 second time.

Knight Dylan Nauert’s 8.78 in his 60m hurdles event took first, while the Kaneland 4x200m relay effort of 1:37.25 was third overall.

The 800m run had two noteworthy finishes thanks to Kyle Carter’s second (2:03.65) and Luis Acosta’s fourth (2:06.53).

Nathaniel Kucera of Kaneland conquered the 400m dash field at 52.99.

Topping the afternoon was the KHS 4x400m relay squad’s first place time of 3:33.80.

“We scored well and placed in many events but didn’t get very many personal best,” KHS coach Eric Baron said. “We are struggling with the weather this spring, and our lack of adequate indoor facilities is starting to show in our performances. We are getting many injuries due to the training surfaces we have to use in the hallways and gym floors, as opposed to rubberized field house tracks. I am hoping that weather breaks soon.”

The outdoor campaign’s is scheduled to begin on Saturday, April 6, at the East Moline United Invite.

Indoor success

in Featured/Girls Track by

KHS girls track takes 2nd at NIB-12 indoor meet
by Mike Slodki
Kaneland—The number 100 has a nice round edge to it, especially when Kaneland girls track gets that edge.

With the 100 point total on the grounds of Sterling High School for the Northern Illinois Big XII Conference indoor meet, the Lady Knights are sitting quite well leading into the outdoor season.

“(It was) a very good effort all the away around for all the girls,” KHS coach Doug Ecker said. “It was a step in the right direction for outdoor season when we should have the full team in place.”

Yorkville’s group finished first with 110 points. Geneseo at 88, DeKalb at 55.5 and Sterling at 34.5 rounded out the top three.

Sycamore (29), Morris (19), Dixon (10), Rochelle (10), Ottawa (7) and LaSalle-Peru (2) completed the indoor field.

The exemplary scores were frequent for the Kaneland-clad team in the field events.

Junior Christina Delach’s 8 foot, three inch pole vault effort earned a second-place. Junior Lauren Zick’s 16-10.25 in the long jump was good for third place overall. Senior teammate and triple jump standout Ashley Castellanos took fourth in her event with a 34-foot effort.

Elle Tattoni continued the KHS fortunes in the field by earning third place in the shot put, chucking 34-1.5.

In the track events, freshman Brianna Bower took third in the 3200m run with a time of 11:35.47, while elder teammate Abby Dodis took fourth at 12:24.48. The Kaneland 4x800m relay was second-best at 10:38.27, and in the 60 meter dash, Zick excelled with a first-place 7.92 time.

The KHS 4x200m relay foursome was first overall with a time of 1:51.77, beating DeKalb by .30 seconds, while Zick made her presence felt in the 400m dash by taking second at 1:00.08, and first in the 200m dash at 26.62, while Castellanos took fourth in the same event at 28.01.

Kaneland’s day ended with a 4:15.95 first-place time.

“We were very happy with the 4×200 and 4×400 relay to win those races with very good times without Zick running on either one. (Brianna) Bower ran an excellent 3200 in 11:35, with only Amy Eddington, the 1987 State champion at that event, having run faster for Kaneland. Lauren Zick and Ashley Castellanos had excellent days placing in four events,” Ecker said.

KHS girls take to the outdoor track at Burlington Central, meeting the host Lady Rockets and Oregon Hawks on Tuesday, April 2, at 4:30 p.m.

Return from state

in Featured/Middle School/Wrestling by

Five Kaneland Harter Middle School students qualified for IKWF State Wrestling Championship this year at the BMO center in Rockford, Ill.: Riley Vanik (left to right), Luke Eggenberger, Jacob Shearer, Mitch Jones and Trevor Jones. Jones was the lone medalist, taking fifth place at 130 pounds in the novice division.
Courtesy Photo

Cougars unveil new website, prepare for April 4 opener

in Featured/Kane County Cougars by

GENEVA—The Kane County Cougars organization has launched a re-designed website at kccougars.com.

In conjunction with Minor League Baseball, the Cougars’ website will give fans the best means to follow the team and all of the on-field action beginning this season. Access to Cougars news, news from across Minor League Baseball, and news concerning the Chicago Cubs, the Cougars’ major league affiliate, will be easily accessible from the website’s main page through the re-design.

As has been the case for years, fans can also stay up-to-date on ballpark promotions, contests, entertainment and events in 2013. Some of the website’s most prominent areas include links to each of the Cougars’ social media sites. Fans will continue to have the convenience of ordering and printing their tickets online from home.

“We’re extremely excited to provide our fans with this new and modernized look for our re-designed website,” Cougars General Manager Curtis Haug said. “The look and functionality of the site, along with giving our fans the easiest way to access important information, is extremely important. We feel that our new website re-design accomplishes these goals.”

Opening Day at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark is less than three weeks away. The Cougars, in their first year of affiliation with the Chicago Cubs, will host Quad Cities on Thursday, April 4 at 6:30 p.m. Fans can order tickets by calling (630) 232-8811 or visiting kccougars.com.

SG candidates speak

in Featured/Sugar Grove by

Photo: Interested citizens and business members alike attended the Sugar Grove Meet the Candidate’s Night on Tuesday evening to ask questions and hear from their local politicians. Here, Sugar Grove attorney Steve Ekker opens the evening. Photo by Kimberly Anderson

by Keith Beebe
Video by Sugar Grove Online

SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove residents on Tuesday evening got a look at many of the village candidates who will appear on the April 9 General Election ballot.

The occasion was Sugar Grove Meet the Candidates night. Held at the Sugar Grove Community House and co-hosted by the Sugar Grove Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Elburn Herald, the event provided local candidates with an opportunity to introduce themselves to residents and discuss village topics and issues.

Sugar Grove governing bodies, including the Fire Protection District, Public Library, Park District, Community House, Waubonsee Community College Board, Kaneland School Board, Township, Village Board and village president, were represented during the event. During the introduction period, several candidates talked about how they came to live in Sugar Grove. Others briefly outlined their reason for running for local office. Kaneland School Board trustee candidate Pedro Rivas ended his introduction speech by saying “Vote for Pedro”—a nod to the film “Napoleon Dynamite.” Township write-in candidate Laurene Geary stated her belief in open and honest government, and pledged accessibility and availability to the residents in attendance if she’s elected next month.

Library Board candidate Louise Coffman used part of her introduction to endorse another candidate.

“I ask the voters to take the time to write in Pat Graceffa on April 9,” Coffman said. “I have never met anyone more passionate about or dedicated to the library than Pat. She deserves our support and a seat on the board.”

Graceffa during introductions told the audience that she’s a life-long library supporter, an education advocate, and she loves to read.

“My 12-year participation in the Sugar Grove Library Friends group has given me access to the library staff, the library collection and, most importantly, to our Library District residents. So I will not be new to the workings of the library,” she said.

There are five Village Board trustee candidates vying for three open seats. Non-incumbent Village Board candidates Gayle Deja-Schultz, Stephanie Landorf and Sean Herron all shared their background and hopes for Sugar Grove. Deja-Schultz noted that she is an advocate of seniors and a member of the Kane County Senior Resources; Herron talked about how experience working for a Fortune 500 company made him a great candidate for the position; Landorf said she wanted to see board meetings webcast on the village’s website.

Rick Montalto, one of two Village Board incumbents on the ballot this spring, ended his introduction by encouraging residents to “not to replace what works with what sounds good.”

“Your current Village Board and staff are not just about the rhetoric; as a team, we have proved that we can move the village forward while keeping a balanced budget,” he said.

Village President Sean Michels and his challenger, board trustee Kevin Geary, rounded out the first half of the event. Michels said his future goals are to continue working on the Route 47/I-88 interchange project, which will bring in additional commercial development to help further diversify the tax base.

“I’d like to also work with Kaneland School District on an intergovernmental agreement on impact fees to make sure that new development pays for itself, and I’d like to bring fiber-optic service to the community to make our businesses competitive so that they can compete with the rest of the area.”

Geary said he “has concerns with the direction in which Sugar Grove is going,” noting that there are four key areas that can be improved. However, Geary was only able to mention the first two keys—open and honest government and diversifying the tax base—before he ran out of time.

The second portion of the evening involved a question-and-answer session involving candidates for Sugar Grove Township supervisor, Village Board trustee and village president. The four township supervisor candidates—Harry Davis, Scott Jesseman, Curt Karas and Tom Rowe—fielded questions regarding maintaining services while keeping taxes down and working with outside districts.

“As we’ve seen with Rob Roy (Drainage District No. 2) and the village finally getting together on Mallard Point (to solve its drainage issue), a lot of good things can come out of (working with other districts),” Jesseman stated in response to the latter question.

Village Board trustee candidates received questions about their campaign platform, their stance on video gambling machines in the village, and what they would do to attract new businesses to the village while retaining existing ones.

“People want to see growth within the community. I personally don’t only want growth, but I want to see responsible growth in the community,” Deja-Schultz said in response to the first question. “That means businesses that come (to the village) are good for our community.”

“Originally, I was the first one that came out against (video gambling). I came out against gambling in the community due to my 31 years of law enforcement background and some of the issues that gambling does bring,” Montalto said in response to the second question. “However, I was also the one who was a swing vote to change our mind to go back to authorizing it for the (Sugar Grove) American Legion. The only one in our community who has applied for it is the American Legion.”

Montalto said the American Legion came to the Village Board and expressed that the establishment was on its “last legs.”

“They thought video gaming may bring membership back in for them; it’s a private club. I did not want to see the American Legion go away,” he s said.

The evening concluded with Michels and Geary fielding questions regarding what it would take to re-enter an intergovernmental agreement with the Kaneland School District , transparency of local government, and each candidates’ vision for the village.

“It isn’t a Kevin Geary vision for Sugar Grove—it’s a collaborative vision that includes every single citizen sitting here, citizens that are not here, but creating an environment where you have input into our processes,” Geary said in response to the final question. “The village does not exist for its own good; it exists because you, the citizens, desire it to exist, and to take care of the things that we, as individuals, cannot take care of.”

“We have to keep moving forward, and I think we have that vision in place. We have our long-range plan that shows where we want retail development, business development, our train stations, things like that. We need to continue to bring in businesses and rooftops so that we can see this vision grow,” Michels said.

Identical twins x 2

in Elburn/Featured by

Photo: Dr. Ken Baumruck (left) with his brother, Keith, and Keith’s grandchildren Ethan and Alexander.
Multiple sets of twins run in the family. Photo by Kimberly Anderson

by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—Elburn chiropractor Ken Baumruck and his brother Keith are identical twins, an occurrence that happens in only about three in every 1,000 births. By contrast, fraternal twins are born in about 32 of every 1,000 births.

So when Ken’s nephew, Brad, and Brad’s wife, Rachel, had identical twins a year ago, it was really a surprise.

“Identical twins are not genetically determined,” Ken said. “It’s very rare; a freak of nature.”

He explained that identical twins are born from the same egg and the same sperm, with the fertilized egg, or the zygote, splitting after fertilization.

“The cause is not known, but we have the same DNA,” he said.

Ken said there are so many things in which they are alike. They like the same foods, their hearing is the same. When one twin’s cholesterol goes up, the other’s does, as well. It’s the same with blood pressure.

“It’s like he’s the other half of me,” Ken said. “We can finish each other’s sentences.”

Although Ken and Keith have another brother and two sisters whom they love, Ken said it is not the same.

“He’s my best friend; he’s just like me,” Ken said of Keith. “It’s a deeper thing.”

Keith feels the same way.

“I have to talk to him once or twice a week,” Keith said. “I don’t feel right when we’re out of contact.”

Keith said that they had a lot of fun growing up together. Although their mom never dressed them alike, they did everything together. They both enjoy sports, especially hockey, and they are both Chicago White Sox fans.

“I always had a buddy,” Keith said.

Ken and Keith are both married to blondes, and their astrological signs are Taurus. The two wives are good friends.

“It’s almost like you marry the brother, too,” Ken said. “The other twin is part of the package.”
Ken’s nephew Brad works for him in his chiropractic practice. Brad said that a couple of years ago, his uncle needed some extra help, and the two meshed really well.

Identical twins are not supposed to run in families. According to www.twin.com website, if an individual has a parent who is an identical twin, his or her chances of having an identical twin are the same as anyone else—3 in 1,000.

Brad said his identical twins, Alexander and Ethan, have already shown similar characteristics and traits. Their weight is within one pound of each other, and their length is exactly the same, as is their head diameter. They’re already very close.

“They talk to each other without talking,” Brad said. “They’re looking at each other, and then they’ll start laughing. Doc and my dad do it, too.”

Since they were only born a little over a year ago, it remains to be seen if they will end up as close buddies like Ken and Keith.

“They’re still young, but hopefully, they’ll be like us,” Keith said.

Brad said that when his dad is at home watching a Sox game, and one of the players hits a home run, the phone rings.

“You know it’s his brother,” Brad said.

Swing shift | 2013 Spring Sports Preview

in Baseball/Featured by

Photo: Shortstop Trever Heinle saves the ball from going into the outfield on a high throw while a Yorville player steals second during Kaneland’s home game against Yorkville last season. File Photo

Kaneland nine ready to reach previous heights
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—If Kaneland baseball has its way, the past stands to serve as the prologue to something bigger and better.

After a thrilling 3A title win at Silver Cross Field in Joliet, Ill., to end 2011, the Knights were upended in the regional semifinal by Northern Illinois Big XII rival DeKalb to conclude 2012.

All the varsity crew from the championship victory have departed, but the imprint from that amazing moment is still felt by current call-ups to the varsity crew.

“All of those players from the state team have graduated now,” seventh-year KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “It means a lot to these juniors and seniors who were in the stands watching how special that run was to State; something they strived to support. They know what it takes without being able to call themselves champs, yet.”

Returning to the varsity ranks from a 24-11 season are Kyle Pollastrini, Matt Limbrunner, Zach Martinelli, Joe Pollastrini, Ty Bellock, Matt Kucera, John Hopkins, Josh Cohrs, Dan Miller, Lane David and Clarke University-bound Blake Sowell.

Newly donning a varsity jersey in 2013 are seniors Austen Davis, Nick Albano, Jake Parry and Josh Sitterly. Juniors are Joe Komel, Tyler Carlson, Curtis Thorson, Lucas Wolski, Nate Hopkins, Nick Henne and Nick Stahl.

It’s up to the new varsity group to strike out the bad taste left by last year’s earlier-than-preferred exit.

“The DeKalb loss was exactly what happens when you think you are owed something that you haven’t gone out and earned,” Aversa said. “We have used that as an early coaching point, but we are now well past that, and those problems from last year are long gone. We are now back to business as usual, focusing on our fourth conference championship in a row.”

Despite the field being covered in snow, which can result in cabin fever, the players are getting their cuts in whenever they can, including evening practices.

“I haven’t seen another group work as much and soak up as much as these kids have. You can just see the burning desire that they all have. Not having to talk about the intangibles of hustle, heart, desire and will makes all the difference in this group,” Aversa said.

With the start of the campaign looming, Aversa’s current projections have an outfield three of Kyle Pollastrini, Martinelli and Miller. Bellock, Kucera, Nate Hopkins and Lucas Wolski would bring depth.

The infield would look like John Hopkins at the hot corner, Joe Pollastrini at shortstop, a platoon of Sowell, Carlson, Davis and Sitterly at second base, and Limbrunner at first. Komel will see time at first and designated hitter, with Carlson seeing time at third along with Parry.

The arms for Kaneland prove to be one of the major strengths of the club with John Hopkins, Limbrunner and Sowell as the top three. Komel will look to shut down late-inning threats in relief. Kyle Pollastrini, Thorson and Stahl also provide depth out of the bullpen. Sitterly, Albano, Joe Pollastrini, Bellock, Nate Hopkins, Davis and Henne could also see key mound-time before the year is out.

Threats hit the NIB-12 landscape with all eyes on KHS, and Aversa is aware of the talent from the area.

“Sycamore and Yorkville are the two who I think are loaded this year, with DeKalb close behind. Morris is always tough, and Rochelle has some talent coming up,” Aversa said. “We will be ready, and the road for conference has to go through Maple Park. It has for the past three years, and until we don’t finish in first, we will continue to think that way,” Aversa said.

The season kicks off in Maple Park on Monday, March 18, against Machesney Park’s Harlem High School. The first NIB-12 East Division matchup is set for Monday, April 8, at Rochelle.

KHS Baseball Roster

Name Projected positions
Nick Albano P
Ty Bellock OF/P
Tyler Carlson IF
Josh Cohrs
Lane David
Austen Davis IF/P
Nick Henne P
John Hopkins IF/P
Nate Hopkins OF/P
Joe Komel IF/DH/P
Matt Kucera OF
Matt Limbrunner IF/P
Zach Martinelli OF
Dan Miller OF
Jake Parry IF
Joe Pollastrini IF/P
Kyle Pollastrini OF/P
Josh Sitterly IF/P
Blake Sowell IF/P
Nick Stahl P
Curtis Thorson P
Lucas Wolski OF

Spring journey | 2013 Spring Sports Preview

in Featured/Softball by

Photo: Kaneland’s Allyson O’Herron slides safely into third during the regional championship game last year.
File Photo

Softball squad eyes extending goal beyond regional title
by Mike Slodki
Kaneland—With two-thirds of its Regional Championship lineup returning, the KHS softball team is preparing to show what it can do when Opening Day 2013 arrives.

That core of the team knows what it’s like to come back when the chips are down, like in last year’s Regional Championship win over Yorkville. Yet, they’ll have to do it without some of last year’s key players.

Gone are the likes Northern Illinois Big XII MVP and current Northern Illinois Huskie Delani Vest and reliable backstop McKinzie Mangers, but fellow all-NIB12 members Paige Kuefler, Hayley Contorno, Aly O’Herron and Lexi Roach solidify this year’s lineup.

In fact, most of the lineup from last year’s 31-7 team will return, and they will apply the experience gained from advancing all the way to the Belvidere North Sectional semifinal last May.

Fourth-year coach Brian Willis was at the helm for the first regional title win for the school in seven years.

“There’s no question that team was special last year, and they accomplished a lot of things,” Willis said. “They won 31 games and a regional, but they (the 2013 team) still have goals they want to achieve. We did lose some key players, and every school goes through that, but we have several girls coming back that are anxious to get back out on the field.”

The lineup looks to combine success and hunger.

“We have girls that will use last year as a motivating factor for this year,” Willis said.

Returning captain O’Herron patrols shortstop.

“I’m biased, but I think she’s one of the best shortstops in the entire area,” Willis said.

Junior Hayley Contorno returns at first with Rosary’s loss continuing to be a KHS gain on defense. Sophomore Kuefler moves from third to her natural position of catcher, and will try to duplicate her middle-of-the-order success at the plate. All-conference junior Roach and junior Callaghan patrol the outfield and help with the bats, with senior Sarah Grams back for an outfield job, as well. Callaghan looks for a full-strength year after missing half of 2012 with injuries, yet she still hit over .500.

Second-base will be a platoon, and freshman Meg Cohrs will start at third.

Senior Ellissa Eckert, junior Allie Miller and sophomore Anissa Becker shore up the pitcher’s circle, with Eckert having the more sizable throwing experience.

“Replacing somebody like Delani will be very difficult, but you could have someone step up and be a surprise this year; that’s sports,” Willis said.”This is their opportunity to shine.”

Fellow members of the Lady Knight roster include outfielders junior Caroline Heimerdinger, senior Morgan Newhouse, junior Megan Frascona, senior Taylor Krawczyk and junior Kaley Martens.

Infielders include junior Maddy Hester and senior Kristin Gabrielson.

The Lady Knights begin 2013 on Friday, March 15, at Jacobs High School in Algonquin, Ill. A spring break softball trip takes the team to Louisville, Ky.

KHS Softball Roster

1 Caroline Heimerdinger OF Jr
2 Sarah Grams OF Sr
3 Maddy Hester IF Jr
4 Allyson O’Herron IF Sr
6 Lanie Callaghan OF Jr
8 Allie Miller IF/P Jr
14 Haley Contorno IF Jr
16 Meg Cohrs IF Fr
18 Paige Kuefler IF/C So
21 Morgan Newhouse OF Sr
24/44 Anissa Becker P/IF So
26 Megan Frascona OF/P Jr
27 Taylor Krawczyk OF Sr
31 Kristin Gabrielson IF Sr
37 Kaley Martens OF Jr
50 Ellissa Eckert IF/P Sr
70 Lexi Roach OF Jr

Immense size, talent | 2013 Spring Sports Preview

in Boys Track/Featured by

Photo: Kaneland’s Nate Dyer throws the discus a conference-best 148 feet, 9 inches, at the NIB-12 Conference track meet last season at DeKalb High School. File Photo

Largest team in school history gears up for ’13
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Kaneland High School boys track head coach Eric Baron has more reasons than ever before to feel good about his team’s prospects for the coming season.

Despite the loss of key personnel like Sean Carter, Clayton Brundige and Nate Rehkopf, the Knights return by and large an immensely talented group with State experience.

That gets Baron eager to get things going, despite the snow-covered outdoors.

“For the indoor meets, we’ve been running mostly freshmen and sophomores, and the group of freshmen that we have just amaze me,” Baron said. “They are just so talented. I have a great group of juniors and seniors, but I have a group of freshmen that might be more talented than they were. The phrase is ‘reloading,’ but I don’t think we’re reloading anymore.”

Kaneland finished second in the Northern Illinois Big XII swing of things a year ago, and took its fourth straight sectional crown before sending 11 athletes to the big dance in Charleston, Ill. Five finalists achieved All-State honors and will serve an important role in 2013.

Members of the all-State 4×200 relay squad of senior Dylan Pennington, junior Brandon Bishop and senior Brandon Cottier provide a boost, with junior Dylan Nauert taking on relay duties and hurdle responsibilities.

“Cottier and the other sprinters have gotten the job done and have State medals. Bishop has come out of the gate, as well. Dylan and those two have the relays looking very solid,” Baron said.

Distance qualifiers from a year ago include senior Conor Johnson, junior Nathaniel Kucera and junior Kyle Carter, who set a school record in State prelims.

Kory Harner returns in the vault category after qualifying the last two years.

Nate Dyer returns with national experience, besides a Charleston trip, while Cottier also lent speed to the sprint categories.

“Last year, all three relays medaled, Dylan Nauert medaled, Nate Dyer didn’t, but he was a sophomore and what he’s been doing is unheard of, so I don’t worry about him,” Baron said.

Distance personnel also used to State competition include Luis Acosta in the junior class.

Ben Barnes and Isaac Swithers could see major event time on the sophomore level, while Baron pointed out Brandon Cruz as someone who could make an impact on the freshman class.

Field events look to be a certain strength in 2013.

“We have a very talented group of throwers, and more than we’ve ever had. I think that’s going to continue. Dyer is the workhorse of the group in the shot and disc, and could be knocking on the door of school records when it’s all said and done,” Baron said.

Baron also mentioned junior Shane Jorgensen as having stepped up big a year ago.

“We tied for first at Kane County because Shane had a huge night,” Baron said. “Jaumareo Phillips has had a huge offseason and has been throwing consistently, and Alex Snyder has been throwing well.”

Senior Marshall Farthing returns in the high jump and triple jump, while senior Tanner Andrews lends his jumping expertise to the Knight contingent, with junior Dalvell Triplett triple jumping in 2013, as well.

Kaneland plans on using its massive roster to its advantage.

“This gives us a lot of flexibility. If we have an injury, we’re not going to miss a bit. Injuries can be very devastating to a team, and I don’t see that being an issue. We’re just so deep,” Baron said.

The first outdoor meet for KHS is the East Moline U-High ABC meet scheduled for Saturday, April 6, while the Peterson Prep is housed by Kaneland on Saturday, April 20. The Kane County Meet is set for Friday, May 3, at Burlington Central, and the Northern Illinois Big XII meet is the following Friday at Dixon High School.

KHS Boys Track Roster

Luis Acosta 11
Brian Anderson 9
Tanner Andrews 12
BenBarnes 10
Alex Baumgartner 12
Brandon Bishop 11
Ryan Bower 11
Sam Bower 11
Kyle Carter 11
Julian Cook 9
Brandon Cottier 12
Brandon Cruz 9
Phil Cutsinger 11
John Delach 9
Andy Delgado 9
Mark Dhom 9
Nate Dyer 11
Dan Evers 11
Marshall Farthing 12
Drew Franklin 9
Alex Gil 12
Mike Gorenz 11
Mitchell Groen 9
Kory Harner 12
Cole Hookham 9
Brandon Huber 12
Conor Johnson 12
Shane Jorgensen 11
Brian Kemp 9
Brad Kigyos 12
Brandon Kigyos 10
Austin Kintz 9
Gary Koehring 11
Nathaniel Kucera 11
Will Kuipers 9
Dylan Kuipers 11
Joe Kuipers 12
Tyler Kurzrock 9
Andrew Lesak 10
Matt Lyons 10
Jay Markuson 12
Jared Matthys 9
Stephen McCracken 12
John Meisenger 12
Nick Messina 12
Brayden Miller 12
Dylan Nauret 11
Mitchell Nelson 10
Kyle Osborne 9
Brandon Park 10
Freddy Paulina 9
Ryan Paulson 12
Connor Pennington 10
Dylan Pennington 12
Connor Peterson 9
Jaumaureo Phillips 11
Triston Powell 9
Giovanni Regalado 9
Mitchell Reger 10
Mike Rinella 9
Tanner Robertson 9
Brock Robertson 11
Jacob Robitske 10
Jakob Rodriguez 9
Matt Rodway 12
Zach Selmer 12
Tyler Slamans 11
Haven Smith 10
Alex Snyder 11
Sean Spaetzel 9
Felipe Speraggi 9
Gus Stott 12
Logan Strang 9
Isaac Swithers 10
Zach Thielk 10
Jackson Thomas 11
Dalvell Triplett 11
JR Vest 11
James Walker 10
Ryan Weber 9
Seth Weiss 12
Spencer White 9
Chris Wido 12
Zack Wielgos 11
Sam Wolf 9
Nicholas Wolski 9
Nathaniel Zitko 11

Back On ‘TRACK’ | 2013 Spring Sports Preview

in Featured/Girls Track by

Photo: Ashley Castellanos (right) put in good work last year at the Jill Holmes Invitational, including winning this 100 meter dash. File Photo

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—For Kaneland girls track, each season is a like a new generation. As athletes advance through their careers, they gain experience and attain success, and then pass down what they’ve learned to the younger athletes just starting on their own paths.

“The girls have always had a good work ethic, for the 28 years I have been here, and that is due to younger girls learning from the older ones by their actions and approach to practice and meets,” long-time KHS head coach Doug Ecker said.

There are many lessons to be learned from the successes of last year. Kaneland will see one state finalist return to the fold, as well as five other state qualifiers. Add to that an individual Northern Illinois Big XII Conference Champ, and Ecker has plenty of reasons to feel good about this year’s prospects.

Returning from a trip downstate to close out last season are Sydney Strang, an 800 meter State Finalist, distance runner Maggie Brundige, sprinter Kaltrina Ismaili, distance runner Jessica Kucera, distance/hurdler Amanda Lesak, and jumper/sprinter Lauren Zick. In addition, NIB-12 shot put champ Elle Tattoni returns as well, to help form a solid core of team leadership. Even beyond those who advanced in the postseason last year, Ecker said there are already plenty of examples of upper classmen helping the younger members of the team.

“We are proud of all the girls. We have seen leadership from Zick, Ismaili, Ashley Castellanos and the senior distance runners,” Ecker said.

New additions to the varsity mix could be in line for big things in 2013, with the onset of freshmen sprinters Olivia Galor and Allie Heinzer.

“(Galor and Heinzler) give us good depth in the sprint and sprint relays, something we have not had in a long time,” Ecker said.

Shoring up the middle distance and distance ranks, according to Ecker, are cross country strengths Brianna Bower, a freshman, and sophomore Victoria Clinton.

The Lady Knights will do their best to hang with the conference rivals, and looks to be in good standing to to so.

“It is early, but the conference seems to be balanced this year. Yorkville has their distance crew and an All-State transfer in the jumps and sprints. DeKalb will be strong, and Sycamore is improved. Geneseo is always strong in track and will be this year, as well,” Ecker said.

Kaneland takes to the outdoor meets in 2013 on Tuesday, April 2, in Burlington, along with fellow visitor Oregon. The noted Jill Holmes Invite occurs on Saturday, April 6.

KHS Girls Track Roster

Carly Bartholomew 9
Brianna Booton 9
Brianna Bower 9
Maggie Brundige 12
Angelia Carbonara 12
Erika Carlson 11
Ashley Castellanos 12
Victoria Clinton 10
Christina Delach 11
Laken Delahanty 12
Abby Dodis 12
Noelle Espino 9
Olivia Galor 9
Ashley Garcia 9
Murphy Garcia 10
Kayla Girolamo 9
Kyla Goodine 11
Samantha Havlin 10
Jordan Hedgren 9
Allie Heinzer 9
Kaltrina Ismaili 10
Brittany Kemp 11
Lilah Klingensmith 9
Sarah Kolzow 9
Jessica Kucera 10
Amanda Lesak 12
Aislinn Lodwig 10
Sydney Luse 12
Hallie Miles 9
Madeline Mohatt 9
Alexia Orosco 10
Nicole Partipilo 10
Lauren Pence 10
Anna Piazza 11
Natasha Ring 12
Kaprice Sanchez 11
Sophia Sandquist 9
Julia Schaefer 9
Sam Sommerville 9
Rachel Steinmiller 11
Sydney Strang 11
Elle Tattoni 10
Amy Vanderschaaf 9
Lauren Zick 11

Turning the corner kick 2013 Spring Sports Preview

in Featured/Girls Soccer by

Photo: Kaneland opened its season last year at home against Geneseo. Brittany Olson (above) looks to pass in the second half. File Photo

After 4 trips to Regional finals, KHS looks to advance further
by Mike Slodki
Kaneland—For four consecutive years, the Kaneland Lady Knights soccer contingent has made it to the regional final match, only to lose to Crystal Lake Central in 2009 and 2012, and Rosary in 2010 and 2011.

With the loss of just four seniors from a year ago, a talented returning core and a stellar work ethic, KHS coach Scott Parillo expects big things from the group that finished 12-6-1 (7-2-1 Northern Illinois Big XII).

So does the team itself.

“They talk about it (the regional championship), but they want to do well during the season and build up to the opportunity to play in the regional finals,” Parillo said.

The strength of the lineup begins with team captain and future Purdue athlete Jordan Ginther in goal.

(She’s) shown great leadership. She hates losing and has kind of instilled that in the players. We had a very intense practice (Monday) and the teams hated losing in the drill; bodies were flying around, it was great fun,” Parillo said.

Shoring up the rest of the lineup are defenders and seniors Anne Marie Giese and Brooke Harner. Junior Jess Coia, junior defender Delaney Stryczek, junior midfielder Michelle Ortiz, junior forward Brittany Olson, and sophomore midfielders Madi Jurcenko, Courtney Diddell and Heather Ortiz will also return to lead the team.

This current group of returners hold a big role in the larger picture, especially concerning the newcomers.

“I think they have showed them how to work hard in practice, to give everything they have and still have fun and joke around when it’s needed,” Parillo said.

Entering the mix are new varsity athletes like freshman mid Kiandra Powell, freshman defender Sage Schlehofer, sophomore mid Emily Grams, freshman mid Gabby Cano and freshman defender Nicole Koczka.

“The girls really seem to get along well, they look like they are having fun and they are working very hard in practice,” Parillo said.

In order for the team to be in the NIB-12 thick of things, KHS will have to keep up with some talented outfits.

“The conference will be very competitive. DeKalb and Sycamore look very tough, Yorkville is really starting to pick up steam, Morris is very competitive, as is Rochelle. I would definitely say DeKalb and Sycamore seem to be the teams to beat. The other teams could surprise people though. We have our work cut out for us,” Parillo said.

The season begins on Tuesday, March 19, in Aurora against IMSA, with the first conference tilt on Tuesday, April 2, vs. DeKalb.

KHS Girls Soccer Roster
# Name Position YR.
1 Jordan Ginther Keeper 12
5 Kiandra Powell Mid/Fwd 9
6 Sage Schlehofer Defense 9
7 Heather Ortiz Mid/Fwd 10
8 Anne Marie Giese Def/Mid 12
9 Courtney Diddell Mid/Fwd 10
10 Michelle Ortiz Keeper/Mid 11
12 Madi Jurcenko Mid/Fwd 10
13 Delaney Stryczek Mid/Fwd 11
14 Jessica Coia Mid/Fwd 11
15 Brittany Olson Mid/Fwd 11
16 Emily Grams Mid/Fwd 10
17 Gabby Cano Mid/Fwd 9
18 Brooke Harner Defense 12
19 Nicole Koczka Def/Fwd 9

Elburn’s ‘aqua man’

in Elburn/Featured by

Photo: Zero Edge Aquariums and Water Features in Elburn is the designer and manufacturer of some of the most unique and stunning acrylic aquariums. Their goal is to create aquatic attractions and elements that stretch the imagination. Their products are displayed globally in residential, commercial aquariums, hotels, resorts, spas, zoological and educational settings. Above is an aquarium from the Zero Edge Classic series. Courtesy Photo

by Cheryl Borrowdale
ELBURN—Brett Perry’s 20-year obsession with coral reefs spawned his invention of the world’s only rimless, overflowing aquariums, as well as a thriving local business that sells them to everyone from enthusiasts to the queen of Thailand.

Zero Edge Aquariums, located at 810 E. North St., is new to Elburn (the business moved to town from St. Charles this past November). Perry, however, is not.

He first developed his patented rimless design here in 2002, when he owned a downtown aquatics store, A Splash of Life, which sold corals he farmed in his basement in Elgin.

“In the beginning, I was kind of a hobbyist gone crazy,” he said. “I just got infatuated with corals and growing corals.”

That infatuation led Perry to take his corals to trade shows. But since standard aquarium designs didn’t show off his corals to the best advantage, Perry decided to build his own.

He wanted one without a lid or visible rim, so that buyers could look straight down into the water and see the corals from all directions. And he thought that making the aquarium overflow would help attract attention.

“It was just a snazzy tank to sell my corals,” Perry said. “The first one was kind of lucky, and at the beginning, I didn’t realize what I had.”

But when Perry’s aquarium attracted more attention at the trade shows than the corals, he realized he was onto something. He spent five years perfecting and patenting the design, and launched Zero Edge Aquariums in 2006.

Since then, the business has relocated three times—from Bloomingdale to St. Charles to Elburn—seeking more space. His wife, Denise, joined the company in 2008, and the couple hired three employees as the business grew.

“It’s going really well,” Brett said. “We’ve been doubling every year. It’s not huge numbers, but this year, from what we can see already, we’re going to be doing twice the amount of work as last year.”

Zero Edge sells a line of standard aquariums, but the rimless variety is their specialty.

“The zero edge aquarium just flows over like an infinity pool, so that’s our signature,” Brett said. “If you think of the typical tank that has a plastic black bracing on the top, the rimless tanks don’t have anything. They’re more open and elegant and beautiful.”

That elegance has attracted customers from all over the world—Spain, Germany, Japan, Brazil—including some high-profile customers, like Queen Sirikit of Thailand, who purchased a Zero Edge aquarium to display in her bedroom. Pitbull, a rapper and host of the Spanish-language television show “La Esquina,” has one of the overflowing tanks at his home in Miami.

Though the Perrys have done very little marketing so far—the focus has been on putting the processes in place, setting up machinery and developing the product line—they’ve been doing a number of large custom orders for businesses.

“We can do custom shaping, custom forming, curved panels, any kind of shape you can come up with,” Brett said.

Among the most interesting examples, he said, is a hexagonal touch pool built for the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai on Hawaii’s “big island.” The tank, which features sea cucumbers, starfish and crabs, was designed be an outdoor attraction on the beach, and had to be rebuilt when a tropical storm wiped it out.

Zero Edge doesn’t have a showroom open to the public yet, but the company website, zeroedgeaquarium.com, has an online store that offers several different tanks. Denise said that they are looking to expand the types of tanks sold online.

“We have a new line of little desktop tanks,” Denise said. “People think of Zero Edge as overflowing aquariums, but we’ve broadened our line. We have a lot of new types of aquariums that we are starting to put into the business so people can purchase them.”

The rimless aquariums might be more beautiful, but they are suited only for certain types of fish. According to Brett, many fish need a lidded aquarium, or they will jump out of the tank. That’s one reason why Zero Edge makes several types of aquariums, suited to different kinds of fish, and is expanding its product line.

Among the planned additions are specialty jellyfish and seahorse tanks, both of which should be available in the next six months, Denise said.

DeKane Equipment Corp. celebrates 40th anniversary

in Featured/Regional by

Photo: Russ Ruh in 2013 will celebrate 40 years of partnership within DeKane Equipment Corporation. Here, he is pictured in front of a company tractor.
Courtesy Photo

by Elizabeth Rago
BIG ROCK—In 1972, Hinckley-Big Rock High School junior Russell Ruh, commonly known as Russ, was hired by partners Robert Hardekopf and Merle Thorson to work in the Service Department of Big Rock Implement Company. With one slip of a gear case, young Russell’s life would not only land him in crutches, but also behind the counter taking inventory of implement parts. Recognizing Russ’s natural knack for managing parts, Robert decided to keep his enthusiastic young employee permanently in the Parts Department.

Forty-one years later, Russ Ruh celebrates the 40th anniversary of his partnership with Hardekopf, James Shrader, Mike Johnstone, Peter Kaus and Brent Shrader of DeKane Equipment Corporation. Adding to the foundation of rich local history in Big Rock, most do not know that DeKane Equipment Corp. first came into existence in 1880.

Before the turn of the century, a gentleman by the name of Levi Davis started a general store establishment, located by what was previously the bandstand (presently the big gazebo) by the big rock on Route 30. Levi’s General Store stocked coffee, sugar, and tea, all of which were delivered via horse-drawn covered wagon. A small ledger book documenting transactions, including livestock taken in as trade for goods offered was found in the 1950’s by future owner, Robert Hardekopf, among stacks of old papers and items from previous owners. Robert brought the ledger book to owner, Carl Thurow, insisting the worn records were too valuable to discard. Carl kept the journal, and incidentally, it has never been seen since.

Since the general store began, ownership changed hands and names three times, and by 1954, Hardekopf and Thorson solidified the current future of the company, Big Rock Implement.

Sixty-five years later, Robert Hardekopf is still walking through the doors of DeKane Equipment, almost half the lifetime of the business itself.
So, what has kept this historic company flourishing since 1880?
“Hard work, quality product lines and consistent superb customer service,” Ruh said. “Companies like DeKane are few and far between now. We work with customers in a 50-mile radius with farm, construction and consumer (lawn and garden) equipment.”

Establishing roots in a small community such as Big Rock also means supporting local organizations and families. DeKane Equipment Corp. staffs 20-25 area employees, has been a major contributor to the Big Rock Fire Department and annually participates in the Big Rock Plowing Match.
“It all starts with establishing a positive personal relationship,” Ruh said of DeKane’s successful past. “Our customers like and trust us because we offer competitive prices, on-site repairs, and if you have a problem, we fix it the first time.”

As the landscape of the Kaneland area has changed over the years, DeKane has stretched its farm equipment service both out west and to the east of Big Rock, and offers Versatile tractors; lawn and garden equipment like Stihl
lawn and garden products; Kubota tractors; Cub Cadet mowers and tractors; Woods; Grasshopper; Scag; Dixon equipment; Honda mowers; generators and Troy Bilt tillers. An ever-evolving business, DeKane Equipment Corp. has come a long way from selling sugar and coffee, but their consistent message of providing customers with high-quality products and friendly, knowledgeable and trustworthy staff members remains true.

DeKane Equipment Corporation will host a 40th anniversary celebration on May 18 at 47W619 US Route 30. The festivities will be suitable for all ages.
For more information about DeKane Equipment Corporation, or to find out more about the 40th anniversary celebration, call (630) 556-3271 or visit www.dekane.com.

Elburn Public Works Superintendent honored at Blackhawks game

in Elburn/Featured by

Photo: Elburn Public Works Director John Nevenhoven smiles with his wife Melissa and son Ryan at the Blackhawks game on Feb. 15. John was one of two veterans honored prior to the game. Courtesy Photo

by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—Elburn Public Works Superintendent John Nevenhoven served in the United States Navy for nine years of active duty before going on to college and marrying his wife Melissa. When the World Trade Center was hit on Sept. 11, 2001, their son, Ryan, was six years old.

John said he wanted to do something to contribute to his country. He knew he couldn’t do it fulltime, so he joined the Navy Reserves in November 2001. He serves one weekend a month, as well as participating in two weeks of training every year at Scott Air Force Base outside of St. Louis. He was deployed to Afghanistan for a year in 2006, and was set to go again in 2011, but his tour was cancelled at the last minute.

John has been a big hockey fan since he was in high school, and he and his family frequently watch the Blackhawks play. Melissa noted that before each game, two service members are honored, one active duty and one veteran.

She did some research, and through the USO found a contact to suggest John for the honor. That was in August 2011. The family recently received a call from a representative of the Blackhawks to set the date, and on Feb. 15, John, Melissa and Ryan showed up at the United Center at the appointed time.

John said he was escorted to the penalty box, where he stood next to Jim Cornelison, who performs the national anthem before each game. John and a veteran from the U.S. Army walked out onto the ice and saluted the flag while 21,000 fans cheered through the entire song.

“It was kind of neat to hear that crowd,” John said. “I’ve been to tons of hockey games, but this was a different feeling. Seeing those people cheering the national anthem; it’s an incredible event to be a part of, whether you’re on the ice or in the stands.”

Melissa said the whole thing was quite overwhelming, seeing John out there in his uniform.

“It was very emotional,” she said. “We’re very patriotic to begin with. I’m so extremely proud of him and our service members in general. It’s not just about John.”

What made the event even more special was that the event occurred on Ryan’s 14th birthday.

“He was pretty excited and proud,” Melissa said. “It was such a great way to celebrate.”

John is a member of the United States Transportation Command, which monitors and tracks all pieces of Department of Defense equipment shipped around the world. Whether it’s tanks or bullets, blankets or anything else that service members need during their deployment, Scott Air Force Base is the world-wide logistics hub.

Melissa said that when John joined the reserves in 2001, she stood behind his decision because she knew it was important to him. They didn’t know at the time that he would be called up to go to Afghanistan. However, she said the family has a good local support system, and when John had to leave, they made it through his time away.

“It was difficult, but we were able to email and internet chat and talk on the phone,” she said. “We were very lucky. I kept so busy that I didn’t have time to dwell on it. You do what you have to do.”

Now John has one more reason to thank his wife.

“I always wondered how the Blackhawks chose the service members,” he said. “Melissa should get the Wife of the Year award.”

re-’Fleck’-tions from a head coach

in Featured/Football by

KHS alum P.J. Fleck prepares for 1st season as head coach in major college football
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—When asked about former Knight wideout P.J. Fleck, former assistant and current Kaneland High School head football coach Tom Fedderly said, “No one is going to outwork P.J.”

“I don’t know about anyone else, I just try to outwork myself,” Fleck said on Monday.

That could be what led to the Sugar Grove native’s rise through the ranks among NFL and college football staffs. His rise culminated in becoming the youngest head coach in major college football on Dec. 18, when he took over the top spot at Western Michigan University at the age of 32.

He replaced eight-year head coach Bill Cubit, who had been fired after a 51-46 stint leading the Broncos.

After starring for Kaneland High School and Northern Illinois University, and then making the NFL as a member of the 2004 San Francisco 49ers, Fleck entered the coaching ladder as a graduate assistant with Coach Jim Tressel’s Ohio State Buckeyes.

Fleck then went on to be wide receivers coach at NIU and Rutgers before following former Scarlet Knights head coach Greg Schiano to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the 2012 season.

Fleck has plenty of mentors who have made an impact on him as he prepares for his first season in Kalamazoo, Mich.

“Anytime you’re a coach at any level, you’re built by who you were with,” Fleck said. “I’m all of those guys.”

Fleck’s aspirations always included being a head coach at some level. A chance to lead a program with plenty of Midwestern talent and belonging to a conference with ample television coverage gives him a stage to show what he can accomplish.

“People looked at Nick Saban when he first started coaching and said he had never been a coach before,” Fleck said. “Now it’s wondering if he can win another national championship. You can’t be a head coach until you get the job.”

Assembling the Broncos’ football staff provided a boost to the first-year coach.

“I was excited to assemble my kind of coaching staff. In my short career, I’ve been around a lot of coaching staffs, and now it’s my chance. Every year, you kind of re-invent yourself until you become a head coach,’ Fleck said.

Fleck tries to lead the program back to a winning season, last seen in 2011 when the Broncos went to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl and finished third in the MAC West Division.

The Kaneland grad is also getting the head coach/father dynamic down, as the birth of his second child, daughter Paisley, came just 24 hours before he officially took the Broncos’ helm.

“I love it, and somehow I have more energy,” Fleck said. “You have to be able to manage your time, and this has made me a better husband and father.”

The 15th head coach in Western Michigan history has plenty of fans in his corner locally, as Fedderly saw early on what Fleck was capable of accomplishing.

“Just watching him mature and become the man that he is just makes me really proud. He’s just a really good friend and good friend of our family. To see him work his way up as he did and become a head coach at 32 is unbelievable,” Fedderly said.

With mere months remaining before the start of his first season, Fleck reflected on the the biggest change he has experienced thus far in his new role.

“You are the final decision maker. I’ve always wanted to be that. You listen to the coaching staff and hear what they have to say and at the end of the day, you make the best choice,” Fleck said. “Greg (Schiano) was the best I’ve ever seen at making decisions.”

Having to start somewhere, Fleck has reached a pinnacle at his first head coaching stop.

“People have always doubted me at every stop,” Fleck said. “It’s happened my whole life, and I love it.”

Fleck and his WMU team kick things off in East Lansing, Mich., against the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday, Aug. 31.







SU Rutgers


Boys hoops’ journey ends at Spartans’ hand

in Boys Basketball/Featured by

Photo: Guard Drew David is fouled while trying to get to the hoop during the fourth quarter of Kaneland’s 43-32 loss to St. Francis at the Class 3A IMSA Regional Feb. 27.
Photo by Patti Wilk

Fourth quarter sees fortune upended in 11-point regional loss
by Mike Slodki
AURORA—If it weren’t for a tough fourth quarter, Kaneland boys basketball could be talking about a regional final in Aurora.

An evenly matched game at Illinois Math and Science Academy against the No. 2 seed St. Francis was a tight affair, until the Spartans made a run and stopped the Knights 43-32 on Feb. 27.

The game was rescheduled due to less-than-stellar travel conditions and snowfall on Feb. 26.

Kaneland’s road stops with a 16-12 record for 2012-13, after garnering 17 victories in each of coach Brian Johnson’s first three seasons.

In 2011-12, the Knights powered through to the sectional semifinal in Sycamore before losing to Rockford East.

Aurora Central Catholic pulled an upset over Wheaton Academy, 41-37, in the first game of the evening, while the 3A Regional final on Friday featured St. Francis taking the plaque over ACC by a 46-43 tally.

St. Francis was scheduled to face Sycamore in the Freeport Sectional on Wednesday.

Senior Dan Miller paced the Knights with 10 points, while fellow senior Matt Limbrunner added nine.

It was fitting that the last challenge was buoyed by the two lone seniors in coach Johnson’s program this year.

“Those two came from a sophomore team that went 24-1; you look forward to getting that group. They stick with it and everyone else kind of disappears. They stuck with the program and gave me all they had, and they were my first freshman class,” Johnson said.

Senior Tim Zettinger had a game-high 21 for St. Francis.

In the first frame, Tyler Carlson’s bucket and a later free throw gave KHS a 7-2 lead with 3:17 left, but the Spartans scored the last six points of the quarter, including a buzzer-beating arc from Zettinger to fall behind 8-7.

Kaneland’s shooting touch disappeared the last half of the second quarter, with Limbrunner’s two foul shots breaking a 4:21 drought to close within 15-14. The Spartans’ bucket with 45.9 left extended the lead to 17-14 before halftime.

The Knights’ shooting touch picked up to give the lower seed a lift in the third quarter. Limbrunner hit a shot, followed by two from Miller and a baseline jumper from John Pruett that tied the score at 22-22 with 4:45 to go.

A feed from Limbrunner found Pruett to take the lead for KHS at 24-22 with 2:59. After a foul shot and steal and follow-through from St. Francis, a Limbrunner contested shot gave the Knights a 26-25 edge with 37.2 to go in the third quarter.

With both squads looking for their edge, Miller’s two free throws closed it to 29-28 after St. Francis took a lead.

Kaneland took its last lead of the game on a Limbrunner three with 4:15 to go for a 31-29 lead before St. Francis went on a 14-1 run to close the game. The Spartans went 7-for-8 from the foul line to help their cause. The final point of the season for KHS was a Drew David free throw with 1:16 remaining to close within 37-32.

“We didn’t hit shots down the stretch,” Johnson said. “We didn’t take care of the ball; there were a few times in the third quarter that hurt. Matt (Limbrunner) hit that three, and we got a lead. It could have went either way, and unfortunately it went against us.”

Community Corner: The story of the Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival

in Community Corner/Featured by

by Maria Dripps-Paulson,
Executive director, Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival

Once upon a time, a little girl grew up on a farm in rural Illinois. She loved the arts, but was never given the opportunity to go to an art museum or meet a “real” artist in person.

When the little girl grew up, she became an art teacher in the Kaneland School District. Realizing that Kaneland was similar to the rural setting in which she grew up, the teacher began envisioning an event where students, family, and community, far removed from the art culture scene of Chicago, could experience the arts.

She dreamed of the Kaneland Community experiencing the arts in an interactive setting, absolutely free, and the Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival was born.

Bonnie Whildin, the little girl turned art teacher, began teaching at Kaneland full time in 1985 with the idea of a Fine Arts Festival fresh in her mind. However, it was not until May 1998, with the collaborative help of another art teacher, that the first Festival actually became reality.

The first annual Kaneland Fine Arts Festival was a two-hour event at Kaneland South Elementary School (now Kaneland John Shields Elementary). Attendance was approximately 200 people, and the presenters were made up of local artists and musicians.

Since its inception 15 years ago, the KCFAF has grown beyond Mrs. Whildin’s vision. Now expanded to its seven-hour celebration of the arts, the Festival saw a need to utilize the Kaneland High School auditorium for performance events held throughout the year. Beginning officially in the fall of 2009, KCFAF began the Festival Performance Series, which brings professional, quality performances to the Kaneland auditorium at affordable prices.

In July 2010, the first annual Kaneland Community Summer Theatre production was performed on the Kaneland High School stage, and will continue this summer with the production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

This year’s Festival will take place on Sunday, April 21, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. More information can be found on www.kanelandartsfestival.org or www.facebook.com/kcfaf302.

Publisher’s note
The above community-submitted column is one part of our broader mission to help our readers connect with their communities. If you or your organization would like to be part of our Community Corner initiative, please contact Editor Keith Beebe at kbeebe@elburnherald.com. Please note that no for-profit or elected officials are eligible to be part of the Community Corner.

‘Mr. Kaneland’ cause a personal one for 2013 winner

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Photo: KHS senior Mike Karakourtis poses with his grandmother, Orla, and grandfather, Mike, after winning the Mr. Kaneland 2013 competition. His faux boy band, Alex Carillo, Dalvell Triplett, Karakourtis, Chad Swieca and Diego Ochoa, helped make it happen. Courtesy Photos

by Keith Beebe
KANELAND—Who knew tuxedos, pink fannie packs and stonewashed jeans could play a part in such an important cause?

Kaneland High School senior Mike Karakourtis entered the 2013 Mr. Kaneland event with the intention of raising money for Delnor’s Center for Breast Health. He proceeded to do just that, raising nearly $1,500 for the center and earning the right to be called “Mr. Kaneland,” thanks to a sprawling dance routine that featured Karakourtis and his friends in some eye-catching boy band outfits.

For Karakourtis, the cause behind the Mr. Kaneland event, which was held on Feb. 15 in the KHS auditorium, is a personal one.

“My nannie survived breast cancer in 2002,” he said. “She’s such an important person in my life, and is one of the sweetest people I know. I feel very fortunate to still have her in my life, as many people lose loved ones to this terrible disease.”

Karakourtis, a North Aurora resident, said he wanted to do the Mr. Kaneland fundraiser and raise as much money as he could as a tribute to his nannie and the fight that she had won against breast cancer.

“My nannie is like an angel in my life, and one of the sweetest people I know,” he said. “I am so lucky she survived, as many women do not.”

Karakourtis’ fundraising consisted of selling $5 bracelets and receiving donations. He was also auctioned off for over $300 during the Mr. Kaneland event.

“One of my favorite parts of the night, aside from knowing my nannie was watching in the audience, was being told our principal, Chip Hickman, bid $70 on me during the auction to be fun and show support of the event,” Karakourtis said. “We have a really great school, with teachers and staff that go out of there way for you, have great school spirit and remember that although they are teachers and administration, they can still let loose and be fun..”

Karakourtis showed up to the event dressed to the nines in a tuxedo, but the sophistocated garb eventually gave way to a wardrobe consisting of sleaveless shirts and pink hats, fannie packs, fingerless gloves and stonewashed jeans for the song and dance routine he performed with friends Chad Swieca, Diego Ochoa, Alex Carrillo and Dalvell Triplett.

Songs featured during the performance were Flo-Rida’s “Right Round,” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Enya’s “Only Time” and MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.”

“Part of the event is coming up with a talent. Chad, Diego, Alex and Dalvell offered to donate their time and skills and be my back-up dancers,” Karakourtis said. “They were willing to do anything and wear anything to ensure the audience laughed and had a good time. (They were) asking off work to rehearse, missing plans of their own to practice, and even stayed with me sometimes till midnight practicing moves, creating new choreography, cutting music, etc., all to show support of this great cause.”

Needless to say, the 2013 Mr. Kaneland event was a memorable one for the resourceful teen.

“No one really knows the hours that are put into these events,” he said. “This was a true testament of (the group’s) friendship, integrity and character, and something I will never forget.”

The group’s performance can be found on YouTube under the title “Mr. Kaneland 2013.”

His faux boy band (left to right), Alex Carillo, Dalvell Triplett, Karakourtis, Chad Swieca and Diego Ochoa, helped make it happen.
His faux boy band (left to right), Alex Carillo, Dalvell Triplett, Karakourtis, Chad Swieca and Diego Ochoa, helped make it happen.
Mike Karakourtis
Mike Karakourtis
KHS senior Mike Karakourtis (above, center) poses with his grandmother, Orla, and grandfather, Mike, after winning the Mr. Kaneland 2013 competition.
KHS senior Mike Karakourtis (above, center) poses with his grandmother, Orla, and grandfather, Mike, after winning the Mr. Kaneland 2013 competition.
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