The past 12 months brought plenty of memorable storylines. There were championships, near misses and the personalities that were behind them. Looking back, we offer the Top 10 local and regional stories of 2013 as voted on by the Northwest Herald sports staff.
1. Stanley returns: The Blackhawks started the lockout-delayed season with a record 24-game point streak and capped it with their second Stanley Cup championship in four years. The Hawks toppled the Boston Bruins in six games, scoring a pair of goals in 17 seconds in the Cup clincher. Their season almost ended in the Western Conference semifinals, in which the Hawks erased a 3-1 series deficit against Detroit.
2. Championship cousins: Richmond-Burton cousins Cameron Kennedy (126 pounds) and Garrett Sutton (152 pounds) each captured individual Class 3A state wrestling titles. Kennedy pulled out a last-second victory over Montini’s Jordan Laster to earn Northwest Herald Wrestler of the Year honors. Sutton slipped past Sycamore’s Austin Culton to win his championship and finish the season 38-0. Harvard’s Anthony Luis also won a championship, capturing the 106-pound Class 2A title.
3. Haak’s Hornets: Tim Haak never wanted his retirement at the end of the current school year to overshadow what his final Harvard football team accomplished. The Hornets responded by winning 11 straight games and reaching the Class 4A quarterfinals before losing, 28-24, to Rockford Lutheran. The Hornets were looking to advance to the state semifinals for the first time in school history. Haak was named the Northwest Herald Football Coach of the Year.
4. Just short: Prairie Ridge’s girls soccer team carried a 17-game winning streak into the Class 2A state finals, hoping to make an 18th straight win the most meaningful of the run. But the Wolves lost in the championship match, 4-1, against Chatham Glenwood. The Wolves finished 19-3-1 behind Northwest Herald Coach of the Year J.C. Brown and a little inspiration from former Wolves star and Olympic gold medalist Amy LePeilbet, who remained in contact with the team throughout the season.
5. Back-to-back: Capturing a 1,600-meter state championship was nothing new to Katie Adams. So when the Marengo senior runner had the chance to repeat the feat at this year’s state track and field championships, Adams didn’t disappoint. Adams’ championship run proved to be the best of her career, finishing in 5:00.84, earning her Northwest Herald Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year honors. Huntley’s Omo Tseumah (high jump) and Woodstock’s Maura Beattie (3,200) also captured state titles in their respective class championships.
6. Hey, hey, Huntley: Huntley’s girls basketball team advanced to the state tournament for the first time. The Red Raiders finished 26-8 after a loss in the Class 4A third-place game against Whitney Young. Huntley was led by Northwest Herald Player of the Year Sam Andrews, who combined with sister Ali Andrews and a talented supporting cast. Despite finishing the year with back-to-back losses, Huntley celebrated a team coach Steve Raethz called “the embodiment of team chemistry and togetherness.”
7. Jordan rules: Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting after guiding the Huskies to a 12-2 record after a 21-14 loss to Utah State on Thursday night in the Poinsettia Bowl. Lynch kept NIU in the hunt for the Huskies’ second straight BCS Bowl appearance before the Huskies lost for the first time this season to Bowling Green in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game. Lynch is the nation’s second-leading rusher with 1,920 yards, he threw for 2,892 yards and was a first-team Associated Press All-America selection as an all-purpose player.
8. Gator glory: The Crystal Lake South girls volleyball team registered its top state finish since finishing as the Class AA state runner-up in 1995, placing fourth in the Class 4A state tournament after losing in three sets to New Trier. South finished 37-5 behind the leadership of its five seniors: Avalon Nero, Nicole Slimko, Sara Mickow, Hannah Wilson and Katy Hoenle.
9.Half-court hero: McHenry’s Mike Drysch found his way onto a national stage this year when he won $75,000 by hitting a half-court hook shot during a Miami Heat game in January. The moment only got bigger when Drysch was bear-hugged to the floor by Heat star LeBron James in a video that went viral and that landed Drysch in a recently filmed commercial for ESPN.
10. Running at the top: Former Jacobs running standout Evan Jager finished fifth at the IAAF World Championships in the 3,000-meter steeplechase after running the race among the world’s best. Three of the top four finishers in the event were Kenyans, including two-time Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi. Jager, who reached the finals of the event in last year’s London Olympics, finished the race at the world championships in 8:08.67.