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Girls Softball: Naperville North Knocks Off Plainfield East To Reach First Sectional Final In School History

Naperville North softball entered uncharted territory by winning Wednesday’s Class 4A East Aurora Sectional semifinal against Plainfield East.

Behind a strong outing from pitcher Kathleen Hahne and a two-run homer by Tara Degl’lnnocenti, the Huskies will make their first appearance in a sectional final after knocking off the Bengals 5-2 at Phillips Park in Aurora.

Naperville North, the No. 6 seed in the East Aurora sectional, will face No. 4 seed Plainfield Central at 11 a.m. Saturday in the sectional final.

“I don’t know what Saturday will be like, it’s going to be brand new for Huskies softball,” Naperville North coach Jerry Kedziora said.

“We’ve got a good pitcher right now, we’ve got a team that’s playing really good defense. And some timely hitting too. It’s pretty exciting — our chances might not set up ever as good as they are right now,” he added.

Hahne picked up the victory after giving up two runs and ten hits and striking out three batters over seven innings.

The senior showed some early-game nerves, giving up two runs on six hits during her first two innings in the circle. However, Hahne settled down from that point forward, surrendering no runs and just four singles the rest of the way.

“I always get really nervous for a game. It takes me a few batters to get into my own and work my pitches,” Hahne said.

Degl’lnnocenti gave the Huskies a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning with a line-drive, two-run homer to left field.

An RBI single by Bengals shortstop Nina Maggio tied the game at 2-2 in the second inning, but the Huskies retook the lead in the third. Caitlyn Warren came home on an RBI groundout by Kailee Budicin, giving Naperville North a 3-2 advantage they wouldn’t relinquish.

The Huskies added two insurance runs in the fifth inning, going up 5-2 on an RBI triple by Warren and a run-scoring fielder’s choice by Budicin.

“We knew that we had to come out and hit. We knew that they were going to be gunning for us, and everyone did a great job,” Degl’lnnocenti said.  “It took a team effort, and we got it done.”

Hahne was assisted by a strong defensive performance from her teammates. The Huskies committed only one error and made a few sterling defensive plays, including a momentum-changing double play in the fourth inning.

With one out and a runner on first base, Degl’lnnocenti cleanly fielded a hard-hit ground ball off the bat of Maggio and threw to shortstop Alexis Solak for the force out. First baseman Rachel Martin barely kept her foot on the bag as she made a fantastic stretch to collect Solak’s throw and complete the double play.

After that play, Hahne gave up just one more hit and the Huskies outscored the Bengals 2-0.

“To be able to turn a 4-6-3 like that, and those girls making every play possible from the third inning on, it’s a tremendous confidence boost,” Kedziora said. “These girls should now know that they can go out and compete against anybody.”

Plainfield East (22-12) was led on offense by No. 9 hitter Jessica Rio, who went 3-for-3 with three singles. Rio attempted to score on a single by Maggio in the second inning, but was thrown out at home by Huskies left fielder Stephanie Tobin.

Naperville North (24-12) will attempt to earn its first sectional title plaque when they face Plainfield Central on Saturday. The Wildcats advanced to the finals by defeating Neuqua Valley 2-1 on Wednesday.

“We know that we’re going to have our hands filled with Plainfield Central,” Kedziora said. “If we just go head out and play our game, maybe we can get something.”

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

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Boys Track Preview: Neuqua Valley’s Derrick And Bender Among Local Contenders At State Meet

Runners get ready for the 400 relay at last week’s Naperville North sectional.

When Neuqua Valley seniors Mark Derrick and Jacob Bender step onto the blue track at the boys track and field state finals in Charleston this weekend, they will be looking to improve on their top-six finishes at last year’s state meet.

Both have a good shot.

Derrick – who finished sixth in the 3,200 last year – comes into this year’s meet with the third best 3A qualifying time (9:12.37). And Bender – last year’s runner-up in the 400 – enters with the second highest qualifying time (48.94), just .04 seconds behind Stepfan Thelemaque of Plainfield East.

The North Carolina-bound Derrick could place in two individual events.  He finished first in the 1,600 at the Naperville North sectional with the 11th best 3A qualifying time (4:18.30).

“Running both, it’s always tiring, but it kind of depends on the day. I ran a double at DGS and felt great after both of them,” Derrick said last week. “After the mile (at last Thursday’s sectional), it was like ‘Oh my God, this second race is going to be rough,’ but I was able to pull through.”

Derrick and the Nebraska-bound Bender are among the 20 individuals and 11 relays from local schools that will be competing at this weekend’s 118th annual boys track and field state finals.

Neuqua Valley will have three other individuals competing in Charleston: Senior Taylor Soltys in the 3,200, senior Andrew Peterson in the pole vault and junior Carlos Varela-Hernandez in the discus.

Varela-Hernandez – who qualified for state in the discus last year but didn’t place – will be a contender to place this weekend after having the 10th best 3A qualifying throw (164-1).

The Wildcats also qualified three relays for state: The 400 team of Bender, Joseph Younis, James Sampson and Eric Metoyer, the 800 team of Younis, Nick Rafacz, Dennis Thurow and Metoyer, and the 3,200 team of Andy Martinez, Kevin Skrip, Xander Jacobson and Rolan Dewgard.

Waubonsie Valley thrower Riley Kittridge has a good chance to place in both the shot put and discus. The junior placed first in both events at the Naperville North sectional with the fifth best 3A qualifying throw in the shot put (56-6) and eighth best in the discus (164-5).

“My goals down there are maybe not to win, but at least get personal records and do my best,” Kittridge said.

Warriors senior Jamaal Bearden also qualified in both throwing events.

Waubonsie senior Kyle Schafer won the 300 hurdles at sectionals and is a contender to do the same at state. His sectional run of 38.20 was the third best 3A qualifying time, just .08 seconds behind Derrick Willies of Rock Island.

Schafer also qualified for state as part of the Warriors’ 400 and 1,600 relay teams. He will be joined in the 400 by Austin Ameri, Tony Durns and Demitrius Gray and in the 1,600 by Ameri, Gray and John Burke.

The Warriors’ 1,600 relay qualified for state with a time of 3:19.07, the third best mark in 3A.

Waubonsie triple jumper James Travis will also be competing at state after placing first at sectionals with a jump of 44-1.

Naperville Central will be led in Charleston by its three state-qualifying relay squads: The 800 team of Brandon Lau, Tyler Haines, Kevin Kulling and Sam Bransby, the 1,600 team of Haines, Bransby, Kulling and Brad Kouchoukos and the 3,200 team of Kouchoukos, Forrest Thayer, Ethan Brodeur and Christian Schafer.

The 800 and 1,600 relays qualified for state despite entering sectionals with seed times above the state standard.

“We weren’t seeded at getting any qualifying state times and we weren’t in good lanes, but we didn’t let that discourage us,” Haines said.

The Redhawks also had three individuals qualify for state – Mike Juretschke and Kevin Rzepczynski in the pole vault and David Goodalis in the discus.

Naperville North had three individuals qualify for state – senior James Kerns in the 100 and 200, senior Nick Lyon in the pole vault and senior Kareem Midani in the long jump.

Midani earned second place at sectionals by jumping 22-7.5, more than a foot farther than his previous personal best.

“I wasn’t expecting to jump that far. I was expecting to get close to qualifying, but jumping that far, I honestly had no idea,” said Midani, who was only jumping 19 feet indoors earlier this spring. “I didn’t just make it to state, I passed that. It was awesome.”

Metea Valley had four individuals and one relay qualify out of the St. Charles North sectional. Twin brothers Joe and Matt Stewart both qualified in the 3,200. Joe won the race with a time of 9:15.27, the sixth best 3A qualifying mark, while Matt came in third (9:28.16).

The Stewart twins will be joined in Charleston by junior Colin Yorke (1,600), senior Ben Hulett (300 hurdles) and 1,600 relay team of Tre’sean Mackey, Alan Williams, Aaron Laskey, and William King.

Benet junior Anton Vershay qualified for the 2A state meet by finishing second at last Friday’s Lisle sectional. The Redwings’ 1,600 and 3,200 relay teams also qualified for state.

I wrote this story for the Naperville Sun. It appears here.

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Girls Soccer: Naperville North Knocks Off Wheaton South For Regional Title

Naperville North warms up before Friday’s regional final in Bolingbrook.

There are no easy games for teams placed in the murderers’ row that is the Naperville North 3A girls soccer sectional.

On Friday, Naperville North claimed the Bolingbrook regional title after it held off a second half rally from Wheaton Warrenville South.

Abby Mangefrida, Zoe Swift and Abbie Boswell each scored for the Huskies in their 3-1 victory.

“You know that you’re going to have a dogfight every game from here on out,” North coach Steve Goletz said. “That’s what makes it fun for us, you know you’re getting a great game every time. They’re going to be exciting games, and that’s all you can ask for.”

The Huskies will face Neuqua Valley next Wednesday at home in a sectional semifinal.

North broke through for two goals in a span of two minutes midway through the first half in Friday’s game.

The Huskies took a 1-0 lead 21 minutes into the game when Mangefrida’s shot from 20 yards out deflected off a Tiger defender and past goalie Abbey Fuster.

Two minutes later, a perfect feed from junior midfielder Jill Van Kampen set up a goal by Swift that put the Huskies up 2-0.

“It was perfect, Jill gave me a great ball through, and I just ran to to it,” Swift said. “She did most of the work, I just finished it.”

Wheaton South’s Alexis Jakuszewski cut the Tigers deficit in half 17 minutes after halftime. The freshman defender’s lob floated over the outstretched arms of Huskies goalie Allison Hitchcock and into the back of the net, making the score 2-1.

The Tigers had a couple chances to tie the game, but couldn’t break through. The Huskies started to breath easier with a minute left in the game after Boswell scored off a pass from junior midfielder Cora Climo to put North up 3-1.

North had a bit of a scare late in the second half when Swift went down after a collision with two Tiger defenders. Swift left the game after laying on the field for a couple minutes during an injury timeout.

However, the Huskies’ star forward returned to action seven minutes later, and after the game, Swift said she suffered a nasty scratch to her shin.

“I’m OK, it’ll be fine,” Swift said.

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

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Boys Track: Neuqua Valley Finishes Second At Naperville North Sectional

Athletics compete in the 400 relay at Thursday’s Naperville North sectional. 

Minooka (80) edged Neuqua Valley (78) by just two points to take first place at Thursday’s 3A boys track sectional at Naperville North, but it was still a successful night for the Wildcats who had six individuals and three relay teams qualify for next week’s state meet.

Waubonsie Valley (72.60), Plainfield North (46.60) and Joliet West (40) rounded out the top five. Naperville North and Naperville Central tied for seventh place with 31 points each. West Aurora (28) finished in eight place, Oswego East (19.60) was in 11th, Oswego (18) finished 13th and East Aurora (4) came in 16th to round out area teams.

Neuqua distance runner Mark Derrick qualified for state in two events, taking first place in both the 1,600 (4:18.30) and 3,200 (9:12.37). In the 1,600, Derrick pulled ahead of Yorkville’s Chris Kellogg on the final lap to take his second title of the night.

“I was a little worried for a second, then I saw that he wasn’t really putting me away, so I got myself back into the race,” Derrick said.

Taylor Soltys will join Derrick at state in the 3,200 after finishing in second place. Jacob Bender qualified in both the 400 and 400 relay. However, the senior pulled in his hamstring during the 400 and was unable to participate in the 1,600 relay.

Neuqua received second place finishes Andrew Peterson in the pole vault and Carlos Varela-Hernandez in the discus. The Wildcats’ 3,200 and 800 relay teams also qualified for state.

Nobody was going to out-throw Waubonsie Valley’s duo of Riley Kittridge and Jamaal Bearden on Thursday.

Kittridge took home sectionals titles in both the shot put (55-3.5) and discus (164.5), while Bearden also qualified in both events, finishing second in the shot put (54-1) and third in the discus (157-3).

“I wanted to win both events, and I accomplished that,” said Kittridge, who qualified for state last year in the shot put. “Last year I struggled in disc, but this year it’s really picked up for me.”

Waubonsie had two other individuals place first – Kyle Schafer in the 300 hurdles (38.20) and James Travis in the triple jump (44-1). The Warriors’ 400 and 1600 relay teams also qualified for state.

Naperville North was paced by sprinter James Kerns who qualified in both the 100 (10.97) and 200 (22.24). The senior finished second in the 100, and third in the 200 with a time exactly at the state qualifying standard.

Kerns will be joined in Charleston by long jumper Kareem Midani and pole vaulter Nick Lyon. Midani set a personal record in the long jump with a leap of 22-7.5.

“I honestly had no idea that I’d do this,” said Midani. “It was one heck of an accomplishment. I just went out there and did it. I was so psyched.”

Naperville Central will be well represented in the field at Charleston next weekend. Pole vaulters Mike Juretschke and Kevin Rzepczinski and shot putter David Goodalis all qualified for state.

The Redhawks also had three relays qualify for state – the 800 team of Brandon Lau, Tyler Haines, Kevin Kulling and Sam Bransby, the 1,600 team of Haines, Bransby, Kulling and Brad Kouchoukos and the 3,200 team of Kouchoukos, Forrest Thayer, Ethan Brodeur and Christian Schafer.

Hanies, a senior, got a week added to his high school career by qualifying for state in two relays.

“It’s not over for us,” Haines said. “It feels good knowing that I can continue seeing my friends even though tomorrow is the last day of school. We still get to hang out during practice.”

West Aurora will be represented at state by triple jumper Aaron Kennebrew and its 3,200 relay team of Calvin Robinson, Zach Truckenbrod, Vontrel Hawkins and Brandon McKay.

Kennebrew overcame an injured heel to finish second in the triple jump with a leap of 43-6.

“I had a lot of support from my coaches and my family. They just told me mind over matter,” Kennebrew said. “I just went out there and jumped. The adrenaline kept me going and it didn’t hurt anymore.”

Oswego East had two individuals qualify for state– Kalmon Strokes in the 300 hurdles and Chase Skenandore in the 800. The Wolves’ 3, 200 relay team of Dakoda Skenandore, Andrew Holm, Rene Salinas and Chase Skenandore also qualified.

For Stokes, a senior, qualifying for state meant a four-year dream realized.

“It feels amazing. It’s what I’ve been trying to get my whole four years of high school,” Stokes said. “To finally accomplish that, it makes me happy.”

Long jumper Alain Dixon was the lone qualifier for Oswego. The senior placed third (22-7), but he out-jumped the state qualifying mark 0f 22-3 by four inches.

East Aurora sprinter Desmond Gant was .14 seconds away from qualifying for state in the 200. The Tomcats’ sophomore placed fourth (22.38).

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

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Boys Track: Wheaton North Wins DVC Meet In Dominating Fashion

Wheaton North stole the show at Friday’s DuPage Valley Conference track meet at Naperville North.

The Falcons won five individual championships and two relays on their way to taking first place with 175 points. Wheaton North had more than twice as many points as second-place Wheaton Warrenville South (81).

Naperville Central (78), Glenbard East (71), Naperville North (65) and West Aurora (57) rounded out the top six.

The Redhawks had two individual champions – Mike Juretschke in the pole vault and Sam Bransby in the 400.

Juretschke, a senior, won his first outdoor DVC title by setting a personal record in the pole vault (14-3).

“It feels great to win conference, especially because I’ve been jumping all four years,” Juretschke said. “It was a really big goal of mine to improve as much as I could this year.”

Bransby, a sophomore, defended his DVC indoor championship in the 400 (50.09) and finished third in the 200 (22.10).

“Indoor is a completely different monster, everyone gets faster outdoors,” Bransby said. “You feel like you have to step it up with everyone else, and I was proud to do that today.”

The Redhawks’ 3,200 relay team of Ethan Brodeur, Christian Schafer, Brad Kouchoukos and Forrest Thayer placed second (8:01.56).

Hurdler Michael Jopes placed third in both the 110 and 300 races. Central also got a third place finish from shot putter David Goodalis.

Fifth-place Naperville North was paced by sprinter James Kerns. The senior finished first in a very competitive 100 with a time of 10.86. Kerns also took second place in the 200 (22.08) and ran the opening leg of the Huskies’ third-place 800 relay.

Kerns had his mind set on next week’s sectional as soon as the DVC meet ended.

“This is the last meet before we go to sectionals, so the goal right now is to make sure you have the right time,” said Kerns, whose 100 and 200 times on Friday were below the state qualifying standards. “Winning conference is nice, but as long as I have the time I need to make state, that’s the primary goal.”

The Huskies got third place finishes from Nick Lyon (pole vault), Kareem Midani (long jump), Nick Drendel (3200), Adam Milsap (400) and Jimmy Qiao (1600).

Despite finishing sixth in the DVC, West Aurora coach Cortney Lamb saw a lot to get excited about heading into next week’s sectional meet.

“Overall as a team, we were really good. As far as we’re concerned, we came out and did what we needed to do,” Lamb said. “Great momentum going into next week, I think we’re peaking at the right time. The kids have confidence, the kids are having fun. It’s awesome.”

Aaron Kennebrew delivered the Blackhawks their only individual championship in the triple jump. The junior jumped 44 feet, 2¼ inches on his second attempt in finals, leaping almost a foot further than his previous personal best.

“I had a lot of adrenaline going, so I knew it was going to be a big jump,” said Kennebrew, who also placed fourth in the high jump (5-11). “I just trusted myself and my coach told me to just go after it. I wanted to get first, and that’s exactly what I did.”

Lijah Spears placed in both throwing events for the Blackhawks, taking second in the discus (150-1) and fourth in the shot put (49-4½)

After setting a personal record in the discus at Kane County last week, Spears did so in the shot put on Friday. The senior thrower said he’s peaking at the right time.

“I’m finally doing things right and it’s looking good for me,” Spears said. “I’m going to give it to them next week (at sectionals).”

Despite both running in the “slow heat,” Blackhawk sprinters Benny Prunty (22.28) and Tony Oros (22.82) placed fifth and sixth respectively in the 200.

“I just told them they’ve got to run like they do in relays because they kick butt in those relays,” Lamb said. “They finally did it in the open today.”

The Blackhawks got fourth-place finishes from Charles House in the triple jump and Josh Robinson in the 800, and fifth-place finishes from Parrish McGhee in the long jump and Omar Gomez in the 1600.

Wheaton North, also champions of the indoor DVC meet in March, could not be stopped on Friday. The Falcons won seven total events and had two athletes finish in the top-six of nine individual events (100, 400, 1600, 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles, pole vault, triple jump, shot put and discus).

Wheaton North athlete Zach Gordon won the 200 (21.79), long jump (23-5) and ran anchor on the Falcons’ first-place 40o relay team. The Falcons also got titles from their 800 relay team (1:30.31), Brett Kohler in the 300 hurdles (38.35), Mac Spaulding in the shot put (56-9) and Christian Hollinger in the discus (160-4)

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

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Girls Softball: Caitlyn Warren’s Homer Gives Naperville North Edge Over West Aurora In Pitchers’ Duel

Naperville North warms up before the first inning of Wednesday’s DVC game.

Naperville North’s Caitlyn Warren was hoping to make a statement when she stepped into the batter’s box to lead off the eighth inning of a scoreless game against West Aurora on Wednesday.

The senior center fielder made it loud and clear, pounding a home run over the center field fence to put the Huskies up 1-0.

Pitcher Kathleen Hahne worked out of a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the inning as Naperville North hung on to defeat West Aurora 1-0 in a DuPage Valley Conference game.

“Our defense was working so hard but our offense was struggling, so I knew that someone had to step up,” said Warren. “Someone had to set the tone. That’s what I was hoping to do.”

After Warren gave the Huskies the lead in the eighth inning, West Aurora looked poised to tie the game or take the lead in their half of the inning.

Racheal Williams and LaRi Mitchell led off the eighth with back-to-back singles. Both runners then advanced on a passed ball and the Blackhawks had runners at second and third with no outs.

After Ally Wayzer flew out to right field for the first out of the inning, Julianna Evischi reached first base on an infield single but neither Blackhawks runner advanced.

With the bases loaded and one out, Hahne buckled down. The senior pitcher got the second out when she fielded a ground ball off the bat of Alexis Harkless and threw home to get Williams. Hahne then got Molly Jordan to fly out to center field to clinch the fourth-straight victory for Naperville North (13-5, 4-1).

“It was a lot of pressure. I had to hit my spots, I couldn’t throw any balls or wild pitches,” said Hahne, who gave up five hits and no walks in eight scoreless innings of work. “My teammates backed me up a lot and I give them all the credit.”

West Aurora (6-17, 1-4) pitcher Kaylee Hayton also had a stellar performance, giving up one run, seven hits and three walks in eight innings.

Hayton had help from her defense, especially Mitchell in center field. With two runners on base in the sixth inning, the lightning-quick Mitchell made a leaping catch at the wall on a dead-run to rob Kailee Budicin of an extra-base hit.

“When we made that catch, I kept telling the girls we can’t lose this game. With defense like that, they deserved to win,” said West Aurora coach Randy Hayslett, who took over the post last week when Sara Nagy resigned.

“It was a great game, hats off to them. I hope our girls stays positive because they played well.”

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

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Boys Baseball: Kevin Fahy Continues Hot Streak As Wheaton North Knocks Off Naperville North

Wheaton North second baseman Kevin Fahy broke out of his early season hitting slump just in time for the start of the Falcons’ DuPage Valley Conference slate.

The senior went 4-for-4 with two RBI as the Falcons defeated host Naperville North 6-1 on Tuesday, a day after he went 3-for-3 in a Falcons’ victory.

Fahy says working with Wheaton North (8-5, 2-0) hitting coach Josh Coan helped turn around his season at the plate.

“Before yesterday, I was in a big time slump. I’ve been working a lot with our hitting coach on mechanics,” said Fahy. “I just wanted to get that first hit to fall, get some confidence after that and work from there.”

Falcons pitcher Lake Bachar turned in a complete game, giving up one run and seven hits while striking out seven and walking none. Bachar also recorded two hits at the plate, including an RBI single in the seventh inning.

“He (Bachar) made a lot of big pitches, and we played really good defense behind him on a windy day where it wasn’t easy to catch the ball,” said Wheaton North coach Dan Schoessling. “I thought we did a good job of not giving them chances.”

Bachar stepped up his game with runners on base, stranding seven Huskies. The Huskies had runners on first and third with one out in the second inning before Bachar struck out Kevin Garon and Marques Winick to get out of trouble.

“I was just thinking about throwing strikes and getting the hitter. I wasn’t thinking about the runners,” said Bachar. “I felt pretty good all day, the goal was just to attack the hitters and get ahead of them.”

The Falcons took a 1-0 lead in the second inning after River Williams scored on a sacrifice bunt by Ed Norris.

The Huskies answered quickly, as Pat Mollo’s RBI single in the bottom half of the inning tied the score at 1-1.

After the Falcons took a 2-1 lead in the third inning on an RBI groundout by Williams, Fahy extended the Wheaton North lead to 4-1 with a two-run single in the fourth inning.

The Falcons got two insurance runs in the seventh inning on RBI singles by Ryan Jordan and Bachar.

Naperville North center fielder Mariano Long went 2-for-3 with a double, triple and deep fly out to center field.

Despite the Huskies’ inconsistent start to the season, Naperville North (4-8, 0-2) coach Mark Lindo believes the team is on the verge of breaking out.

“I think we’re very close, I think we’re on the cusp. Our approach is good, and if our approach is positive like it was today, good things will happen to us,” said Lindo. “I think we’re close to being a competitive baseball team and our guys know that.”

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

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