Cary-Grove graduate Tyler Pennington, who was as tough on opponents swinging a bat as he was with a football tucked under his arms, was named the Northwest Herald Male Athlete of the Year for 2016-17 at the second annual Most Valuable Athletes Awards on Tuesday night at the Cary-Grove High School Fine Arts Center.
Crystal Lake South graduate Annika Sevcik, who starred for the Gators in basketball and soccer, received the Female Athlete of the Year honor.
Pennington is the first two-time winner, as only seniors were eligible for the award before last year.
Pennington and Sevcik both earned $2,500 for their respective schools from Dr. Steven Rochell, an orthopedic surgeon at OrthoIllinois in Crystal Lake. Dr. Rochell has awarded that amount to the winners’ schools each year since 1993, bringing his total contributions to $130,000 to local athletics through the awards.
The MVA Awards recognized the best high school area athletes for their performances throughout the year. Those receiving Player of the Year honors in fall and winter sports were recognized, while those in the spring sports were revealed Tuesday. Three finalists were invited in each of seven spring sports: baseball, softball, boys and girls track and field, girls soccer, boys tennis and lacrosse.
Pennington was voted Male Athlete of the Year by the Northwest Herald sports staff over other finalists Samson Evans (Prairie Ridge) and Blaine Bayer (Richmond-Burton). Sevcik edged Valerie Tarazi (Prairie Ridge) and Daniela Miranda (Woodstock North) for Female Athlete of the Year.
Other honors from Tuesday night were as follows: Coach of the Year, Dan DeBoeuf (Johnsburg football); Team of the Year, Prairie Ridge football; Lifetime Achievement, Bill Mack (Crystal Lake Central football); Sportsmanship, Cole Barkocy (Crystal Lake Central cross country); Courage, the late Derek Caskey (Marengo football and wrestling) and Rising Star (for Underclassman of the Year) to Quinn Priester (Cary-Grove football and baseball).
Mack enjoyed a career at Central that earned him a spot in the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. But he continued making an impact long after he retired as a head coach. Mack helped coaches at Cary-Grove, Prairie Ridge and Mundelein Carmel install the triple option offense. All of those schools won state titles running the option.
Barkocy was given the Sportsmanship Award after he stopped during the Fox Valley Conference Cross Country Meet, only 200 meters from the finish, when friend Jack Becker of Crystal Lake South was stumbling. Barkocy likely would have won the race, but at that moment thought more of helping his friend than winning. He finished fourth.
Caskey was diagnosed last summer with squamous cell carcinoma, an aggressive cancer in his mouth. He died six months later. But Caskey left a legacy belying his 20 years of life by always giving his best effort, thinking about others before himself and for showing positivity under the most dire circumstances. His parents, Patrick and Rea, accepted the trophy.
The Northwest Herald All-Sports Award winner also was announced, as Huntley repeated for that honor. That award is given to the Fox Valley Conference school with the best overall performances in boys and girls sports.
The winners for Player of the Year in spring sports were Dubem Anikamadu, Huntley (boys track and field), Natasha Schaffer, Prairie Ridge (girls track and field), Bobby Miller, McHenry (baseball), Mariah Dionne, Marengo (softball), Cole Naumovski, Prairie Ridge (boys lacrosse), Kerwin Chong, Jacobs (boys tennis) and Jess Schoenfeldt, Crystal Lake South (girls soccer).