Incredible individual and team performances defined another exciting year of sports for Riverside-Brookfield, Fenwick and Lyons Township high schools.

Here’s a synopsis of the best highlights.

Struck wins cross-country state title

Mailin Struck, a foreign exchange student from Germany, won the Class 2A cross-country championship in dominating fashion at Detweiller Park in Peoria to become the first female state champion in any sport at RBHS. Her time of 16 minutes, 35 seconds was 29 seconds better than runner-up Maryjeanne Gilbert of Peoria-Notre Dame and the eighth fastest in Illinois history.

“I’m really proud,” Struck said. “I think the school is proud of me, even though I’m still new. I feel like a real student.”

Struck’s championship helped the Bulldogs finish 19th in the 25-team field with 391 points. Senior Sarah Melone finished 40th in 18:36, while senior Clare Bollnow (106th, 19:34), junior Meaghan Dorsey (163rd, 20:30) and junior Deanna Keen (190th, 21:15) were the other scorers. Senior Amy Wagner (192nd, 21:31) and sophomore April Flores (210th, 23:06) also competed.

Seniors, Kincanon make RBHS baseball history

Featuring a senior-laden lineup including C.J. Duffek, Kevin Garvey, Thomas Leary, Alex Nenadovic, Joe Duffy, Luke Keller along with all-state junior pitcher Will Kincanon, the Bulldogs produced a school record 32 wins and conference and regional titles.

“It’s an honor to be on the team that broke the school record for wins,” Garvey said. “We all worked so hard for it; we felt like we deserved it.”

Duffek hit .470 with 31 RBIs and swiped a school-record 47 bases, while Garvey (5-1, 2.55 ERA), Nenadovic (7-1, 2.73 ERA), Leary (.367, 30 RBIs), Duffy (.330, 28 RBIs) and Keller (.390) also made their marks.

Kincanon, who has committed to Middle Tennessee State, returns for RBHS in the spring of 2014. The hard-throwing right-hander went 11-1 with a 1.06 ERA and also hit .425 with 16 doubles and 37 RBIs this year. He also tossed a no-hitter in the Bulldogs’ 1-0 win over Montini in the RB Regional final.

Overholt touched lives on and off the field

Brookfield lost not only a local legend but a tremendous baseball coach/fan, friend, and role model when Roy Overholt, 89, passed away on Dec. 8. With the support of his wife, Audrey, of 65 years, Overholt began a Brookfield-based tournament in 1963. The Roy A. Overholt Invitational Tournament, often referred to as, the “World Series of District 9,” quickly became an annual little league showcase event, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this summer.

“The tournament is really for the kids,” he said during an interview at his home over the summer. “I’ve coached [in the tournament] in the past, and I didn’t want it to end any more than the kids.”

Brookfield-based Western Conference Babe Ruth all-stars win state title

The Brookfield-based Western Conference Babe Ruth all-stars (comprised of 15-year-olds), defeated LaGrange, Westmonth, Downers Grove and Calumet City, Lansing, Geneseo and Hegewisch en route to an 8-1 record in district and state-level games. The team also won the Northern Illinois state title in Calumet city during the summer.

Riverside’s Schoen does it all for Fenwick football

Powered by a plethora of talented players, the Friars finished 10-3 under Fenwick coach Gene Nudo. Riverside resident Richard Schoen, in particular, turned in a superb season for Fenwick. The two-way senior star served multiple roles as a big-play receiver and ball-hawking linebacker/safety. He also anchored the Friars’ special teams unit.

Robert Spillane, Gino Cavalieri, Ryan Smith, Chris Hawthorne, Jack Rafferty and Aaron Garland also helped the Friars notch another Chicago Catholic League White Division title. In the 7A playoffs, Wheaton North rallied from a huge halftime deficit to stun Fenwick 32-31.

The Few, the Proud and the Bulldogs

The RBHS football team shared a unique workout with the U.S. Marines during the summer in preparation for the 2013 season. Head coach Brendan Curtin came up with the idea after attending a Glazier football clinic seminar where the Marines spoke about their core values.

The “Marine Day” workout program for the impressionable Bulldogs started with a discussion in the classroom about core values. First, the Marines touched on their central core values encapsulated by the acronym JJ DID TIE BUCKLE (Judgment, Justice, Dependability, Integrity, Decisiveness, Tact, Initiative, Endurance, Bearing, Unselfishness, Courage, Knowledge, Loyalty, Enthusiasm). After the Marines shared their thoughts on what those words mean to them, several RBHS players contributed their insights on the importance of those words in relation to their lives and as members of the RBHS football team.

On the field, the Marines instructed the players to form a line in an efficient manner, and then do four-count Marine jumping jacks along with several trust-building between teammates exercises.

“Spending time with the Marines really showed how us brotherhood comes into play,” said Zach Greenwell, the Bulldogs’ right tackle. “I thought it was just going to be a lot of field work, sprinting back and forth. They taught us about the importance of working together as a team.”

Friars’ Kaminski (another outstanding Riverside athlete) wins 100 breast, takes second in 200 IM at state swim meet

Fenwick senior Paulina Kaminski won the 100 breaststroke (1:02.40) and took second in the 200 individual medley (2:03.67) at the state meet. The Riverside resident will swim at Yale next year.

Texas-bound Mimi Schneider closed out her illustrious Fenwick career in memorable fashion as well, becoming the first double state champion in school history. She won the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 22.87 and also claimed the 100 butterfly title, clocking a time of 53.86.

The Friars (126 points) finished third behind champion New Trier (160.5) and runner-up Downers Grove North (157).

“We worked so hard to be successful this season,” Kaminski said. “The girls on our team will always have a special bond.”

Bulldogs win 12th straight conference hoops title

To say that the RBHS boys basketball teams owns the Metro Suburban Conference is an understatement. In 2013, the Bulldogs rolled to their 12th straight conference crown and a 21-7 record overall.

Miki Ljuboja, Damonta Henry, Eric Loury and Liam Lesniak comprised a stellar senior class for head coach Tom McCloskey, who has the Bulldogs off to another solid start this season, led by veterans Jack VandeMerkt and Will Kincanon.

Lions win first-ever girls gymnastics state crown

The Lyons Township girls gymnastics team won its first state title in program history by rallying past Prairie Ridge 149.625 to 149.3 in the state finals.

Juniors Katie Carling and Michelle Cozza triggered the Lions’ title run with strong performances on the bars and beam. Kelsy Kurfirst capped off the Lions’ historic championship by winning the floor exercise (9.725) title to cap off the tournament.

Friars reclaim boys water polo state title

Fenwick cruised past Stevenson 10-4 in the final to win its ninth state championship in the past 10 years.

“It was a crazy year filled with a lot of adversity,” Fenwick coach Kyle Perry said. “I’m really proud of the guys.”

UCLA-bound Matt Farmer, Matt Bresnahan, Justin White, Trevor McLean, Tony Perez and Tommy McGuire headlined the Friars’ star-studded lineup.

RBHS boys track team wins conference

The Bulldogs enjoyed a banner season by claiming the Metro Suburban Conference title over highly-regarded Glenbard South (141-136), a second-place finish at sectionals (best sectional result in 45 years) and a state meet appearance.

Matt Chapp (200 meters), Jack VandeMerkt (high jump), David Swon (long jump), Mike Hornung (discus) and Gerrand Moody (110 hurdles) were conference champions.

Harris-led Lions notch fourth in state for boys track and field

Northwestern-bound Matthew Harris fueled the Lyons Township track and field team’s ninth-place showing (24 points) at Saturday’s state finals by finishing fourth in the long jump (23 feet, 6.25 inches) and fifth in the 110 meter high hurdles (14.63).

Other outstanding individual performances for LTHS at Eastern Illinois University were turned in by Jimmy Mitchell in the shot put (55 feet, 5.5 inches/fifth place), Lino Mogorovic in the 300 meter intermediate hurdles (39.74/seventh place) and Michael Matusiak in the 3200 (9:24.40/20th place).

In the 3200 relay, Ed McCarter, Connor Delaney, Dan Lupano and Alex Lima took sixth place with a time of 7:52.23. Jimmy Rhodes, Antwan Swan, Lima and Mogorovic teamed up in the 1600 relay to finish ninth at 3:31.74.

LTHS’ Chatt takes third at girls tennis state final

Alex Chatt capped off her brilliant tennis career at LTHS with a third-place finish at the state tournament. Chatt, who lost to Hinsdale Central freshman Isabella Lorenzini 3-6, 7-5, 4-6 in the state semifinals, finished 26-1 overall. The Northwestern-bound Chatt finished second in the state in 2011 and third last year.

“This is probably my favorite year,” Chatt said. “I’ve bonded with these girls more than I have every single year.”

Adamec makes mark for RBHS boys golf

Austin Adamec fired a career-low 67 to win the Class 3A Brother Rice Regional by four strokes. The scintillating 67 score tied Adamec for the fifth-lowest regional round in the state in any class.

“That was my best putting round ever,” Adamec said. “I’m not short of weapons.”

Bulldogs accrue wins, titles in girls basketball

The RBHS girls basketball team won a pair of holiday tournaments and a conference championship en route to a 24-5 record. Seniors Brittney JnoBaptiste and Hannah Claywell along with Janae Dabney provided plenty of leadership and scoring for the Bulldogs.

Cortes becomes first female RBHS varsity wrestler to record win

The Bulldogs’ Lily Cortes not only became the first female starter on the RBHS varsity wrestling team, but also the first female to earn a varsity win via a pin in the first period against her Vernon Hills opponent.

LTHS baseball loses to St .Rita in summer state tournament final

The defending summer state champion Lions lost to St. Rita 11-0 last week (July 25) in the Phil Lawler Summer Classic state championship game at Benedictine University. Six errors contributed greatly to the Lions’ lopsided loss. The Lions finished 26-7 over the summer.

The Mustangs (17-5) scored all of their runs in the first two innings, stringing together 10 hits, a walk and a hit batter coupled with four errors from LTHS to fuel the offensive outburst. St. Rita starting pitcher Jake Shepski did the rest, holding the Lions to just three hits. Josh Kuntz, John Heilenbach and Charlie Harrigan collected a hit each for LTHS. Shepski, who earned the Jack Kaiser Most Valuable Player award for the tournament, will play college baseball at Notre Dame.

“St. Rita played well,” Ushela said. “They hit the ball where they wanted to. We just had a couple of bad innings back to back, but (St. Rita) played well enough to be champions.”

John Heilenbach, Max Larson, Sam Heilenbach (John’s cousin), Quinton Hughes earned all-tournament honors for the Lions.

Malnati hired as Fenwick boys basketball coach

Although the Friars won 18 games and a regional title last season, longtime head coach John Quinn was replaced by Rick Malnati. While the Hall of Fame coach Quinn guided the Friars to much success over 28 years, Fenwick hasn’t skipped a beat under the demanding Malnati, who has the team off to a solild star this winter, highlighted by wins over De La Salle, Benet, Brother Rice and cross-town rival OPRF, Previously, Malnati excelled as the head coach at his high school alma mater, New Trier.

“We had a lot of great traditions at New Trier; I’m sure Fenwick does as well,” he said. “We’re also trying to build some new ones here at Fenwick.”