BOYS CROSS COUNTRY PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Photos by Jeff Vorva
Sean Torpy poses with Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin when Sandburg was honored by the village.
Vince Capuano did not run on Sandburg’s state championship cross country team.
He is not even on the roster.
But he may have had one of the biggest hand in the Eagles’ success without even realizing it six years ago.
Capuano convinced fellow Jerling sixth grader Sean Torpy to go out for cross country.
But Torpy wanted no part of it.
“It was my first day of school and the first day of practice for cross country and I was hemming and hawing about going out for the team,’’ Torpy said. “I was just about to walk out of the building and Vince came over and grabbed me by the hook of my backpack and said ‘I don’t want to go to practice alone.’ ’’
Sean tried out, loved the sport, and convinced his twin brother, Chris, to get involved, too.
In November the Torpys helped the Eagles win their first Class 3A boys cross country state championship and they went on to finish fourth in the nation. Sean Torpy became the Eagles’ top runner in the postseason and has been named the first Reporter-Regional Boys Cross Country Player of the Year.
Torpy finished third in the state with a time of 14 minutes, 25 seconds, and also was first at the Hinsdale Central Sectional. Odds are, the senior probably would have won a regional race, but many of the top Sandburg runners sat out that event to concentrate on sectionals and state.
Chris[j1] , is one of Sean’s biggest fans.
“He’s one of two guys on the team who has been running his whole career,” Chris said. “He’s been doing it since sixth grade. He was motivated for the team to win a state title. It’s been his dream for years even before he got into high school. Now that he is in high school and we won a state title…I’m proud of him and I love to see him up there and leading us. He motivates me and he motivates the other runners.
“He led the team to our first state title and it’s definitely worth it for him.’’
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY PLAYER OF THE YEAR
APRIL VAN RYN
When Chicago Christian’s Allie Boss, April van Ryn, Alexis van Ryn and Jill Van Dyk teamed together to win the Class 2A 4x800 meter relay championship at the University High Track and Field Sectional in the spring and qualified for state, they knew they had a special team.
Three of the four athletes were on the cross country team in 2014 that finished 18th in the state and they decided to convince the fourth – April Van Ryn – to come out for the team this year.
Not only did van Ryn join the team, the junior finished first in the McNamara regional to help the Knights easily win that title by 39 points and she took second in the Lisle Sectional and helped the Knights win that event by 43 points.
The big test was going to come at the state meet on Nov. 6. As her teammates attested, the state meet can be overwhelming for a first-time qualifier because of the enormity of the event and the volume of runner in the race at Detweiler Park in Peoria.
She passed the test.
Once again, she led the Knights finishing 28th place overall with a time of 18 minutes 35 seconds and scored 17 points for her team and is named the Reporter-Regional’s first Girls Cross Country Player of the Year.
The Knights finished seventh in the state meet, up 11 spots from last year and van Ryn’s presence was one of the main reasons.
“She did so well on the track team that we really wanted her on the cross country team,” said Van Dyk, who finished second for the Knights in the state meet. “She really helped us a lot. We’re hoping next year we can place even higher.’’
The race was not as overwhelming for van Ryan because she knew what to expect, courtesy of the wisdom of her teammates and coach Jake Christiansen.
“I felt good and our race strategy helped a lot,” van Ryn said. “We needed to relax for the first mile and work harder in the second and third miles.’’
GIRLS SWIMMING PLAYER OF THE YEAR
By winning medals in two events at the recent IHSA State Swimming finals at New Trier, Sandburg senior Clare Lawlor raised her career state medal total to seven, including six individual awards.
“It was a very sweet taste at state,” she said of the experience at New Trier High School Nov. 20-21.
The seven total medals earned by Lawlor also broke the school swimming record, for both boys and girls, of six medals captured by Brittany Kamper from 2009-2012 as Lawlor earned the first Reporter-Regional Girls Swimming Player of the Year.
The Rutgers-bound Lawlor finished fourth in the 100-yard freestyle (51.27) and seventh in the 50 freestyle (23.52). The finish in the 100 was the only time in her career that she qualified in the championship heat (top six places).
“For myself, it was really great to finish off the year so strong,” Lawlor said. “Also, to be able to share the experience with my teammates who also worked hard was really great. Had a lot of sophomores step and a freshman who really showed us what she had. She really helped us.”
With a young team to start the season, Lawlor took advantage of the opportunity to a mentor an example to the underclassmen. She got her first experience at state as a freshman, when she competed on the Eagles' 400-free relay team that finished ninth. That experience whetted her appetite for more.
“Every day in practice I really tried to help the team out because practices are so challenging,” she said. “It was good to help them and to put a perspective on the daily duties and also to positive for my teammates in every practice.”
In her career at Sandburg, Lawlor swam under the guidance of two coaches – the late and beloved Jane Caliendo and current coach Anna McBride. She said she’s grateful for the influence of both.
“Coach Caliendo impacted me significantly as an underclassmen,” she said. “Coach McBride was also a great mentor, and it was great having her as a coach. She worked so hard, and it motivated all of us to work harder.”