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Boys Tennis: Neuqua Valley Takes First At Upstate Eight Valley Tournament

South Elgin’s Andre Norasith serves at Saturday’s UEC Valley Tournament.

Neuqua Valley left no doubt that it is the top team in the Upstate Eight Valley at Saturday’s conference tennis tournament at Waubonsie Valley.

The Wildcats won six of seven tournament title matches – including all three singles – on their way to finishing in first place with 83 team points.

“I think we’re really privileged in the respect that we do have depth,” Neuqua coach Trudy Bennorth said. “I can just pretty well count on all of them, it makes it really special.”

Metea Valley and Waubonsie Valley tied for second place with 47 points. South Elgin (36), Lake Park (33), Bartlett (13) and East Aurora (3) rounded out the seven team conference.

Neuqua first singles Mike Baiocchi knocked off No. 1 seed Andre Norasith of South Elgin in quick fashion, 6-1, 6-2, in the title match.

“I felt my serve was pretty much what got everything else going,” Baiocchi said. “If I’m serving real well, everything else just falls into place.”

Norasith, just a sophomore, was the Storm’s highest finisher at the tournament.

The Wildcats also got first place finishes from second singles Tim Worley and third singles Naveen Krishnan.

Neuqua’s Jack Warning and Andi Kosova and Waubonsie’s Abhi Singh and Deep Chatterjee met for the third time this season in the first doubles final. After the duos split the earlier meetings, Warning and Kosova won Saturday’s rubber match 7-6 (11-9), 3-6, 6-1.

“We definitely wanted that. The match was the deciding one – best two out of three,” Kosova said. “It was also a good boost going into sectionals and state.”

Neuqua’s third doubles team of Jeff Ohmer and Amit Iyer and fourth doubles team of Zach Bauernfein and Colton Luburgh also took home conference titles.

Waubonsie’s second doubles team of Mike Cioffi and Alex Tadeuch were the only first places finishers not from Neuqua. In just their fifth match together, the Warriors duo overcame an early deficit to knock off Metea’s Bill Finnerty and Nick Ohl 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

“The first set we couldn’t get our serve returns in play. We were kind of letting them win the match just by us missing,” Cioffi said. “In the second set we started turning it around just by getting balls in play.”

Cioffi and Tadeuch are now 5-0 as a pair and will play together at next week’s West Aurora sectional.

In addition to Finnerty and Ohl, Metea received second-place finishes from third singles Kevin Brown and third doubles Rishi Sriram and George Lin.

Of the seven title winners, six came into the tournament seeded first. The only upset occurred in first singles where Neuqua’s Baiocchi, the No. 2 seed, knocked off South Elgin’s Norasith, the No. 1 seed.

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

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Boys Track Notebook: Leftovers From Last Week’s Kane County Meet

Athletes were greeted with great weather at last week’s Kane County Meet.

High Standards

St. Charles North’s Oshay Hodges placed in four events, but the senior was not satisfied with his performance.

“I can do so much better if I’m just injury free,” Hodges said after last Friday’s meet.

Hodges has been battling a heel injury that he suffered while doing the triple jump and the county meet was the first time he had competed in all three jumping events in over three weeks. Hodges is hoping one more week of rest will help him improve his results at Thursday’s Upstate Eight Valley conference meet.

“I’m taking it day-by-day,” Hodges said. “This next week I’ll probably heel up, be better.”

The versatile athlete finished second in the high jump, second in the triple jump and fifth in the long jump. He was also part of the North Stars’ third-pace finish in the 1600-meter relay along with Zach Kirby, Jack Feeney and Connor Larson.

Hodges did say he was pleasantly surprised with his performance in the high jump. The North Stars’ senior was locked in a tight battle with Marmion’s Peter Stefanski, the defending 2A champion. Hodges and Stefanski both cleared 6 feet, 7 inches, but Stefanski earned first place due to less misses earlier in the competition.

“I was surprised in the high jump because I almost got 6-9 which would have been a personal best. So, I guess I’m just going to take that into next week. I’m pretty sure I can get that (6-9) next week.”

Stefanski and Marmion have been bumped up to 3A this season and they will be competing against St. Charles North in the same sectional, hosted by the North Stars, in two weeks. Hodges, who finished second at the 3A meet last year, welcomes the competition.

“It kind puts pressure on me, because of course I want to go back downstate again,” Hodges said. “So I’m trying to push myself even further and they push me a lot more because I have them to compete against.”

Thanks For The Help

After winning the 400-meters, South Elgin sprinter Jeff Broger made sure to give credit to St. Charles North’s Zach Kirby.

“Actually, there’s one guy that I actually should thank, that St. Charles North dude (Kirby),” Broger said. “He actually gave me a kick. He was gaining up on me, and that gave me that kick to finish through that last 100.”

Broger entered last Friday’s meet hoping to win to win the 400-meters. Winning the 200-meters as well was just icing on the cake for the Storm junior.

“My goal for the day was winning the 400. I was nervous and I didn’t know what to expect out of that 200,” Broger said.

No Practice Makes Perfect?

Devante King of Elgin took home a county championship in the 110-meter hurdles, but the Benedictine-bound senior admitted he wasn’t exactly prepared for that particular race.

“I just winged it actually, I haven’t been able to practice it for two weeks straight,” King said. “We’ve been working on relays, trying to get to state.”

All that relay work showed as King teamed up with Dennis Moore, Terrell Campbell and Derek Moorman to take first place in the 800-meter relay and second in the 400-meter relay.

See You Later, Peter

A year after finishing 10th at state in the 800-meters, St. Charles East’s Jake Mazanke ran the event for the first time this spring and set a personal record (1:53.56). However, the Fighting Saints’ senior was upstaged by Peter Archibald of Geneva, who won the race in Kane County record time (1:52.76).

“Racing against Peter is always fun, he’s a great athlete,” said Mazanke. “It’s a little bit of blow not to win, but it’s not the last time we’ll race. I’m sure come state finals, we’ll be neck and neck again.”

Mazanke will get another crack at Archibald sooner than that – the runners will face off at Thursday’s Upstate Eight River conference meet in Geneva.

Other Notes: Streamwood’s Blake Holder, recovering from a hamstring injury, said he won’t be running any open events at this week’s Upstate Eight River meet. He’s hoping to run the 100-meters, 200-meters, 400-meter relay and 800-meter relay at next week’s sectional. In his first action since early April, Holder ran anchor for the Sabres’ first-place 400-meter relay team at Kane County … Geneva’s winning 3200-meter relay team of Peter Archibald, Michael Bianchina, Justin Davis and Nathan Wendt had never run together before Friday … Burlington Central’s Clint Kliem broke the school record in the 1600-meters by over two seconds. The senior won the event with a time of 4:18.76

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Boys Track: St. Charles North Tops Area Teams At Kane County Meet

While most of this spring’s outdoor track season has taken place in weather more fit for indoor competition, warm temperatures and blue skies greeted athletes at the Kane County boys track meet held at West Aurora on Friday.

Geneva and Kaneland both came out on top, tying for first with 74 points each. West Aurora followed in third place with 65 points.

St. Charles North had the best showing among area schools, finishing fourth with with 56 points. Burlington Central took sixth place with 44 points while South Elgin followed close behind in seventh with 40 points.

St. Charles East took tenth with 32 points, Elgin finished 11th with 31 while Streamwood ended up in 12th with 10. Larkin finished 14th with four points, while Dundee-Crown came in 15th with one point to round out area schools.

Declan Duggan was the North Stars’ lone individual champion, finishing first in the 3,200 with a time of 9:39.04.

“To win this meet as a senior, it’s a big deal,” said Duggan. “It feels good, I really can’t put it in to words. It’s a good feeling.”

Oshay Hodges placed in four events for the North Stars. The multi-talented athlete took second in the high jump (6-7) and triple jump (43-08.75), fifth place in the long jump (20-09) and was a part of the North Stars’ third place 1,600 relay.

Hodges, who has been battling a heel injury, said he was surprised by his high jump performance.

“I almost got 6-9 which would have been a personal best. I know I can make that jump, I’m pretty sure I can get it next week,” said Hodges, who finished second in the high jump at last year’s 3A state meet.

Burlington-Central’s Clint Kliem set a Kane County record in the 1,600 meters, winning the race with a time of 4:18.76. The senior broke the old record, set by St. Charles North’s Matt Desilva in 2006, by just .08 seconds.

“We’ll see a lot of these teams in the state series, so it was just great prep for that,” said Kliem. “The best of the best will be there and this is how I’ll need to preform.”

Kliem was also part of the Rockets’ second-place 1,600 and 3,200 relays teams.

Seventh-place South Elgin was paced by Jeff Broger, who took first in both the 200 (22.41) and 400 (49.67). The junior was pleasantly surprised by his double championships.

“My goal was just to win the 400. I was really nervous about the 200, I had no idea what to expect from that,” said Broger, who set a personal record in the 400.

St. Charles East’s 1,600 relay team of Carter Reading, Jake Mazanke, Danny Newman and Nick Devor finished first with a time of 3:22.35.

Mazanke also took home second place in the 800 (1:53.56), finishing behind Geneva’s Peter Archibald who set a Kane County record in the race.

“Racing against Peter is always fun, he’s a great athlete,” said Mazanke. “It’s a little bit of blow not to win, but it’s not the last time we’ll race. I’m sure come state finals, we’ll be neck and neck again.”

Elgin’s Devante King was the champion of the 110 hurdles race and the anchor of the Maroons’ first-place 4×200 relay team. King was also a part of Elgin’s second place finish in the 400 relay.

King said he had spent most of his time in recent practices focusing on relay races, not the hurdles.

“I just winged it. I hadn’t practiced the hurdles for two weeks straight,” said King.

Streamwood’s 400 relay team of Blake Holder, Art Beese, Sean Patterson and Austin Mugnai took first place (42.67). Holder, the Sabres’ anchor, ran for the first time since sustaining a hamstring injury on Apr. 14.

“We won this race last year, so it’s not a surprise,” said Holder. “But it’s definitely a big goal that we had, and we got it. Now we just need stay hungry so we can get a conference, sectional and state championship.”

Holder, the 2011 Kane County 100 meter dash champion, did not run any individual races on Friday but said he plans on running the 100 at sectionals in two weeks.

Larkin’s Cyrus French made the finals of the 400 and finished fourth (50.88). Dundee-Crown’s top-finisher was R.J. Schmidt who placed sixth in the 110 hurdles (16.26).

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times and Elgin Courier. It appears here.

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