Male Athlete of the Year is always a fierce category and it was no different this year, with six tremendous competitors for the top spot. This award is presented by BMO Harris Bank.
Our first Male Athlete of the Year nominee is a two-sport athlete with Neuqua Valley runner Nicolas Dovalovsky. A member of the Wildcat Cross Country and Track and Field teams the runner took a major step toward his senior year. Starting in the fall Dovalovsky was poised to be one of the best runners the state has seen going into his senior season. Every race you watched he was always the leader of the pack winning many of his individual races including the Naperville Twilight invite, the DVC conference meet, and the Oswego East regionals. After finishing in third at the Whitney Young Sectionals, the Wildcats wrapped up the season with a second-place team finish behind Downers Grove North. Now we jump to the spring where he continued his showcase on the track. After winning the 1600 at sectionals, Dovalovsky played a huge role at the State meet running as the anchor in the Wildcats 4X800 relay group. With his great final leg, the Cats finished first ahead of Minooka in the 4 by 8. The future Fighting Illini also finished 3rd in the 1600. Those points could not have been more pivotal as Nicolas and his Neuqua Valley teammates won the state championship by just two points over Minooka. What a way to end a great career.
Up next is another Neuqua Valley nominee but this time we take a dive in the pool with Connor Boyle. A defending state champ in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle and an 11 time state medalist, Boyle was looking to defend his state titles as senior. But with COVID-19 cases rising the IHSA only allowed regular season competition and no State series when swimming returned this winter. However, Boyle was ready to dominate his senior season no matter the circumstances. He helped the Wildcats to a 4-1 record in the DVC and a second-place finish in the conference meet behind 204 rival Waubonsie Valley. While the season was short, Boyle won every individual race in which he participated. In his final meet with the Wildcats, Boyle saved his best for last, setting a brand-new state record in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 43.68 seconds. After competing in the U.S Olympic Trials in the 50 and 100 free this summer, the Wildcat will continue swimming college at the University of Virginia.
To the Basketball court for our next Male Athlete nominee with Waubonsie Valley standout senior and Loyola Chicago commit Ben Schweiger. From a 3-point shooter to an all-around player Schweiger became a huge threat to opposing teams in the paint or outside the perimeter. After a breakout junior season where the 6-6 shooting guard earned All-DVC honors, the future Rambler took his game to another level this winter. His senior season may have been cut short up because COVID-19 but that did not stop Schweiger from finding success. He averaged 17 points and 8 boards during his senior campaign which earned him the Naperville Sun and Beacon News Player of the Year. He was also named first team All-State by the Illinois Coaches. The senior also used his big time hops on the Volleyball court to help the Warriors win the DVC championship for the first time, while being named the conference MVP.
Another two-sport athlete in the mix with Naperville Central Football player and wrestler Shane Roth. The heart and soul of the Naperville Central defense, Roth helped the Hawks to six wins on the season and came in clutch in the 2 of their closest games. In week 2 against the Marmion Cadets the Hawks were up 22-17 where the senior picks off Padraig Fitzgerald to seal the victory. In his final game as a Redhawk he blocked the game tying extra point against Maine South to help the Redhawks win their final game of the spring season 31-30. The DVC co-defensive player of the year racked up 48 tackles, forced four fumbles and had two interceptions in the six game season. His football career is not over yet as Roth will continue to hit the gridiron at Southern Illinois University of Carbondale. Before all that he finished his high school career in the late spring on the wrestling mat winning in dual meets at 182 pounds against Dekalb and rival Naperville North. While both sports faced some tough challenges because of COVID 19, Roth certainly made the most of the condensed schedules with a pair of seasons he would never forget.
Now to the soccer pitch with Benet Academy forward Hans Haenicke. The senior was hoping to help the Redwings defend their 2019 state title, but boy’s soccer was moved from fall to the spring and there was only a regular season with no state series. Despite the long layoff, Haenicke made his senior season count in a big way. He scored 18 goals and tallied 8 assists in just 15 games and helped the Redwings to a 14-1 record, putting the total at 35 wins over the last 2 seasons. Those 14 wins included a perfect 9-0 record in the East Suburban Catholic Conference. The Redwings were so dominant this season, they scored 51 goals while allowing only four in conference play. To cap it all off, he was named the Naperville Sun Player of the Year, the ESCC Player of the year, and an All-State selection. Starting this fall, Haenicke will be playing soccer at Macalaster College in Minnesota.
Let’s wrap up Male Athlete of the Year with another two-sport athlete and our only non-senior with Metea Valley Junior, Jalen Johnson. After suffering a collarbone injury his sophomore season Johnson returned in full force a year later. In the spring of 2021 Johnson was the go target for Mustang quarterback Logan Frederic, whether it was finding the endzone or just helping his QB keep the play alive. The lanky Mustang hauled in 33 catches for 405 yards and three touchdowns in just five games. While the All-Conference pick has one more season to compete on the grid iron the 6-foot 3 wide out announced he will continue his Football career at Northern Illinois University. However, it’s not just football where you will see this athlete stand out. Johnson is also a member of the Metea Valley boys track team competing in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles. Johnson set the school record in both hurdles, while winning the DVC in both events as well. At the 2021 state meet at Eastern Illinois, Johnson entered as the sectional runner up in the 110 and sectional champion in the 300 meters. After ending the season with third place medals in both events, Johnson set the record with the best individual finish in Metea Valley Boys Track and Field history. If Johnson continues to progress like this in his senior year, he will have the opportunity to bring home Metea Valley’s first boys track and field individual title.
And the winner is… the future Rambler… Ben Schweiger from Waubonsie Valley. It’s the second year in a row a Warrior basketball player has claimed Male Athlete of the Year.
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