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By Brad Spencer
It's for certain that the ice will melt in your glass of lemonade as we take a look back at OPRF High School's numerous athletic accomplishments during the 2011-12 school year, but rest assured nothing will be watered down in our reflections. Why? Because we have decided to rank those sports achievements!
Yes, it's silly, irrelevant, and maybe even a little snobbish to put in order what we think were the top sports highlights of OPRF's school year, but it makes it much more fun, interesting and hopefully counter interactive. If you don't agree with a ranking, or if something was left out, post it in the comments section of the story. Changes – or corrections – will be taken into consideration, although maybe not politely.
Girls field hockey
All-State junior Maggie Mullins led the OPRF girls field hockey team to a fourth place finish at the Illinois High School Field Hockey Association State Tournament. Mullins scored seven goals on the season to lead the Huskies, who finished the year 14-7-2.
He's svelte and fast and his name is Malachy Schrobilgen. In the fall, he closed out his high school cross-country career by winning the Roy Gummerson Invitational, the West Suburban (Silver) Conference Meet and the Class 3A regional, before finishing third at the state meet with a time of 14:28.
In the winter, Schrobilgen announced that he will attend and run for the University of Wisconsin. In the spring, he won the 3200-meter run at the Class 3A State Track and Field Meet with a time of 9:03.42.
It wasn't much of a surprise when Schrobilgen was honored with the school's Athletic Medal Award at the end of the year.
They hadn't won a regional championship since Iman Shumpert graced OPRF's hardwood, so when the boys basketball team upended Morton 56-46 to win the Lyons Township Regional title it was a milestone.
The win, that was aided by the play of senior Gabe Levin (16 points, 13 rebounds) and junior Jakari Cammon (15 points) marked head coach Matt Maloney's first regional title since taking over for Al Allen four years ago.
The Huskies won 20 games and the West Suburban (Silver) Conference title. They lost 64-60 to Schaumburg in the sectional semifinal despite 20 points from Ka'Darryl Bell, who will play at Bradley University next season.
It's not an easy event to master. You run with a pole, jam it into the ground and catapult yourself over a bar, a very high bar. Junior McKenzee Kroeschell made the pole vault look easy this season. She vaulted into the school's sports record books by springing 11-feet-1-inch against Downers Grove South during the regular season, breaking Rachel Teitelbaum's five-year-old mark of 11-feet. Kroeschell upped the record to 11-4 1/2 a week or so later.
In May, Kroeschell re-wrote the school record book once again with a vault of 12-3, good for third place at the Class 3A State Track and Field Meet.
Pat Murphy, Alex Decorrevant, Dan Wojtak, Joe McKune, Pat Cusack and Matt Weintrob captured 11th place as a team despite gusty winds during both rounds at the Class 3A State Tournament held at The Den at Fox Creek Golf Course in Bloomington back in October.
Murphy, the only underclassmen among all seniors, shot 6-over par (78) for the last round. Decorrevant picked up back-to-back birdies on the back nine of Round 2, finishing with an 82 on the day and 164 for the tournament. Others scores included Wojtak (173), McKune (176), Cusack (180) and Weintrob (182).
Four-year varsity tennis player Luke Trinka won his first three matches at the IHSA State Tennis Meet and the doubles team of Tim McAdam and Graham Lehman won three-straight matches in the consolation round to help the Huskies to a three-way tie for fifth place.
Trinka fell in the fourth round after a hard-fought 7-6 (7), 5-7, 7-6 (6) battle against Alex Galoustin of New Trier. McAdam and Lehman finished 5-2 in the tournament.
The Huskies have finished in the Top 5 at state for six straight years.
Boys Swimming and Diving
A lot was going on around the pool at OPRF. A diving board was taken out to be replaced but was never replaced due to height and depth restrictions. The season was the last for long-time head coach and former OPRF swimmer Peter Quinn, who stepped down to spend more time with his family. In-between this was Kyle Patnode, Nikita Bondarenko and Ben Lewis leading the team to a three-way tie for 15th place at the IHSA State Meet.
Lewis finished fifth overall in diving (395.65), while Patnode placed eighth in the 100 backstroke (52.17) and 11th in the 100 butterfly (51.54). Bondarenko finished 11th in the 500 freestyle (4:36.93) and 12th in the 200 freestyle (1:43.07).
Quinn was inducted into the school's hall of fame.
The OPRF wrestling program gained national attention this year not only for its winning ways, but for its connection to an Olympic qualifier and for the personal story behind its head coach, Mike Powell.
The Huskies, conference champs and regional champs, placed second at the Class 4A State Dual Meet. At the Class 3A State Individual Meet, Sam Brooks won his second state title by defeating Alton's Taylor McGiffen 9-2 at 182 pounds. Matt Rundell finished second at 106 pounds, while Devonte Mahomes (152 weight class) and Larry Early (120) both placed third in their respective weight classes.
OPRF grad Ellis Coleman qualified for the London Summer Olympics, and Powell's battle with polymyositis, a rare muscle disease, was featured in Sports Illustrated and on several local television programs.
Boys track and field
Carl Heinz is a leaper. Malachy Schrobilgen is a runner. The best friends helped lead the OPRF boys track and field team to a Top 3 finish at the state meet. If you've been reading, you already know what Schrobilgen did at state. Heinz repeated as state champ in the high jump, this season clearing 7-1, the mark that earlier in the season tied him in the nation among high school jumpers.
"Last year, winning the [high jump] was too easy," said the Duke-bound Heinz. "This year, I jumped three inches higher and the competition was tougher."
The 4 x 100 relay team of sophomores Jamal Baggett and Lionel Towns, and juniors Zach Booth and Tariq Taylor finished second at state with a time of 42.19 seconds.
The OPRF baseball team winning the Class 4A State championship just a couple of weeks ago is our No. 1 sports highlight of the school year simply because the Huskies refused to lose.
It began with pitcher Joe McKune, he of the same golf team above, shutting out Evanston for five innings and allowing just three hits as the Huskies escaped with a 2-1 regional title victory. Next up was New Trier, against whom OPRF fell behind 7-0 after three innings. But just when the season looked over, the Huskies rallied and Nick Kowalczuk hit a walk-off single to right field in the bottom of the seventh inning for the game winner.
In the sectional championship, the Huskies came out on top against Maine South after both teams combined for 27 hits and 18 runs. The Huskies won 10-8.
The nail-biting, gut wrenching moments didn't stop there. The Huskies edged Highland Park 1-0 to win the supersectional on just two hits, and, after blasting Grant 8-2 in the state semifinals, found themselves facing West Suburban (Silver) Conference rival Lyons Township for the championship.
With no outs, a runner on third, and the game tied 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning, LT head coach George Ushela intentionally (and intelligently) walked Kowalczuk and cleanup hitter Alex Rice to get to Mike Brennan, who had struck out three times previously in the game. But Brennan slapped the first pitch to right field and the rest, as they say, is history.