Sports Stories of the Year
Here is a look back at the top 10 local sports stories of 2013:
1. Batavia football wins state
Richards took the Week 2 matchup. Batavia won the one that will be remembered for decades to come.
The Bulldogs football team won the first state championship in program history, ripping Richards, 34-14, at Huskie Stadium on Nov. 30 for the IHSA Class 6A state championship team.
Richards had defeated Batavia early in the regular season. That ended up being the only loss of the season for Batavia, which finished with a 13-1 record.
Senior running back Anthony Scaccia and senior cornerback/receiver Michael Moffatt were all-state selections for the Bulldogs, while quarterback Micah Coffey orchestrated a prolific, versatile offense that was backed up by an outstanding defense.
2. Cougars complete first season as Cubs affiliate
The Kane County Cougars enjoyed a successful debut year with the Cubs in many ways. On-the-field success was not one of them.
Inviting plenty of punch lines from Cubs-bashers, the Cougars' first season as a Cubs affiliate turned out to be their worst in franchise history from a wins and losses standpoint (55-80).
The Cougars, though, drew more than 15,000 additional fans to Fifth Third Bank Ballpark compared to 2012 despite having four fewer home dates, and showcased some of the Cubs' top young prospects, including center fielder Albert Almora, pitcher Pierce Johnson and first baseman Dan Vogelbach.
3. Beebe steps aside at Aurora Christian
Don Beebe's wildly successful 10-year run as coach of the Aurora Christian football program came to a close.
Beebe, who plans to stay on as an assistant to his younger brother, Dave Beebe, stepped down earlier this month after compiling a 97-26 record in 10 years as head coach, including a pair of 3A state championships.
Beebe's final Eagles team battled a rash of key injuries and still managed to qualify for the 3A playoffs, dropping a heartbreaker to Stillman Valley in the semifinals. The former NFL receiver cited work on an upcoming, faith-based movie project and the desire to more closely follow his son, Chad, at Northern Illinois as the main reasons for the move.
4. More conference turbulence abounds
Area high school sports fans might have an increasingly difficult time staying up to date with the local conference landscape. That holds especially true around the Upstate Eight Conference, which houses all four Tri-Cities schools.
The Indian Prairie schools – Metea Valley, Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley – announced they will leave the Upstate Eight Conference effective 2015-16, one year after West Aurora and Glenbard East arrive in the UEC. West Chicago made its debut in the UEC this school year.
Elsewhere, the Suburban Christian Conference unraveled as a large faction of the conference – including Aurora Central Catholic and Wheaton Academy – opted to join the Metro Suburban Conference next school year, leaving remaining schools such as Marmion, St. Francis and Aurora Christian to join the Chicago Catholic League for some sports, including football.
5. International Crown coming to Sugar Grove
Another marquee, international women's golf competition is coming to Sugar Grove.
In January, it was announced that the International Crown – a biennial event composed of 32 players from eight countries and more inclusive than the Solheim Cup’s United States-against-Europe format – will come to Rich Harvest Farms in 2016. Rich Harvest Farms, which hosted the Solheim Cup in 2009, is a candidate to serve as the permanent Crown venue.
6. Jeff Kelly wins Fox Valley Marathon
After 20 years of running marathons, Jeff Kelly finally broke through.
The 39-year-old was triumphant at the fourth annual Fox Valley Marathon, winning the St. Charles event on Sept. 22 in a time of 2:40.01 for his first career win.
“It’s very exciting to me. It means a lot to get a win because I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to run hard," the Urbana man said after the race. "I’m almost 40, so this is a huge thing for me.”
The women's marathon was won by Wisconsin resident Lindsey Kong in 3:01.23.
7. State wrestling titles
A trio of area wrestlers won state championships at Assembly Hall in Champaign.
Kaneland's Dan Goress and Marmion's Johnny Jimenez and George Fisher – both of St. Charles – clawed to the very top of their respective weight classes, winning state wrestling titles in February.
Jimenez capped his 48-2 season by winning the 3A title at 120 pounds, Fisher prevailed at 132 pounds in Class 3A and Goress won at 145 pounds in Class 2A, becoming the first Knights wrestler to seize a state championship since 1993.
8. STC East softball 4A state runners-up, East baseball takes third
St. Charles East softball and baseball combined to provide Saints fans an amazing few weeks in late May/early June.
East softball stormed all the way to the IHSA Class 4A state championship game, including a memorable, comeback win over Barrington in the state semifinal featuring a walk-off, two-run double from Olivia Lorenzini.
East softball fell to Minooka in the state championship game in East Peoria, just hours after the Saints baseball team knocked off Neuqua Valley to take third place in Joliet.
9. St. Francis girls volleyball wins 3A state title/Geneva wins first sectional title in program history.
Despite losing one of its top players to injury, the St. Francis girls volleyball team steamrolled its way to the Class 3A state title, the 10th championship of legendary coach Peg Kopec's career.
The Spartans played much of the season without senior Nebraska recruit Maddie Haggerty, though her younger sister, Molly, was one of several other Division I-bound players who were healthy enough to help St. Francis cruise past LaSalle-Peru in the championship match, 25-19, 25-7.
It was also a banner girls volleyball season for Geneva, which captured its first sectional championship in program history in Class 4A.
10. Wheaton Academy's Josh Ruggles wins international 3-point shooting contest.
Josh Ruggles gained acclaim as the top high school 3-point shooter in the state of Illinois in March. Little did the Wheaton Academy guard realize then that his shooting fame would soon go global.
Now a junior, Ruggles gained major internet traction when a YouTube video was posted in August of him drilling 135 3-points in five minutes.
Among those who took notice were representatives of the Spanish ACB professional league, which invited Ruggles to an October competition against pro shooters including former Bulls forward Andres Nocioni. Ruggles and his family traveled to Vitoria, Spain, where he won the competition, topping former Spanish league scoring champion Jaycee Carroll in the final round.