Kaneland junior Zack Thielk wasn't always putting up big numbers in the weight room. He is now.
On April 5 at the Chula Vista Resort in the Wisconsin Dells, Thielk established an Illinois age- and weight-group record with a 347.5-pound bench press in an event presented by the World Association of Benchers and Deadlifters. Thielk, 16, competed in a new division for lifters 16-17 years old, the 275-pound division.
"It gave me a rush," he said. "It was exciting ... I was kind of speechless at the time."
Accompanied by parents Mike and Lisa and buddy Sammy Madriz, a Kaneland senior, Thielk opened up at 314.
"That was really easy," he said.
He advanced to his record-setting mark -- "That was easy," he said -- then nearly got 380, a couple small plates heavier than the personal-record 370 pounds Thielk recently put up in Kaneland's weight room.
A starting center on the Knights football team last fall before tearing his left ACL Week 6 against DeKalb while lead blocking for quarterback Drew David, Thielk has made massive gains lifting.
Like most prep football players he didn't hit the weights hard until freshman year. He remembered his first effort, putting up 95 pounds three times. Thielk recently did 20 repetitions at 225 pounds on bench, with "dead arms" after already maxing out.
"I want to be strong for football, I want to be strong for wrestling," he said. "I just enjoy lifting. It's probably the most enjoyable thing I do."
Thielk said he felt a little odd competing at the WABDL event, not really comfortable being in the spotlight. But he liked the atmosphere, which afforded the vision of men capable of benching unbelievable poundage.
"If I do it next year I want to try to bench 450, which I think is realistic," he said.
In the meantime perhaps a superior lift by an Illinois youth might motivate Thielk to return. Perhaps not.
"I usually just try to do the best I can do, I don't want to try to be better than anybody. I just want to be the best I can be," he said.
Catching up with ... Alyssa Brandt
Time management is a lesson quickly learned by college student-athletes. Alyssa Brandt, a senior midfielder, three-year starter and returning co-captain for the St. Charles North girls soccer team, figured it out in high school.
While playing soccer for the North Stars and the Fox Valley Strikers club team, she maintains a 5.614 grade-point average (on a 5.0-point scale) she said ranks 16th in her class. She's a member of the National Honor Society and similar organizations for math and social studies, which involves service both in and out of school.
Neither her parents played soccer but after the family moved to St. Charles from Cary they introduced Alyssa to the sport fairly early, first-grade; brother Ryan, a St. Charles North junior, plays as well. Alyssa gave up track after middle school to focus on soccer, and her student-athlete quotient will have her playing soccer and entering biology and psychology studies at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, choosing that over fellow brainiac institutions University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis.
After a pasta dinner with her St. Charles North team, 4-1 entering Thursday, she graciously postponed homework to speak for a while.
Q: Why did you choose Carnegie Mellon over other options, and higher divisions?
A: I'm looking to go into pre-med. It seemed a little more difficult to do a Division I sport and balance that out. But also it's not that great of a commitment as a Division I sport, and I do want to do other things in my college career. I want that typical college experience as well ... I ultimately chose Carnegie Mellon because of the feeling I got on campus, because I was sitting there telling myself, if something falls through with soccer I need to make sure I can love school for the school. And my gut feeling really told me Carnegie Mellon. It was a perfect feeling.
Q: At this point what's your career goal?
A: As of now, it's to be an orthopedic surgeon.
Q: I don't recall National Honor Society members needing to do much except attend a meeting once in awhile, back in my day. How has that changed?
A: It's definitely a service-based club or society. You have a requirement of tutoring, I think, six hours a semester and you have in-school service and out-of-school service and you have requirements throughout the year. Otherwise you can get kicked out or they can hold your diploma.
Q: What have you done?
A: With National Honor Society I volunteered for out-of-school service at local hospitals, and for in-school service I've done a variety of things. My favorite one was helping out at the blood drive. For the Math National Honor Society I generally just tutor people in math and for the Social Studies National Honor Society, the club was actually founded last year at our school so this year I am vice president of it and currently I am helping set up a care package project to send care packages overseas to soldiers. There's also tutoring in social studies, as well.
Q: Yowza. Do you have time for any hobbies or relaxation?
A: In all honesty, school and soccer are pretty much dominating my life. When I do have free time I do enjoy reading. I'll enjoy hanging out with friends, watching TV, just being lazy once in a while.
Q: What's your favorite book, or author?
A: My favorite book would probably be the "Harry Potter" series. There's something about it I always enjoy. I can always reread those books.
Q: If you were to race your brother, who would win?
A: Him, without a doubt. He'd probably just shove me over in the first place and win that way, too.
Q: On the soccer field, what's been your favorite moment?
A: Two years ago, my sophomore year, the high school team went down to the (Class 3A) state tournament and we got second, so that was very memorable.
Q: Please elaborate.
A: Basically from the sectional championship and onward we were the underdogs, and getting to the state final game we held off the No. 1 team (Naperville North) in the state for almost 120 minutes of soccer ... I guess it was an incredible feeling to get there, all the hard work and determination of the team. I remember we had such a big crowd, and all the people in the Tri-Cities area were coming to cheer us on. It was truly just exhilarating.
Q: How is this season shaping up?
A: I'm just excited to see where this season takes us. It's a little new with a lot of new people on the team, but I'm excited. We're improving with every practice and every game, so I'm excited to see what this season has in store for us.
Q: Cool. What else would you like to say for yourself, Alyssa?
A: I'm really just a simple person. I'm a big believer in treating people with respect, being kind to people. You obviously don't know what people go through so you need to make yourself available to them so they know you're there for them if they ever need anything.
There have been personnel changes galore at Wheaton Academy over the past couple years. None have been as interesting, even heartwarming, as the imminent departure of Andrew Tink.
A coach, teacher and administrator at the West Chicago school since his 2006 debut as a student teacher out of Wheaton College, the smiling, upbeat Tink has been a Wheaton Academy athletic director these last two years. He will leave that position when his contract expires July 31.
He, his wife, Emily, and their three young daughters will head to his native Iowa, where Andrew will return to work in a third-generation family business, Young Plumbing and Heating, in his hometown of Waterloo.
Founded by two men including his grandfather, Arnold Becker, an immigrant from Germany after World War II, Tink's father, Mark, is now a partner in the business.
Strengthening that bond attracted Andrew to return to the job for the first time since summer break from college.
"I love my job, our coaches, this place," Tink said of Wheaton Academy. "In some ways I couldn't ask for a better job. So it wasn't a case of, ‘is this a better job, would I rather do this?' but more a case of, if I stay here and if I don't go work with my dad, am I going to regret it?"
He'll turn only 31 on April 13, but after spending much more time on basketball courts and in classrooms than installing sump pumps over the last decade, Tink admitted: "I've got a lot to learn."
Dave Underwood, who on March 18 opened the Wheaton Academy girls soccer season with his 100th victory as head coach and led the Warriors to the first of their two state titles, will move into the athletic office. He will remain as soccer coach.
"I'm not ready to give that up yet," Underwood stated in an email.
Tink is ready, for the best of reasons. Before he leaves, he's excited to see construction start on Wheaton Academy's new outdoor stadium and track, and new tennis courts. He plans on returning this August for the Warriors' first home football game under lights and if nothing else he'll have kid brothers Aaron and Jonathan in Wheaton to give him updates.
Tink calls his departure "bittersweet" given the people and aspects of Wheaton Academy he'll miss. But as he "thinks about the next stages of life," this is one chance he won't deny.
"I didn't want to regret not taking the opportunity to work with my dad," he said.
Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1