High school sports year comes to a close


With Forreston’s sectional final loss to East Dubuque in baseball and the IHSA track & field meet completed, the high-school sports year for Ogle County comes to a close.

The absolute highlight was Byron’s dominance in 3A football. Other than the semifinal game against Lombard-Montini, the Tigers destroyed everyone they played, including a 69-7 thrashing of Mt. Carmel.

Lots of talent lost, but lots of it returning for Byron. If Montini stays in 3A, they will likely be Byron’s main competition again. 

The Broncos were very young. However, suburban private schools have a reputation for transfers on a year-to-year basis. After the loss to Byron, the Montini coach lamented that very fact and how it adversely affected the program.

Prior to that, it was Elmhurst Immaculate Conception giving Byron all they could handle. We need a public school like Byron to stand up to the Montinis and ICs of the grid world.

It is also beneficial for Byron, in that no one else is able to hang with them. Life is boring when you’re putting up running clocks on everyone.

A side bar story developed over the winter when the Tiger boys basketball team advanced to the state finals, as well. It is a rare feat for a school to pull this off, though Forreston did it 2014-2015.

Off the playing fields, a major story was the possible closure of Freeport Aquin High School. Before this announcement was made, there was also a controversial decision made by NUIC member schools to not allow a co-op in girls basketball between Aquin and Orangeville.

The NUIC gets a major boost with Morrison coming on board this year. It will also further enhance the NUIC’s reputation as the best small-school football in the state. It should also put the league back to 10 teams for football, making scheduling a snap.

A question in the Big Northern was whether Rockford Christian would be fielding a football team this fall. As of now, they are committed and the league will have a tidy amount of 10 teams.

The cicadas are out. Maybe not yet in northern Illinois, but in Charleston, site of the IHSA state track meet, they were everywhere over Memorial Day weekend.

While officiating the pole vault, we had one instance of allowing a competitor an additional try as a cicada flew into his mouth as he made an attempt. They were everywhere and loud. The entire weekend, they were a distraction to the athletes.

For the first time in a proud history as a track power, the Winnebago boys finally took the state title with a 57-54 win over Tuscola. When you have a sprinter like Supreme Muhammad, who won both the 100 and 200, that is surest formula for taking state.

Oregon did in 2009 behind Jordan Thomas winning both sprints. Ironically, that was the year Winnebago had hopes of taking first, but finished second to the Hawks.

Another key for ‘Bago was distance runner Nicolai Martino cancelling out Tuscola’s distance runners. In both the 1,600 and 3,200 runs, Martino beat both of Tuscola’s highly-regarded runners. 

That was crucial because Winnebago lost five points in the 3,200-relay after being disqualified. The anchor runner for ‘Bago was passed at the finish line and threw the baton down.

That is considered unsportsmanlike and could have cost his team the meet. As it was, it did cost his fellow runners a state medal.

I was proud to see the way northern Illinois schools dominated all the relays.

In the 3,200 relay, winner Sterling Newman (7:53.72) came within .03 of breaking the 1A record, with Rockford Christian right behind them.

In the 400 relay, it was Morrison, Winnebago and Le-Win going 1-2-3. Forreston-Polo took third in the 800 relay behind Morrison and Winnebago.

F-P wrapped up the meet with a medal in the 1,600 relay, but the real story was Morrison winning its third relay. Sophomore anchor Brady Anderson came from 10 meters behind to give the Mustangs a winning time of 3:21.89.

Besides F-P’s relays, the only other state medals came in the 2A and 1A pole vault, with Rochelle’s Andrew Nuyen and Oregon’s Leo Cardenas.

State-record attempts of 17-feet-6 were made in both 1A and 3A pole vault. Both vaulters missed, but 1A winner Isaiah Whitaker has two more years to get it done.

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