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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: Kuefler Drives In Six As Kaneland Blows By West Aurora

Kaneland got a big boost from the top of its batting order on Monday as the Knights defeated host West Aurora 10-3.

The first three hitters in the Knights’ lineup – Delani Vest, Allyson O’Herron and Paige Kuefler – combined for eight hits, eight runs and seven runs batted in.

“The first two set the table and then the big hitters hit the ball hard,” said Kaneland coach Brian Willis. “It’s a good formula if you can use it every game.”

Kuefler, a freshman who has already settled in to the No. 3 spot in the lineup, went 4-for-4 with six RBI and three runs scored. Willis said the young third baseman is seeing the ball well at the plate.

“She’s (Kuefler) seeing the ball like it’s a beach ball and she’s hitting that ball hard,” said Willis.

The Knights got on the board early with a three-run first inning that included RBI singles from Kuefler and Lexi Roach. The speedy Roach reached base four times in the game and stole three bases.

O’Herron and Kuefler both had RBI singles in the second inning as Kaneland (13-4) extended its lead to 5-0.

West Aurora (3-12) scored their first runs in the third inning as Alexis Harkless’ two-run single cut the Knights’ lead to 5-2.

However, Kaneland quickly responded with a three-run fourth inning. The Knights took an 8-2 lead thanks to a two-run double by Kuefler and a RBI groundout from McKinzie Mangers.

Kuefler capped off her strong performance with a two-run single in the fifth inning that gave the Knights a 10-2 lead.

Even though she’s only a freshman, Kuefler said her teammates have made it easy for her to play at the varsity level.

“I’ve felt really good all year. I came on to a team that’s welcomed me,” said Kuefler. “My teammates make me feel comfortable and I got used to varsity pretty fast.”

Harkless added a RBI double to deep left field in the fifth inning to cut the score to 10-3. The catcher led West Aurora on offense, reaching base three times and driving in all three Blackhawk runs.

West Aurora committed four errors as the team lost its third straight game. Blackhawks coach Sara Nagy said her team has fallen back into some bad habits after a stretch of three wins in four games.

“We were just back on our heels today and hanging our heads. We’ve been moving forward, and this was kind of a step back for us,” said Nagy. “We’ve got two days of practice coming up and that will help us refocus and get back on a good note.”

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

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Girls Soccer: Jessica Saffell Scores Only Goal As West Aurora Tops Kaneland 1-0

On a cold, blustery night perfect for indoor soccer, West Aurora and Kaneland took to the outdoors for a game on Thursday evening with the host Blackhawks grabbing a 1-0 victory.

Blackhawks forward Jessica Saffell scored the game’s only goal off an assist from midfielder Karla Torres with 4:42 left in the first half.

“I was surprised the pass from Karla got through, so I just took advantage of the opportunity,” said Saffell. “I just caught the goalie stepping out and not covering her post.”

West Aurora (3-4) dominated possession in the first half, out-shooting the Knights 9-1 in the game’s first 45 minutes. However, the Blackhawks had nothing to show for their effort until Saffell’s strike hit the back of the net late in the half.

“It was huge getting that goal right before the end of the half so we could go into the second half knowing that we had that one goal up,” said Saffell.

West Aurora keeper Gabbie Hansem made four saves on her way to picking up a shutout. Hansem had to do most of her work in the final 15 minutes of the second half as the Knights made a late charge.

“Our defense played very calm, which was good because the last four minutes of the game was just them pushing,” said West Aurora coach Laura Wagley. “We just stayed relaxed and played our game.”

Saffell had two excellent opportunities early in the second half to extend the Blackhawks’ lead, but Kaneland keeper Jordan Ginther made two diving saves within 35 seconds of each other to keep the score 1-0. Ginther made nine saves in the game.

Wagley said she wasn’t surprised with the low scoring game.

“We knew they had a great keeper, so we knew it was going to be a great, close game,” said Wagley. “I told the girls before the game that we have to possess and take advantage of our opportunities, and we did.”

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

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Boys Baseball: Marmion Rallies Late, Knocks Off Chicago Christian In Extras

With his Cadets trailing by two runs with two outs in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s game against Chicago Christian, Marmion coach Dave Rakow had his post-game speech already prepared.

“I was going to tell the guys that when you make five errors and run yourselves out of innings, you’ll never, ever win,” said Rakow.

But then the Cadets staged a two-out, two-run rally to force extra innings, where Mike Pipp’s RBI single in the eighth inning gave Marmion a 5-4 victory over the visiting Knights.

“Anytime you get a win, you take it. But it wasn’t a pretty game today,” said Rakow. “If we can eliminate the errors, then we can eliminate the necessity of these late game dramatics.”

The Cadets were trailing 4-2 when Connor Riley reached first base on an error to start the seventh inning. The next two batters made outs, but Mitch Sterne hit a first-pitch fastball up the middle for a single that drove in Riley. The next batter, A.J. Friedman, hit a single to right field to bring home Sterne and tie the game 4-4.

The game went into extras after Alex Troop grounded out to second base with runners at second and third.

In the eighth, Andy Young scored the game-winning run on Pipp’s walk-off single to left field.

“We’re not a team that’s going to give up in any situation,” said Pipp. “Our team really came through today. We didn’t play our best game, but we found a way to win, and that says a lot about us.”

Chicago Christian (10-4, 0-2) took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Brodie Meyer’s single plated Jeremy Norway.

The Knights extended their lead to 3-0 in the fourth inning thanks to some miscues by Marmion. With two outs, Mike Harms scored on an infield error by the Cadets. Later in the inning, Sean Omeara crossed home plate on the back-end of a double steal.

The Cadets cut the deficit to one with a two-run fourth inning. Young walked with the bases loaded to bring home Nick Nasharr and Troop scored on a wild pitch by Knights pitcher Mike Kamp.

Norway, who reached base three times, added an RBI single in the sixth inning that gave the Knights a 4-2 lead.

After starting the season 1-4, Marmion (5-4, 2-0) has now won four straight games. Rakow said the Cadets haven’t changed much, things are just finally starting to break in the team’s favor.

“I don’t think we were playing bad baseball. The record didn’t really reflect it, but I think we’ve been relatively consistent in terms of our play,” said Rakow. “It’s just that some games when you’re close you don’t win, and some you do.”

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

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Girls Soccer: Freshman Kellett Scores Twice as Rosary Shuts Down Kaneland

Forward Quincy Kellett is already making her mark on the Rosary girls soccer team, just two games into her high school career.

The freshman scored both of the Royals’ goals in the team’s 2-0 victory over Kaneland on Wednesday afternoon in Aurora. The goals were Kellett’s first in a high school game.

“I honestly didn’t think I’d be on varsity as a freshman,” said Kellett. “Scoring was really exciting, I really wanted to score in our first home game. My teammates gave me good passes, and I took advantage of them.”

Rosary (2-0) head coach Kristy Kane was pleased to see Kellett rewarded for the hard work the freshman has put in at practice.

“I think it’s important for young players, especially when they’re doing the right things and working hard, to be rewarded with goals,” said Kane. “It’s great for her to get that confidence right off the bat. She’s got great speed, she’s a smart player and she’s working hard.”

Midfielder Kaitlin Johnson’s perfect entry pass set up Rosary’s first goal. Kellett received the pass, split two defenders, and put the ball in the back of the net from five yards out to give the Royals a 1-0 lead with 17 minutes left in the first half.

In the final minute of the first half, Kellett scored her second goal of the game off a beautiful crossing pass from midfielder Molly Piech.

“The second one was all luck, being in the right place at the right time,” said Kellett. “I just make my runs and my team puts the ball on my feet.”

The Royals have won their first two games of the season, and Kane credits the positive attitude the team possessed before its first game.

“We’re really united as a team and I think winning helps keep them positive,” said Kane. “We just need to keep winning, keep working on scoring more goals, and keep that positive feeling and team chemistry.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times and Aurora Beacon.

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Providence-St. Mel Holds Off Tilden, Takes Home Sectional Title

The Knights cut down the nets after defeating Tilden to win the Lisle Sectional.

Providence St. Mel 65 Tilden 52

Providence-St. Mel held off a late Tilden run to capture a 65-52 victory in the Class 2A Lisle Sectional championship game Friday night.

The Knights led by 18 points midway through the third quarter, but an 18-5 Tilden run cut the margin to five (42-37) with six and half minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The Blue Devils (19-14) got within five points three more times in the final frame, but were never able to get closer.

Kendall Gatewood (16 points, 6 steals) made a lay-up to get the Blue Devils within five (48-43) with five and a half minutes to go in the fourth. Khalil Small knocked down a three-pointer on the ensuing Providence-St. Mel (23-7) possession, sparking a 16-5 run that saw the Knights take back control of the game.

“Our guys showed a lot of resilience and they showed a lot of discipline in being able to deal with their run,” said Providence-St. Mel head coach Tim Ervin. “We knew they were going to make a run, so our guys responded well by making sure they kept the lead. I kept reminding the guys that they were still winning, so play like you’re ahead and make sure to stick to the game plan.”

Small (17 points, six rebounds) came up big in the fourth quarter, scoring seven points, including the momentum-shifting three-pointer.

“I knew this was a really big game, and I knew what my team expected of me. I didn’t want to let them down,” said Small. “I had to step up. I didn’t have my greatest game today, but I just gave my all in the fourth quarter.”

The Knights trailed 13-12 early in the second quarter, but went on a 18-3 run to take a 30-16 lead into halftime. Providence-St. Mel scored the first four points of the second half to extend their lead to 18.

The Knights’ second-quarter run was fueled by their pressure defense. Providence-St. Mel forced Tilden into seven turnovers during the final six minutes of the second quarter.

The Knights’ defense forced the Blue Devils into 22 turnovers in total, including nine steals. Small had four steals to lead Providence-St. Mel.

“That’s our trademark, if we’re not playing good defense, we’re going to have problems,” said Ervin. “These guys love to play defense. That’s our motto, we get the job done by playing defense.”

Tevin King made 12 of 13 free throw attempts and led the Knights with 21 points. The sophomore guard was constantly driving to the basket and drew seven fouls as a result.

“Today my game plan was just to be aggressive,” said King. “Offense and defense, be aggressive. That helps my team win.”

Providence-St. Mel will face Seton Academy in the Joliet Central Super Sectional next Tuesday night.

Small is confident the Knights can keep their playoff run going.

“I feel really confident going into next week,” said Small.

“We’ve been through a lot this season and we work hard in practice. We love each other and have a strong bond, so I think we can keep on this good run in the playoffs.”

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

The Knights warming up before Friday’s sectional final.

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