Marist knocks off defending national champs

  • Written by Jeff Vorva




 Photo by Jeff Vorva

 Marist’s Abby Callahan jumps for joy after the final play in Friday’s two-set victory over Mother McAuley Friday night in Class 4A supersectional play. 


Whenever the Marist and Mother McAuley volleyball teams play each other, the intensity seems to always reach the boiling point.

But for the first time in the history of the neighborhood rivalry, a bid to the state tournament was on the line.

And those fans who had to be turned away because McAuley’s gym was already holding approximately 2,500 fans…well…they probably reached their boiling point, too.

Anyway, the two state powers went at it and the two fan sections were screaming as if it were a rock concert and in the end, Marist pulled off a 25-21, 25-16 victory over the defending national champions Friday night in the Class 4A Mother McAuley Supersectional in Chicago.

The RedHawks (39-1) made it to state for the second time in school history (the first coming in 2011) and avenged its only blemish on the season as the RedHawks’ dropped a 25-20, 25-17 decision to the Mighty Macs on Sept. 12. It was the first time Marist beat McAuley since Sept. 29, 2012 – a seven-match losing skid.

“We were prepared for everything we were going to see,” RedHawks coach Jordan Vidovic said. “We had a very specific game plan and executed it as perfectly as we possibly could. The seniors on our side – and this goes way deeper than this season – were not going to lose this match.’’

“I’ve been going to Marist for four years and this was the first win we were able to pull out,” said senior Savannah Thompson. “This being the road to state, it was pretty special.’’

The RedHawks challenge Crystal Lake Central (33-3), a team that had to battle its way out of a tough McHenry County volleyball area that also features Huntley, Prairie Ridge and Cary-Grove.

Playing in a large arena that will not be half filled will be a different dynamic than Friday with a packed house that was loud and rocking the while match.

“It’s not going to be a walk in the park,” Thompson said. “But this experience prepared us for what’s coming up next.’’

Maggie Meyer led the RedHawks to state with 13 kills and Thompson added 12. Setter Molly Murrihy had 33 assists and Grace Green had 14 digs.

Charley Niego, who closes out an illustrious career with the Mighty Macs, had nine kills and nine digs while Moira Mixan came up with six kills and six digs while Nancy Kane added 19 assists.

“This stung a lot,” said Niego. “But overall my career, this has been a great experience winning the state and national championships last year. I’m excited for my next four years at Notre Dame but I will always be cheering on the Macs.’’

McAuley finished 35-5 and despite the departure of Niego, had enough sophomores and juniors go through the wars this year to stay strong in the next two seasons.

Even though it resulted in a loss, coach Jen DeJarld hopes her team will remember this match was able to generate this type of excitement and atmosphere.

“It’s a game they will always remember,” DeJarld said. “The seniors were able to play their last game here. It’s hard but when they get to college and tell their new teammates they played in front of 2,500 fans, they might not believe them.’’

The area had six teams win regionals and make it to sectionals.

In Class 3A, St. Laurence made it to the Brooks’ Sectional final after beating Evergreen Park, 25-17, 25-15 on Oct. 30 but suffered a 22-25, 25-15, 25-7 loss to Tinley Park in the championship on Nov. 1. It is the first year the Burbank school is opened to girls and this was the first girls team in school history to win a regional.

In Class 2A, Chicago Christian was a state hopeful, but dropped a 22-25, 25-19, 25-20 nailbiter to Aurora Christian in the Knights’ own sectional on Nov. 1.

In Class 4A, Sandburg was eliminated by Marian Catholic 25-21, 25-21 in the Marist Sectional on Oct. 30.



Jon's Way youth group scares up big fun at Chicago Ridge Library

  • Written by Kelly White

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Photo by Kelly White

Chicago Ridge’s own teen youth group, Jon’s Way, held its first event, “Hallo-Teen,” on Friday evening with more than 100 local teens, including (from left) Elizabeth Bowen, 11, of Worth; Alyssa Acosta, 11, of Palos Hills; and Kera Gade, 11, of Oak Lawn.

Chicago Ridge’s own teen youth group, Jon’s Way, held its first event on Friday gathering more than 100 local area teens for a night of Halloween fun.

Entitled “Hallo-Teen,” the fun-filled evening began with a Chicago Ridge Lion’s Club truck-or-treat, featuring 16 decorated vehicles, held in conjunction with a haunted trail at Freedom Park, 6252 W. Birmingham. The night ended with a teen dance party at the Chicago Ridge Public Library, 10400 Oxford Ave.

The event was brainstormed and carried out by teens within the youth group, with the trunk-or-treat and haunted trail portions open to neighborhood children as well.

“There is nothing more rewarding then watching teens use their imagination to come up with an event, then take ownership of this event and make it happen,” said Karrie Grabinski, of Chicago Ridge. “These teens used critical thinking skills, showed leadership, team building skills, communication skills, excitement, commitment and so much imagination. This event shows them that they can do it. This is exactly what Jon’s Way is all about.”

With Halloween holding very high interest among teens, Grabinski knew it would be the perfect kick-off event for the youth group.

Grabinski and her husband, Roger, along with Tiffany Egan, of Chicago Ridge, started up Jon’s Way after the Grabinskis' son, Jon, died in a car crash on March 5, 2016 at the age of 17. The non-profit organization consists of more than 30 teens and, serves as an outlet where they can volunteer in the community, meet other teens and spend their free time in healthy and productive ways.

“There isn't always a lot for teens to do around here,” said Dana Wishnicki, director of the Chicago Ridge Public Library. “Our purpose of the Hallo-Teen event is to provide a venue where teens can have a safe fun night out with their friends and to introduce Jon's Way Chicago Ridge Youth Group. We want teens to know they are welcomed and valued in our community.”

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Photo by Kelly White

Irene Ciciora, head of Youth Services at the Chicago Ridge Public Library, takes part in the Jon's Way trunk-or-treat event on Friday evening at Freedom Park in Chicago Ridge.

Teens had the support of a coalition of volunteers for the event, from the Jon’s Way board members, including Wishnick, to police officers, library staff, village trustees, Lions club members and parents. The event was held at no cost to any teen attendees.

“There are no similar events for teens like this in Chicago Ridge,” Grabinski said. “The goals of Jon’s Way are to be an all-purpose organization to help teens in any way they need. We want to be able to do this in a way that they are having fun and know that this is the place they want to be. To ensure this, Jon’s Way is teen run. They will always have a coalition standing behind them to support and assist them to achieve their goals. Their imagination can take this anywhere.”

Teens are having a lot of fun with their own age-based organization, including Emma Bartlett, of Chicago Ridge.

“I think it is cool that teens can have a place to go to hang out with friends,” said Bartlett, 12. “We have really been encouraged to make this event our own.”

During the haunted trail, visitors were escorted through a trail of tents along Freedom Park. Each tent displayed an individual Halloween-themed scene with four teens that planned, decorated and acted out their own characters.

“I liked being able to plan this all with my friends,” said Joey Fraider, 13, of Chicago Ridge. “I'm having a lot of fun scaring people in the haunted trail.”

Afterwards, teens were able to enjoy a night of dancing, photos and refreshments at the Chicago Ridge Public Library. For the dance, library staff hired a DJ and also served pizza, chips, cupcakes, candy and punch. Teens were able to remember the night thanks to a photo booth created by teens by using a Fujimax Instant camera.

Teens were asked to bring a canned food or non-perishable food item to the library, with all food donated going directly to benefit the Chicago Ridge Lions Club food pantry.

“I am looking forward to seeing teens get together and having fun planning more events like this together,” Hannah Bartlett, 12, of Chicago Ridge, said. “I hope that this event will intrigue more people to join Jon's way. I am very happy with the results of this Hallo-teen event and have already had the opportunity to meet and hang out with new friends.”

Jon’s Way holds monthly meetings and is open to all local teens in junior high school and high school. Meetings have been held at the library, Finley Junior High School, the Chicago Ridge Park District and village hall.

“We want our teens to feel a sense of pride in themselves and their community,” Grabinski said. “This is a place teens can safely hang out with their friends and meet new friends. A place where they can have opportunities to have fun and be exposed to organizations, people and things they can learn from and build their skills.”

Teens looking to get involved in Jon’s Way can visit Facebook at Jon’s Way Chicago Ridge Youth Group or Twitter @jonswaycr.


Tony Knight benefit walk to provide new desks and chairs for District 124

  • Written by Joe Boyle


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Photo by Joe Boyle

Evergreen Park native Katie Quick performs on guitar and sings a version of “Stand By Me” before the beginning of the Tony Knight benefit walk. Holding the microphone is Dillon Knight, Tony’s brother.

Tony Knight was well-known and well-liked as a youngster who attended schools in District 124 in Evergreen Park.

Tony died in his sleep three years ago at the age of 29 from a brain aneurysm. After his death, his grieving family decided they had to do something in his memory. The first year was an outing to a White Sox game and last fall a walk was held to raise funds with the assistance of the Brain Aneurysm Foundation.

The family and friends and the many people that Tony knew came out again Sunday morning for a walk in his memory around Yukich Field, 8900 S. Kedzie Ave., Evergreen Park. Participants walked the three miles and pledged a donation to the District 124. The proceeds from this year’s “5K for TK” will be donated to the Evergreen Park District 124 Special Education Department for the purchase of standing desks and active ball seats for each of the five buildings of the district.

Mary Ellen Knight, Tony’s mother, said that this year they decided to give back to the District 124 Special Education Program. She said that Tony prospered because the school district allowed him to succeed throughout his school years.

“Like most students with ADHD and learning disabilities, Tony found sitting in a chair and a desk for long periods of time difficult,” Mary Ellen said. “He could learn much better when he was allowed to stand, change seats, or move around.”

Tony Knight attended Southeast Elementary School and later Evergreen Park High School. He played Little League baseball in Evergreen Park and also played football at St. Bernadette Elementary School, which has since closed. He played baseball and football at Evergreen Park High School.

Mary Ellen Knight said the amount of people of all ages who came out for the benefit walk was more than she could imagine and attributed that to his son’s personality.

“The turnout was excellent,” Mary Ellen said. “A lot of people came out. We are thrilled with the results.”

She said donations and from relatives and friends of Tony resulted in raising $11,000. About $9,000 will go to District 124 Special Education Program for the specific desks and chairs for the five schools in the district. The rest of the money will go for expenses ranging from serving lunch and preparing T-shirts for participants who took part in the walk and future projects in Tony’s memory.

This year’s event was a celebration of family, which Mary Ellen Knight said Tony would have liked. Dillon Knight, Mary Ellen’s son, made the initial speeches about his brother. He also held the microphone for singer and guitarist Katie Quick, an Evergreen Park native, who performed a version of “Stand By Me.” Also assisting were Mary Ellen’s husband, Jim, and another son, Jason.

Nearly $7,000 was raised last year for the Brain Aneurysm Foundation. One in 50 people has a brain aneurysm and every 18 minutes a brain aneurysm ruptures, according to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation. Risk factors include people who smoke, have high blood pressure or hypertension, family history, are over age 40, drug use (particularly cocaine) or a traumatic head injury. Women also have an increased risk, according to the Foundation.

The Foundation said that six warning signs include a localized headache, dilated pupils, blurred or double vision, pain above and beyond the eye, weakness and numbness, and difficulty speaking.

The Knights have previously said that Tony did not fit the norm for having a brain aneurysm. They just want to make people aware of the symptoms.

But this year, Mary Ellen said she is glad they could help the schools in District 124.

“Tony was a great person and he knew so many people,” Mary Ellen said. “Our family wanted to do something in his memory.”

A check will be presented soon to Dr. Robert Machak, superintendent of School District 124. Individuals who were not able to attend the walk can still send donations to School District 124 in memory of Tony Knight. The school district is located at 2929 W. 87th St., Evergreen Park. More information can be obtained by calling District 124, (708) 423-0950.


Local mayors say their towns are being ignored by Metra

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett made it clear during the Southwest Conference of Mayors meeting Monday night that it may be time for additional conversations with Metra.

“We have not heard from them in a while and I think we need to talk,” Bennett said during the session held at the Bedford Park Village Hall. “We are just not getting the train service we should be getting in the southwest suburbs.”

Bennett, who is the longtime president of the Southwest Conference of Mayors, said that train service has been lacking in the southwest suburbs. Additional train service was introduced on the weekends but since then Metra has reduced the amount of trains that pass through the southwest suburbs, including Oak Lawn, Worth and Orland Park.

What concerns Bennett and other mayors on the board that with reduced service results in the lack of opportunities, mainly attracting businesses.

“Look, I get it, I know there is no money,” Bennett said. “But for too long, we just seemed to be ignored.”

Metra officials have stated in published reports that increased maintenance costs have resulted in service reductions. This includes eliminating service on the weekends.

During a presentation from a representative from the RTA, it was pointed out that the biggest problem the agency is facing is lack of funding. The official pointed to the fact that they face competition from Uber.

But in regards to Metra, Bennett replied that Uber will never be as competitive with rail.

“We need Metra to be more attentive,” Bennett said. “We need to get more attention from downtown.”

Keith Pekau, who became mayor of Orland Park this year, agreed with Bennett’s assessment.

“One of the reasons our bid for Amazon was turned down was that we were told it was because of a lack of train service,” Pekau said. “So something has to be done.”

Bedford Park Mayor David Brady, who serves as the treasurer for the board, said that the CTA had considered years ago to expand transit line service to Ford City. If that occurred, there should have been extended train service to the southwest suburbs, Brady added.

Bennett requested that perhaps it would be beneficial if representatives could discuss the issue at the next Southwest Conference of Mayors meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31 at the Justice Village Hall, 7800 S. Archer Road.

“Better transit service means better opportunities and more jobs,” Bennett said. “It can be the generator of the economy. Everything seems to stop at the border of Chicago. We have to do something about that.”

On a more positive note, ComEd officials said the engineers could come to examine buildings for brighter and more cost-efficient LED lighting for local communities. That includes street light in local municipalities that could be provided at lower cost through rebates.

Palos Hills has converted to LED street lighting and Bennett said that other municipalities should consider the program

Bennett also commented about another bill being introduced in Springfield calling for a property tax freeze. Bennett said that similar bills have been introduced in the past with few results.

“I don’t think that this bill is going anywhere,” Bennett said.

Stagg cheerleading coach awaits her fate

  • Written by Dermot Connolly



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Photo by Dermot Connolly

Stagg High School cheerleaders and families came to the School District 230 school board last Thursday to show support for suspended cheerleading coach Bridget Guzior, who was threatened with dismissal, But they filed out quietly after Supt. Dr. James Gay said the board was postponing consideration of her case in light of new information.

The tension in the room before the District 230 School Board meeting last Thursday quickly dissipated when Superintendent Dr. James Gay announced that the board was postponing a decision on the recommended dismissal of a Stagg High School cheerleading coach, who filed a sexual harassment complaint against the athletic director after being suspended for texting a student.

Bridget Guzior, 29, of Orland Park, has been the head cheerleading coach at Stagg High School in Palos Hills since 2013. She was suspended without pay on Aug. 30 because of a text message sent to a student. Since then, she has filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights alleging that she was the victim of sexual harassment from Stagg Athletic Director Terry Treasure.

About a dozen Stagg cheerleaders, many wearing their distinctive uniform hair ribbons, had filed into the meeting room at Andrew High School in Tinley Park. They stood quietly in the back of the room with some parents, one of whom was scheduled to speak at the meeting. But they all filed out without comment soon after the postponement was announced.

In a statement read at the meeting, Gay said that “District 230 has decided to amend the agenda for tonight’s meeting to postpone action related to the administration's recommendation to dismiss Bridget Guzior from employment as the Stagg High School cheerleading coach. The School Board wants to assure it takes into consideration additional information that has come forward prior to taking action.”

“Ms. Guzior’s recommended dismissal is completely unrelated to her recently reported allegations of harassment by the Stagg athletic director. These allegations are under separate investigation by district legal counsel and will be handled consistent with District policies which prohibit sexual harassment of employees and students,” the statement concluded.

The superintendent said after the meeting that he couldn’t comment further when asked whether the “additional information” included anything other than the sexual harassment complaint.

According to reports, the text addressed to the male student, stated “No matter how much we make each other want to bash our heads into a wall (most times a brick wall) I am so proud of the young adult you have become! Looking forward to an awesome year! Drama free curse is over the bitch is gone!”

District officials reportedly previously warned Guzior not to text students privately. But her attorney, Tom Skallas, said in a statement issued on her behalf that the student’s mother is supportive of the coach, and was included in the original text message.

Guzior was hired in 2012 and became the head cheerleading coach in 2013. In her complaint filed in September with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, she claimed that since Treasure became athletic director in 2014, “there have been many times where I have felt uncomfortable because of Mr. Treasurer’s “inappropriate sexual harassment as my superior, including “comments and gestures.”

She goes on to cite several “inappropriate encounters,” in which he allegedly made suggestive comments about her being “hot” and “in shape,” hugged her “aggressively,” pressing her body into his, or kissed her on the head.

Skallas also said in his statement that Guzior has been unfairly criticized for the timing of the complaint, submitted after the suspension.

“Any attempt to discredit the statements made in her complaint are simply age-old victim-blaming that the targets of harassment know all too well,” he said.

“Coach Guzior has suffered emotionally and physically over the last six weeks, more recently being hospitalized for health issues caused by this ordeal. We respectfully ask that her privacy be respected so that she can fully heal from her health issues,” Skallas stated.

He added that Guzior is “eternally grateful” for the support she has received from students and parents.