Former Sandburg star runner Dylan Jacobs did some amazing things for Notre Dame and Tennessee in 2022. Notre Dame photo

Former Sandburg star runner Dylan Jacobs did some amazing things for Notre Dame and Tennessee in 2022. Notre Dame photo

SWR Top 10: Dylan Jacobs’ feats top area’s favorite sports stories of 2022

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By Jeff Vorva
Staff Writer

It’s a cliché for newspapers to brag about its area sports teams and athletes when putting together these top stories of the year.

But, darn it, just look at what has been going on in the land of the Regional, Reporter, Des Plaines Valley News and Southwest News Herald in 2022.

C’mon, we can’t help but look at this list and get wowed. This is some rare stuff we’re talking here. Some of these stories resonate on a national and even international level.

This is not quite a collection of the best stories. Deaths of notable coaches and legends are missing. Since we started redoing a top-10 list last year, we decided to list our favorite stories and they were all positive and happy-happy joy-joy.

This year, we did it again. And if you don’t come away impressed with what our area athletes were up to in 2022, well, if you were a judge we wouldn’t want to end up in your courtroom.

Here’s what we have:

 

1. Thrillin’ Dylan

Way back in January, Orland Park native Dylan Jacobs figured to have one of the best stories of the year when he became just 605th American to break a 4-minute mile.

Then he did more.

And more.

And more.

The Sandburg graduate had a year to remember in the world of running.

It started on Jan. 22 when he ran a mile in 3:37.67 mile for Notre Dame at an indoor meet in South Bend.

He became the third ex-Sandburg runner to accomplish breaking the magic mark, joining Lukas Verzbicas and Sean Torpy.

On Feb. 12, Jacobs set an American college indoor record in the 5000-meter run with a time of 13:14.04.

On June 8, he managed a rare accomplishment in the 10,000-meter event as he won an NCAA Track and Field national championship in that event with a time of 28:12.32 despite falling in the race.

“I stepped on the rail and went down,” Jacobs told ESPN after the race. “I was like, ‘well, better get up and finish now.’”

His final 800 meters was run in 1:57.63 and his closing lap was :55.45, and he became the first Irish to win the event since Ryan Shay in 2001.

After graduating from Notre Dame as a senior with a year of eligibility left, he headed to the University of Tennessee and this fall finished fourth in the NCAA National Cross Country meet with a time of 28:58 seconds in the 10K race in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

 

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U.S. Olympic medalists Kendall Coyne (left) and Abbie Murphy pose at the South Side Irish Parade. Photo by Jeff Vorva.

2. Hockey heroes
Winter Olympics took place in February and the area doubled its pleasure when it came to having players on the talented U.S. women’s hockey team.

Kendall Coyne Schofield made her third Olympics appearance and Abbie Murphy made her Olympics debut.

Coyne is a Palos Heights native and Sandburg graduate who had won gold and silver medals in the previous two Olympic competitions.

Murphy is an Evergreen Park resident who graduated from Mother McAuley who was looking for her first Olympic medal. At age 19, she was the second youngest player on the squad.

The two headed to Beijing and brought home silver medals after Team USA lost to Canada, 3-2. Coyne had three goals and three assists in seven games. Murphy recorded an assist.

Both received plenty of adulation from their hometowns and the area in general.

Coyne had a park in Palos Heights named in her honor in October.

“I’m so proud that on every team I’ve played on, my hometown is listed a Palos Heights, Illinois,” she said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Kendall Coyne Dream Big Park.

Her husband, Michael Schofield, had an interesting year in his NFL career.

The offensive lineman was picked up by the Chicago Bears during training camp, released and brought back at the beginning of the season and has been getting some playing time for the team he grew up rooting for.

 

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Nazareth’s baseball team celebrates it first state championship in June. Photo by Jeff Vorva

3. Snazzy trophies for Naz

The area’s most successful high school athletic department was Nazareth.

The baseball team won the Class 3A state championship, the football team won the Class 5A state title, while the girls basketball and girls volleyball teams both placed second in Class 3A.

That’s four elite trophies that came home to LaGrange Park.

All four teams have players who will return next season and some still have two seasons left in their careers, so the possibility of more trophies is pretty good.

The football team made history when it became the first team in IHSA history to win a football championship after starting a season 1-3.

The Roadrunners (10-4) claimed their fourth state title with a thrilling 45-44 victory over Peoria Nov. 26 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. Quarterback Logan Malachuk passed for two touchdowns and rushed for two more.

The baseball team, which finished second in the state once, third in the state twice and fourth in the state once, claimed first place with a 5-1 victory over Glenwood at Duly Health and Care Field in Joliet.

Nick Drtina pitched the win in the title game and set a school record with 12 victories in a season. He joined Luca Fiore, Cole Reifsteck and Luke Brabham in driving in runs in a five-run fifth inning to break up a scoreless tie.

The girls basketball team was 33-3 and lost to Carmel, 43-39, in the finals. The team has won three top-three trophies since 2017.

The girls volleyball team finished 22-17 and dropped a 25-23, 25-23 war with Wheaton St. Francis. That came one year after winning the state championship.

 

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Mount Carmel football players celebrate their state championship with their fans in Champaign. Photo by Jeff Vorva

4. Title Mania

Speaking of state titles, throw Nazareth’s baseball and football championships in the mix and the area produced six team and seven individual state titles in 2022, plus a championship track relay team.

Toward the end of winter, we had Mount Carmel kicking things off by winning the Class 3A state wrestling tournament with Seth Menodza, Sergio Lemley, Colin Kelly and Ryan Boersma winning individual state titles. Brother Rice’s Tommy Bennett also won a state title in 2A.

In the spring, Sandburg’s 3200-meter relay team of Sean Marquardt, Declan Tunney, Trent Anderson and Brock Rice won the Class 3A title while E.J. Nwagwu won the Class 2A 200 dash and Chicago Christian’s Luke Jeldricks won the high jump in Class 1A.

The fall was busy, too, as Riverside-Brookfield claimed the Class 2A state championship in cross country – the first state title in any sport at the school – as junior Cooper Marrs led the team with a fifth-place finish.

Mother McAuley’s volleyball team beat Benet, 25-22, 17-25, 25-14 for the Class 4A state championship in Bloomington. Ellie White had 20 kills to help the Mighty Macs win their 16th state title.

On the same day Nazarath won the Class 5A football title, Mount Carmel won its 14th state title with a 44-20 win over Batavia in the Class 7A championship game in Champaign. Blainey Dowling threw for 262 yards and four touchdowns.

 

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Stagg alum Max Strus talks to a group of campers in July. Photo by Jeff Vorva

5. Strus and his shoes

Last year, Stagg grad Max Strus was our No. 1 story as he started getting playing time and having huge NBA games for Miami. He surprised a lot of people.

Truth be told, it’s not a surprise anymore if he scores 20 in a game. He’s good. We all know that.

But he cracks the middle of the top 10 this year for a few reasons.

One is that the Hickory Hills native came back to Stagg to put in a clinic for young athletes in the summer.

The second has to do with his shoes.

During a Game 7 playoff game against Boston, it appeared he hit a huuuuuge 3-pointer but after three more minutes of the game elapsed, officials declared his heel was out of bounds and the points were wiped off the board, causing a controversy.

The NBA changed the rules this season in which reviews now have to be done after play is stopped at a neutral moment.

Meanwhile he donated the shoes he wore in that game to the silent auction for the WeishFest charity and they raised $610.

 

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Tatumn Milazzo was all smiles before the season as she showed off the Chicago Red Stars’ new uniforms. The Orland Park native had reason to smile throughout 2022 putting together a breakout season. Photo by Jeff Vorva

6. Terrific Tatumn

Orland Park native Tatumn Milazzo had a bust-out season with the Chicago Red Stars in 2022.

The second-year defender played in every match this season and had two goals and an assist to go with 103 clearances and 58 interceptions.

She was named to the National Women’s Soccer League Best XI in June as the Red Stars had an unbeaten month.  At the end of the season, she was named to the league’s Best XI second team.

Earlier in the month, she signed a two-year contract with a one-year option with the Red Stars.

“To play for my hometown, in front of my friends and family, has always been a dream,” she said. “I’m ready to do whatever it takes to bring this club to its full potential. The players, fans and all the little kids watching deserve that.”

 

7. MLB potential

The area is producing some outstanding young baseball talent and 2022 is proof of that.

Former Mount Carmel standout Alek Thomas made his Major League Baseball debut in 2022 and played in 113 games, hitting .231 with eight homers and 39 RBI for Arizona. The 22-year-old left-handed outfielder was called up on May 8 and three days later hit his first career MLB homer.

Former Brother Rice star Michael Massey made his major league debut for Kansas City and played in 52 games. The 24-year-old infielder picked up 173 at-bats with four homers and 17 RBI and a .243 average.

More might be on the way in a few years.

In June, Riverside-Brookfield pitcher Owen Murphy was drafted in the first round of the draft (20th overall) by Atlanta. Former Bulldogs star Ryan Cermak, a third-year sophomore outfielder at Illinois State University, was a second-round selection by Tampa Bay.

Former Marist third baseman/pitcher Jack Brannigan, a junior at Notre Dame was taken in the third round by Pittsburgh while RedHawks alum Justin Janas, a sophomore at Illinois, was taken in the 12th round.

 

8. Saying goodbye

A couple of legendary coaches hung up their whistles in 2022.

Mary Pat Connelly, started the Marist girls basketball program in 2002 and was 454-157 with 14 regional titles and a fourth-place finish in the state in Class 4A in 2008. She announced her retirement after the 2021-22 season.

St. Rita football coach Todd Kuska served the Chicago school for 25 years and had a 215-93 record which included winning the Class 7A championship in 2006 and state runner-up finishes in 2019 and 2021. He announced his retirement before the 2022 campaign.

 

9. Long distance Josie

Sandburg’s Josie Canellis won the 2022 Queen of the Hill state 3-point shooting contest in March as a junior.

She will not defend her title as a senior because the 3-point contest has been discontinued by the IHSA. So, she will be the defending champion for a long time, if not forever.

Canellis, who recently scored her 1,000th career points for the Eagles, hit 13 out of 15 shots in the Class 4A portion of the shootout and added another 13-of-15 performance in the Queen of the Hill round, which also featured the winners of the Class 1A, 2A and 3A rounds.

 

10. Runnerup Panthers x 2

Morton College had two teams finish second in the nation in 2022. The school never made it to a title game in any sport in its history prior to this season.

The women’s basketball team reached the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II championship game and dropped a 49-44 battle with Kirkwood Community College of Iowa in Port Huron, Michigan. The Panthers finished 30-3, which included a 26-game winning streak.

Juvanna Martinucci and Franchesca Metz (Nazareth) and Tadriana Heard (Argo) were members of the Panthers.

The men’s soccer team travelled all the way to Tucson, Arizona, to play Skyway Conference foe Prairie State College for the third time this season.

But this was for the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II National Championship and the Panthers dropped a 1-0 decision in the title to finish 19-1-1.

Morton East grad Sergio Orellana, Morton West’s Christopher Quevedo and Solorio’s Alejandro Perez were area players on the roster.

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