Prairie Ridge senior Erin Wagner had options.
She could have accepted a scholarship offer to run cross country and track at NCAA Division II Truman State. Or waited to see what coaches at Drake or Illinois-Chicago, D-I schools with which she had been in contact, had to say.
Wagner was coming off her best season of running, which culminated with a ninth-place finish in the Class 2A girls race at the IHSA Cross Country State Meet.
So there would have been coaches, with scholarship money, who were interested.
But Wagner’s heart was 1 1/2 hours northwest of Crystal Lake, at a place she had been several times for running camps. Wagner longed to be a Wisconsin Badger, even if it meant starting her career as a preferred walk-on.
Wagner recently was contacted by Wisconsin women’s cross country coach Jim Stintzi and will run for the Badgers next season in cross country and track. As is the case with most walk-ons, once Wagner contributes more to the team, Stintzi is likely to find her some scholarship money.
“He told me he would be happy to have me walk on,” Wagner said. “I love the campus and the school is amazing. I’ve been going to running camp there for a few years. Coach Stintzi seems to be a great coach and I really connected with the girls on the team.”
At the running camps, the Badgers’ runners usually work as counselors, so Wagner got a taste of what being on the team would be like.
“Hopefully, eventually I can work up to a scholarship,” Wagner said.
Matthys to Whitewater: McHenry senior Michaela Matthys will continue her swimming career at D-III Wisconsin-Whitewater next year.
Matthys was the Northwest Herald Swimmer of the Year after qualifying for the state meet in the 100-yard butterfly. She narrowly missed qualifying for the finals in that race. Matthys also received Co-MVP honors at the Fox Valley Conference championships.
Lesniewski to Missouri school: Marian Central defensive end Thomas Lesniewski, one of the area’s top linemen, will play football at NAIA Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo. next year on scholarship.
Lesniewski (6-foot-1, 214 pounds) was one of Marian’s fastest players, even though he was a lineman. He had nine sacks, four tackles for losses and was named the Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division Defensive Player of the Year.
“[Missouri Valley] offered to me early,” Lesniewski said. “I looked at some D-II and D-III schools, but Missouri Valley’s a very good NAIA program. I felt comfortable at a smaller school.”
Lesniewski wants to major in political science and said he talked with some D-I coaches, but they thought he was too small for defensive end. His speed and diligence in the weightroom should serve him well at Missouri Valley. He was a Northwest Herald All-Area first-team selection.
Mischke an All-Star: McHenry center Brad Mischke has been selected to play in the Illinois Coaches Association All-Star Shrine Game on Saturday, July 12 at Illinois Wesleyan’s Tucci Stadium in Bloomington.
Mischke (6-1, 270) was the Warriors’ MVP, which, as McHenry coach Dave D’Angelo could best remember, is the first time an offensive lineman won that award. He was a Northwest Herald All-Area first-team selection.
“My coach nominated me for it,” Mischke said. “I was pretty excited about it [the All-Star game]. I didn’t know what to say.”
Mischke is leaning toward attending D-III Concordia (Wis.) University, located in Mequon, just north of Milwaukee.
Marshall to Aurora: Dundee-Crown offensive lineman Jeremy Marshall will attend D-III Aurora University, where he will be reunited with high school teammate Cody Lane.
Marshall (5-11, 225) was a force on the line for the Chargers (6-4), who made the playoffs for the first time since 1994. He was a Northwest Herald All-Area honorable-mention pick. Marshall helped Lane become one of the area’s best rushers in 2012, but Lane missed the 2013 season with a knee injury.
Gators make plans: Crystal Lake South baseball players Casey Oliver, Paul Wille and Ryan Hetherington have made their college decisions for next year.
Oliver, a catcher, will play at D-III North Park University. He hit .296, drove in 18 runs and threw out 43 percent of basestealers last season.
Wille will play center field this spring and hit .400 last spring in a reserve role. He will play next year at McHenry County College.
Hetherington, a utility player, will play at D-III Carroll University in Waukesha, Wis. He played infield and outfield last season and was used as a pinch runner. He will have an expanded role this season.
“These guys are going to outstanding programs where they will be able to contribute right away,” Gators coach Brian Bogda said. “These young men are disciplined, hard workers. I appreciate the time that they are putting in to making themselves better for the baseball program and I am looking forward to working with them this spring.”
Hofmann to Elmhurst: Crystal Lake Central pitcher Tyler Hofmann will play at D-III Elmhurst College next year. Hofmann was 4-4 with a 3.56 ERA last season for the Tigers.
Raiders to Stevens Point: Huntley’s Emily Westermeyer and Alyssa Deem will play volleyball at D-III Wisconsin-Stevens Point next year.
Westermeyer is a 5-8 outside hitter and Deem is a 5-5 libero. Stevens Point advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Division III National Tournament last season. Westermeyer and Deem both play for Club Fusion away from high school volleyball.
Huntley to Beloit: Woodstock North baseball senior Jamie Huntley will continue his career at D-III Beloit College next year. Huntley is a right-handed pitcher and also will be used as a middle infielder by Thunder coach Ian Rago this season.
“It's a great opportunity for Jamie,” Rago said. “He has worked extremely hard toward a goal of playing baseball at the next level, not only in our program but also with his fall and winter travel team. I’m very happy for him.”