Huntley sports heat up in the summer
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On a humid summer night, the gymnasiums at Harper College in Palatine, Ill., may not be cool enough. The scorekeepers and officials may be somewhat inexperienced. And with no chairs to sit on at the bench, standing the entire game may be rather tiresome for the Huntley (Ill.) High School varsity boys' basketball team.
But what matters is that the players get in some practice and face good competition.
To many dedicated athletes, the summer offseason has become extremely significant for improving and staying in shape.
"I enjoy playing so much that to keep playing, I have to practice and get better," said senior Mason Kaniewski. "It's difficult to be ready for varsity if you don't practice year-round."
The varsity basketball team practices weekdays from 5 to 8 p.m. They also play summer league games on Tuesday and compete in local tournaments on weekends.
The varsity girls' team competes in a summer league at Dundee-Crown (Carpentersville, Ill.) High School on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and plays weekend tournaments in Crystal Lake.
Sometimes schedules can be grueling with summer camp from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then two games in the evening. By the end of the day, the girls find themselves exhausted, but they also will have a feeling of accomplishment. They understand that improvement in the summer is extremely important when it comes to finding success in the regular season.
"It's important to work on individual skills in the summer so that when the season comes around we'll be able to work together as a strong team," said junior point guard Carly Goede.
Although both boys' and girls' teams may have demanding schedules, most say they are lucky that they are not outside in 90 to 100 degree weather, like some Huntley sports teams.
"Some workouts get pretty intense, especially when it's so hot like this," said cross country runner Haley Loprieno. "Sometimes we'll run one lap and be sweating like we've ran three miles."
The girls' cross country team runs five miles per day for a total of 30 miles each week. The boys' team runs 60-70 miles each week. The runners start early in the morning, around 7, to try to escape the high temperatures and the sun. In this heat, cross country runners, and all athletes for that matter, need to stay hydrated and maintain a healthy diet each day.
"The heat wears us down," said varsity tennis doubles partners Brianna Roeser and Kelly Wuich, who call themselves 'Double trouble.' "And our doubles performance is not as good in the heat. But we stay hydrated and we get through it."
Both the cross country teams and the girls' tennis team will start competition in the first week of school.
"We need all this time in the summer to build a base mileage, which helps our endurance for the season," Loprieno said.
The football team plays its first game at the end of August. To prepare, sophomore, junior and senior players attend football camp three times a week from 7 to 11 a.m. Apart from when they are in the weight room building up strength, they are outside doing drills while wearing equipment, which can make the heat even more unbearable. Six-gallon Gatorade coolers provide relief for the football players during practice.
Junior Brandon Gaston says that the four-hour practices are worth it, despite the heat.
"We have so many plays to remember -- offensively and defensively -- that if we didn't put in all this time, there would be no way we would remember everything."
The high school is not the only place where athletes are working hard at their games.
Senior Jenna Mychko, who has verbally committed to the University of Illinois for softball, plays travel softball for the Orland Park Sparks.
Mychko practices six days a week with the Sparks and plays tournaments on weekends. She has traveled to tournaments in Minnesota and Kentucky, and will be playing in Colorado on the Fourth of July.
The Sparks have qualified for nationals of the National Softball Association, which will be played in Las Vegas in the beginning of August. According to Mychko, many of the players she'll face at nationals will go on to play in college and are some of the best players in the nation.
"I've learned everything through the summer," Mychko said. "We always work on fundamentals and it has helped me improve my game tremendously."
Varsity baseball player Carlos Alvarez, a junior, keeps busy in the summer playing on a travel team -- the McHenry County Hurricanes -- and playing summer league games for the high school.
"I practice four times a week for four to five hours, and in total I have six games a week," Alvarez said. "Baseball is my life."
Alvarez spends time with his travel team on the weekends and practices with his high school during the week.
Summer camps and leagues are a great way for athletes to step up their games a few notches, keep active in the offseason. In the dire heat, staying hydrated becomes just as important as working hard. If athletes are dedicated enough, they are able to persevere -- neither the hot weather nor the inexperienced referees will slow them down.
"[The heat] may be pretty rough," said Gaston. "But it's worth it."
Meagan Flynn is a junior at Huntley High School in Huntley, Ill.
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