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Boys Track: West Aurora Captures First Place At Oswego Outdoor Invite

West Aurora’s Royce Golembeck prepares to launch in the pole vault.

Paced by a dominant performance in the field events, West Aurora’s boys track and field team took first place at the Oswego Outdoor Invite on Friday.

The Blackhawks tallied 161 points while Aurora Central Catholic finished in second place with 129. Host Oswego followed close behind in third place with 110 points while East Aurora ended up in fifth with 45.

“The field events got us off on the right foot and the track followed up with some really good performances,” said West Aurora coach Cortney Lamb. “Overall, it was a real good night for us.”

The Blackhawks won seven individuals events, including five of the six field events.

Aaron Kennebrew finished on top in both the high jump (6 foot, 1 inch) and triple jump (40-09.5). The junior jumper set a personal record in the high jump.

“I want to get better every single meet. I listen to my coaches, I trust them completely,” said Kennebrew. “My philosophy is to get better every single practice, every single meet so I’m ready for the big meets coming up.”

The Blackhawks swept the top three spots in both the shot put and the discus with Lijah Spears finishing on top in both events. Spears was followed by David Aleman and Shaq Redmond in the discus. Jorgeluis Ramirez and Aleman finished second and third in the shot put.

With a final jump of 12-06, pole vaulter Royce Golembeck finished first in his event for the second straight meet. Golembeck also took first in the pole vault at the Peterson Prep at Kaneland last weekend.

“I didn’t do well the three weeks before Kaneland, so I went in to practice and worked hard,” said Golembeck. “I’m trying to break in a new pole, and it’s turned out nicely for me these last couple meets.”

On the track for the Blackhawks, Vontrel Hawkins took first in the 400 meter dash (50.78) and while Greg Roache won the 110 meter hurdles (16.01). Roache also finished third in the triple jump.

Lamb hopes the Blackhawks’ success on Friday carries over into next week’s Kane Country meet, which will be hosted by West Aurora.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with what happened tonight. They came out and made a good showing,” said Lamb. “We accomplished what we needed to. That’s going to give us confidence going into next week and the following weeks.”

Despite being the smallest school at the six-team event, second-place Aurora Central had a strong showing, winning three individual events and two relays (4×400 and 4×800).

Matt Meyers took home first place in both the 800 meters (2:00.40) and 1600 meters (4:31) while sprinter Joseph Fese won the 100 meter dash (10.84). Chargers athlete Patrick Lefevre finished second in the triple jump and 110 meter hurdles and third in the 300 meter hurdles.

“We have a lot of courage on our team,” said Meyers. “Even though there were 3A teams here, we weren’t intimidated. We really wanted to go after it.”

Third-place Oswego was paced by long-distance runner Caleb Beck, who finished first in the 3200 meters (9:31.10) and jumper Alain Dixon, the champion on the long jump (21-00). The host Panthers also won the 4×100 and 4×200 relays.

Beck blew past his competition in the 3200, finishing 45 seconds ahead of second place Ricky Barajas of East Aurora (10:16).

East Aurora rounded out area teams in fifth place. Blazing sophomore Desmond Gant once again led the Tomcats, finishing first in the 200 meter dash (22.58) and third in the 100 meter dash (11.11).

“I wanted to run under 22.5 in the 200, obviously I didn’t do that, but I still felt I ran good tonight,” said Gant. “I can do better though, so I’ve still got work to do.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon and yourseason.com. It appears here.

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Girls Softball: Mary Kate Gosselin Drives In Six As Aurora Central Rallies Against Aurora Christian

Both teams gathered in the infield for a prayer circle after Tuesday’s game.

Aurora Central Catholic won its fifth straight game on Tuesday, but it didn’t come easy.

Gabi Alfaro had three hits and scored four runs and Mary Kate Gosselin had three hits, including a home run, and drove in six runs as the Chargers overcame a 7-0 deficit to defeat Aurora Christian 13-9.

“We really, really weren’t prepared to play. I kept telling them it was a long game, and that turned out to be the case,” said Aurora Central coach Jim Hallahan. “We came back because of timely hitting by the middle of our order, and the bottom of the order got on base for them.”

Aurora Central committed four errors and allowed six unearned runs in the first two innings as they fell into an early 7-0 hole.

The Chargers chipped away at the Eagles’ lead, scoring three runs in the third inning and two in the fourth before finally taking the lead during a five-run sixth inning.

In the sixth, Gosselin drove in Alfaro with a single to center field to tie the game at 7-7. Dani Blake then gave the Chargers an 8-7 lead with an RBI single to right field.

Aurora Central went up 10-7 later in the inning after Gosselin scored on a passed ball and Mary Wileman added an RBI single.

The Eagles responded in their half of the sixth, cutting the deficit to 10-9 after an RBI ground out by Jordan Pittman and a run-scoring single by Sara Morris.

In the seventh, Gosselin capped off her stellar day at the plate with a three-run, inside-the-park homer to give the Chargers a 13-9 lead.

“I’m a power hitter sometimes but it’s usually just doubles or triples,” said Gosselin, who hit her first home run of the year on Tuesday. “To reach home was really exciting, especially to have my team there at home plate to support me.”

Aurora Central (12-10, 5-5) pitcher Sarah Ryan, who struck out seven in 5 and 2/3 innings of relief, retired the Eagles in order in the seventh to clinch the Chargers’ victory.

Alderman went 2-for-3 with two singles and two runs scored, while Blake went 2-for-4 with two singles, one run score and one RBI.

The Eagles had nine hits, all singles. Pittman, Marissa Wilger and Liz Smith each had two hits for Aurora Christian (5-15, 1-7), which lost its ninth straight game.

Coach Rich Hazlett says his team just has to improve its fundamentals.

“We’ve just got to continue to work on the basics,” said Hazlett. “Catching, throwing, hitting. If we can get those things under control, we’ll do well. We’ll hopefully win some games.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon and yourseason.com. It appears here.

Aurora Central hanging out in the first base dugout early in Tuesday’s game. 

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Boys Track: Host Kaneland Takes First Place At Peterson Prep Invitational

Workers get the pit ready for the triple jump final at Peterson Prep.

Sixteen teams came to Kaneland High School on Saturday in hopes of winning the Peterson Prep Invitational, but it was the home team that finished first.

The Knights placed in 15 of 18 events, won two relays and had three individual champions on their way to capturing first place with 84 points.

“This was a nice win for us on our home track,” said Kaneland coach Eric Baron. “All these programs are very good. To finish in the top five or top ten here shows you’re a strong competitor throughout the state of Illinois.”

Geneva, who held the team lead going into the final event, ended up in second place with 75 points. Burlington Central, paced by their intermediate runners, captured third place.

West Aurora finished in fourth place with 64 points, Yorkville took fifth with 45 and Oswego East followed closely in sixth with 42. Elgin came in ninth with 30 points, East Aurora finished in 12th place with 16, and Dundee Crown ended up in 14th with 9 to round out area teams.

Kaneland rode anchor Sean Carter to first in the 4×100 (43.78) and 4×200 (1:31.31) relays. The Knights also finished second in the 4×400 (3:26.62).

Dylan Nauert (300 meter hurdles) and Nate Dyer (discus and shot put) won individual championships for the Knights.

“Taking first at a home invite is a lot of excitement,” said Dyer. “Doing it twice, it was definitely a good day.”

Geneva’s Ben Rogers launched himself into first place in both the long jump (21 feet, 8 inches) and triple jump (43-11).

The Vikings’ senior was held back last season by a nagging hamstring injury. This year he’s fully healthy and performing at an exceptionally high level. His mark in the triple jump on Saturday was a new personal best.

“I’d like to keep getting better every meet, I think that’s the goal,” said Rogers. “I think if I can keep getting better each meet, I’m going to end up where I want to be.”

The Vikings also got a big boost on the track from Justin Davis, who finished first in the 400 meters, third in the 200 meters and seventh in the 100 meters.

“We covered the events well, which is what we always preach,” said Geneva coach Gale Gross. “We had to fight through some injuries, but overall the kids did awesome.”

Burlington Central runners Mike Gulik and Clint Kliem both finished in first place in three events. The two were part of the Rockets’ first-place 4×400 (3:25.43) and 4×800 (8:01.69) relay teams.

Gulik captured first in the 800 meters (1:57.28) while Kliem was the champion of the 1600 meter race (4:24.38). Kliem ran the third leg of the 4×400 relay just 25 minutes after setting a personal record in the 1600.

“That last one was just all guts,” said Kliem. “After finishing that mile, I just kept my legs up for five or ten minutes, did a little jog, and tried not to think about the next race. It’s just all basically a mental game.”

Central athletes Ben Damisch (400 meters) and Johnny Reuter (pole vault) both took home second place in their events.

Fourth-place West Aurora was paced by pole vaulter Royce Golembeck, who jumped 13-06 to capture first in his event.

The Blackhawks also got strong performances in the field from Aaron Kennebrew (second place in the triple jump and fourth place in the high jump), Lijah Spears (second place in the discus) and Jonny Gosong (third place in the long jump).

“We came in with a good focused attitude and we did a real nice job today,” said Blackhawks coach Cortney Lamb. “It’s not our best meet, but we have a lot things we can build on.”

Fifth-place Yorkville had no individual champions but runners Jake Callahan (800 meters), Chris Kellogg (1600 meters) and Eric Baker (3200 meters) all finished second in their events. The Foxes also got third place finishes from Jake Hoffert (3200 meters) and Joe Haske (pole vault).

Sixth-place Oswego East was paced by senior Kalmon Stokes, who finished second in both the 110 meter hurdles (15.77) and 300 meter hurdles (40.84). The same Wolves team of Dakoda Skenandore, Andrew Holm, Rene Salinas and Chase Skenandore took home third place in 4×800 relay (8:09.19) and fifth place in the 4×400 relay (3:32.24).

Elgin’s Dennis Moore was definitely the standout athlete for the Maroons. The senior sprinter blazed his way to first place in the 100 meter dash (11.46) and fourth place in the 200 meter dash (23.72).

Moore, along with teammates Terrell Campbell, Derek Moorman and DeVante King, also took home second place in the 4×100 and 4×200 relays.

East Aurora sprinter Desmond Gant accounted for all of the Tomcats’ points. The electrifying sophomore earned first place in the 200 meter dash (23.07) and third place in 100 meter dash (11.61).

“In my opinion, this was the fastest competition I’ve had,” said Gant. “If I’m winning against these guys, I know I can go out at other meets and come in first with a bigger lead. So, that’s my goal now.”

Dundee-Crown’s highest finisher was shot putter Joe Meixner, whose throw of 137-09 earned him third place. The Chargers placed in two relays, earning fifth in the 4×200 (1:33.27) and sixth in the 4×800 (8:14.33).

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon, Elgin Courier and yourseason.com. It appears here and here. I wrote separate stories for the Beacon and Courier and combined them for the blog.

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Girls Softball: Carragher’s RBI Triple The Difference As St. Francis Clips Aurora Central

St. Francis’ lineup posted before Monday’s game against Aurora Central.

St. Francis coach Ralph Remus came out to the pitcher’s circle to reassure his players in the midst of a two-run, game-tying rally by Aurora Central Catholic in the sixth inning of Monday’s Suburban Christian Conference game.

“I just told the girls we were still in good shape if we could hold them to three runs,” said Remus. “I knew we were going to score in the seventh. We had the top of the order up and after going through the order three times, I was pretty sure we were going to put the bat on the ball.”

Remus was right. Spartans pitcher Maggie Remus stranded the go-ahead run at third base in the sixth, and catcher Blaine Carragher hit an RBI triple in the seventh as St. Francis held on to beat host Aurora Central 4-3.

“I felt comfortable with her in that spot,” said Remus of Carragher. “She’s the most competitive kid in the world, so I knew she was going to do everything she could to drive the ball.”

Aurora Central (5-7, 2-3) struck first, taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Mary Kate Gosselin drove in Jenny Alderman with a triple to deep center field.

St. Francis (12-2, 4-1) quickly responded, scoring two runs in the second inning on an RBI double by Jenna Dama and an RBI triple by Aly Germanos.

The Spartans added an insurance run in the fourth inning when Dama picked her second RBI of the game on an infield single that drove in Ali Dittrich.

The Chargers rallied to tie the game at 3-3 with two runs in the sixth inning. Amber Konen scored on a throwing error before Allie Lundquist tied the game by stealing home on the back-end of a double steal.

The Chargers had the possible go-ahead run at third base with two outs in the inning, but Maggie Remus struck out Aurora Central shortstop Gabi Alfaro to end the threat.

Germanos reached first base on infield error to lead off the seventh inning and Carragher followed with an RBI triple to give the Spartans a 4-3 lead.

“The whole game it felt like our bats were dead, but that last inning we definitely came alive,” said Carragher. “We just wanted to take away their momentum and get ourselves back up.”

Remus made quick work of Aurora Central in the seventh inning, retiring the Chargers in order to close out the Spartans’ victory.

Despite Monday’s loss, Aurora Central coach Jim Hallahan feels good about where his team is headed.

“I’m very optimistic of where we’re going to be at the end of the year,” said Hallahan. “We’re putting the pieces of the puzzle together but I’m very excited about where we’ll be in about three weeks.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon and yourseason.com. It appears here.

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Boys Baseball: 7-Run First Inning Propels Aurora Central Past IMSA

Illinois Math & Science Academy’s baseball team played a road game in their own backyard on Friday as they took on Aurora Central Catholic in a non-conference match-up.

With the IMSA dormitories looming beyond the left field fence, Aurora Central defeated the Titans 11-1 in six innings on the strength of a seven-run first inning outburst.

The Chargers got RBI doubles from Jake McCarthy and Mike Fidler and an RBI single from Matt Musuras as they busted out to an early lead. Mike O’Donnell drove in a run on a ground-out and Phil Schuetz and Musuras scored on passed balls to round out the first inning scoring.

It was a change-of-pace for the Chargers, who have had trouble getting things going in the early innings this season.

“That first inning was huge for us. The first couple innings this year have usually been very slow,” said Aurora Central coach Eric Fulara. “We usually fall behind, so it was really nice to see our boys out ahead early.”

O’Donnell, normally a reliever, started and threw a complete game for Aurora Central (6-8)  The right-handed junior gave up one run and four hits while striking out eight over six innings.

“I put the ball where it needed to go and got outs. I threw strikes, made them hit it and my fielders did well,” said O’Donnell, who also registered two hits and an RBI at the plate.

Chargers catcher Sean Soris, one of three regular starters in Friday’s lineup, broke out of a slump with three hits.

“I was just trying to change things up a bit,” said Soris. “I just wanted to make contact and make them make the plays. They fell for me today, they weren’t the best hits, but they fell.”

Back-to-back RBI hits by Ryan Baker and Andrew Bruss in the sixth inning gave the Chargers an 11-1 lead to end the game.

IMSA (1-8) got its only run in the sixth inning when Sam Kaufman drove in Jon Henricks with a single to center field.

Henricks went 2-for-3 at the plate with a double and a triple, and struck out five while giving up no earned runs in three innings of relief.

IMSA coach Bill Bueschen said the Titans, who made four errors in Friday’s loss, need to work on the basics.

“I talk a lot about fundamentals and I talk about making simple routine plays,” said Bueschen. “We just didn’t do that today and all this week.”

Fulara hopes the his Chargers will draw some confidence out of their victory over IMSA.

“These guys have to be confident in themselves,” said Fulara. “I’m one hundred billion percent confident in these guys, I just need them to be confident in themselves. That’s the biggest problem for us.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon and yourseason.com. It appears here

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Girls Softball: Cara Smoczynski Strikes Out 15, Rosary Bats Come Alive As Royals Defeats Aurora Central

Not much went right for Rosary early in its season as the Royals lost six of their first seven games.

But everything seemed to go right on Monday as Rosary defeated crosstown rival Aurora Central Catholic 9-1.

Pitcher Cara Smoczynski struck out a career-high 15 batters over seven shutout innings and the Royals offense combined for 15 hits, five of them for extra bases.

Smoczynski was dominant from the get-go, striking out eight of the first nine Charger batters. The right-handed junior gave up just four hits and one run in seven innings of work.

“I was feeling great. The beginning of that game was awesome, I came in with confidence,” said Smoczynski. “I was preparing the whole weekend, I was getting myself excited. I came out and performed.”

Rosary (2-6, 1-1) coach John Kazmierczak said it was one of the best-pitched games he’s seen from a Royals pitcher in years.

“That was the best performance by a Rosary pitcher in about three years and the best she’s pitched in two years on the team,” said Kazmierczak. “That’s what she’s capable of, she was dominant.”

Rosary took an early 1-0 lead after Maddie Merritt scored on Maddie Hemmerich’s sacrifice fly in the first inning.

The Royals extended their lead to 6-0 with a five-run third inning that featured RBI triples by Kates Groom and Samantha Phelps, and RBI singles from Hemmerich and Smoczynski.

Lauren Murray went 3-for-4, including a double and a triple, and drove in the Royals’ final three runs. The sophomore’s seventh inning double brought home Lexi Lovetere to give the Royals a 9-1 lead.

Kazmierczak said his team was due for a strong offensive showing.

“We’ve been hitting the ball like this all season, but we’ve been hitting it right at people,” said Kazmierczak. “They haven’t been falling, but today they fell.”

Mary Wileman scored the Chargers’ only run in the sixth inning on a double by Allie Lundquist.

Aurora Central (5-3, 0-1) coach Jim Hallahan said the Royals’ bats were just too much.

“They’re a well-hitting team,” said Hallahan. “Nobody has hit her [Chargers pitcher Sarah Ryan] around like that in the last three years I’ve coached her. So, kudos to them, they swung the bat well.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon and yourseason.com. It appears here.

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