With the calendar about to flip over to 2018, there is no better time than now to look back on the top stories of 2017, to recognize the sensational performances of area athletes and more. Here is a look at some of those top stories:
We are the champions
Lyons Township senior Danny Kilrea ran into the record books.
Kilrea, who will run collegiately at Notre Dame, captured the Class 3A state cross country championship on Nov. 4 in Peoria with a time of 14:08. Kilrea joined Warren Druetzler, who won it in 1946, as LT’s only boys state cross country champions.
With rain and five earlier state races softening the course, Kilrea equaled his second-place time from the 2016 state meet.
“I’ve thought about this moment since I was a sophomore,” Kilrea said. “Now that it’s finally happened, I’m overcome with joy.”
Earlier in the year, LT celebrated continued success in the pool.
The Lions’ boys swimming and diving team won its second straight state championship in February. The Lions trailed Hinsdale Central after nine events, but Alabama recruit Spencer Walker – the coach’s son – won the 100 backstroke to give LT the lead. The 400 freestyle relay team of Ryan Hammond, Matt Linden, Walker and Henry Claesson clinched the title.
“It’s not about the one kid that can win, it’s about what the team can do when they put it all together,” Walker said. “We’re lucky to have the team we have.”
Young stars take second
DJ Steward already was recognized as one of the state’s best freshman.
He only built on that reputation.
Fenwick’s precocious young talent went 10-for-10 from the floor and 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in scoring 26 points in a 69-67 overtime loss to Morgan Park in the Class 3A state basketball championship in March. Fenwick led by 11 points with less than six minutes left, but fell just short.
So did Nazareth in November, but its young stars shone in defeat.
The Roadrunners, with dynamic junior playmakers Devin Blakley, Michael Love and Diamond Evans, and six junior and sophomore starters on defense, advanced all the way to the Class 6A football final.
Nazareth three times forged ties with Prairie Ridge in that game, and almost did a fourth time. An interception in the end zone on the game’s final play turned the Roadrunners away.
“We have a talented junior class, we have talented sophomores,” Nazareth coach Tim Racki said, “but we’re not here without our senior class. That’s the bottom line.”
Pyritz says goodbye
Legendary LT volleyball coach Joann Pyritz said goodbye.
Pyritz, a 1979 Lyons graduate who played on the 1975 state title team, retired after close to three decades as Lions volleyball coach. Starting as coach in 1989, Pyritz, or “Coach P” won more than 800 matches, state titles in 1989 and 2010 and a second-place trophy in 2009.
“It’s the end of an era,” said former Lions star Alexis Viliunas, the setter on the 2010 championship team.
Flying high with the Eagles
Jake Elliott, a rookie NFL kicker from Western Springs, became an overnight celebrity in September.
The former LT kicker gained national fame when he booted a franchise-record 61-yard field goal for the Philadelphia Eagles as time expired in a 27-24 win over the New York Giants.
At LT, Elliott drilled game-winning kicks in 2011 in successive weeks against Oak Park-River Forest and York. After a record-filled collegiate career at Memphis, Elliott was selected in the fifth round of the NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. He signed with the Eagles after their starter was hurt.
“More than anything I was zoned in and ready for that opportunity,” Elliott told the Suburban Life.
Mustangs soccer team loses close call, looks ahead
The Morton soccer team’s outstanding season ended in heartbreaking fashion. The Mustangs were shut out for the first time all year by eventual champion Naperville North 1-0 in the Class 3A supersectional. Naperville North scored its only goal on an own goal.
Morton, though, has much to look forward to in 2018.
Only two starters will graduate.
Adrian Barrera, the Suburban Life Player of the Year for soccer, will return along with freshman Jesus Perez to form a potent attack.
“I think this is going to be make us work harder for next year,” Perez said.