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By Brad Spencer
After combing through every story and every photo of 2012 and causing significant strain to our already dilapidated brains by recalling some of the plays, shots, serves, hits, blocks, pins, sprints, pitches, vaults, or game winning goals or touchdowns or walk-off homers, we had way too much content to stuff into a few pages for a year in sports review. Therefore, we did what any selfish editor would do: We only picked 10.
What makes a year in sports review difficult to produce is selecting what goes into a year in sports review. What we decided on was not just highlights but anything we deemed interesting enough in the realm of local sports. It wasn't easy. If it's any consolation to those who didn't make it in — and we realize it's not — during the process we tore some hair out, grinded down some molars, lost 15 pounds, developed a nasty rash where the sun don't shine, and took up talking to ourselves in gibberish. But we are better for the effort (maybe). At any rate, we'll be seeing you in 2013 (hopefully).
Happy New Year.
OPRF football won its first state playoff game since 1992 by edging Hinsdale Central 28-24 on a cold night in Hinsdale. It happened just a few months ago in October, but if you're like us and you only vaguely remember waking up this morning there was one play that changed the outcome for the Huskies.
In a game plagued with penalties and turnovers on both sides of the ball, OPRF trailed 24-21 with a minute left. Sophomore quarterback Lloyd Yates zipped a pass intended for Ryan Nelson that careened off the hands of a Hinsdale Central defender and landed in the arms of OPRF senior Tommy Odell, who raced down the right sideline for a touchdown.
"That's what happens to good people," exclaimed OPRF head coach John Hoerster after the game. Odell spent the entirety of last season sidelined with a broken leg. "It's not an accident; it's not dumb luck that Tommy was there. That was Tommy being Tommy. That is what hard work and perseverance will do for you in the end."
The Huskies finished the season 7-4, the program's first winning season since 2009.
Roosevelt boys cross-country
The Roosevelt Middle School boys cross-country team won the Class 2A Sectional behind the determined running of Chance Bayles, Eric Forehand, Noah Forehand, Shea Gorman, Eric Mulshine, Matt Politis and Matthew Vietzen. Mulshine (11:20) and Bayles (11:31) both finished in the Top 10 for the 2-mile course. Mulshine went on to finish 15th overall in 11:09 at the State Meet.
Remember these names, for they are sure to be kicking up dirt at the high school level someday.
OPRF girls golf
History was made in 2012 by way of the OPRF girls golf team winning the St. Ignatius Regional championship at Cog Hill. The Huskies were the first OPRF girls golf team to ever win a regional since the program's inception six years ago. Who led the charge? None other than a freshman named Amanda Youman, who carded an 85. Other top scorers included Lauren Hanson (90), Emma Youman (95) and Mason Rose (97).
The team finished with a 367, 11 strokes better than second place finisher and cross-town rival Fenwick. The Friars were led by senior Liz Mavrogenes, who finished just 5-over on the day with a 76 to medal.
OPRF boys and girls cross-country
You know what we always say, "Play the gracious host, and then stomp all over your opponent." That's exactly what the OPRF girls and boys cross-country teams did when they hosted the annual Roy Gummerson invite back in September. The OPRF girls took first, while the boys took second in their respective races.
Four runners placed among the first 12 female finishers. Erin Schrobilgen ran the three-mile course in 18:31.2 to finish third overall. Katherine Powers (19:02.6/6th place), and a pair of promising freshmen in Haley Thompson (19:13.6/8th) and Ainsley Tran (19:28.5/12) rounded out the Huskies' impressive group of front pack runners. But it was Fenwick sophomore Olivia Ryan who actually won the girls race with a time of 17:47.0, taking the course at a 5:56 per mile clip. The Friars finished fifth as a team.
Ryan Hodes (16:13.5/11th), Alexander Waheed (16:14.1/12th), Tim Howell (16:25.5/15th) and Pierce Sheehan (16:29.6/17th) rounded out the OPRF boys impressive runner-up finish.
The epic (or not) football game
Touchdowns were as frequent as property tax increases (ouch) when the OPRF football team took on York a few months ago.
The Huskies scored eight touchdowns, four in the opening quarter and four in the third quarter. But the Dukes, whose assistant coaches include former OPRF head coach Jim Nudera and former Fenwick head coach Joe DiCanio, lit up the scoreboard nearly as much as OPRF. York knotted the game at 41-41 with 3:38 to go in the third quarter where the Dukes scored on not one but two kick-off returns.
The Huskies scored two touchdowns in the third and ended with a 55-41 victory. Either they were all out of touchdown dances or the end zone just seemed boring, but neither team scored in the fourth quarter.
OPRF running back Jakari Cammon racked up 128 yards rushing in the third quarter alone and scored three touchdowns (from 7, 3 and 82 yards out). He finished the night with 300 yards rushing on 23 attempts.
It was the first time the OPRF football team had earned a victory over its West Suburban (Silver) Conference rival since 1998.
Speaking of rivalries, there isn't one bigger than OPRF and Fenwick. In 2012, like every year, sports teams from the two schools went at it with gusto. Recently, the Fenwick boys and girls basketball teams scored victories over OPRF.
But back in September, two consecutive goals by the Huskies in the second half led to OPRF's boys soccer team edging the Friars at Oak Park Stadium 2-1.
Senior forward Noe Espinosa connected on a pass from senior midfielder Okker Verhagen on the right side and shot it just past Fenwick goalkeeper Jacob Peterson for the Huskies' first goal.
Peterson made several key saves in the first half to keep the game scoreless. He notched 10 total saves, while OPRF goalkeeper Liam Sorensen tallied six. Sorensen's most crucial stop occurred with 20 seconds left in the game.
"We had great goalkeepers (in the game)," said Espinosa. "There was nothing you could do but put it in the perfect spot. It was exciting, that made it a really good game."
Powell and OPRF wrestling
How can an Olympian not make a year in sports review? OPRF High School graduate Ellis Coleman competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. On hand to cheer him on was an Oak Park contingency that included OPRF wrestling coach Mike Powell, who had quite a year himself.
In October, Powell was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and presented with the organization's Medal of Courage.
Since 2009, the same year he coached the Huskies to a Class 3A State Dual Team Championship, Powell has battled polymyositis, a rare autoimmune disease that attacks muscle cells. He's been featured in Sports Illustrated and USA Wrestling named him its Cadet Development Coach of the Year.
The Huskies, who finished second in the Class 4A Dual Team State Meet last season, are poised to make a run at another state title this season.
Fenwick girls swimming
In November, the Fenwick girls swim team matched its second place finish from the previous season at the IHSA State Meet. The Friars placed second overall for the second consecutive year with 157 points, while New Trier took first with 166 points — despite not securing a first-place finish in any individual event.
The Friars set a new state record time of 1:41.87 in the 200-yard medley relay, which consisted of freshman Kierston Farley-Sepe, juniors Mimi Schneider and Colleen Barron, and senior Haley Wickham. The group also placed second in the 200-yard freestyle relay with a time of 1:33.46.
"Of all four years, this is the hardest team I've been on for training," said Wickham. "This team works the hardest and is the closest."
Way back in June, at the conclusion of the 2011-12 school year, it made the No. 1 spot in our Top 10 sports highlights. Therefore, it only seems right for the OPRF baseball team to be listed in a review of the entire year of 2012. Last spring, the Huskies won the Class 4A State championship in such a fashion that it seemed like a dream to many of the players and coaches. To sum it up: During the playoffs Joe McKune pitched five innings of shutout ball and the Huskies won a game they had no business winning — being down 7-0 at one point. There was also a 10-8 win over Maine South and a 1-0 nail-biter over Highland Park.
And then, of course, there was the state championship against Lyons. Bottom of the seventh, game tied 3-3, runner on third, two teammates were intentionally walked before Mike Brennan slapped a first offering to right field for the game winner. (We still get chills remembering it.)
White Sox, what?
And since we have baseball still on the brain, what could be considered a significant sports news item for 2012 was the recent announcement by Oak Park Youth Baseball/Softball that all of its participants will be wearing White Sox uniforms beginning this season. For some, a dream come true. For others, a nightmare.