12-season athletes reflect on their careers

Every year there are only a handful of athletes who earn the recognition of being a 12-season athlete. This year there are four: Jacob Marshall, Dani Broege, Abigail Kukis, and Ellie Klabunde. Tori Caliendo, in addition to being a 12-season athlete, also participated in the summer season last year, making her a 13-season athlete.

Tori Caliendo had played tennis, run cross country, run track, and participated in cheerleading during her time at Grayslake North. She has very fond memories of her time as an athlete, loving the friendships she formed through her time in each program.

“My favorite memory was definitely getting sixth place in State for cheerleading my sophomore year,” Caliendo said. “Definitely the fact that we were not expected to get that far just because of all the difficulties of changing coaches, we definitely proved everyone wrong and we just stayed true to our team and we made it that far, and it was just really positive for all of us.”

Jacob Marshall has participated in a plethora of sports. Marshall has been able to call himself a member of the football team, golf team, tennis team, and the basketball team. In addition to his sports, he also works out independently. Marshall accomplished many things during his athletic career including winning a match at State for tennis. But balancing both schoolwork and athletics made the journey of becoming a 12-season athlete especially difficult.

“It was a lot,” Marshall said. “Sometimes for basketball we would stay after school to watch JV play and then we would have to play, so I wouldn’t be getting home until like 8:30, and then showering and eating dinner. So I wouldn’t be getting into schoolwork till 9:00-9:15. So those late nights also made me tired throughout the day.”

The time commitment of being a 12-season athlete is especially taxing. School takes up such a large percentage of a student’s life, but the addition of sports year round can make it seem like there is never a break.

“It was really difficult,” Broege said. “Because not only as a 12-season athlete are you putting in six days a week every week for the entire school year, like you get a break once in a while during the time you’re switching sports or spring and winter break, but other than that you’re playing sports for the school more days out of the week than you actually are at school.”

Dani Broege also switched between sports. She consistently played tennis and softball, but made the switch from basketball to bowling her senior year. Dani is excited to be a 12-season athlete and earn the recognition, but her favorite thing about sports are those little moments that remind her of why she became an athlete.

“When you volley and slam it over someone’s head, or you hit a home run, make a three pointer, or you bowl three strikes in a row, it’s so fun,” Broege said. “I just love the adrenaline you get from it. It’s so fun to me.”

For Abigail Kukis, it was the bond between teammates and the physical nature of sports that drew her to them. Kukis specializes in basketball, but she also ran cross country and is in track and field to stay active year round. The team nature and her relationships with coaches is what Kukis appreciates about sports.

“Being on a team with people and the coaches, the bond you have is not the same as with a teacher,” Kukis said. “With a coach you can tell them certain things that are going on and you get to know everybody that you’re with really well. My team always had a bunch of inside jokes, and I’d just always be laughing. It was an extra nice thing because I already liked the sports, but being close with my team and coach was really special.”

The bond between cheerleaders is what Ellie Klabunde appreciates about her sport. Klabunde did cheer and track but also did cross country for an extra season. Klabunde is a leader on the cheer team and aspires to cheer at Illinois State University in the fall.

“For cheer, we were literally like a family,” Klabunde said.
Despite the challenges and sacrifices that come with being a 12-season athlete, the strength and commitment displayed is unrivaled. Two hours more dedicated to grueling workouts, physical exhaustion, and sometimes even more time is spent preparing for and watching games and tournaments. Coming home sore every night but then having to complete school work or other tasks. Is becoming a 12-season athlete worth it?

“It was definitely worth it,” Marshall said. “Sticking through all the sports, and when I get the award for being a 12-season athlete, I know that it is going to be worth it because of those experiences in sports. I’ll never forget the moments I have had.”