Schools strive to create a family environment. Over the holidays St. Francis' family got a little larger.
A pair of St. Francis dads, Frank Pecora and Brian Flood, started a "Spartans Father's Club." The group meets monthly for camaraderie, to build a tuition assistance fund and, as Pecora noted recently, "serve the needs of the St. Francis community and the community at large."
The December meeting included a toy drive which netted $175 in gift cards and about 50 toys. One morning before Christmas a group that included St. Francis student-athletes Jack Petrando, James Butler, Justin Flood and the Kalfas brothers, Russ and James, took the gifts to Central DuPage Hospital's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
Naturally the toys were a big hit. One of the Spartan Fathers, Mark Kalfas, told Pecora that a girl with leukemia picked out a soft toy and said: "Now I have someone to sleep with me tonight."
When a little boy wanted that same toy only to find none were left, Mark and James Kalfas went back to the store, bought every last one and brought them back.
"I think we made a lot of very sick kids happy today," Mark Kalfas told Pecora.
Was that Geneva graduate Matt Williams signaling plays from the Northern Illinois sideline to Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch in the Orange Bowl? Somewhat difficult to tell because many college programs are now employing Matt Williams look-alikes as play-calling decoys.
Seriously, regardless of outcome, congrats to St. Charles North's Ryan Brown, the Huskies' 6-foot-6, 283-pound starting left tackle, for reaching the big stage as a redshirt sophomore. It was fun to see Geneva's Michael Santacaterina draw a Florida State player into a personal foul penalty on the opening kickoff.
Central Michigan enjoyed a better outcome in the Little Caesars Bowl, beating Western Kentucky 24-21. In that game, Kaneland's Blake Serpa, a redshirt freshman linebacker, made a sack for a loss of 5 yards late in the second quarter of what was then a 17-14 game.
"The results will be available online in about an hour."
No other cold declaration strikes as much fear in the heart of a sports writer covering track and field and working on deadline.
Fear may be too strong a term, but apprehension certainly is an appropriate feeling when one wanders away from a track meet at 10:30 p.m. with nothing in hand but scribbled notes and guesstimated times that are anything but official.
Come to think of it, from this perspective fear is appropriate.
Only the most skilled practitioners of stopwatch split times -- an ace reporter/track junkie like York graduate and former Illinois Dyestat reporter Mike Newman or the coaches themselves -- can even approximate the actual times or figure out team standings.
Being human, even they are not as accurate as the fully automated timing systems, the cameras and computers, increasingly employed at big invites and now mandated by the IHSA for the state series.
The pressure on the timing personnel is immense, particularly when accuracy down to the hundredth or even thousandth of a second can determine who won a conference title or which athletes will be competing downstate. A balky football scoreboard has nothing on the consternation caused by a malfunctioning FAT system.
Yet you won't hear West Aurora's Carol Bell and Scott Robowski utter the "online" excuse as they finalize the results of a meet. Fixtures at some of the area's top local track and cross country meets including West's own John Bell Invitational in early April -- the meet's namesake is her husband, former West Aurora track coach -- they have the ability to be friendly and helpful under fire.
Coaches and officials as well as writers notice and appreciate this. That's why on Saturday Carol and Scott, the former an aide in West Aurora's athletic office, the latter a 17-year science teacher at the school, will be honored with Distinguished Service Awards by the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association at the 50th annual ITCCCA Clinic and Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Oak Park.
Personally, can't wait to see them again at the indoor conference meets in March.
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