Last Friday was "Spirit Day" at Trinity High School, which usually means everyone wears blue and white.
But even on those days the Trinity gym, site of Blazer basketball games, remains dark and silent at 5 a.m.
Last Friday, though, the gym was rocking with a playoff basketball atmosphere as nearly 300 Trinity students helped CBS Ch. 2 Traffic Reporter Susan Carlson and her production crew put on a rousing two-hour edition of "Hoops Friday."
The girls showed up in the frigid pre-dawn?#34;make that the pre-pre-dawn?#34;despite heavy snow cover, temperatures in the low teens and little or no sleep.
CBS aired shots from the school gym every eight minutes or so, the first one at around 5:10 a.m., with a final crowd shot just before 7 a.m.
The "Friday Hoops" title aside, the show wasn't limited to basketball. CBS producer Sue Brown had worked with Trinity's Mary Tansey and other school staff the past week to create more than a dozen segments that were aired along with Carlson's traffic reports during the show's two hours.
"She planned every segment out with all the different organizations that were involved," said Carlson of Brown, who segmented each part of the show to assure that Carlson was able to spotlight different aspects and accomplishments of the Trinity program.
That was just fine with Trinity President Sister Michelle Germanson and the rest of the Trinity faculty, who were scheduled to conduct admissions testing for the school the following morning.
"It's certainly great PR," said Germanson.
The segments gave a number of Trinity students an exciting moment in the sun, so to speak, even though the sun wouldn't be coming up for another hour or two.
The pertly photogenic Carlson, herself a product of all-girls Seton Hall Academy in South Holland, was part interviewer, part cheerleader throughout the morning. Carlson spoke with several Trinity student-athletes, sat in the bleachers surrounded by girls to do her traffic reports on several occasions, and even asked a couple of the girls to take over her role and give play traffic reporter for an on-air moment.
She even played the student once, receiving free-throw shooting tips from members of the Trinity basketball squad. (Let's just say she shouldn't quit her day job.)
One of the biggest cheerleaders in the room, however, was Germanson, who moved about the gym with as much enthusiasm as any of her students.
"This is the essence of Trinity, this spirit," said Germanson with a broad smile.
Senior Carrie Schwebl of Forest Park, who sings the National Anthem before Trinity home basketball games, sang an a cappella song on air that was dedicated to her classmates. It was the furthest thing from her mind on Tuesday, when she first heard of the Friday event.
"At first I didn't know I was going to sing. I thought they were just going to interview me," she said.
"We were up all night, we were so excited," said Schwebl. "We were so pumped for today."
"Half the people stayed up all night because we were so excited," said Trinity basketball guard Alison Sansone, a senior from Chicago.
Unlike Schwebl, some of the girls had literally no advance warning of their brief TV stardom. Nicole Scanio, a junior from Melrose Park, was one of Carlson's fill-in traffic reporters.
Scanio said she wasn't the least bit surprised by her classmate's early pre-dawn spirit.
"No matter whether it's two o'clock in the morning, four o'clock in the morning or seven o'clock at night, we bring the energy. We're ready," said Scanio.
Others, though, were pleasantly surprised. Trinity choir director Paula Kowalkowski, whose girls sang the school's Alma Mater on TV, admitted to being a bit surprised by the overwhelming enthusiasm exhibited.
"My daughter's school had [a CBS "Football Friday" show at her school] a couple months ago," she said, "and they only had a quarter of their [school] population show up. So I was really surprised when I walked in at 4:30."
She wasn't alone. Germanson said she was amazed at the long line of cars on Division Street dropping off girls that greeted her as she arrived at the school before 4:15 a.m.
CBS's Carlson said the show was all they'd hoped it would be.
"I loved it," said Carlson. "It was a lot of fun to be here. It was particularly fun to come back to an all-girl Catholic high school."
"The girls were really enthusiastic," added Carlson, who was handling her first Friday Hoops show. "Probably more than I was anticipating."
CBS apparently loved it too. According to reports?#34;and no, we weren't up at 5 a.m. again on Monday to watch it?#34;the CBS morning crew were still talking about the Friday goings-on during their Monday broadcast.
Perhaps best of all, Germanson, whom few people know as a "major" Elvis Presley fan, celebrated her own anniversary on the King's 70th birthday.