Zach Tieke Leads Fenwick Friars With His Voice

For Zach Tieke, leadership is about being vocal and creating a sense of unity among all members of the Fenwick boys swimming team. 

A senior captain for the Friars, Tieke uses his role as one of the most experienced athletes on the team to get his teammates motivated in their training and preparation.

“He’s different from what I’ve seen as a captain in other sports,” said senior Danny Marquez, who has also plays baseball and soccer at Fenwick. “He’s very verbal, and he is always giving pointers — especially to younger members of the team.”

Tieke carries that leadership into competitions as well.

“I try to get them excited during dual meets before each swim,” Tieke said. “Because every point matters.”

In addition to advising teammates and consulting with coach Luke McGuire, Tieke works with fellow captains Michael Hall and Connor Fabian to get everyone to feel a sense of unity.

“We just make sure everyone on the team is involved,” Hall said.

For Tieke, that mind-set comes not only from being a senior and captain, but also from his experience when he was a younger member of the team. At every Fenwick home swim meet, the Friars let opponents go through their rituals and cheers. Then the home team begins its “Balthasar” tradition.

The Friars have a Christmas ornament of one of the three wise men that detaches its head from its body. One captain has the head in the locker room while the entire team gathers outside the storage closet with another captain holding the body. When the two pieces of Balthasar are united, the Fenwick team yells his name and “goes nuts,” as Marquez put it.

“It involves all the guys on the team,” Hall said. “There’s a lot of energy, and it brings us together.”

Tieke remembers how he felt on the day of his first home meet as a freshman — and his first Balthasar experience.

“It is definitely a culture thing,” Tieke said. “I remember being a freshman and it was crazy, but I was part of it.

“It was something I looked forward to doing as a senior, and I got to do it for the first dual meet. It all came full circle.”

Fenwick competes in the MCAC championship Friday at Fenwick (diving) and Saturday at Marmion (swimming) before hosting its own sectional on Feb. 22. 


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Jonathan Ramoska’s work ethic helps to propel Maine South

While the Maine South boys swimming team had a competitiveness to it last season, this year’s squad has taken its intensity to a new level.

A big reason for the change has been the addition of Jonathan Ramoska, a junior transfer from Marmion.

“Before he arrived, practice was more of a ‘just do what you do’ kind of thing for some guys,” said coach Donald Kura. “Jon brings a different level of intensity than the guys were used to.”

That means training with a purpose and not getting complacent during sets.

“You see it in his mannerisms, you see that he challenges himself,” Kura said. “He’s always racing others, and it’s contagious. When he’s sore and hurting, he swims even faster.”

“My work ethic helps the other kids work harder,” Ramoska said. “It helps to motivate the team.”

Even four-year swimmers have changed their habits following Ramoska’s arrival.

“His work ethic is crazy with how hard he goes at every point in practice,” senior Makai DeNeve-Arnam said. “Since he joined the team we’ve looked better.”

Kura also noted Ramoska’s influence on DeNeve-Arnam.

“It’s really helped Makai,” he said. “I’ve coached him now for four years, and this is the hardest I’ve seen him work on a daily basis.”

Ramoska likewise pushes himself by looking to Maine South’s top swimmers.

“I really like to race against Makai and Marco [Padron] — those are two of the faster sprinters on the team,” he said. “I’ve tried to push myself on my own, and it’s hard to go your fastest because it’s just you and the clock.”

Ramoska — who says he gets his work ethic from advice his father gave him growing up — is “very focused and committed to doing his best,” Kura said.

“Some athletes don’t know exactly what their best times are. [Jon] knows his lifetime best times, and where and when he did them.”

The junior’s list of individual goals, which he keeps as a screenshot on his iPod, includes making the state qualifying standards.  He said his best time this season in the 100-yard freestyle is 49.76 seconds and his top time in the 200 free is 1:48.68. The state qualifying times are 48.01 and 1:45.12, respectively.

“Knowing my times is the way to get to state,” he said. “I always know how far I am from making state cuts.”

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Four @ 4: Jan. 24 Update

1. Whole Foods to Lincoln Park?
Twitter was buzzing Friday afternoon about the possibility of Whole Foods moving into the abandoned Dominick’s location at Fullerton and Sheffield avenues near DePaul University. A Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce source confirmed Friday that an announcement about the location could come as early as late Friday afternoon. We’ll update throughout the day. Related: Dominick’s closes

2. I-94 Cleared After Devastating Pileup
A Thursday afternoon pileup that involved 46 vehicles on I-94 roughly 60 miles west of Chicago was finally cleared Friday morning. According to the Chicago Tribune, three people were killed, including one Chicago resident—Jerry Dalrymple from the 9000 block of South Bell Avenue. Sudden whiteout conditions are considered to be responsible for the accident that sent as many as 20 additional people to hospitals.

3. A Higher Percentage of Murders Solved in 2013
According to DNAinfo Chicago, CPD detectives brought charges in or cleared 126 of 415 murders tallied in Chicago last year, or a 30 percent rate. That’s a 5 percent improvement from 2012 and the best rate the city has seen since 2012. In 2013, 72 new investigators were assigned to investigate shootings.

Also: Jan. 29 marks the one-year anniversary of the death of Hadiya Pendleton in a shooting on Chicago’s South Side. The 15-year-old student was shot just three weeks after she performed with her school choir in Washington, D.C., for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. The Red Line Project has taken a look how far Chicago has come in handling gun violence and homicides in the past year and has a map of all of Chicago’s homicides in 2013.

4. Monday Metra Commute Delays
After cancelling more than 40 trains during the Jan. 6 polar vortex (#Chiberia), Metra has already warned customers to expect delays during their Monday commute, reported the Chicago Sun-Times. Slower train speeds and increased boarding times are expected to cause slower travel. Current forecasts from The Weather Channel project the high temperature Monday to be 2 degrees, with a low between minus 9 and minus 11 and winds of up 21 mph.


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Undersized Anton Vazhinskiy holds his own against the heavyweight

NORTHBROOK — For many wrestlers, gaining just one or two pounds can mean not making weight. For Glenbrook North senior Anton Vazhinskiy, that isn’t a worry.

Weighing in at 218 pounds before Friday’s dual, Vazhinskiy would have been able to wrestle at 220 pounds. Instead, he’s been wrestling up at the 285-pound weight class for much of the season. While he gives up a lot of size in most matches, he uses his other strengths to his advantage.

“For the other weight classes it’s usually tougher [moving up] because the bigger athletes will have more muscle mass,” Vazhinskiy said. “But these guys have worse conditioning, and I have confidence in my own conditioning.”

His superior conditioning was on display against Highland Park, as Vazhinskiy won the final match of the meet 2-1. He was able to wear down his opponent even though he was giving up significant size.

“He seems to have more success at 285,” Glenbrook North coach Jason Erwinski said. “Just based on his style, and he’s very in shape and he’s strong enough to hang with the heavyweights.”

Vazhinskiy has had some success this season, but the coaching staff expects they’ve yet to see him reach his potential.

“He’s strong — we’ve just got to get him to use [his strength] a little more,” Erwinski said. “… He’s just been getting better and better.”

Vazhinskiy knows that he and his teammates all have room to improve, but that they’ve been practicing at a level that will help them get to where they want to be.

“We’re training hard — a lot harder than we were last year,” he said. “It’s not translating to the mat because some of the guys, I don’t think they have confidence in the moves we are learning in practice.

“We just need more experience,” he added. “With some more matches I think that will come for us.”

Erwinski said that his team is doing all the right things, but that the improvements haven’t been obvious to the outside observer. But Vazhinskiy and other seniors have kept the team pushing to be at its best in the most important parts of the season.

“It’s unfortunate, because people are coming to see our athletes compete, and that’s only part of the equation,” Erwinski said. “I don’t think they realize how much hard work they’ve put in and how dedicated they are. The way they practice, these guys handle their business.”


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Hadiya Pendleton a Year Later: What Has Changed in Chicago

During his State of the Union Address on Feb. 12, 2013, President Barack Obama spoke to the House of Representatives—as the nation watched on—about gun violence and the death of one Chicago high school student.

“One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old,” Obama said. “Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.”

Pendleton’s death came on Jan. 29, when two gang members who were “looking for revenge” fired on Pendleton and her friends at a park just a mile from Obama’s Hyde Park home. Her death capped off a month that saw 42 such homicides—the highest such total for January since 2006.

She was Chicago’s 42nd gun death victim of the year — just 29 days.

The high-profile case and the attention it received from Obama and others came as Chicago was already in the national spotlight for having the largest homicide total on any city in the country in 2012. Fox News went as far to dub the Windy City “America’s Murder Capital.”

But a year later, how far has Chicago come in handling gun violence and homicides in some of its deadliest neighborhoods?

Chicago had 421 homicides in 2013, a decrease of 18 percent from 2012, when 503 homicides were the highest total in the city since 510 in 2008. After dozens of shootings in January drew national attention, the city dumped millions into police overtime in hopes to reduce those numbers.

Although Chicago ranked No. 13 among cities with populations of 250,000 or higher in homicide rate, with 18.5 per 100,000 people (according to FBI statistics), exceeding the 500 homicide benchmark  for just the second time since 2003 led to public outcry and increased media attention surrounding the issue.

“In the past, there wasn’t as much of an uproar [as after 2012],” said Arthur Lurigio, a professor of criminal justice and psychology at Loyola University Chicago. “We are alarmed because we are exceeding the two largest cities (New York and Los Angeles) in sheer numbers [of homicides].

“So what’s an acceptable number of murders to people now? I think we’ve seen it; I think under 500 is acceptable to people.”

On Feb. 1, 2013 the Chicago Police Department enacted Operation Impact, deploying 400 officers to 20 areas in the city with high rates of violence. The number of murders citywide fell to 14 in February, half of the 2012 total for the month. In March 2013 there were 15 homicides, less than one-third of the 53 that Chicago saw in 2012.

“We’ve see that the CPD targeting certain communities has had a positive effect,” said Mark Walsh, program director at the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.

“But it’s not a permanent solution,” Lurigio said. “It can’t be sustained from a budgetary standpoint.”

Chicago had $32 million budgeted for police overtime heading into 2013, but expected to spend $93 million as of Oct. 31, according to the Sun-Times.

In addition to Operation Impact, a new firearm regulation in Illinois may have helped to bring down the homicide rate. On Aug. 18, Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law regulations that require gun owners to report a lost or stolen firearm in a timely manner.

“In the past, someone could say that a gun registered to them was stolen [if it was used in a crime],” Walsh said. “That would either shoot down or slow an investigation.”

A second law, which will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2014, will require more extensive background checks for gun buyers.

“The goal is to keep guns out of illegal markets,” Walsh said.

Through Jan. 22, 2014, the homicide total in Chicago was 15, down from the past two years. Of the victims, eight were under the age of 20, like Pendleton. While added police officers on the ground and tightened gun laws can help bring down homicide numbers, those measures don’t address the root of the violence problem.

“People see homicide as a crime, I see it as a social problem,” Lurigio said. “The symptom of a sick community. [By targeting homicides] you’re treating the symptom, not the disease.

“It’s all about socioeconomic issues. Quality of life indexes and violent crime rate, they’re highly correlated. I don’t put the onus on police—we have to change communities for violence to go down.“


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Promotion of D.J. Penick has steadied Highland Park

NORTHBROOK — A midseason injury left a hole in the Highland Park wrestling team’s lineup, but a freshman team call-up has provided the Giants with stability and excitement for the future.

When John Ciancio went down with an injury, it was freshman D.J. Penick who was brought up to the varsity team to help fill the gap.

“[Coming up to varsity], it was a good feeling,” Penick said. “Coach [Chris Riley] thought I was ready to move up and that I could perform on the next level.”

Penick had no problem proving that Riley made the right decision. He made his presence felt right away, winning the Leyden Wrestling Invitational at 145 pounds in just his third week wrestling with the varsity.

“I was extremely impressed by the way he was able to fill such big shoes,” said senior Dom Ciancio, John Ciancio’s brother. “He was able to step up when we need him and even won a pretty competitive tournament at the varsity level.”

Penick has earned an 8-2 record so far at the varsity level, but it hasn’t come as much of a surprise to Riley.

“He’s been wrestling well; coming up to varsity and making those adjustments is tough,” Riley said. “Many times the kids that come up their freshman year are wrestling at 106 and 113 [pounds]. He’s wrestling at 145, wrestling juniors and seniors.”

While that transition has been challenging physically for Penick, it’s been made easier by the support of the rest of the Highland Park team.

“They were very proud of me and the things I accomplished,” Penick said. “They all accepted me and they gave me little tips like, ‘stay low’ and ‘don’t waste your energy.’ ”

“They all brought me into the varsity family,” he added.

As the team moves into the most important part of the season, it is hoping that Penick can continue his strong performance.

“I think [Penick] will go into conference this weekend with momentum and hopefully take home the gold,” Dom Ciancio said. “Depending on the timing of John’s return, he’ll either represent Highland Park at the regional tournament … or he’ll be a great workout partner for my brother, myself and the rest of the guys.”

Penick said he has no problem with whatever role the team needs him to take on.

“I’m just going to continue to bring a hard-working attitude into the meets and practices,” he said. ”And be willing to do anything to help the Highland Park program.”

Four @ 4: Jan. 20 Update

1) Two Stabbed on the Northwest Side
According to DNAinfo Chicago, two people in Portage Park were stabbed around 6 a.m. today and were hospitalized in serious-to-critical condition. A 17-year-old girl and 20-year-old man were in an apartment when they were stabbed by two men. They were able to escape and call police from a McDonald’s at 3650 N. Cicero Ave. A Chicago Police Department spokesman said that two suspects are in custody, and one was taken to a hospital with injuries.

2) More Snow on the Way
A lake effect snow warning for the Chicago area has been issued by the national weather service starting at 11 p.m. and going until 9 a.m. Tuesday. Six to 12 inches of snow are expected, with northern Indiana likely to be hit hardest. That will add to the 38.9 inches of snow the city has seen this winter, already above the 36.7 inches it sees in an average winter, according to the Chicago Tribune. See our Storify on the first set of winter storms. Or watch the WGN forecast.

3) Chicago Libraries Best in the U.S.
A study by a German university has ranked Chicago’s public libraries as the best in the United States based on its core services, according to the Los Angeles Times.  Of the 31 international cities in the study, Chicago ranked No. 3 and ranked ahead of cities such as London, Singapore, Beijing and Hong Kong. Vancouver and Montreal ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.

4) Hey, What’s That Smell on My CTA Train?
A report in the Chicago Tribune says that reports of feces on CTA trains have been happening more regularly recently. A CTA spokesman said that this is a result of the recent cold snap (and another is on the way), as many homeless people are using CTA services to avoid the harsh conditions. The spokesman said that an additional 15 rail car servicers have been hired to clean cars when they reach the end of the line, but that hasn’t been so obvious with the recent state of some Red Line cars.

In the past week, here are photos off some of the Red Line trains that our reporters and readers have documented:

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Highland Park has little trouble against Glenbrook North

Highland Park 54, Glenbrook North 18


With multiple athletes recently returning from injury, Highland Park wrestling coach Chris Riley had some extra flexibility in his matchups against Glenbrook North on Friday in Northbrook. Three Giants wrestled up a weight class and earned a victory as Highland Park earned a 54-18 team victory.


Highland Park’s strength lies from 120 to 152 pounds and it showed against Glenbrook North. The Giants were in control from the get-go, jumping out to a 48-9 lead.


Sophomore Aaron Ferrer, Highland Park’s 120-pounder, earned a fall in his first match after missing three weeks with an injury. For the Spartans, senior Anton Vazhinskiy was wrestling at 285 despite weighing in at 217 and he won the final match of the meet 2-1.


Three Giants earned victories wrestling up a weight class: Andrew Cohn earned a fall at 132 pounds, wrestling up from 126; junior Brandon Garcia-Galvan earned a major decision at 138, wrestling up from 132; and Luis Castellanos earned a fall at 195, wrestling up from 182.


“We wrestled very aggressively tonight. We had an idea of what we wanted to do, and we didn’t waste any time coming out and getting after it. … Once we got off to a nice, comfortable lead, it was nice to see us continue to wrestle aggressively.” — Riley

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Three of a kind: Weinman sisters all playing Glenbrook South girls basketball

GLENVIEW — By all accounts, the Glenbrook South girls basketball team is a close-knit group, but three of the players have an especially close bond.

“How many players get to be on the same team with their sibling?” Titans coach Steve Weissenstein asked. “Let alone with two siblings.”

The Weinman sisters — Carly, Catie and Carie — get to do just that.

“It’s a really good experience,” said Carie Weinman, a freshman and the youngest of the three. “We’ve never gotten to play on a team all together.”

That lack of formal basketball experience together hasn’t stopped the sisters from developing on-court chemistry together through park district leagues and pick-up games.

“We know where to pass to get each other open,” Carie Weinman said.

Even more important are their close personal relationships; there’s very little sibling squabbling between the three.  “We really don’t fight, because we have such a close relationship,” said Carly Weinman, a senior.

“We all like the same things — we’ve played the same sports, have the same interests, like the same music and do the same things.”

That closeness has been key as Carie Weinman is the only one of the sisters in the starting lineup. She acts as one of the key playmakers for the Titans. After hitting a pair of 3s in the third quarter at home against New Trier on Friday, her play drew chants of, “She’s our freshman,” from the Glenbrook South student section.

“[Her sisters] are totally cool with it [Carie starting],” Weissenstein said. “They always root for each other — they just want whoever is on the floor to do well. They’re really the nicest kids you could ever have to coach.”

But if Carie Weinman is making a mistake, Carly Weinman and Catie Weinman, a junior, can connect with her in a way that other teammates might not be able to.

“They tell me how it is always. They don’t sugarcoat anything,” Carie Weinman said. “But they don’t treat me like a freshman; I’m not treated differently than anyone else.”

This first and only chance to play on a team with her sisters has been especially meaningful to Carly Weinman now that she’s begun the finial semester of her high school career.

“It’s more time that I get to spend with them before college,” said Carly Weinman, who plans to attend Illinois State in the fall. “[In choosing ISU] a major role was that I can just hop on a train really easily, and they can too, and we can see each other for the weekend.”


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Depth proves to be a difference maker for New Trier

GLENVIEW — When New Trier girls basketball coach Teri Rodgers announced at the end of tryouts how many players would be kept on the varsity roster, some players were taken back.

“When 20 girls made it, it was a bit of a concern,” said senior guard Isabella Bosco, who had initially worried about team chemistry without enough minutes to go around. “But we’re all so close, it was never an issue.”

Several returning players said that although chemistry was never an issue with last year’s team, that group wasn’t nearly as close-knit as this squad. Senior forward Kristen Stiffler partly credits a preseason lock-in at one player’s home where they did team-building activities, including a blindfolded, 2 a.m. trust walk.

“It forced everyone to get to know each other really well,” Stiffler said. “Our chemistry is the best of any team I’ve been on, and I’ve been playing since third grade.”

The Trevians have gotten out to a 17-0 start (5-0 in the CSL South), and one of the team’s biggest advantages has been its depth: New Trier uses a 10-player rotation.

“We have a deep bench, and we could really play even more girls,” junior guard Jackie Welch said. “It helps to keep everyone fresh.”

The team doesn’t have to rely on its starters, either. If someone is having an off game, there is another player who can step in and fill that void.

“It reassures the starters that they don’t have to worry about doing everything themselves,” senior guard Julie Ball said. “Everyone is extremely unselfish.”

“All the way through the 20th person, everyone knows their role,” Stiffler said. “Everyone knows what they can do to help the team.”

As the season continues and the games get more important, New Trier expects to see the depth of its roster continue to come into play.

“Anyone on our team is capable of being a big player in every game,” Bosco said. “We don’t have to rely on just one or two players.”


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