Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Frontier Days Stampede Run 10K

The Rockford MELD 8K on the Fourth of July took a lot out of me. Despite the difficulty of that race, Ellen and I were signed up to run the Frontier Days Stampede Run 10K that same Sunday, just a few days after our previous race.

We wasted no time getting ready for the 10K as we chose to drive the course and run it on Friday. We certainly did not go all-out because we just wanted to get a feel for the course. It was relatively flat and easy to follow.

We took a day to rest on Saturday and prepare for our longest race yet. The race started at 7:30 a.m., so it wasn’t the earliest race of our summer but still pretty early. When we got there, we ended up parking at Windsor School and walking across a field to get to near where the start line was. The only thing I regret about pre-race was that we really didn’t have that much time to stretch because we didn’t get there super-early and had to use the bathroom.

Once we got situated over by the start line, we made final preparations, and before you knew it we were off. It was a humid morning and the temperature was around 73 degrees.

I made it a point to not go out as fast as I did a few days prior in the MELD 8K race. I didn’t want to expend too much energy early, especially because this race was about 6.2 miles.

Even though I made it a point to not go out as fast, my first mile still registered in about 5:47. I wasn’t near the front group of runners, but I knew I needed to just run my own race. The 5K and the 10K course were the same for the first 2.5 miles, so I knew some of the runners had a lot shorter of a distance to go. Even though my first mile was fast, I felt strong and not gassed like I was in Rockford.

I did the second mile somewhere in the 6:00-6:15 range. The course went by the side of Prospect High School and turned back onto Grove Street, which would lead us back to Windsor Drive. It was another smooth mile, as I didn’t really feel much distress. I wasn’t sure how I’d handle the water stations because I know I’d have to slow down to grab a cup, and it’s very difficult to drink on the run. I skipped the first water station at the two-mile marker.

The next mile was particularly enjoyable because my parents were on the route as race marshals. Once we passed the 2.5 mile point where the race split up the 5K and 10K runners, my parents were just shy of the three-mile marker, stationed out on the corner of Euclid Road. They had their cameras ready to get some action shots of Ellen and I as we ran by.

Chugging along just shy of three miles in.
One runner passed me around mile three, but I knew that if I kept him close to me, I’d be in good shape. The humidity made me decide that at the next water station after mile four I’d need to get a drink.

As I reached the water station, I grabbed a cup but quickly realized it was yellow Gatorade. On top of that, I spilled half of the cup because I didn’t slow down enough to drink it. Knowing that this was a lost cause, I did what any intelligent runner would do: I threw the cup of yellow, sticky, lukewarm Gatorade on my head.

I hope you sensed my sarcasm when I said intelligent. I knew the rest of the race I’d be thirsty and covered in Gatorade.

Somewhere near five miles, I passed the guy I had been running behind for most of the race. I knew the end was nearing, and I stayed strong for the last stretch of the race.

I crossed the line in 39:10 (6:19 mile pace), which was good enough for 12th place overall and first in my age group. I grabbed some refreshments and waited for Ellen to come in.

Running 6.2 miles in cross trainers is no easy task, but she accomplished her goal of finishing the race and also didn’t walk at all. I’m proud that she did well on a muggy morning. She wasn’t even certain a few days prior that she’d be able to finish. I am always thrilled to see her at the finish line, ear buds in and finishing the race strong with a big smile directed towards me.

Post-race relief.
The 10K race actually felt easier to me than the 8K race. I am truly blessed by God to even be able to run and give him glory doing it. I’m thankful that God has given me the opportunity to participate in and finish these races.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Hawks to Open Season at Elmhurst College Invite

PALATINE, Ill. – After cancelling the Harper College Invite, the Hawks men's and women's cross country teams will now open their seasons Friday, Aug. 30 at the Elmhurst College Invitational.

The Hawks open competition Aug. 30 at the Elmhurst College Invitational. (Jim Cummins)
The women's meet will begin at 5:00 PM at Eldridge Park in Elmhurst, Ill., with the men's meet following shortly after the completion of the women's race. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Former Harper Volleyball Star Thriving at Richmond-Burton HS

Chelcun loves coaching and being the school social worker at Richmond-Burton High School. (Laura Chelcun)
PALATINE, Ill. – Most athletes have a very difficult time accepting the fact that their playing careers are over. Former Harper volleyball player Laura Chelcun is no stranger to this reality, but she discovered a knack for coaching the game she loves.

Chelcun played for Harper in 2005 and served as an assistant volleyball coach at Harper from 2006 to 2011. After graduating from the University of Illinois-Chicago in 2011 with a Master of School Social Work degree, she accepted a position as a social worker at Richmond-Burton Community High School in Richmond, Ill. and is now the assistant girls' varsity volleyball coach at the school.

Chelcun always had a passion for volleyball growing up. She was a Daily Herald high school All-Area player for Buffalo Grove High School who graduated in 2002.

She decided to continue her career at Div. III Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis. After playing for a year at Carthage, her career was put in serious jeopardy.

During an open gym session with her teammates that next summer, Chelcun landed awkwardly and felt pain in her back. The pain worsened in the coming weeks until she was finally diagnosed with a fractured vertebrae. Chelcun was forced into a body cast for six weeks and wondered if she would ever play volleyball again.

She was unable to compete in the fall of 2003 due to the injury, but she hadn't given up hope that she could one day play again. Chelcun decided to leave Carthage and enroll at Harper College for the 2004-05 school year.

While she did not play the 2004 season for Harper, she was in contact with fellow Buffalo Grove graduate and volleyball player Amanda Palisi, who told her more about the Harper program. Chelcun contacted Harper head coach Bob Vilsoet and came out for the team in the fall of 2005.

That season, the Hawks went 36-16, captured the N4C regular season title and were NJCAA Div. III District B Champions. Finally, the Hawks won the Div. III Regional Tournament and made it to the NJCAA National Tournament, where they placed fourth in the nation.

"If I could go back and do it all over again, I would go back to 2005. It was one of the best years of my life," Chelcun said. "Going to nationals was so much fun. I was so close to my teammates, and those girls are still in my life to this day."

Chelcun calls herself 'Harper's biggest advocate' because of the positive atmosphere she always felt at Harper. She said the support from other athletic teams at the college was unlike anything she expected.

"We were so close with other teams. We always had other Harper teams supporting us in the stands, and we supported them at their games, too," she said. "Our volleyball team even made friends with CLC (College of Lake County) that I still talk to today."

That season, you wouldn't have known Chelcun had ever suffered a serious injury, as the 5-foot-10 outside hitter dominated opponents. She was one of three Hawks named All-Americans. Chelcun also received First Team All-Region, First Team All-Conference, All-Region Tournament Team and three-time All-Tournament Team distinctions in 2005. Finally, she was named co-MVP of Harper's team along with Laurenn Baker.

Her 525 kills, which still ranks third in Harper College single season records, and 1297 attacks were first in the NJCAA and N4C, while her 596 digs and 3.5 kills/game ranked third and 21st in the NJCAA, respectively.

From an academics standpoint, Chelcun felt Harper made it easy with such a large selection of classes at varying times. She also felt the classes helped prepare her for her success in getting her bachelor's degree and master's degree in the coming years.

Chelcun had a chance to walk on and try out for the volleyball team at Northern Illinois University (NIU), but she opted to focus on her undergraduate program there from 2006 to 2008. While she was commuting to NIU, she decided she wanted to try coaching, so she became an assistant coach at Harper under Bob Vilsoet.

While she acknowledged the transition from player to coach is very difficult, she began to learn the nuances of the sport from Vilsoet, who she said brings a wealth of knowledge to the table.

"He teaches you the smarts of the game and how to play it right," she said. "He has a whole other perspective to the game that I've never seen with other coaches."

Chelcun also said Vilsoet has taught her how to talk to players, how to give them a second chance, how to be patient and what to look for in athletes. Most importantly, she said Vilsoet is a master at managing a team and focusing on what will make each player on the team better.

Chelcun graduated from NIU with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Family and Child Studies in May of 2008. She continued coaching the following season and began her master's program in the fall of 2009 at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) while remaining an assistant coach for the Hawks. While she was very busy completing her degree, she could still coach because Vilsoet delegated her roles and gave her a purpose.

Chelcun graduated with her Master of School Social Work from UIC in the spring of 2011. It was at that point that she began to search for her jobs in her field. After applying and interviewing at a number of schools, she was offered a job and accepted a position at Richmond-Burton Community High School to be the school's social worker.

"Laura is a great example of how Harper College is a terrific starting point for many students and student-athletes," her former coach Bob Vilsoet said.

With just over 800 students enrolled at the school, Chelcun fell in love with the small-town feel. As a social worker, her job is to promote the growth of social and emotional learning among students. She helps support students who have social or emotional challenges that interfere with their academic success.

"I love my job because every day brings a different challenge," she said. "I get to use my knowledge and creativity to help students be more successful. What's more rewarding than that?"

In her first year at Richmond-Burton (2011-12), she commuted to the school from West Dundee and also commuted to Harper because she was still an assistant coach for the Hawks.

The following summer, she got engaged to her fiancé Pete Karamitos, a special education teacher, football coach and basketball coach at Buffalo Grove High School. The couple moved into a home in Cary, lessening the distance she had to travel each day.

In her second year at the school (2012-13), she became the Rockets' head sophomore volleyball coach. While she would no longer be a coach for the Hawks, she knew this was a prime opportunity to coach and continue her career as a social worker. The school became home for her.

This upcoming fall, Chelcun has been promoted to assistant varsity coach and will serve as the acting head coach in late September once the current head coach goes on maternity leave. The Rockets went 37-5 in 2012 and finished runner-up in the IHSA Class 3A girls' volleyball state tournament.

With senior Ali Frantti, a Penn State recruit, leading the charge, the Rockets will be strong contenders for the title again in 2013 with Chelcun calling the shots.

"The players at Richmond-Burton High School are lucky to have her as their coach this coming year," Vilsoet said. "I'm actually predicting a state championship for RBHS this year."

Despite her emergence as an up-and-coming volleyball coach, Chelcun said she keeps her career as the top priority.

"My job as a social worker takes priority over volleyball," she said. "I'm in a tough role, and if there's a crisis, I need to take care of that above all else."

That's exactly why she is content in her role as an assistant coach for the time being.

Looking back on her Harper playing and coaching experiences, Chelcun is grateful for the relationships she built and offered advice to potential future Hawk athletes.

"Just think about why you do what you do. No matter where you are, have a great attitude in that situation and you will grow individually as a player," she said. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

True Inspiration-Team Hoyt at the ESPYs

The Story of Team Hoyt won the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the ESPYs last week. Watch this video and you will be inspired.

Alumni Baseball Game Set for October 13

The Harper College baseball alumni game will be held Oct. 13. (Jim Cummins)
PALATINE, Ill. – The Harper College baseball program will be holding an alumni baseball game on Sunday, October 13 for former Harper baseball players.

Details are to come as they are made known. There will be a batting practice session before the game as well as a cookout during the game. For those concerned about the Chicago Bears game, there is no game as the Bears are on their bye week.

Contact head baseball coach Cliff Brown (cbrown2@harpercollege.edu or 847-925-6485) or Bill Smith (wsmith@harpercollege.edu or 847-925-6000 x2034) if you are interested in playing. 

Harper Fall Sports Starting in One Month

The Harper cross country teams are looking to continue their success in 2013. (Jim Cummins)
PALATINE, Ill. –While no Harper athletic team has competed since mid-May, the five fall sports teams will return to action in one month.

Women's Volleyball

Coming off a 36-win season in 2012, the Hawks open play Aug. 22 with the South Suburban Invitational in South Holland, Ill. The Hawks went 10-2 in N4C play last season to earn a share of the conference title with Rock Valley and Madison College.

Men's Cross Country

The Hawks begin their quest for a third consecutive national championship Sept. 6 with the Aurora Invite. The Hawks won the title last year in convincing fashion, scoring 58 points to beat out nearest challenger Gloucester CC (98 points).

Women's Cross Country

The Hawks also begin their season Sept. 6 with the Aurora Invite. Last year, the women's team had two athletes compete at the national meet. Jordan Wagner placed fifth in the meet to earn First Team All-American honors, while Gabby Beaupre placed 73rd.

Men's Soccer

The Hawks went 3-11 last year, but they are looking forward to a fresh start beginning Aug. 28 with conference rival Joliet. Joliet knocked Harper out of the playoffs with a 2-1 victory over the Hawks, and the Hawks will be looking to avenge that loss to start the year.

Women's Soccer

The Hawks are looking to make it back to nationals for the second straight year, as they open the 2013 campaign on the road at Joliet Aug. 28. Harper knocked out Joliet in the playoffs last year on their way to capturing a Region IV Championship and berth to nationals, where they took sixth place.

Full season previews will be available once the school year draws closer and rosters are finalized. 

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Harper Teammates Reunite at Judson

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT-Siobhan Cerney and Anna Kirchoff
After playing together together for two seasons at Harper, Cerney (right in left photo, left in right photo) and Kirchoff (left in left photo, right in right photo) reunited to play for Judson in the 2012-13 season.
PALATINE, Ill. – Former Harper women's basketball players Siobhan Cerney and Anna Kirchoff developed a lasting friendship while playing together on the Harper College basketball team. The two both decided to go away to school for the 2011-12 school year following their time at Harper, but they both realized they missed basketball and being around each other.

After much discussion and a coach reaching out to them, they took an opportunity they couldn't pass up. Cerney and Kirchoff both accepted scholarships to play at Judson University and spent the last year where they belonged, side-by-side on the court playing the game they both love.

Dating back to high school, the two players battled it out on the court, with Cerney playing for Schaumburg High School and Kirchoff playing for Barrington High School. The two both grew up playing against each other in AAU basketball as well.

Despite successful high school careers, neither player had a major scholarship offer at a four-year university, but Harper coach Mark Smith saw their abilities and thought they could both make a big impact. Smith saw Cerney as a very coachable player who could score and be a tenacious defender. He saw Kirchoff as a player with a multitude of offensive weapons who could beat you in many ways.

Cerney and Kirchoff quickly developed a bond once they got to Harper.

"I was able to go to school, work and play basketball all while at Harper," Cerney said. "It was the most fun I had playing basketball in my life."

"I definitely enjoyed playing basketball at Harper and building friendships," Kirchoff said. "Right when Siobhan and I got to Harper, we clung to each other and became best friends."

Coach Smith encouraged both players to work hard outside of just practice time, and it paid off on the court as Cerney and Kirchoff both played significant roles for the Hawks.

Cerney, a 5-foot-8 guard, played in all 28 games as a freshman for the Hawks, scoring 7.1 points per game (PPG) and grabbing 4.3 rebounds per game (RPG). During her sophomore season, she played in 27 games, scoring 7.3 PPG while grabbing 5.3 RPG.

Kirchoff, a 5-foot-9 forward, also played in all 28 games as a freshman for the Hawks, scoring 13.6 PPG (2nd on team) and grabbing 7.2 RPG (1st on team). In the 2010-11 season, Kirchoff improved her scoring average to 16.3 PPG (2nd on team) while hitting a team-high 73 3-pointers and shooting a team-best 71.4 percent from the free throw line. During that sophomore season, she earned first team All-Conference and All-Region honors.

In those two seasons, the Hawks had a combined 33-23 record. Academically, both girls received N4C Academic All-Conference awards for having a GPA at or above 3.0.

"I really liked the classes at Harper and class sizes," Kirchoff said. "I was able to develop good relationships with professors at Harper, and they really taught me how to develop good relationships with professors at my other schools."

Smith, who now coaches at Burlington Central High School, saw firsthand what it was like to be around Cerney and Kirchoff after coaching them for two years.

"As freshman, they stuck together and learned a lot," Smith said. "As sophomores, they provided great leadership and worked hard, but we had fun doing it and it was a really enjoyable experience."

While both Cerney and Kirchoff enjoyed their time at Harper together, it was time for both of them to move on to four-year universities. Cerney enrolled at Illinois State University and planned on majoring in English-Secondary Education, while Kirchoff chose to play basketball at Div. II University of Colorado Colorado Springs and major in Elementary Education. She would also have the chance to play at UCCS with her younger sister Abby, who was coming to the school as a freshman.

During the fall 2011 semester, the two best friends talked on the phone and used Skype to interact nearly daily. But something was missing.

Cerney missed the game of basketball and missed being with Anna. She was able to play pick-up games and intramural basketball at ISU, but it wasn't the same as playing with her best friend.

Kirchoff enjoyed having her sister with her at UCCS, but she only appeared in one game for her new team and her father fell ill. She decided to leave UCCS after one semester and re-enroll in classes at Harper.

"It was hard to leave the friends I made there, but I knew it was best for my family," she said.

While Kirchoff was back at Harper and Cerney continued working on her degree at Illinois State in the spring of 2012, Kristi Cirone was named the head coach of the Judson University women's basketball team at the end of the school year in May.

Cirone, who holds nine women's basketball records at Illinois State University, played professionally in Greece and Poland and also played in the WNBA,  began her recruiting late due to the timing of the hire. She began reaching out to area high school coaches and was told by Kirchoff's coach that Anna had transferred and was looking for a place to play.

Cirone invited Kirchoff to an open gym, and she called her best friend to see if she wanted to come along. Both players went, and the next day they were offered scholarships to be reunited and play basketball together at Judson University.

Both players made significant impacts for the Eagles in the 2013-14 season. Cerney played in all 31 of the team's games, scoring 5.1 PPG in a team-high 26.5 minutes per game. She dished out 59 assists, which was also a team-high.

Kirchoff played in 29 games, scoring 10.9 PPG and making 33 3-pointers, both marks good for second on the team.

Cirone said both players did everything that was asked of them and worked hard to lead the program in the right direction and build a sense of family with their teammates.

"They both bring passion and hustle, and you need that to change the culture of a program," she said.

While the numbers in the box score tell a story, the bond the two have goes deeper than just being teammates.

"It's like having your best friend with you all of the time," Kirchoff said. "We want to push each other to be better and stay late (shooting) to get better. We are always supportive of each other."

Cerney has one year of eligibility left and Kirchoff is waiting to hear back from the NCAA regarding her eligibility, but she is optimistic she will be given another year to play at Judson. Kirchoff has family ties to the school, as her mom graduated from JU and her older sister Allison attends the school.

Looking back on their experiences, both players felt their time at Harper paved the way for big things.

"Harper provides a good transition to a four-year school and really makes it possible to compete at the next level," Cerney said.

"I loved the experience at Harper. It was very positive," Kirchoff said. "I was able to stay close to family, have a job and it helped ease me into college without having to go away."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


My typical Fourth of July through the years has consisted of parades, Frontier Days, family, food and fireworks. This sounds like a pretty standard Independence Day for most families across America. A year ago, if you told me running an 8K really early in the morning to celebrate this country’s independence was fun, I’d call you crazy.

Well, this is exactly what I did to start off my Fourth of July morning. I signed up to do the Rockford MELD 8K (4.97 miles) run with Ellen, her dad and mom. The race would be my third of the year and a step up from the two 5K races I had done in June. Rockford MELD’s mission is “guiding young parents to build a strong family and lead a responsible life by providing shelter, education, and life skills training.”

The weekend prior, Ellen and I ran five miles on the bike path by the Rock River to get ready. The  actual course started just in front of the Madison Street bridge and went out on the bike path to a little bit past the 1 ½ mile marker. Once you reached that marker, the halfway point, you would turn around and head back for the last half of the race.

It was a warm morning on what turned out to be a warm day. We got to the event early enough to stretch out and mingle. I looked around me and pretty quickly realized that this race would not be like the Biggest Loser 5K that I took first place in three weeks prior. We liked to joke we’d see the “Who’s Who” of Rockford runners there, and it became clear they were there and rearing to go.

I wanted to start up near the front of the pack because I like getting out and going rather than being bunched up at the start. The horn sounded, and we were off.

I put myself near some legit runners.
After about 20 seconds, it was clear that two runners would be competing to win this race. They were absolutely hauling out of the gates, nearly sprinting the first half mile or so. I was situated in the second pack of runners behind them, but after about a half mile it was clear that it would be very hard for me to keep up with that group.

I soon realized these runners were out of my league and accepted the fact that I needed to run my own race and not try to chase runners who were moving at breakneck pace. Even after deciding that, my first mile still only took me 5:40 to complete. I knew this pace was not sustainable.

I felt strong in my second mile as we made our way out the bike path, but several runners who started out behind me began to pass me. I had to try to not get discouraged and tell myself that it wasn’t a big deal. I completed mile two in around 6:00, but I knew I couldn’t possibly keep this clip up.

Once I reached the turnaround point to head back, I began to feel tired and could feel myself slowing down. I saw Mr. Larson, Ellen, and Mrs. Larson as I made my way back. I began regretting my fast start and doubts crept into my mind. I thought about walking. I thought about pulling out of the 10K I was scheduled to run in three days. I thought about not wanting to race again.

Me shortly before finishing the race.
The winner, Dan Kremske, finished with a time of 24:25 (4:55 mile pace). A native of Woodstock, Ill., Kremske ran collegiately for U of I. He definitely qualifies for the “Who’s Who” of the runners.

I was able to finish, crossing the line in 30:38 (6:10 mile pace), taking 22nd place overall out of 411 participants. I placed fourth in my age group.  I learned a valuable lesson about not expending too much energy in the early stages of the race.
Mr. Larson came in next with a time of 39:07 (7:52 mile pace). His goal was to finish under 40 minutes, and he did that.

Ellen finished with a time of 41:44 (8:24 mile pace). I’m really proud of her because she ran a 8:35 mile pace for the Biggest Loser 5K and it was awesome to see her pace was 11 seconds per mile faster for a race that was significantly longer. Also, she is doing this all with cross training shoes (just wait until she gets a pair of running shoes).

Ellen cruising into the finish line.

Mrs. Larson came in with a time of 45:21 (9:07 mile pace), better than what she was expecting as well. And to top it off, her bib number was drawn in a random raffle drawing and she took home a $200 cash prize.

Mrs. Larson was surprised to win the drawing.
I learned a lot about racing from some stellar runners in this particular race and feel the experience gained in a race like this will only help me in the future. I also wasn’t serious about quitting races. I want to get tips from experienced runners and truly improve with a structured plan rather than just going out and running without a plan.

I thank God for giving me the ability to even run. He helped me during this race, and I leaned on him to get me through it.

Kay Signs with Missouri State

Cory Kay signs with Missouri State
Kay signed to play for the Missouri State Bears. (Jim Cummins)
PALATINE, Ill. – After a successful year for the Harper baseball team, outfielder Cory Kay has signed a NCAA National Letter of Intent to continue his baseball career at Missouri State University.

After playing for the University of Houston in the spring of 2012, the Arlington Heights native and graduate of Saint Viator High School transferred to Harper College for his sophomore season and enjoyed great success as a Hawk. Kay hit .363 with two homers, 29 RBIs, 34 runs scored and a .441 OBP in 40 games.

Kay was a Second Team All-Conference and Second Team All-Region selection in 2013.  He also was an N4C Academic All-Conference athlete in his one year at Harper College.

Kay joins his second Div. I program in three years in the Missouri State Bears, who are coming off their third consecutive 30-win season after going 31-23 in 2013.

Head baseball coach Keith Guttin has established a standard of excellence at MSU in his 31 years, compiling a 1,063-675 career mark.

The Bears compete in the Missouri Valley Conference in an eight-team baseball conference with Illinois State, Wichita State, Creighton, Evansville, Indiana State, Southern Illinois and Bradley. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Biggest Loser 5K

I’m sure many of you have seen NBC’s ‘The Biggest Loser’ television show. If you haven’t, it’s basically a show where overweight contestants finally get the intervention they need, lose the weight they need to, and experience a life of victory (for the most part) after the show.

While my personal story I told in my last blog entry isn’t quite as dramatic as that, it was fitting that my second 5K of the year would be the Biggest Loser RunWalk race Series, held in Rockford, Ill. on June 15.  My girlfriend Ellen lives in Rockford, so we would be running this together in her hometown. Not only would we be running in it, but we would be joined by her dad, mom, and sister Margaret, who would all be running the 5K race.  There would be a 15K race that same day, but we decided 3.1 miles was enough for us.

I got into town Friday and had to pick up my packet at Davis Park where the race would start and begin. Little did I know that there were so many people signed up for this race (over 3,000) and that I’d have to wait in line to get my packet for the race. It looked like people from all walks of life would be doing this race: runners, joggers with IPods, fans of the television show, walkers, etc.  The cool part about the race series was also that four former contestants from the Biggest Loser show were at the pre-race festivities as well at the actual race.

We carb-loaded by eating a lot of pasta that night to get ready for the race. The next morning, I was rudely awakened by Margaret at around 5:20 a.m. playing some loud, obnoxious song to get pumped up for the race. I could have used a few more minutes of the sleep, but I was able to take it in stride.

My only goal for the race was to improve upon my time from the Harvest 5K two weeks prior. I thought something around 19 minutes was attainable if I ran a good race.

The weather conditions when we got to Davis Park seemed iffy at best as it looked like it was going to rain and the temperature was around 60 degrees. The temperature made for good running weather, but slick pavement, especially on a downhill slope to the finish line, could cause some tumbles.

The course  layout was pretty simple, with the first part of the race going across a bridge over the Rock River, down Madison Street, and out a bit on a bike path that runs along the Rock River. On the way back, you basically retraced your steps and finished back at Davis Park.

Before all races I tend to get antsy and am ready to get going. Once the opening horn sounded, we took off up a hill and headed to the bridge crossing the Rock River. At the beginning of the race, some little middle schoolers came darting out of the gate in an all-out sprint, but I knew that wasn’t sustainable.

Once they eased off, I took the lead and took off from there. It was weird being in the lead in a race. I don’t ever recall being in the lead in any kind of long-distance race ever. It was kind of bizarre because I was surprised that nobody was really on my tail throughout the race.

I made it to the turnaround spot in the lead and began to see my fellow racers. They were so supportive, giving me the “thumbs-up” sign and saying things like “good job”.  It made me feel good knowing they were so kind to me.
The amount of support I received  from my fellow runners was incredible.

I crossed the finish line first in a time of 19:01 (6:08 mile pace), a half minute better than my previous time of 19:31 that I ran at the Harvest 5K. I was greeted by a supportive race staff as well as the people of Rockford. God has been really good to me and I praise him for giving me the ability to run when so many people are unable to.

Mr. Larson was the first of the Larson clan to cross in a time of 24:07 (7:47 mile pace), good for third place in his age group.

Ellen came in next with a time of 26:37 (8:35 mile pace), good for second place in her age group. She improved upon her Harvest 5K time of 27:13 by 37 seconds!  I was really proud of her improvement in this race and that it was the second straight race she placed in her age group!

Ellen and I after the race.
Mrs. Larson came in at 28:32 (9:12 mile pace) and set a personal-best for her 5K time while also placing in her age group.

Perhaps the most memorable and funny part of the race had to do with Margaret’s 5K race. Apparently Margaret has a problem with circulation to her foot, and after running two miles in the race, her foot fell asleep. She had to stop and try to wake her foot back up. One must ask: how does your foot fall asleep while running? It bewilders me to this day, but it made for a good story and trying to imagine Margaret stomping her foot against a pole on the side of the road, trying to get it to wake up.

The awards ceremony was held in Davis Park, and it was cool because after receiving our medals, we got to meet a mom and her son who were contestants on the show. Overall, the whole experience was great because you got to see joy on people’s faces as they crossed the finish line. In most races, people looked exhausted at the finish line. However, the Biggest Loser race was full of people happy to accomplish the 5K or 15K.

After the race, we indulged in a delicious breakfast at Stockholm Inn that really hit the spot.

All of us with our shirts and awards.
I’m not sure which races Ellen and I will be doing the rest of the summer, but this certainly won’t be the last one!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

InZone Welcomes Chicago Cubs Camp This Week

Campers take a break from the heat. (Cliff Brown)

PALATINE, Ill. – Harper College's InZone Summer Enrichment and Sports Camp is welcoming the Chicago Cubs Baseball Camp to campus this week (July 8-12) for an unforgettable experience for campers.

The Cubs camp, for ages 5-14, runs from 9:00 am-3:00 pm for the duration of the week, with the Cubs coaching staff providing top-notch instruction to kids. In addition to the baseball skills the young ballplayers will develop, campers will receive an official Cubs uniform and travel down to Wrigley Field on Thursday, July 11 for an exclusive all-access VIP tour of Wrigley Field, including Cubs player visits and autographs.

Finally, campers will receive an invitation to participate in the annual on-field Camper Parade during a Cubs home game at the end of the summer. 

Baseball Meeting Set for August 26

The baseball team will hold a meeting August 26.

PALATINE, Ill. – The Harper College baseball team has announced that there will be an informational meeting on Monday, August 26, for those interested in trying out for the Harper College Baseball team.
The meeting will be in Room M244 and begin at 4:00 PM. All interested student-athletes will need a current physical and must have it completed prior to the meeting.  That paperwork can be picked up in the Athletics office in the M Building.  Please contact head coach Cliff Brown (cbrown2@harpercollege.edu or 847-925-6485) for more information.
Those interested in playing for the 2013-2014 team are encouraged to enroll in KIN-210 Teaching Methods: Baseball (Fall 2013: Tuesday/Thursday 2:00 PM – 3:45 PM). Participation in the course does not guarantee a position on the 2014 team, but it is recommended that you participate if you are planning to try out for the team. 

Men's Soccer Meeting Set for July 29

Men's Soccer 2012
The Hawks will hold a meeting  for those interested in trying out. (Jim Cummins)

PALATINE, Ill. – The Harper College men's soccer team has announced that there will be an informational meeting on Monday, July 29, for those interested in trying out for the Harper College men's soccer team.

The meeting will be in Room M244 and begin at 3:00 PM. All interested student-athletes will need a current physical. That paperwork can be picked up in the Athletics office in the M Building. Please contact head coach Jason Diebold at 847-644-1752 for more information.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Renewed Mindset and Harvest 5K

As recently as four months ago, I was unmotivated to do any kind of physical fitness-related activities. That is hard to believe if you really know me. I have always been a sports junkie who loves playing and watching sports, but my motivation to stay in shape had fizzled to an all-time low for quite a long span of time.

I was simply out of shape. I could still run, play basketball, and perform at a decent level in exercise-related activities, but I had bad knees weighing me down and every excuse to not exercise because of it.  My girlfriend Ellen had been really getting into exercising, but I just couldn’t find that motivation.

I knew I needed to get back in shape, so I finally got after it. I began counting calories and limiting my food intake with MyFitnessPal. Bad knees or not, I decided to get out there and run. At first, it wasn’t fun at all and I’d end up with purple and achy knees, but I had to push through it. The first few weeks were rough, but I began seeing results, felt faster and stronger with each run, and my knees were hurting less each time. Also, I began to notice a shrinking stomach and pounds being shed.

I can’t really pinpoint what it was that got me to change. Maybe it was wanting to feel better about my health. It could partially be seeing my girlfriend work so hard to look great. I also think a big part of it had to do with me realizing that I needed to be glorifying God with my body. God has given me some athletic ability, and it would be wrong to not use that and be slothful.

I continued to see major results and shed over 20 pounds. It was time to put all that running to the test, so I decided to sign up for the Harvest 5K to be held Saturday, June 1st at the Harvest Bible Chapel Elgin campus. Ellen, my college roommate Kevin Tenney (Shoggs), and Kelly Wachsmuth (Kevin’s girlfriend and final member of our bub crew) all signed up for the race. We had a fun time hyping up the race the night before and nearly psyching ourselves out.

Me, Ellen, Kelly and Shoggs after the Harvest 5K.
We got out to the Elgin campus bright and early and got all checked in and received our performance fit shirts and bibs to be worn during the race. There would be a kid’s one mile race before our race at 8 a.m., so we had some time to stretch and get ready for the race.

I really didn’t have any expectations in terms of a time I wanted to run the race in. When I was out running/training by myself, I never really kept track of my pace. I would run for a certain length of time, but I never tracked the distance. I ran cross country in middle school, yet those races were only two miles long. The only other 5K I had ever ran was at Trinity in the fall of 2011 during homecoming week. I took third place in a time of 21:02 (6:47 mile pace), but I wasn’t in the best of shape and knocked down a huge IHop meal about six hours before the start of the race.

I was pumped up/nervous for the race because I really didn’t know what to expect but knew the adrenaline of chasing other runners and running an actual race would motivate me. The horn sounded and we took off up a small hill at the beginning of the course.

The course was a fun run around the church’s campus that was two laps/loops long. The first lap was only slightly over a mile long, while the second lap was about two miles long and more elaborate, winding through the woods on two occasions, through the church parking garage, and heading back towards the back of the church.

There were a handful of guys in front of me who looked like real runners. I just wanted to keep a couple of guys in my sight, and I felt like I was making decent time. The hardest part of the race was the first 4-5 minutes. I felt like I was sucking air and didn’t know how I’d be able to keep up the pace I was at.

I wasn’t able to catch the guy in front of me as we headed for the finish line, but I also didn’t let the guy behind me pass me. I came in at 19:31 (6:17 mile pace), good for 7th place out of 299 runners who participated in the 5K and second in my age group (20-29). I was pleased with the personal best because I didn’t really have any expectations nor did I expect to break 20 minutes. The guy who won it ran it in a blistering 16:26. He also finished 52nd in this past October’s Chicago Marathon.

Ellen came in with a time of 27:13, good for 74th overall and third place in her age group (20-29). It was also a personal best for her and would have been even better if she didn’t start behind a pack of people. I’m really proud of her because she did all of this with not much training in running and with a pair of cross trainers instead of running shoes. She’s big into body pump, Zumba, and spin classes, so it was impressive that she could do this well in the run.  

Ellen and I after the race. 
Kelly finished her first ever 5K, and Shoggs was disappointed with his time, but we still had a great time at the event. We went to Starbucks after the race and saw fellow “5K-ers” there.

Personally, I was happy with my time and just happy to be able to run the 3.1 miles while feeling good doing it. I’m looking forward to doing more races this summer. Ellen and I now have these fun events to share together. I can’t wait to run in more races in the near future!

New Student-Athlete Orientation Set for July 15

New Student-Athlete Orientation

PALATINE, Ill. – We have a special opportunity this summer for our incoming first year athletes.  On Monday, July 15, 2013, we have a New Student Orientation scheduled from 12:30-4:30 PM, which will meet the college's mandatory requirement for New Student Orientation.

This orientation is geared specifically for athletes and will discuss their academic requirements along with athletic requirements.

Student-athletes must RSVP by Wednesday, July 10. Please email Athletic Academic Advisor Emily Reabe directly at ereabe@harpercollege.edu to RSVP. 

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Norris Soars to New Heights at Hampton Univ.

Henry Norris ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT photo
Norris played on the Harper football team before moving on to Hampton University and graduating this past May.
PALATINE, Ill. – From the fall of 2008 to the fall of 2010, former Harper football player Henry Norris was a recognizable figure around the college's campus because of his heavy involvement in student activities on campus. After graduating from Harper, Norris spent the past 2 ½ years at Hampton University in Hampton, Va., where he was also heavily involved in campus activities, and graduated this May on Mother's Day with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Aviation Management.

Coming to Harper at the age of 17 from Proviso West High School, Norris redshirted his first year and played special teams and linebacker for the Hawks the following two years (2009, 2010). Former Harper football coach Eric Waldstein said that he really stood out as a leader on the field.

"He was someone we could always count on to do the right thing and be where he needed to be," Waldstein said. "He was a guy you wanted in the trenches with you."

Norris exemplified that leadership on and off the field at Harper, as he was the President of the Black Student Union (BSU), which promotes African American culture at Harper and the surrounding college community. He also was a member of the Student Senate and a part of the budget committee for the senate.  Finally, Norris co-founded the Male Institute, a program based in the Center for Multicultural Learning (CML) that helps mold young men with training in proper male etiquette.

"Coming to Harper at the age of 17, all I was involved in really matured me as a person and made me stronger," Norris said. "I made a lot of lifelong friends, and the professors were great and very easy to reach out to and talk to."

A friend of Norris' got him interested in aviation and flying, causing him to research different schools for aviation. He choose Hampton University in Hampton, Va. to continue pursuing his education, 882 miles from his hometown of Bellwood, Ill.

"I always loved planes, and I just had that jet fuel in my blood," Norris said. "I started off a civil engineering major wanting to design runways until my friend Aaron Stanton from College of DuPage told me to look into aviation programs."

Norris left home with only two bags of clothes and said it was difficult at first because he had never been to Virginia and getting acclimated would take some time to get used to.

Once he settled in, Norris took on a large class load at Hampton with 17 credit hours in the spring of 2011 followed by six hours in the summer.

"I took a couple of aviation foundation classes and they had a great department, so I eventually developed a passion and love for it," he said.

The following school year (2011-12), he took 18 credit hours per semester, many of those in business and aviation as he began honing in on his Aviation Management major. While Norris acknowledged that his upper-level business classes were more difficult than his classes at Harper, he felt his Harper classes prepared him well.

He was growing as a student and earning academic scholarship money for his good grades, but he obtained the most valuable experience in the aviation industry by interning in the airport control tower in the summer of 2012 at Washington Dulles International Airport in Sterling, Va. Norris also interned in airport operations in the fall of 2012 and spring of 2013 at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport in Newport, Va. It was there that he learned the most about the aviation industry through shadowing, presentations and being in an airport all of the time. Norris learned the ins and outs of how an airport operates while also spending time in the air traffic control towers, watching air traffic controllers send out and bring in airplanes.

Even with a full plate of classes and internships, Norris became involved in campus life at Hampton. He was a part of the Alpha Eta Rho Aviation Fraternity, National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE), Student Government Association Men's Caucus Mentoring Group and the Hampton University Wrestling Club. Norris also imparted his football knowledge in the community as a volunteer youth football coach.

Norris graduated this past May magna cum laude with a 3.72 GPA. Currently, he works part-time for 7th District State Representative Chris Welch as a constituent outreach director. He recently attended the Airport Minority Advisory Council in San Diego to network for jobs.

Last week, Norris interviewed for a supervisor position with American Airlines. He made the first cut and has a one-on-one interview this upcoming week that could determine his career path.

"I'm so excited for this. I'm just keeping the faith and I am going to claim this one," he said.

Norris also begins graduate school at DeVry University next week, where he hopes to obtain his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) Degree.

Looking back at his time at Harper, Norris felt his ability to persevere helped him immensely since moving on.

"What you put into it is what you get out of it," Norris said. "I stayed very involved at Harper, I networked and had self-drive that i was going to be successful. I encourage all student-athletes at Harper to believe in yourself, stay true to yourself, be humble, stay patient and keep the faith and things will go in your favor. I always say good things come to those who grind for it."