Female Athlete of the Year is a category stacked with veteran-laden talent, all of whom have made their presence felt in the local area. This segment is presented by Edward Medical Group.
Let’s start off with a three-time Female Athlete of the year nominee with Neuqua Valley swimmer Rachel Stege. Unless you have been living under a rock, you recognize Stege as one of the best swimmers the state has ever seen. Winner of back-to-back state championships in the 500 freestyle and the 200 and 400 free relays and the 200-freestyle champion in 2019. The senior also helped the Wildcats win 4 straight DVC crowns, 2 sectionals titles and of course the IHSA state championship in 2018 and 2019. The 2020 season was poised to be another dominant year for Stege and the Wildcats but due to the impact of COVID 19 the IHSA allowed only regular season competition along with sectionals, ending the chances of Neuqua three peat. However, that did not stop Stege from another transcendent season in the pool. In her final meet as a Wildcat, Stege set new pool records in the 200- and 500-meter freestyle, helping the Cats win another sectional title. Her swimming career is not over by a long shot as she will be taking her talents to the University of Georgia and is also competing in the Olympic Trials for a spot in either the Tokyo or Paris Olympics.
After the 2020 spring athletic season was canceled, Naperville North badminton star Bhaavya Manikonda brushed the cobwebs off her racket and went looking to defend her 2019 state title when badminton returned in February of 2021. It was like she never left. Manikonda dominated her senior season coming into the state finals as the 1 seed after wining the DVC and sectional singles championships. Then the senior took care of business by winning her second consecutive state title. The first place finish pushed Naperville North a half a point ahead of Stevenson, winning the team state championship for Naperville North badminton as well. Manikonda did more than just hit birdies with a racket, she even picked a golf club and hit them on the course for North girls golf team this year. A first year varsity player, Manikonda helped her team that finish in second place in the DVC tournament, the regional and a third-place finish at the season ending sectional meet.
Let’s go to the hardwood with another three-time Athlete of the Year nominee in standout senior Greta Kampschroeder. A four-year starter on the Naperville North girls basketball team, Kampschroeder turned into a threat in all aspects of the game. She averaged a double-double her senior season with 17.8 points and 10 rebounds per game. Already hitting the 1,000 point mark her junior year, she finished her Huskie career as the third leading scorer with 1,735 career points. Kampschroeder set a Naperville North record with 853 rebounds, 273 steals and 75 blocks. Her playmaking ability helped the Huskies to three consecutive DVC titles, ending her career with a 28-game winning streak in conference play. Greta’s success on the court led her to numerous awards including Gatorade Player of the Year, Max preps player of the year, being selected First Team All-State for a third straight season and being named a McDonald’s All-American. Her basketball career is not over yet. One of the most coveted recruits in the country will be playing out west at the Collegiate level at Oregon State University.
Despite her senior season being moved to the spring Benet Academy’s Rachel Muisenga took her style of play to another level after losing many seniors from the 2019 state championship team. Unfortunately, there was no State series for girls volleyball but the 6-foot 1 setter still made it a memorable one. Leading the Redwings to a perfect 10-0 record along with an ESCC tournament championship. During her senior campaign she recorded 231 assists, 65 digs, 30 kills and 17 blocks. 31 of those assists and 4 of those blocks came in her final game as a Redwing, a three-set win over Marist to win the conference championship. All of those numbers add up to the Gatorade Player of the Year award and All-American status. The road does not end here for the setter as she will continue her Volleyball career at Penn State this fall.
Let’s go to another Redwing in Jaimee Cibulka who burst into the spotlight as a sophomore in the 2019 girl’s soccer State championship where she scored the 2A state title-winning goal to beat Wauconda 2-1. Even though the 2020 season was canceled, the senior stayed ready for the 2021 spring season. She led Benet Academy to their first ever undefeated regular season that included a 25-game winning streak dating back to 2019. The captain scored 25 goals and nine assists in just 19 games in her final season with the Redwings. She earned the Naperville Sun player of the year, ESCC player of the year, All-State honors and became the first Benet player to be named an All-American. However, the Wings chance for a State repeat were thwarted after a 1-0 defeat to eventual state runner up Lyons Township in the sectional finals. Cibulka will continue to fly past defenders at Loyola Chicago.
Now we end our Female Athlete nominee list on the track with Neuqua Valley long and triple jumper Riley Ammenhauser making her third appearance as a Female athlete of the year nominee. After capturing the State title in the triple jump her Freshman and Sophomore season she was ready for a 3 peat her junior year before the COVID cancelations. However, that only delayed the inevitable. The season, the NV senior had the number one ranked indoor triple jump distance in the country at 40-1.50 feet. Once the outdoor season began, Ammenhauser swept the long jump, triple jump and 100-meter dash at the DVC and sectional championships. At the 2021 state meet she took home a career best 4th place in the long jump and won her third consecutive state title in the triple jump. She finishes her Wildcat career with 7 top ten finishes at state and the 5th best triple jump distance in the history of the state meet at 40 feet 11.50 inches. While all good things come to an end, Riley’s tack career is not over yet as she is off to jump for the Maize and Blue at the University of Michigan next spring.
And the winner of the Female Athlete of the Year Award is… Greta Kampschoeder from Naperville North!
For more prep sports highlights, visit the Naperville Sports Weekly page!