Sandburg inducts All Star athletes into first-ever Hall of Fame

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Sandburg inducts All Star athletes into first-ever Hall of Fame

Aaron Hanania, Staff Writer

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Eight former students, teachers, and staff involved in sports were inducted into the newly created Sandburg High School “Athletic Hall of Fame” during ceremonies held at the school on Friday, November 3.

Among the inductees were Jane Caliendo, Joe Devine, Cliff Eade, Pat Fitzgerald, Katie Hertz, Tom Graves, Mike Navarro, John Wator, and the entire 1993 Boys Soccer Team, who were the first to bring a I.H.S.A State Championship to Sandburg or any school in Illinois south of I-55.

“The inductees were chosen on the basis of stringent criteria,” said Sandburg Athletic Director, Tom Freyer. The criteria included that inductees must have graduated from the school at least 10 years prior to nomination.

Freyer said, “All athletes who earned a varsity letter during their high school career, achieved significant athletic accomplishments in post-high school career, and coaches are eligible upon retirement from active teaching or coaching.”

Sandburg Principal Deborah Baker opened the ceremony with welcoming remarks, followed by Mr. Freyer who highlighted Sandburg’s current 31 varsity programs, which consist of 76 teams that have won Sandburg a total of 20 State Championships.

Mike Navarro served as the assistant coach for Sandburg’s football team from 1976 to 1992. In 1993, he became the head coach and remained head coach until 2002. Sandburg has honored his legacy by retiring his football jersey number #43, and in 2016 renaming Sandburg’s football stadium “Mike Navarro Stadium” in his honor.

“I cannot express my feelings enough about the stadium.” Navarro said.

“We have had some really impressive people as coaches, my high school coach, Joe Devine being one of them, and it could have easily been named in his honor as well. My grandson plays soccer for Sandburg. He took a pic of me sitting in the stands at one of his games, he is playing goalie, and “Mike Navarro Stadium” is in the background.”

Each of the inductees went on to notable careers at Sandburg and after.

Honoree Jane Caliendo served as a Physical Education teacher for 22 years including coaching for swimming and water polo. Joe Devine was a World War II veteran who helped Sandburg’s football team rise to prominence as its coach. Cliff Eade coached football and baseball, and in 1975 earned the SICA Coach of the Year Award and led the team to a Conference Championship. Pat Fitzgerald was a recognized linebacker who went on to play football at Northwestern University, where he was named a two-time All-American and Sports Illustrated Defensive Player of the Year.

Tom Graves took Sandburg’s track team to new heights, winning three State Championships in the 3200, one State Championship in the 1600 and two Cross Country championships, and became a superintendent later on. Katie Hertz was a member of the varsity soccer team earning All-Conference and All-Sectional Honors all four years. John Wator was both a teacher in PE and head Athletic Trainer for Sandburg.

The 1993 Boys Soccer team put Sandburg on the Illinois radar with their huge I.H.S.A State Championship. Their win gained massive state attention, because no school in the entire state had won a State Championship south of 1-55. They also had the support of the entire school.

“Being the first team to win created the possibility for other teams of ‘hey we can do this, too,’ inspired by past Sandburg soccer teams,” said Josh Feigl, a member of the 1993 Boys Soccer team. He also spoke about how the Championship win changed the attitude of students at Sandburg. “You want to inspire greatness in people and you want to lead them to believe anything is possible,” Feigl said.

All of the members of the team reflected on the massive student support they received before the ceremony.

“We always had support. Normally, the games we had were an hour and a half away. We took sixteen busloads of students, The entire school came to the game. The entire school took off school that day. That is the backing we had,” said a team member as they celebrated their honor.

Sandburg honored Jane Caliendo by naming Sandburg’s Aquatic center as “Jane Caliendo Aquatic Center.” Every September, there is a 5k walk/run that raises money in her honor. Her husband, a retired Sandburg PE/swimming coach, Jim Caliendo, accepted her award in her honor. He reflected on the legacy Jane left.

“Her legacy will live on in the minds of those students when three years later they still wear team t-shirts with quotes from Coach Jane on the back,” said her husband, Jim Caliendo. “Imagine what our world would look like if we were all a little bit more like Jane?”

Katie Hertz played soccer all four years of high school and all four years at Northwestern University, ranking in the top 10 percent of her graduating class academically. To this day, she still provides soccer training to local families and offers advice for students at Sandburg, and students in high school.

“Enjoy your high school career… it does fly by… it is part of your development into the next stage of your life,” Hertz said. Other inductees shared this mindset, including a member of the 1993 Boys Soccer team, Tim Gira. “Enjoy the moment, because 24 years fly, and you are old like me,” Gira said.

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