College Sports

On Campus: McHenry East grad Kelsea Cichocki swings hot bat for Western Michigan

When Kelsea Cichocki steps into the batter’s box, she borrows a phrase from a golf movie to stay focused.

“It says, ‘See it, feel it, trust it,’" she said. "I just say that to myself when I got up to the plate.”

Cichocki’s bat – like the quote from “Seven Days in Utopia” – has had plenty to say this season.

The senior at Western Michigan, who plays third base, is batting .500 for the Broncos through 23 games. Cichocki, a McHenry East grad, ranks seventh in NCAA Division I softball this week in batting average and leads the Mid-American Conference.

“I expect the best out of myself,” Cichocki said. “I don’t want to be average. I want to be the best I can be, so I strive to do that every day.”

Cichocki leads the MAC in RBIs (27), slugging percentage (.824) and on-base percentage (.529) and ranks second in hits (37) and third in doubles (10). She also has four home runs.

“I’m seeing the ball really well,” she said. “I’m glad to be hitting so well to start a season.”

After making second-team All-MAC last season for the second season in a row, Cichocki said she focused on her mental game entering her senior year.

“I’m trying to stay focused at the plate and not think too much,” she said. “Sometimes, I can get a little anxious or get mad at myself if I ground out a couple of times.”

Cichocki already has 12 multihit games this season as the Broncos (12-11) enter MAC play this weekend at Miami University.

“I feel pretty confident,” Cichocki said. “I’m on top of my game. Hopefully, I can continue that.

Barker gives Bobcats bite: Cary-Grove grad Katie Barker finished her redshirt freshman season for D-I Ohio University’s women’s basketball team as the team’s top 3-point shooter.

While playing 30 games as a top reserve, Barker led the team with 50 made 3-pointers and a .355 percentage from beyond the arc. She ranked eighth in the MAC in 3-point percentage and 14th in 3s made a game (1.7) while averaging 5.1 points a game.

Ohio finished 22-10, ending its season last week with a 74-65 loss to Penn State in the opening round of the Women’s NIT.

Big Ten recognizes Cowlin: University of Illinois junior distance runner Joe Cowlin was one of 12 men’s track and field athletes honored last month with a Big Ten Conference Sportsmanship Award.

Cowlin, a Prairie Ridge grad, received the recognition during the conference’s indoor championships.

Cowlin is now a candidate for the season-ending Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, which is given to one male and one female athlete from each school and the end of each academic year.

In February, Cowlin posted a career-best time of 8:24.87 in the 3,000-meter run at the Husker Invite in Nebraska. He also is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.

Panchapakesan fires up Flames: UIC freshman Kailash Panchapakesan won at No. 4 singles and No. 3 doubles last weekend to help the Flames to a 4-3 victory against South Dakota State. 

A Jacobs grad, Panchapakesan won both matches in straights sets to improve to 6-4 as a singles player and 3-4 in doubles.

The Flames are 5-3 in their past eight matches this spring after starting the year 0-3.

Potts makes gymnastics regional: Prairie Ridge grad Ashley Potts is one of four Northern Illinois University gymnasts to qualify for next weekend’s National Collegiate Women’s Gymnastics Championships regional in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Potts, a junior, will compete in the all-around competition. She owns the 10th-best regional qualifying score of 39.065 points.

• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.

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