How Polo supports one of its own

Andy Colbert

Last weekend was one of the best of the year for me with an Oregon pole vaulter I help coach qualifying for state on Friday and then spending Sunday with the woman who gave me birth 65 years ago on Mother’s Day.

But, the most gratifying experience was on Saturday. That is when I saw firsthand how the community of Polo supports one of its own.

Clarification here. It wasn’t just Polo, but people from neighboring towns from all over the area that came out for a benefit for beloved citizen, coach, family member and friend in Jeff Grobe.

This wasn’t your normal gathering for someone with a health ailment. This was big time, with street closures, live bands and hundreds of people converging on the town.

And why not? From what I learned about Jeff Grobe, he normally would have been the one leading the charge on helping others throughout his decades of living and working in Polo.

I got to know Jeff from covering his girls basketball teams. What was refreshing about interviewing him is that he told it like it was, rather than bland coach-speak.

That man was genuine. Likewise, Polo is a genuine town, one that I’ve been appreciated since helping at the Jaycees chicken fry during Town and Country Days over 30 years ago.

Polo reminds me of a similar-sized town I grew up in during early grade school, Galva, Illinois. Good people and willing to lend a hand wherever is needed.

Walking along Mason Street the morning of the benefit and seeing volunteers setting up, there was a feeling of small town Americana at its best. In the calm before the rush, I had the pleasure of speaking with Jason Grobe, son of Jeff, about what his father meant to the community and the connective tissue of high-school sports.

It always seems like sports means more to these small towns than the bigger ones. And, though these towns have fierce rivalries, like the ones we see in the NUIC, those same towns support each other in time of need.

A small example I noticed was a gift basket from the Eastland basketball team in the silent auction. I’m sure there were others too.

Getting back to the ongoing sports beat, two schools that share a spirited rivalry are Byron and Stillman Valley. In what appears to be a fairly equal girls soccer sectional, those two could possibly meet in the finals.

Stillman needs to beat Indian Creek to get there and Byron the same with Rock Island Alleman. The competitive advantage enjoyed by Alleman is playing bigger schools in the Western Big-6 conference.

In fact, there is such an enrollment disparity going up against teams like Moline and Rock Island, Alleman gave up playing football because of getting beat up so bad.

Still, Byron is capable of beating Alleman. The feel good story of Stillman’s regional title over Winnebago was foreign-exchange student Sigrid Larsen of Norway. With her parents coming over from the homeland to watch her for the first time, Larsen played a pivotal role in the win.

With relay powerhouses in Winnebago and Rockford Christian present, Forreston-Polo and Oregon were still able to have big outings at the 1A girls track & field sectional.

Both had their best showings in years by qualifying for state in six events each. Grabbing a medal at Charleston will be tough, but the Hawks are seeded No. 8 in the 1,600-meter relay.

In a strange placement by the IHSA, the Forreston-Polo boys teams heads all the way to Rockridge, south of the Quad-Cities for its track sectional. Usually they are slotted in with the locals at Oregon, which would have been a far shorter drive than the 100 miles to Rockridge high school.

However, the F-P 400, 800 and 1,600 relays are seeded No. 1 at Rockridge. At Oregon, they would have been in a real dog fight with RC and ‘Bago.

And, it’s baseball and softball kicking off the post season this past week. More to report on that later, as regionals are settled.

Andy Colbert is a longtime Ogle County resident with years of experience covering sports and more for multiple area publications.