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Prep Zone: Wheaton Academy ready for turf rollout

Published: Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 11:07 p.m. CDT

Wheaton Academy is soon to unveil its turf field at newly named Performance Trust Field, and not a school year too soon, in athletic director Dave Underwood’s estimation.

“This past spring for the first time lacrosse played on the same field we played girls soccer on, and as you would expect by May, it was just kind of trashed and it was not a good field,” Underwood said. “We had some coaches who have been longtime coaches who have been familiar with our programs asking ‘What happened to your field? It’s brutal.’ ”

Wheaton Academy’s facility needs have changed drastically during the past five to 10 years as the school re-launched football and lacrosse has become increasingly popular.

The Warriors played their football home games at Wheaton College in recent years, while other sports struggled with the worn-down grass surface. Underwood said the girls soccer team played only four home games in spring 2013 because field conditions forced the Warriors to shift several matches to alternate locations.

“For a long time, we had a nice grass field and we took great care of it and that was great, and then as we’ve added more and more sports, namely football’s been added the last seven, eight years now, lacrosse that’s been added … football needs to have their own facility on campus,” Underwood said. 

Wheaton Academy’s season-opener Aug. 29 against Walther Christian will be the first Friday night football game on campus in school history, Underwood said. A ceremony will honor key donors, including a lead gift from Rich and Carrie Berg of Performance Trust Capital Partners that helped make the project of more than $1 million possible.

The turf installation was completed on schedule, with only a few complementary touches still to be completed.

Underwood said the school was able to go 120 by 70 yards, making for a wide field that will benefit multiple sports.

“The big reason is it’s not in the middle of a track and so we don’t have the track around it, so they said typically when they do a field it’s inside of a track so it’s confined by that space,” said Underwood, also the school’s girls soccer coach. “And one off the cool things is the administration did a great job, so all the coaches and all the parties said these are the things they need and want, not ‘here’s a football field and so you’re going to have deal with a 60 yard wide field.’ ”

Bad break: Former Wheaton Academy basketball standout Josh Ruggles was set to defend his 3-point shooting championship in Spain however, that possibility took a hit when Ruggles recently suffered a broken hand.

Ruggles was invited back by the ACB professional league in Spain to participate in the league’s 3-point shooting exhibition Sept. 27 in Vitoria, Spain. Last year as the youngest competitor in the field, Ruggles handled the pressure and deeper 3-point line with aplomb, beating numerous professional sharpshooters to win the contest.

The Ruggles family is still hopeful Josh can participate in this year’s Spain event, depending on how quickly he heals. Ruggles announced this summer that he is transferring from Wheaton Academy to Wheaton Warrenville South for his senior year. 

Batavia girls volleyball academics honored: Last year’s Batavia girls volleyball team recently was awarded the American Volleyball Coaches Association Academic All-American Award. The 2013 Bulldogs recorded a team GPA of 3.97, “one of our best ever,” according to longtime Bulldogs coach Lori Trippi-Payne, who added that the Bulldogs have nabbed the distinction in 20 of the 22 years it has been awarded.

• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or jschwab@shawmedia.com.

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