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updated: 9/28/2016 9:26 PM

Community service a way of life for Glenbard West football team

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  • Glenbard West football players touch Caitrin's Rock in Newton Park in Glen Ellyn with Glen Ellyn Eagles youth football players before a recent Eagles game.

    Glenbard West football players touch Caitrin's Rock in Newton Park in Glen Ellyn with Glen Ellyn Eagles youth football players before a recent Eagles game.
    Photo courtesy of Chris Langan Sr.

  • Glenbard West football players pose around Caitrin's Rock in Newton Park in Glen Ellyn.

    Glenbard West football players pose around Caitrin's Rock in Newton Park in Glen Ellyn.
    Photo courtesy of Chris Langan Sr.

  • This rock in Newton Park in Glen Ellyn honors Caitrin Paige Gadomski.

    This rock in Newton Park in Glen Ellyn honors Caitrin Paige Gadomski.
    Photo courtesy of Chris Langan Sr.

  • This rock in Newton Park in Glen Ellyn honors Caitrin Paige Gadomski.

    This rock in Newton Park in Glen Ellyn honors Caitrin Paige Gadomski.
    Photo courtesy of Chris Langan Sr.

 
 

The legacy of Bruce Capel continues to impact Glenbard West football.

The Hilltoppers' summer football camp at Winona State University in Minnesota concluded surprisingly when the seniors' goals were prioritized.

"Not a conference championship, not a state championship, but community service," noted coach Chad Hetlet, whose program has several of the former and has doubled down on the latter.

This was inspired by the 1961 Glenbard West graduate known as the "Original Hitter," who after graduating from the University of Illinois was killed in Vietnam in May 1966. As able and destructive a player as Capel was on the football field -- he earned a starting spot at Illinois after walking on -- he was gentlemanly off it.

"He's just a great role model," said Hilltoppers senior co-captain and offensive guard Will Farley.

"At the end of the day, the wins will come, but it's really all about giving back to the community," he added.

"We all know how much the community does for us every Saturday," said fellow co-captain Chris Langan Jr., a senior linebacker.

The effort started in August with more than 150 football players, parents and coaches throughout the entire program packing some 10,000 pounds of food at the Northern Illinois Food Bank.

It's continued week by week, different varsity position groups focusing on projects from helping PADS to doing yardwork for a cancer patient to clearing brush and cleaning up Memorial Park across from Glenbard West.

On Nov. 10 members of Capel's family, friends and Marines from Quantico, where Capel trained -- and played middle linebacker for the football team -- will attend a ceremony in his honor at the "Heroes of Freedom" memorial in Spalding Point, the parcel just west of Memorial Field.

At Glenbard West's team pasta dinner before the Sept. 17 game against Downers Grove North, another tradition was upheld with a weekly speaker, in this case Medix president and CEO Andrew Limouris, a coach with Glen Ellyn Golden Eagles youth football.

He told the players about Caitrin Gadomski, who died at age 6 of pediatric cancer in 2013. She was fascinated by rocks, collected them, and eventually funds were raised to install a boulder with a memorial plaque at Glen Ellyn's Newton Park, where the Golden Eagles play.

Slapping the rock before a game has become an Eagles tradition, as has honoring the memory of Glenbard West graduate and former football player Andrew Garwood, who died of brain cancer last January.

"I thought it was a cool story of how this community continues to rally around each other and remember those people who have impacted our lives," said Chris Langan Sr., a team father with the Glenbard West Football Boosters who began the Andrew Garwood Memorial Fund.

"It was such a moving story," he said. "It just got everybody's attention. It didn't matter if you were 16 years old, 17 years old or 52 years old, it hit you."

It affected the Hilltoppers enough that a few dozen varsity players attended a Golden Eagles game last Sunday at Newton Park to support the younger players -- definitely a gut check less than 24 hours after taking their first loss, to Lyons Twp.

Conference and state championships are great. Character and citizenship lasts longer.

"I know I am, I know probably all of our team is proud to be a part of it," said Chris Langan Jr. "And it's just as important what you do off the field as what you do on the field."

A new favorite hole

Gary Walker has coached Willowbrook's boys golf team seven years and York's girls golf team two years before that. Never had he witnessed a hole-in-one.

That glorious moment finally came Sept. 22. Willowbrook sophomore Joey Guthrie took an easy swing with his 8-iron and aced the par-3, 135-yard fourth hole on the Highland Course at Blackhawk Trace Golf Club at Indian Lakes Resort in Bloomingdale. Willowbrook was playing with Glenbard North and Morton at Addison Trail's Ryder Cup Quad.

With a breeze in his face, Guthrie carried a water hazard and avoided sand on the left of the green and behind it. The ball landed, took two bounces, rolled a foot and found the cup.

"I threw my club up, I was jumping around, screaming. It was pretty cool," Guthrie said of his first hole-in-one. He started playing the game as an incoming eighth-grader, at Village Links of Glen Ellyn.

He did not retire on the spot.

"Hopefully," Guthrie said, "I can get a couple more."

Welcome to the club

Wheaton Warrenville South's eighth Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony is Friday. Proceedings start at 4 p.m. in the WW South commons, continue with inductions and dinner, then spill onto Grange Field for a 7:15 ceremonial coin toss before the homecoming football game against Waubonsie Valley.

It's fast company.

Jermar Collins (WW South Class of 1996) and Justin Harrison (WWS 2004) both won numerous DuPage Valley Conference events and state 400-meter titles in track. Only Plainfield Central's Kahmari Montgomery's fully automated time of 46.24 seconds in 2015 would eclipse Collins' 46.2 recorded by stop watch. Harrison is tied for 16th all-time in Illinois at 47.2. The two Tigers met for the first time this summer at coach Ken Helberg's retirement party.

Jessica Haremza-Couri (Wheaton Central '92) ran longer distances. She earned four medals overall in track and cross country in high school, a team captain who paced a third-place finish in cross country in 1991. At Missouri she was Academic All-American, a two-time Big Eight Conference champion and 1996 All-America at 1,600 meters.

Shifting gears, Doug Burchett (WW South '05) remains Illinois' all-time assists leader in boys volleyball with 4,070 from 2002-05, including 1,210 in 2003, tied for third in a season. The setter earned American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America honors in 2005 and starred for the Tigers' 2004 and 2005 state championship teams. He went on to set the assists record at the University of Illinois and helped the Illini to a 2008 runner-up spot in the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association Tournament for non-Division I programs. He's an assistant coach at Dominican University in River Forest.

Finally, Therese Heaton-Scheidt (WW South '02) lit lots of lamps in girls soccer. The two-time all-DVC pick holds Tigers records with 5 goals in a game, 65 points in a season and is on the IHSA records list with 5 assists in a 2001 game against Glenbard South. At Michigan she scored 36 seconds into her first match and played in 92 straight games, both program records, and is in the top nine in five other categories.

doberhelman@dailyherald.com

Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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