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Column

Sports are the fabric of our lives

Over the years, I’ve observed that sports are indeed the fabric of our lives.

It was moving to hear what all the past athletes and students of Randy Swinford had to say with the passing of the beloved longtime PHS coach this week and how he impacted their lives.

Jeff Schlesinger’s front sports page picture in Wednesday’s BCR of Princeton players after their heartbreaking sectional finals loss said it all. No words were needed to tell the story.

At Bureau Valley Tuesday night, I watched a Fulton girl in tears hugging teammates in the commons, and then look for a comforting embrace in the big arms of her dad. Dad was trying to fight back tears and mom was wiping away hers away.

Princeton girls ran their own gamut of emotions at the end of their season-ending match shortly later.

I read a poignant post by Hall senior Kaelyn Hamalle. She thanked the coaches she’s had in seven years playing, all the teammates she’s had and everyone who has been through her volleyball journey with her. She told her teammates she wouldn’t have wanted to “spend so many hours in the gym, run the mile, and run countless stair laps with anyone else.”

While it’s sad to see her career end, Hamalle said, “I’m ecstatic it happened.”

I watched my seventh-grade girls basketball team cry because our season came to an end and tried to fight back my own tears. It was sad to walk back in the gym the next day and not have those girls there to practice with.

At the same time, it’s fun watching the grown men who play the game of baseball celebrate with all the enthusiasm of little boys after hitting a homer in the World Series.

These moments are all what make sports so important, teaching life’s lessons along the way.

I came across this ESPN story last weekend about a 10-year-old Delaware boy by the name of Lukas Kusters that dreamed of playing for his beloved Philadelphia Eagles. He was nicknamed as the “Dutch Destroyer” for the way he played JFL. Lukas was diagnosed with stomach cancer and along the way befriended rookie Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Sadly, Lukas passed away, buried in a Carson Wentz jersey. His legacy lives on through Wentz, who wears a Dutch Destroyer bracelet in memory of his little buddy.

Here’s a link to the story that you’ll want to see: http://www.espn.com/blog/philadelphia-eagles/post/_/id/22568/carson-wentz-the-dutch-destroyer-and-a-dream-come-true

• Remembering Randy: I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Randy Swinford Wednesday morning. He was one of the first coaches I met when I came to the BCR in November 1986 just in time for the new wrestling season and he became a fast friend. “Swinny” was beloved by the athletes he coached at PHS in wrestling and football as well as everyone at school and the coaching community.

It didn’t matter if you were one of his athletes or a kid in his shop class, he made you feel important and loved. One of his lasting impacts is seeing so many of those kids go on to become coaches himself, including Todd Stevens, Aaron Christiansen, Sean Hobson, Brian Taylor, Doug Bruyn, Brent Becker, Matt Seidel, to a name a few. I’m sure there are more.

I remember after “Tiger Style” beat Yorkville in the 1989 playoffs that Swinny declared it “not only a win for Princeton High School, but a win for Princeton, IL.” This is huge loss for PHS and Princeton, IL.

• Welcome back, Jim: On a much lighter note, I want to welcome Jim Dunn back to the BCR as our new managing editor/general manager. I’m excited to have his experience and history with Bureau County back on board. Trivia question here: Who hired this old sports editor nearly 31 years ago? None other than Jim Dunn. Welcome back, boss.

Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at khieronymus@bcrnews.com.

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