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Joliet Catholic Academy celebrates 2017 Hall of Champions class

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From left are Bill Sticklen's son Pete and daughter Linda, David Sims, Patti Carbery, Emily Marino, Dan Sharp and Larry McKeon.[]

JOLIET – One of the elements that makes the Joliet Catholic Academy Hall of Champions induction ceremony special are the insights about the inductees.

Everyone in attendance last Saturday night in the JCA Student Activity Center for the fourth annual event was aware that all the athletes and coaches being inducted have accomplishments on their résumés that put them a cut above.

What completes the evening is learning what helped them reach that lofty status, and the kind of people they are outside the athletic arena.

When former Olympic swimmer David Sims (1980), a member of the Class of 2017, went to the podium to accept his award, he called for his longtime swim coach, Tim Hill, to join him.

“Tim was my swim coach at the YMCA through our high school years,” Sims said. “Then and now, he is at the forefront of American swimming.

“He has been cleaning up in Houston after the hurricane there, but he managed to get here. He came to Joliet in the late ’70s and we forged a successful partnership. I never would have won a state title, never made the Olympic team, never attended Stanford and never found my life partner, Janice, without Tim.”

Which led into why he called Hill to the podium.

“I was 15 and I told Tim I wanted to be on the Olympic team, and he believed in me,” Sims said before reaching down for his medal from the 1980 Olympics. Sims made the team but could not compete because the United States boycotted the game.

“This is the medal the U.S. Olympic team gave me, and I think Tim should have it,” he said as he put it around his coach’s neck. The crowd applauded the gesture.

That was David Sims, a champion, in action. He was inducted along with Patti Carbery (’82), Emily Marino (’97), Larry McKeon (’68), Dan Sharp (’74) and legacy honoree Bill Sticklen (’43).

“Everything he does, he does with such grace that we all should aspire to,” Sims’ Joliet Catholic classmate Tom Boucher said on the video tribute that introduced him. “David said at 9 years old that he wanted that – what Mark Spitz was doing. So he put himself on a regimented diet and went for it. He achieved world-class status before he had a driver’s license.”

Even now, Sims is shattering records competing in the U.S. Master’s program.

Sticklen, who died in 2011 and was represented at the banquet by his son Pete and daughter Linda, was a basketball and golf standout who played both sports at Northwestern. He was the basketball team MVP in 1949.

Among the Sticklen stories included playing golf with Bing Crosby and having 16 holes-in-one. Yes, 16.

Marino & Carbery

Longtime JCA softball coach Dave Douglas said of Marino: “Emily was a softball player. She came out for basketball and started for four years. She was a presence whenever she walked onto the field or into the gym, whether in volleyball, basketball or softball.”

Marino played softball for four years at the University of Florida and professionally in Italy.

Douglas told a fun story about a time the JCA pitcher was struggling to hit her spots. Marino, the catcher, threw the ball back with zip.

“I came out to talk to the pitcher, and she says, ‘She’s whipping the ball at me.’ ” The point? Make her stop.

“This is very humbling,” Marino said. “You have to have people who helped you along the way.”

Carbery’s brothers Mike, Steve and Paul and dad Tom were on her introductory video.

“There was something about her,” Paul said. “She played with Sally Anderson, Cathy Boswell, Pam Gant. That generation changed the women’s game.”

“She did everything in sports,” Tom said. “It got to the point where we couldn’t allow her to do everything she wanted.”

A Yale football coach was at the Carbery home in Lockport recruiting Paul. Patti was at the end of the driveway, shooting long-range basket. One after another went in, and the coach remarked that he had never seen anything like that. Patti wound up going to Yale and earning eight varsity letters, four in basketball and four in softball.

“Six years after Title 9, in 1978, I entered the halls of St. Francis Academy,” Patti said. “I had the gift of a lot of support. There were lots of good athletes here in that era. My friends had as much to do with our success as I did.”

McKeon & Sharp

The video on McKeon, a football, basketball and baseball standout in his playing days before becoming a hall of fame football coach at Naperville North, included bits from high school football teammate Pat Mudron as well as fellow coaches Jim Barello and Carl Hunckler.

“Larry is the epitome of a three-sport athlete,” Mudron said. “He fits what the JCA Hall of Champions stand for.”

“McKeon was a varsity starter at least two years in three sports,” Barello said. “He taught me that coolness, and he was a terrific teacher.”

“You’ll never find anyone as loyal as Larry,” Hunckler said. “As a student, I recognized right away what a great teacher he was. He didn’t give you all the answers. It was him allowing you the experiences that made him special.

“He had great success as a coach every year, and he always recognized his players and assistant coaches. He always took the blame when things did not go so well. His work ethic ... we were raised here. If you are looking for fault, go no further than what you see in the mirror.

“Larry, you are one of my heroes.”

McKeon said the more recent players may not realize it, “but we had some good teams, too. In my four years at Catholic High, we lost one football game. As seniors in basketball, we went 21-3, beat No. 1 Lockport and were upset by Providence in the regional.

“I played with a lot of people who went on to play at college – Winston Minor, Chris Bank, Jim Warsaw, Tom Woolwin, Pat Mudron, Rick Hucek; Kevin Las, Denny Webb in basketball, Joe Pomykala in baseball. He played in the White Sox system.”

Among coaches McKeon mentioned were Gordie Gillespie, Tony Janc, Dale O’Connell, Jim Barello, Roger Gifford, Jack Schimanski and Russ Grundy.

Wonderful memories, indeed.

Last up was Sharp, who retired as JCA’s head football coach after last season but remains as the school’s athletic director.

His son, Danny, who played for him at JCA, former player Mike Maloney, former player and current football coach Jake Jaworski and baseball coach Jared Voss provided the video tributes. The word integrity came up often, with all of them.

“For what impact he had, you can look at the success his teams had,” Jaworski said. “But his No. 1 thing was always to make an impact on the kids. When you were around coach, you had the feeling you could do anything. Thank you, Coach, for teaching us what it meant to be a Hillman. You should be honored for what you have meant to this school.”

“He provided a difference in my life,” Maloney said.

Sharp congratulated the other honorees.

“I always looked up to Larry [McKeon],” he said. “With Emily [Marino] and Patti [Carbery], the word pioneer came up a lot.

“David [Sims] wanted to start a swim team at Joliet Catholic, but the barge traffic got in the way.”

Sharp noted that his parents, Patricia and Bill, “raised five boys and sent them all to Joliet Catholic. My family was blue-collar Joliet. The last 20 years, all of you have been carrying me.

“This is a true honor.”