Preps Talk

Heiteen named to NFHS Hall of Fame

600388.png

Heiteen named to NFHS Hall of Fame

Because she was almost 5-foot-10 as a high school freshman, Jan Heiteen was projected as a promising volleyball and basketball player. So you can imagine that she is amused to find herself being inducted into a national Hall of Fame that already includes Illinois products Red Grange, Dike Eddleman, Quinn Buckner and Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

"When I was young, people thought I should play volleyball or basketball," Heiteen recalled. "As a freshman, I gravitated to sports first. I played basketball. But I fell over a small girl and sprained my ankle. So someone suggested I should try stage makeup with the theatre department and I never left."

Heiteen, a 1974 graduate of Maine East in Des Plaines and a 1978 graduate of the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, is the 24th Illinois product to be selected to the National Federation of State High School Associations National High School Hall of Fame. She will be honored at the NFHS' annual summer meeting on July 11 in Nashville, Tennessee.

An English teacher, head speech coach and drama director at Downers Grove South since 1980, Heiteen has produced over 80 plays, musicals and talent shows. She also has fashioned 16 team state champions and 75 individual state champions in speech.

That's not all. Her Downers Grove South team won the Illinois High School Association's Group Interpretation Team State Championship in 1992 and one of her prize students, Kyle Ackerman, was named National Forensic League Student of the Year in 2008.

She was inducted into the National Forensic League's Hall of Fame in 2009 and received the Edith Harrod Award for distinguished service from the Illinois Speech and Theatre Association.

"The honor blows me away. It is so spectacular. I'm kind of blown away by the whole thing. I even got a letter from the president of the University of Illinois (her alma mater)," Heiteen said. "The honor is lovely. It represents all the kids I have had the privilege of working with."

She hardly had time to celebrate. She just finished a talent show, a fund-raiser for the school's speech and theatre club group, and attended the national qualifier for the National Forensic League. She is working on an upcoming musical version of "Kiss Me Kate" while trying to decide among five or six plays for a Children's Theatre production for advanced acting students and preparing for the national debate and speech tournament in June.

Somewhere between all of that, in what she refers to as "my spare time," she and her husband are planning a trip to Las Vegas during spring break to visit her mother and also travel to Long Beach, California, to attend the marriage of a former student who was a 1995 and 1996 state champion.

"Twenty years ago, someone said to me: 'Why keep coaching? You won the state title.' It isn't about winning state titles, it's about educating kids," she said. "I can't imagine ever not coaching or doing theatre. I still want to work in arts. That's my passion.

"Maybe I'll work with junior high school programs and get kids involved earlier. Or I'll mentor young coaches. Or work with senior communities doing theatre. Last year, I did 'Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten,' a great experience with older audiences."

Like most teachers and coaches, Heiteen is excited and inspired whenever "the light goes on" and another of her students realizes for the first time that he or she has accomplished something, that he or she has what it takes to be successful in the class or play or musical or debate or speech.

"What is interesting about our competition in speech and forensics is you see it at different levels," Heiteen said. "A kid can be successful and not be a champion. Kids can be successful at their own level and be able to improve each week. As a teacher, you see kids learn. You know when they move from Point A to B and on to C. It's like the wonderment of a teacher in the classroom when a student writes a first draft and the second draft is better.

"These kids know that acting is a process and they recognize that competitively they can reach their highest level, that growth is essential to their progress as a student and artist. That's my satisfaction. I don't measure my success in championships only.

"Titles are swell. But when we go to competitions, we take a team of 80 students, only one per event to represent us. If you focus only on championships at the end of the year, you are missing the point. It is about getting the kids from Point A to Point B."

Heiteen is a teachercoachrecruiter, like a football coach or a basketball coach. Her students characterize her as a tough, no-nonsense drill sergeant who expects them to be professional and represent the school with dignity and respect. "Or else they are in trouble with me," she said.

"If there is a rehearsal time, you are there. Don't call in sick for a tournament. I tell them not to call me on Saturday morning unless you are bleeding from the eyes. In fact, parents have called to say their kid was throwing up but not bleeding from the eyes."

Last year, her students presented her with a book entitled "How to coach speech, you are doing it wrong," a compilation of quotes or otherwise ridiculous statements she is alleged to have uttered over the years. "I have no recollection of saying some of those things but apparently I did," she said.

"This isn't my first rodeo" and "bleeding from the eyes" are two of her favorites. She also has been known to promise puppies to students "if they do it right." And the puppies will all speak French, she said.

But Heiteen has established a set of rules for her program that any football or basketball coach would envy. Speech hair, not beach hair. Girls in heels, not flip-flops or sneakers. Boys in suits and ties. This is the pros, not a rookie league.

"I am very particular about their professional attire. It's not like you are about to go clubbing," she said. "I have very strict guidelines about competitive dress. I am very picky about the way they dress. I expect them to look like they can go into a court of law and defend something. They know my expectations.

"I don't sugarcoat things. If it is bad, I will say it. At the end of the day, I hope they know where all of my gruffness and in-your-face stuff comes from. I adore these kids, my super stars and my babies."

Heiteen's interest in theatre was triggered when a neighbor persuaded her to serve as an usher at the Mill Run Theatre in Niles. She became interested in acting on high school and never went back to volleyball or basketball.

At the University of Illinois, she started as a theatre major and finished with a degree in English and speech education. Her passion was coaching debate and forensics. As a sophomore, she volunteered as an assistant speech coach at Champaign Central High School and became head coach as a junior and senior.

After graduation, she taught at Waukegan East for one year and Maine East for one year before moving to Downers Grove South.

"I found a home here," she said. "The district is super supportive in the arts. In the field of competitive arts, you have three aspects -- educational, artistic and competitive. Lots of times people try to focus on one, not three. I want to make them a bundle."

As in sports, Heiteen starts her students as freshmen, then promotes them to junior varsity, then varsity. "We still treat them like they are going through the levels. You don't know when they are 14 what they will be like at 18," she said.

She has 80 active students every year. She doesn't cut anyone. She finds tournaments that will meet their needs and skills depending on whatever level they are at. "We have super stars and also kids who know they won't be stars but are taking advantage of the opportunity to grow as performers and socially interact with other kids," she said.

There are many opportunities--forensics, debate, public speaking, comedy, acting, interpretation and radio broadcasting. As a teacher in freshman honors English, she finds students who are academically inclined and theatre driven. Like a basketball coach looking for a 6-foot-9 prospect, she combs the hallways for kids "who have that look and aren't involved in anything presently, kids who could find a home in the arts."

"What do I look for? The 'it' factor, a student who has poise and is articulate and has a voice, whether I agree with it or not, someone who can speak out, who wants to communicate. I'm looking for kids who want to take their voice and put it out as a communication and share it with the audience, outgoing personalities who want to relate to others, young kids who don't believe they have a voice."

When coaches look for basketball players, they look for youngsters who can run and jump. Heiteen looks for kids who can fit into 14 events, debate and theatre.

"Sometimes teachers are the first believers. We see something in a kid that they don't realize they have, a kid who has a special skill," she said. "There are a lot of opportunities for kids to find their niche. I'm looking for kids who want to expand their abilities, sometimes a kid you wouldn't expect."

Like the 5-foot-8 kid who wanted to play basketball but became a state champion in speech and now is an outstanding speech coach. Or the girl who was a self-proclaimed misfit as a freshman, clumsy and unfocused, but stayed with the program for four years and developed into a state champion.

"I don't know how a kid will develop," she said. "Another kid who became a national champion in poetry reading wanted to be on the drill team. I figured out a schedule so she could do both. She was just a tall and lovely woman who was nervous in front of people. We nurtured her to become what she could become, a great success. Like a football coach, you see potential in a kid and it's exciting to watch them blossom."

Previewing and predicting the IHSA State Football Championship games

huskiestadium.png
USA TODAY

Previewing and predicting the IHSA State Football Championship games

NBC Sports Chicago will have complete recaps and highlights from this weekend's IHSA State Football Championship games on High School Lites, Saturday at 11 p.m. Can anyone score when Lincoln-Way East takes on Loyola in Class 8A?  So who you got between Batavia and Lake Zurich? Can Nazareth Academy stun the defending Class 6A state champs in Prairie Ridge? Can Phillips bring home another state title trophy and beat Dunlap in 5A? Can Morris derail 4A state power Rochester? Can IC make the Cinderella story come to an end for 16 seeded Pleasant Plains in 3A? Who comes away with a win on Friday between Maroa-Forsyth and GCMS? Will it be the ground and pound Le-Win in 1A or are you more of a balanced offense fan of Tuscola?

Class 8A

Lincoln-Way East (13-0) vs. Loyola Academy (12-1) at DeKalb (Huskie Stadium) Sat., Nov. 25, 7:00 pm

EDGY's Take: Both Lincoln-Way East and Loyola feature two of the state's top defenses along with strong quarterback play. QB Brendan Morrissey (2,458 yards of total offense with 29 combined TD's) leads a balanced offensive attack that also features senior RB Ryan Scianna (696 yards rushing) plus big-play ability from sophomore WR AJ Henning. Loyola has gotten a huge senior year from QB Quinn Boyle (2,695 yards of total offense 27 combined TD's) along with a committee of running backs plus senior WR James Joyce (50 catches for 621 yards 4TD's) and senior WR Rory Boos (37 catches 743 yards 10 TD's). So whose defense rises to the occasion? How healthy is East QB Brendan Morrissey? How healthy is Loyola overall? I fully expect a very tight and one turnover or big play could be a difference maker.

EDGY's Pick: Lincoln-Way East 17 Loyola 10

Class 7A

Batavia (12-1) vs. Lake Zurich (13-0) at DeKalb (Huskie Stadium)  Sat., Nov. 25, 4:00 pm

EDGY's Take: Batavia and head coach Dennis Piron are in search of the Bulldogs' second state football title on Saturday. The Bulldogs will look toward a balanced offensive attack led by senior QB Riley Cooper (2,001 yards passing 27 touchdowns) along with a steady group of running backs along with a good sized offensive line including senior OT Nolan Eike (Central Michigan). The Batavia defense is also a big reason why they are in DeKalb on Saturday. Keep an eye on senior SS Michael Niemiec (120 tackles) along with junior ILB Luke Weerts plus junior OLB Michael Jansey. Lake Zurich and first year head coach Luke Mertens have been able to steer this football program past last year's hazing scandal and into the state title game led by a revamped offense and the always strong Bears defense. The Bears offense has opened up the passing game behind senior QB Evan Lewandowski (2,572 yards passing 26 TD's) plus a steady dose of the running game led by senior RB/LB Joey Stutzman (1,094 yards rushing 15 TD's) while the Lake Zurich defense has speed. Keep an eye on senior LB Jack Sanborn (Wisconsin commit). Can the Batavia defense lock down the Lake Zurich multi-threat offense? Can the Lake Zurich defense contain Batavia's QB Riley Cooper? 

EDGY's Pick: Lake Zurich 21 Batavia 13

Class 6A

Prairie Ridge (13-0) vs. Nazareth Academy (12-1) at DeKalb (Huskie Stadium) Sat., Nov. 25, 1:00 pm

EDGY's Take: Prairie Ridge is looking to capture its second straight Class 6A state title and the school's third overall football championship on Saturday. The Wolves will put their fate in the hands of Iowa commit senior QB Samson Evans (1,957 yards rushing 36 TD's) along with a ground hugging power option attack. The Prairie Ridge defense has experience and also plenty of speed, and keep an eye on senior OL/DL Jeff Jenkins (Iowa commit) along with senior ILB Jacob Ommen and senior OLB Joe Perhats. Nazareth Academy and head coach Tim Racki has one of Chicagoland's youngest and most talented teams in 2017. The Road Runners will look for senior QB Bobby Grimes to get the ball into the hands of several playmakers including junior RB/DB Devin Blakely plus junior WR/DB Michael Love along with junior WR/S Diamond Evans. Nazareth Academy will also look towards its defense led by senior DT Isaiah Lee (Iowa State) and a unit that has both size and speed. Can the Road Runners defense contain Superman, aka Samson Evans? Can the Prairie Ridge defense match up and defend the multiple weapons from Nazareth on Saturday?

EDGY's Pick: Nazareth Academy 35 Prairie Ridge 34

Class 5A

Chicago (Phillips) (13-0) vs. Dunlap (13-0) at DeKalb (Huskie Stadium) Sat., Nov. 25, 10:00 am

EDGY's Take: Phillips is looking to capture the school's second state football title on Saturday morning. The Wildcats will rely on their running game anchored by senior RB/LB Craig Elmore (1,814 yards rushing 22 TD's)  while the passing game is also a strength, led by QB J'Bore Gibbs (South Dakota State commit) along with a strong group of receivers including senior WR/S Fabian McCray plus junior TE Jahleel Billingsley and junior WR/DB Joseph Thompson. The Phillips defense has a great mix of size upfront, led by senior DT Queneil Morrisson (NIU commit) plus speed on the edges with senior DE Terrance Taylor (Toledo commit) and an athletic group of defensive backs. Dunlap has rolled this season behind a mix of senior RB/DB Luke Bennyhoff (2,092 yards rushing 32 TD's) along with a big play play-action passing game led by QB Myles Burks (1,526 yards passing 17 TD's) plus senior TE/LB Nick Mangieri (Northwestern commit). The Eagles defense has also been a huge key this season and the defensive line is a strength. Keep an eye on junior Josiah Miamen. Can Dunlap keep the Phillips defense off balanced? Can Phillips establish its running game on Saturday against a strong Dunlap defense? 

EDGY's Pick: Phillips 22 Dunlap 17

Class 4A

Morris (11-2) vs. Rochester (13-0) at DeKalb (Huskie Stadium), Fri., Nov. 24, 7:00 pm

EDGY's Take: Morris and head coach Alan Thorson have a strong running game featuring senior RB/LB Kam Dransfeldt (1,679 yards rushing 20 TD's) and is led by a very large offensive line anchored by senior OL Nolan Feeney and senior OT Nathan Korte. The Redskins defense also has good size and speed upfront and will look towards senior team leading  tackler LB Kaden Laurie (118 tackles) plus senior DE/TE Tyler Spiezo. Rochester and head coach Derek Leonard is attempting to win the school's six state football title in seven years on Friday evening. Rochester senior QB Nic Baker (3,678 yards passing 52 TD's) leads a fast-paced Rockets shotgun spread offense that can beat opposing defense with both the run and the pass. The Rockets defense has also been very solid all season so keep an eye on senior LB Stephan McCree (63 solo tackles) plus senior LB/RB Nick Capriotti. Can Morris take the air out of the football, control time of possession and limit the Rochester offense's touches? Can the Morris defense contain the Rochester offense for four quarters?

EDGY's Pick: Rochester 37 Morris 21

Class 3A

 Elmhurst (IC Catholic) (12-1) vs. Pleasant Plains (10-3) at DeKalb (Huskie Stadium), Fri., Nov. 24, 4:00 pm

EDGY's Take: Immaculate Conception and head coach Bill Krefft is looking for a repeat win on Friday for the 3A state title, but the path to DeKalb has been anything but easy. The Knights needed to replace standout QB Luke Ricobene after suffering a season ending injury early in the year. However the Knights reloaded quickly. Keep an eye on senior QB CJ West (1,831 yards passing 24 TD's) along with junior WR/DB Khalil Saunders and with his twin brother WR/LB Khali Saunders plus a strong running attack led by senior RB/DB Lazerick Eatman (1, 277 yards 19 TD's). Pleasant Plains had made IHSA football playoff history already as the first ever No. 16 seed in the current 1 through 16 seeded bracket to make it to the state final game. The Cardinals offense under head coach Bobby Walworth has been as balanced as they come with a strong running game featuring senior RB/LB Nik Samson (1,470 yards rushing  19 TD's) plus senior QB Ben Reinert (2,114 yards passing 25 TD's) has been extremely impressive all season. The Pleasant Plains defense is led by do it all senior LB/TE/P Tristen Tewes (129 tackles) and junior LB Jake Hermes. Can the IC defense contain the Pleasant Plains multiple weapons on offense? Can Pleasant Plains match the overall physicality from the Knights?

EDGY's Pick: Immaculate Conception 35 Pleasant Plains 21

Class 2A

Gibson City (G.C.-Melvin-Sibley) (13-0) vs. Maroa (M.-Forsyth) (12-1) at DeKalb (Huskie Stadium) , Fri., Nov. 24, 1:00 pm

EDGY's Take: GCMS and head coach Mike Allen have relied this season on a strong running game along with a speedy and athletic squad on both sides of the football. The Falcons will hand the football off to either RB Mitch McNutt (1,550 yards rushing 29 TD's) or FB Jared Trantina (828 yards rushing 15 TD's)  while QB Nathan Garard might not throw it a ton, but when he does it's usually for a big gain. The Falcons defense has been outstanding all season long having allowed just 81 points over 13 games. Keep an eye on senior LB Luke Freehill (113 tackles) plus junior DL/LB Josh Bieich for the GCMS defense. Maroa Forsyth and veteran head coach Josh Jobst are back in the state title game for the second straight season and are making their 7th appearance over the past 12 years. The Trojans possess a high octane offense led by sophomore QB Ian Brenner (2,082 yards passing 23 TD's) along with RB Deondre Gregory (1,630 yards rushing 29 TD's) plus with several speedy and sure handed receivers. The Trojans defense is anchored by senior LB Tanner Falk plus  LB Aaron Inda. Can GCMS defense continue to lock down all comers including the Maroa powerful offense on Friday? Can the Maroa defense find an answer for the GCMS one-two punch of McNutt and Trantina?

EDGY's Pick: Maroa Forsyth 27 GCMS 21

Class 1A

 Lena (L.-Winslow) (13-0) vs. Tuscola (13-0) at DeKalb (Huskie Stadium) (map), Fri., Nov. 24, 10:00 am

EDGY's Take: Lena-Winslow and head coach Ric Arand are all about ground and pound on offense while the Panthers defense has been a strength all season long led by an impressive defensive line and back seven. Look for the Panthers to get senior FB/DB Rahveon Valentine (2,025 yards rushing 25 TD's)  involved early and often while sophomore RB/OLB Sean Ormiston and senior RB/LB Gabe Schwartz are also threats running the football. Senior QB Ty Christman (25 of 36 passes for 620 yards and 12 TD's) won't throw it a ton but is more than capable of keeping opposing defenses honest with play action passes. Tuscola is yet another familiar name in the IHSA state playoff field and the Warriors are a much more balanced offensive attack. Junior QB Luke Sluder (2,991 yards of total offense 38 TD's)  is a big time threat with the run and the pass while WR Dalton Hoel (45 catches for 1010 yards and 17 TD's) is Sluder's main target in the passing game. Tuscola also has good size upfront on both sides of the football and is anchored by senior OL/DL Hunter Woodard (6-foot-5, 285 pounds), who is verbally committed to Oklahoma State. Can Le-Win continue to run the football at will? Can the Tuscola defense keep the Le-Win offense on the sidelines and allow it's offense multiple touches?

EDGY's Pick: Lena-Winslow 35 Tuscola 24

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

11-22_nhl-matchup_hawks-at-lightning_blank.jpg

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

There hasn't been a more dynamic duo in the NHL so far this season than Kucherov and Stamkos, who have combined for 68 points (27 goals, 41 assists) through 20 games, and sit first and second in the scoring race.

They've each recorded a point in every game except three — which coincidentally have been the same games — and they've lost all three of those contests. Kucherov has also scored a goal in 15 of 20 games this season. That's absurd when you consider he's scoring on a consistent basis; it's not like they're coming in spurts.

To put all that into perspective, he reached the 17-goal mark in his 36th game last year and still finished second in the league with 40 goals. He hit the 17-goal mark in 16 fewer games this season. How many can he realistically finish with? 60?

2. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Tampa Bay knows how dangerous Chicago's dynamic duo can be as well, as evidenced in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. The Blackhawks' superstars know how to get up for a big game.

In 13 career regular-season games against the Lightning, Kane has 18 points (six goals, 12 assists). Toews has 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 14 games.

They're both producing at or above a point-per-game pace, and they're going to need more of that against this powerhouse Lightning team.

3. Something's gotta give.

Tampa Bay's offensive prowess is off the charts up and down the lineup. It has four lines that can come at you at waves, and a strong, active blue line led by potential Norris Trophy finalist Viktor Hedman and Calder Trophy candidate Mikhail Sergachev.

Although Chicago allows the fourth-most shots per game (34.0), it actually hasn't been bad at preventing goals — a large reason for that is Corey Crawford. 

The Lightning rank first in goals per game (3.95) and first in power play percentage (28.0) while the Blackhawks rank sixth in goals against per game (2.65) and four in penalty kill percentage (84.9).

Who's going to crack first?