By Bob Balgemann

Iffy weather makes it difficult for some Harlem spring sports teams

During this spring of uncertain weather, the only certainty for six of Harlem’s seven sports teams was to stay indoors, which meant practicing against teammates. The boys volleyball team, whose matches all were indoors, enjoyed the certainty that allowed them to play 19 NIC-10 and non-conference contests going into the last week in April.

Still, for the other Harlem teams there were enough available windows of opportunity that allowed most of them to get in various numbers of games and matches.

Harlem’s girls soccer team was somewhat busy, having played 13 games going into the week of April 25.

The Lady Huskies won seven of their first eight outings against a combination of NIC-10 and non-conference opponents. They were 8-4 overall, 3-2 in the league, and riding a three-game winning streak going into a key trip to Freeport on April 23. The host Lady Pretzels were one of four primary competitors for this year’s NIC-10 championship, tied with Hononegah and Belvidere North for second place, each with a 4-1 record. Boylan Catholic was 5-0 and alone at the top of the standings.

Freeport would up protecting its home turf and position of contender by scoring two goals in the second half to edge visiting Harlem, 2-0. That improved the Lady Pretzels to 5-1 in the conference while Lady Huskies were left at 8-5 overall, and 3-3 in the conference.

Harlem’s softball team managed nine games in between bouts with inclement weather and stood at 1-2 in the NIC-10, 3-6 overall, as the month of April drew to a close.

Belvidere North and Hononegah emerged as the conference co-leaders with 5-0 records. They’re being chased by Freeport (3-1), Belvidere (4-2) and Jefferson (3-2). Working to catch up are Auburn (3-4), Harlem (1-2), Guilford (1-4) and Boylan and Rockford East, each at 0-5.

Harlem lost Oswego East in a tournament game on April 23 and a dropped a 9-3 decision to Belvidere North on April 25.

The Lady Blue Thunder scored in seven of nine innings. Sophomore Kaitlynn Lozdoski went 1-for-3 at the plate and drove in two runs for Harlem while another sophomore, Alaina Schwake, was 2-for-4 with one RBI. Each scored one run.


The 2022 NIC-10 baseball season has seen an unusual result going into the last week in April, with four top contenders for the championship all being undeated. Sitting in a virtual tie atop the conference were Belvidere North at 5-0, 6-2 overall, and Hononegah, Boylan Catholic and Guilford, all at 4-0. The Indians were 7-1 overall; Titans, 7-5; and Vikings, 5-4, according to the most recent standings.

Meanwhile, Freeport stood alone in the middle of the pack at 2-2, but the Pretzels were an impressive 10-2 overall. Auburn was right behind, at 2-3, and 4-4 overall. Next were Harlem, 0-4 and 1-9; Rockford East, 0-4, and 0-6; and Jefferson, 0-5, and 0-5. All those records were compiled by MaxPreps and may be found online.

But the Huskies were on the comeback trail starting April 25, when they stormed to an 11-1 win over Auburn. The Knights were just ahead of Harlem in the conference standings, and within reach for upward advancement.

Monday’s win featured 11 players who saw action figuring in the offense, with key, two-out, run-scoring base hits; Elijah Skidmore’s two-run homer; and some solid, two-hit pitching from starter Skidmore and Javier Garcia in relief.

Visiting Harlem struck quickly, taking a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Kadin Bergstrom led off reaching on an error by the center fielder, moved up a base on Skidmore’s first of three hits, a single and continued to third after a sacrifice by Timmy Wessels. Garrett Hockison delivered a two-run single for the early 2-0 edge.

The Huskies scored in five of seven innings this day, setting the table in four of those rallies with lead-off batters getting on base. They continued with a three-spot in the third, which included Skidmore’s two-out home run, his first, team’s second, of the season. It all was engineered by Owen Hunt with a lead-off walk.

He stole second and scored when Garcia was safe on an infield error. Bergstrom, who walked, scored on the Skidmore home run and it was 5-1, Harlem.

A two-run fourth featured more clutch, two-out hitting. Hockinson opened by getting hit with a pitch and moved to second when Caden Washatka walked. A double play slowed that scoring opportunity, but Hunt kept the engine on track with an RBI single to center, scoring Hockison.

Garcia’s double brought in Hunt for a 7-1 lead, but the scoring threatened to continue as the Huskies loaded the bases with Gillette being hit by a pitch and Bergstrom walking. A pop-out ended the inning, however.

There were two outs in the sixth when it was Gillette’s turn to keep things going by reaching on an infield error. Skidmore collected his third RBI of the day with a single to right, which sent pinch runner Austin Pinkston to third. An error on Wessels’ grounder to third base brought in both Pinkston and Skidmore, making it 9-1.

Washatka and Josh Galassi started the seventh with consecutive walks, Trevor Halverson reached on a fielder’s choice, in which Galassi was caught trying to reach third, but allowing Washatka to score. Garcia was safe on an error, sending Halverson to third. Then Dylan Houseweart ended scoring with an infield out that plated Halverson with run No. 11.

Garcia pitched solid 5 2/3rds innings in relief of Skidmore, allowing just two hits with one walk and nine strikeouts. Skidmore gave up one unearned run in his 1 1/3rd innings of work.

The next day the Huskies made it two in a row by defeating Guilford, 6-2. There was another superb two-hit, this one by Ethan Seipts, who allowed two unearned runs with 12 strikeouts in a complete game performance.

Harlem broke open a 2-2 tie by scoring four times in the top of the fifth inning.

Once again getting the leadoff hitter on base set the stage for some good things. This time it was Skidmore who was hit by a pitch, advancing to third on Garcia’s double and scoring on a single by Gillette. Bergstrom followed with a triple, driving in Garcia and Gillette, to make it 5-2. Wessels’ infield out brought in Bergstrom with the sixth and final run.

Guilford started out the season at 4-0 in the conference, but since has lost three straight.

Harlem’s schedule initially put the baseball team up against perennial conference contenders Boylan and Hononegah in the early going. In fact, they faced the Titans not only twice in the NIC-10 but another time, in non-conference play. The result was three losses.

Here are some individual highlights from the three Boylan games.

The Huskies held a 3-0 lead in the first inning of the April 21 outing, thanks to Bergstrom’s first home run – and his team’s first – this season. Hayden Henderson (1-for-4, one run scored) led off that inning with a single. Two outs later Gillette (1-for-2, one run scored) kept the inning alive by walking. Bergstrom (1-for-3, one run scored, three RBIs) followed with his three-run homer, to center field.

But Boylan stormed back by scoring in bunches for a 14-4 win.

Harlem’s only other run came in the fifth. Hunt (0-for-2, one run scored) led off by reaching on an infield error; Garcia (0-for-2) was hit by a pitch and Gillette singled, loading the bases. A double play followed, allowing Hunt to score.

In the 8-2 non-conference setback, Garcia (1-for-1) had Harlem’s only RBI; Bergstrom (1-for-3, two runs scored) had a triple with Gillette getting the only other hit in three trips to the plate.

Skidmore, Bergstrom, Hunt and Gillette each had a two-hit game in the third Boylan contest, a 14-4 loss. Hunt drove in two runs; Skidmore and Wessels (0-for-2) had one RBI apiece. Garcia and Henderson handled the pitching, allowing just four earned runs between them.

Also in recent action Hononegah remained unbeaten in NIC-10 action by taking the two-game conference series from rival Harlem.

Boys volleyball:

The only Harlem team with a protected schedule of competitions, the volleyball Huskies, carried an 9-10 record into the week of April 25 with eight of those matches being in NIC-10 competition, where they were 3-5 so far. Besides conference opponents, they were engaged in a number of interesting tournaments around the area that saw them going up against Chicago Lincoln Park, Bensenville Fenton, Aurora Marmion, Notre Dame Niles, Elgin and Lincolnshire Stevenson.

Members of this year’s team are Corbin Kuehne, Ian Elliott, Albert “Jack” Bridges, Nick Sheldon, Jake Phipps, Jude Fountain, Logan Amdur, Lathan Lewis, Aidan Veroni, Alex Wilson, Jack Seymour, Mathew Tongue, Erik Serrano and Roman Striedl. There’s an element of height on this squad, with three of the players standing 6-feet, 3-inches tall and two at 6-feet, 2-inches tall.

Head coach is Gretchen Kuchinski, assisted by Kavon Houtson. Managers are Kenna Lawson and Grace Vyborny.

The Huskies opened against NIC-10 competition, leaving them 0-3 to start the spring. But they bounced right back on the road, going 3-0 against tournament foes Lincoln Park, 2-1; Fenton, 2-0; and Marmion, 2-1.

The second exposure to conference opponents was more successful, as they scored victories over Rockford East, 2-0 and Rockford Jefferson, 2-1. After a non-conference 2-0 win over Elgin, they returned to the NIC-10 and defeated Boylan Catholic, 2-1, and Auburn, 2-1. Overall, at that point, they were 7-4, with a 3-4 record in conference.

They saw Elgin again not long after that and swept the non-conference series with the Maroons, 2-1.

In another tournament, this one April 23, the Huskies had a pair of 2-0 losses to Niles Notre Dame (8-12) and powerhouse Lincolnshire Stevenson (21-2).

College signing:

One of this year’s seniors, Logan Amdur, has signed a national letter of intent to continue his education, along with participating in volleyball, at the college level.

His signing was April 20 in the athletic wing at Harlem. That day he committed to Viterbo University, a private school in La Crosse, WI., where he is expected to occupy the setter position. This is the home of the V-Hawks and an NAIA university, competing in the North Star Athletic Association. Other members of the NSAA are Bellevue, Dakota State, Dickinson State, Mayville State, Valley City State and Waldorf universities, along with Presentation College.

Viterbo finished 8-12 overall, 4-8 in the conference, during the 2020-21 season. Most recently, in 2021-22, the V-Hawks went 12-8 overall, 6-7 in the conference. On this season’s schedule was nearby Judson University, with the Eagles winning both matches in straight sets.

One player on their roster this year was a senior and four-year starter from Rockford Jefferson, who led the team defensively with 219 digs.

Harlem varsity, junior varsity girls win own track invitational

Concerted efforts in many of the 18 events helped Harlem win its annual Girls Track Invitational April 23, on both the varsity and junior varsity levels.

There were four first-place finishes by the varsity and five by the JVs. Yet considerably more Top 5 finishes in the various track and field events provided enough points for the varsity to comfortably take the championship hardware to its nearby school trophy case. It was a bit more dicey for the JVs, who edged runner-up East Moline United, 96-93, for that title.

Team-wise, Harlem’s varsity scored 159 points to 132 for second-place East Moline, 101 for third-place Sycamore, 56 for fourth-place Elgin Larkin and 51 for fifth-place Algonquin Jacobs. Freeport was next, scoring 37 points and taking sixth. For the JVs, Sycamore finished third with 64 points; Jacobs, fourth with 39; Freeport, fifth with 21; and Larkin, sixth place with seven points.

Runner-up East Moline’s varsity finished first in eight of the 18 events followed by Harlem with four and Sycamore with three. But the Lady Huskies had a distinct advantage in the number of seconds and thirds. They recorded nine second-place finishes, to three for East Moline, and five thirds, to three for East.

Varsity results:

Among those winning their events for Harlem’s varsity were senior Hannah Bilodeau in the 400-meter dash, with a time of 1:01.81; freshman Hailey Bilodeau in the 800-meter run, clocked at 2:33.35; the 4-by-800-meter relay team, consisting of Hailey Bilodeau, freshman Makenzie Piwcewicz, senior Karissa Hernandez and junior Cierra Watton, clocked at 11:08.51; and senior Keyara Bailey, triple jump, total distance of 32 feet, 9 inches.

Second-place finishes were logged by Hannah Bilodeau in the 100-meter dash, time of 12.99 seconds, .01 of a second behind the winner from East Moline; senior Aaliyah Haun, 400-meter dash, clocked at 1:06.41; junior Gabby Xayasouk in the 100-meter high hurdles, in 17.98 seconds, .09 of a second back the winner from East Moline; 4-by-100-meter relay (senior Kaitlynn Zintak, Xayasouk, senior Kenya Gibson and Hannah Bilodeau), time of 51.97 seconds, .036 of a second behind winning East Moline; 4-by-400-meter relay (Hannah Bilodeau, Piwcewicz, Haun and Hailey Bilodeau), clocked at 4:30.52; senior Emma Rich, discus, throwing 100 feet even; senior Sheryl Wehde in the pole vault, height of 7 feet, 6 inches; Bailey, tied for second in the high jump, clearing 4 feet, 10 inches; and Gibson in the triple jump, total distance of 32 feet, 5 inches.

Coming in third place were Zintak in the 200-meter dash, with a time of 29.54 seconds, .12 of a second out of second and .096 of a second out of first; junior Ella Shaw, 1,600-meter run, in 13:46.43; sophomore Hannah Ranstead, 300-meter low hurdles, clocked at 54.69 seconds; 4-by-200-meter relay (Zintak, Bailey, Xayasouk and Gibson), time of 1:56.94; and sophomore Allyson Beatty, discus, throwing 94 feet even.

Among those finishing in the Top 10 for the varsity were Zintak, fifth in the 100; Gibson, eighth in the 200; Piwcewicz, fifth in the 800; Shaw, fourth, and sophomore Lauren Johnson, fifth, in the 1,600; Johnson, fifth in the 3,200; Ranstead, sixth in the 100 lows; 4-by-100-meter relay (sophomore Carlie Buetsch, senior Elizabeth Nelson, sophomore Nathaly Delgado and Wehde), fourth; junior Bryana Travieso, fifth in the shot put; Nelson, sixth in the high jump; sophomore Madison Hawn, sixth in the pole vault; and Ranstead, ninth in the long jump.

Junior varsity:

First-place efforts were turned in by Hernandez in the 1,600-meter run, with a time of 6:15.78; junior Katelyn Penning in the 3,200-meter run, clocked at 14:55.22; junior Abbi MacGregor in the 300-meter low hurdles, in 58.77 seconds; sophomore Kelcie Logan, shot put, throwing 30 feet, 12 inches; and freshman Adyson Andrews in the discus, with a throw of 99 feet, 9 inches.

Seconds were recorded by freshman Nicole Ralph in the 800-meter run, in a time of 2:53; Penning in the 1,600, clocked at 6:43.02; Nelson in the 100-highs, at 20.0 seconds, 0.46 of a second out of first; 4-by-400-meter relay (Ralph, Buetsch, freshman Maritza Martinez and MacGregor), in 5:09.05; Andrews in the shot put, throwing 29 feet, 9 inches; Delgado, pole vault, height of 5 feet, 6 inches; Nelson, in the long jump, clearing 13 feet, 5 inches; and Xayasouk, in the triple jump, totaling 29 feet, 3 inches.

In third place were Wehde in the 100, in 15.17 seconds; and freshman Sadie Ramos, 3,200, in 16:47.34.

JVs finishing in the Top 10 of their events were senior Kimora Hammond, seventh in the 100 and sixth in the 200; freshman Charlee Brockman, seventh in the 200; Buetsch, fourth, and Martinez, sixth respectively, in the 400; freshman Frankie Guler, sixth in the 800; and sophomore Breana Mackey, fourth in the discus.

Harlem, Hononegah, Belvidere square off in outdoor track meets

Harlem moved away from a busy schedule of outdoor, multi-team invitational track meets to visit Belvidere High School for a triangular, NIC-10 affair that also involved Hononegah.

No team scores were available but if first-place finishes are any barometer, the Lady Huskies had more than enough to outscore the Lady Indians and Lady Bucs. Harlem recorded wins in 10 of the 19 events, with Belvidere taking five and Hononegah, four. On the boys’ side, the Indians had two more event victories than the Huskies, 9-7, with the Bucs winning twice.

The Huskies were represented by their usually strong throwing team but this time were challenged by Hononegah, in the person of junior Jacob Klink. He took first in the shot put, with a throw of 51 feet, 8 inches, while finishing second to Harlem senior Riley Lundgren in the discus. Lundgren, second in the shot, won the discus with a 158-foot effort to easily outdistance Klink.

Harlem had a mighty presence overall in both the shot and discus.

In the shot, beyond Lundgren’s runner-up finish, senior Michael Stupek came in fourth, junior Tony Garza, sixth, and sophomore Ian Phillips, 10th. Just beyond that, sophomore Santo Salinas was 11th, junior Darius Charles, 12th, and junior Thomas Imburgia, 13th.

In the discus, Imburgia came in fourth, Stupek, sixth, Salinas, eighth, Garza, ninth, and junior Myles Babcock, 10th.

Also nearby were freshman Cully Nelson, junior Eddie Valdes and freshman Brandon Eterno bunched in 13th, 14th and 15th places.

Imburgia’s toss of 119 feet, 6 inches, was his personal best for the season and now ranks 20th all-time in the Harlem record book.

Girls results: 

Senior Hannah Bilodeau joined two other seniors, Emma Rich and Keyara Bailey, in winning two events during the conference triangular.

Bilodeau took the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.92 seconds and the 200-meter dash in 26.16 seconds. In the 200, she now owns the top two times in Harlem history with the 26.13 seconds she set in 2019, as a freshman, and more recently the second-best 26.16 seconds.

Harlem collected the top four places in the shot put, led by Rich with her winning toss of 32 feet, 8 inches. Sophomore Kelcie Logan, freshman Adyson Andrews and junior Bryana Travieso were second-through-fourth, respectively. In the discus, Rich threw an event winning 106 feet, with Andrews and sophomore Allyson Beatty holding down second and third places, respectively.

College-bound Bailey tied girls from Belvidere and Hononegah for first in the high jump, clearing 4 feet, 7 inches, and she was alone in the top spot in the triple jump, with a total distance of 32 feet, 7 inches. Harlem senior Elizabeth Nelson was fourth in the high jump; senior Kenya Gibson was second in the triple jump.

Other event winners for the Lady Huskies, on the track, were junior Gabby Xayasouk, 100-meter high hurdles, time of 17.68 seconds; the 4-by-100-meter relay team, consisting of senior Kaitlynn Zintak, Xayasouk, Bailey and Gibson, timed at 53.57 seconds, and the 4-by-800-meter relay, made up of junior Cierra Watton, sophomore Lauren Johnson, freshman Makenzie Piwcewicz and junior Abbi MacGregor, in 11:24.53.

Harlem’s control of the field events was helped by senior Sheryl Wehde, who won the pole vault by clearing 8 feet even.

Other Lady Huskies finishing in the Top 10 of the track and field events were:

Freshman Hailey Bilodeau, second in the 400-yard dash, time of 1:05.71, and Zintak, ninth in the 400; junior Ella Shaw, second, 3,200-meter run, time of 13:15.39, and senior Karissa Hernandez, third in the 3,200; Watton, 800-meter run, seventh place, time 2:56.13; Shaw, third, Johnson, fourth, Piwcewicz, sixth, Hernandez, seventh, and junior Katelyn Penning, eighth, 1,600-meter run; and sophomore Hannah Ranstead, 300-meter low hurdles, second in 53.47 seconds, and MacGregor, third.

In the other relay races Harlem entered two 4-by-200-teams. One, consisting of sophomore Carley Adams, sophomore Nathaly Delgado, sophomore Carlie Buetsch and Ranstead, was fourth, time of 2:06.66. The other, with senior Kimora Hammond, freshman Charlee Brockman, freshman Maritza Martinez and Nelson, took fifth. The first 4-by-400-meter team (Hailey Bilodeau, Adams, Watton and MacGregor), finished third, clocked at 4:39.08. The second team, (Ranstead, freshman Frankie Guler, Martinez and Buetsch), came in fourth.

Field events found Bailey finishing fourth in the long jump, clearing 12 feet, 5 inches, with Nelson in sixth. Xayasouk was sixth in the triple jump; Nelson took seventh.

Boys results:

Senior Ethan Taylor was a double winner for the Huskies, capturing the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.53 seconds, and the triple jump, totaling 34 feet, 6 inches.

He also was a member of the first-place 4-by-100 and 4-by-200-meter relay teams, clocked at 46.17 seconds and 1:36.26, respectively. Others on the 4-by-100 squad were senior Austin Durnil, freshman Jahmani Muhammad and junior Kaden Davies. The rest of the 4-by-200 team consisted of senior Carlos Woodard, freshman Brady Jacobson and Davies.

Another senior, Deven Ortiz, tied for first place in the high jump, going 5 feet, 4 inches. Earlier this season he reached 5 feet, 5 inches, which placed him eighth all-time at Harlem.

Harlem was strong in the 800-meter run with sophomore Dylan Malmgren and senior Aktanay Kwazdran finishing 1-2, with respective times of 2:07.13 and 2:12.41.

One second-place spot was occupied by the 4-by-400-meter relay team, including four freshmen, Owen Recoy, Nick Trycha, Henry Clark and Jacobson. Their time was 3:56.86, a shade over one second behind event winner Hononegah (3:55.71).

Trycha was a close second in the 1,600-meter run. His time of 5:01.96 was right behind the winner, from Hononegah, who crossed the finish line at 5:00.77. Recoy was in that mix, too, taking third in 5:04.76. The next closest finisher was in fourth place, 48 seconds behind, timed at 5:52.27. Senior Tommy Piva was sixth.

Others finishing in the Top 10 of the various track and field events were Durnil, fourth in the 100-meter dash, clocked at 12.10 seconds, and third in the 400, in 55.70 seconds; Muhammad, fifth in the 200-meter dash, time of 24.57 seconds; and senior Julian Lugo, eighth in the 400, in 58.64 seconds. Durnil’s time in the 400 was .34 of a second out of second place and just over one second out of first.

In field events, Davies was fifth in the long jump, going 14 feet, 7 inches, while Jacobson was in eighth; and junior Trey Smith was third in the triple jump, totaling 29 feet, 2 inches.

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