(5-22-17) Winning the IHSA 1A State Girls Track Championship is the last hurrah for Luther North, an Illinois High School, who will close its doors forever at the end of this month. This championship has a story-line plot that movies are made out of (Hoosiers, Rudy, The Final Season), winning the schools first ever team State Championship, but the bittersweet feeling of the school being gone forever. A definite storybook ending for the Wildcats.
Luther North announced on February 24th that the school would close:
Facing declining student enrollment and ongoing financial challenges associated with operating a small private high school, Luther North will suspend academic operations in June after 64 years at its current Portage Park location. The decision by the school’s Board of Trustees was announced today.
At its peak in the 1960’s and 1970’s, student enrollment exceeded 1,400 students. Enrollment gradually declined in succeeding years, and today’s enrollment is 170 students.
This past weekend on the blue track at Eastern Illinois the Wildcats won the 2017 IHSA Class 1A State Championships, edging out Warrensburg-Latham 59-52.
IHSA 1A Girls Track & Field Final Round Results — 2016-17
Team Scores 1 Luther North 59 2 Warrensburg-Latham 52 3 St. Joseph-Ogden 42 4 Effingham St. Anthony 35 5 Milledgeville [Coop] 27
How the Wildcats did it:
5th place-Natasha Bernett (Jr.), Luther North – 36-07.50 5 points
1st place-Luther North 49.41 – 10 points
Jada Williams (Sr.), Natasha Bernett (Jr.)
Cameron Boone (Jr.), Kayla Armstrong (Sr.)
100-Meter High Hurdles
5th place-Natasha Bernett (Jr.), Luther North – 15.09 – 5 points
2nd place-Kayla Armstrong (Sr.), Luther North 12.14 – 8 points
8th place-Jada Williams (Sr.), Luther North 12.60 – 2 points
400-Meter Dash – ***personal best time
1st place-Kayla Armstrong (Sr.), Luther North 57.14 – 10 points
300-Meter Low Hurdles
1st place-Natasha Bernett (Jr.), Luther North 45.52 – 10 points
4th place– Kayla Armstrong (Sr.),Luther North 25.90 – 6 points
7th place– Jada Williams (Sr.), Luther North 26.51 – 3 points
Luther North, scored points in seven separate events, winning three events, scoring with two individuals in two other events and adding points in two other events, every point mattered in in the seven point Championship win.
Luther North Coach David Grimm, who is also the AD, in an email shared his thoughts on the Championship:
It was an unbelievable experience. Yes we are closing so the victory was bittersweet. The last couple of years we had focused on relays as we won the 4×2 the last two years and the 4×1 two years ago (lost out on that last year). Mercer Cty was always one of those teams we had to battle in the relays. After last season, though, we lost 2 of our 4 relay people, so we thought we would focus mainly on individual events this year. I thought all season long that we might be able to score enough points to maybe be in the running for one of the 3 team trophies. After Thursday’s prelims, I still felt the same, that maybe we could score 40-45 points, but to score 59 was totally surprising and a product of how hard our girls fought. We had 3 winning events and each one featured a come from behind victory. This is the first state team championship in any sport for our school of over 100 years old. An amazing way to go out – on top!
Grimm went on to talk about some of the athletes and their future plans, plus what he will be doing next year :
Two of our runners – sprinters Kayla Armstrong and Jada Williams – are seniors and graduating. They will participate in track at college – still undecided where. Junior Natasha Bernett will probably attend the local public school in our district – Taft High School in Chicago. If that is the case, she will be competing the 3A level, but I would still be confident she could qualify for state and maybe, with some continued improvement, get to finals next year as way. The rest of our athletes are heading to other schools, with many of them going to Walther Christian Academy, which is kind of like a sister Lutheran school of ours. I will be heading to Walther and serving as their athletic director next year.
You have to admit that the plot is all in place for a movie someday, even if that doesn’t happen, it’s a great story about high school athletes and a fantastic finish and a memory that will last forever.
What do you think?
The Luther North girls track team story could easily be THE FINAL SEASON II?
THE FINAL SEASON
In May 1991, Norway High’s baseball tradition ended on a triumphant but bittersweet note as it wins its 20th state championship in its final season.
It is based on a true story of Kent Stock (played by Sean Astin), who in 1991 takes on what he perceives as the job of a lifetime as head coach of the Norway High School baseball team, a school which has won 19 state titles and has a baseball tradition in Iowa.
Kent is unaware that he has been picked by the school’s principal, pushing a consolidation of Norway with a larger school district, to replace legendary Tigers coach Jim Van Scoyoc to have a losing season and destroy the baseball program, around which town opposition to the consolidation is centered. In turn, thinking Kent’s only head coaching experience is as a girls’ volleyball coach, the principal is unaware he was a star player for his Division III college baseball team and a student of the game.
Several of the team’s returning stars refuse to go out for Kent, who must win over the rest and convince them, the skeptical townspeople and himself that he can fill their former coach’s shoes, all while dealing with the reality that this will be the team’s final season due to the impending merger.
In 1991 the Norway School District was consolidated into the Benton Community School District, they have never won a State baseball time since.