All posts by patrickengel2018

Ricordo McKenzie, Chicago State’s art-loving sprinter, keeps setting school records

By Patrick Engel
Medill Reports

Ricordo McKenzie can outrun opponents on the track and out-design them in Adobe.

His six Chicago State records support the former. A skim of his LinkedIn page not only substantiates the latter, but hints graphic design is a passion. Track and field is listed as an activity a third of the way down his page. McKenzie’s knowledge of multiple Adobe programs, meanwhile, is in the first sentence of his bio. It’s rooted in his affinity for art, which he developed as a child in Montego Bay, Jamaica. That came years before he turned into a competitive runner and Division I athlete.

“I would just draw stuff, draw me and my mom,” said McKenzie, now a sophomore at Chicago State. “So that sparked the interest.”

His track career, though, took off with a seemingly innocuous decision in 2011, when McKenzie was a freshman at Cornwall College (which, despite the name, is an all-boys secondary school in Montego Bay). McKenzie said he chose to run a few races at Cornwall’s fall interschool track and field competition just for fun.

“I actually ran barefooted,” McKenzie said. “And I won everything.”

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No longer a local afterthought, Loyola soaks in support as it readies for the Sweet 16

By Patrick Engel
Medill Reports

Two white charter buses turned east on Loyola Avenue off Sheridan Road, with the blue lights of police cars leading the way, and pulled into a driveway in back of Gentile Arena.

About 500 fans and students had congregated on an adjacent turf field in the previous hour, waiting for this very convoy. Around 4:15 p.m. on a mild but windy Sunday in Rogers Park, as “All I Do Is Win” fittingly blasted over temporary speakers, a momentary lull came over the crowd. Heads turned. Arms waved. Phones became cameras. Everyone cheered and clapped.

The carriages carrying one of this year’s best Cinderella stories had arrived.

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Loyola earns another shot at a high-major team after tricky scheduling only gave it one

By Patrick Engel
Medill Reports

Aundre Jackson will finally play in his hometown on Thursday in Dallas in the NCAA tournament. If Loyola head coach Porter Moser had his way, though, Jackson’s homecoming would have been much sooner.

“We tried hard to get a game there, but we just couldn’t,” Moser said Sunday.

Loyola’s only the latest team to face this bind. It’s the life of mid-majors once they prove they can play with high-major teams.

Successful mid-majors are a lose-lose opponent for those power-conference teams – too much risk of a road loss, and not enough reward for a home win. The former can damage a résumé, and the latter isn’t enough of a résumé builder. This was N.C. State’s feeling when it bought out a scheduled road game at Loyola this season.

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Romeoville High School “modifies” walk-out after Instagram threat

By Patrick Engel
Medill Reports

Romeoville High School students participated in 17 minutes of silence in their gym in lieu of a walk-out protest that was canceled early Wednesday morning as a result of a prior threat posted by a student on Instagram.

The school’s decision to postpone the walk-out came early Wednesday, after Romeoville police found the threat not credible.

“We told them we’d have to modify our plans from what we had originally had planned to go outside,” Principal Derek Kinder said, “just because of the perceived threat and the uneasiness from some of our parents and students.”

Instead of participating in the nationwide walkout movement, about 1,100 students filed into the southwest suburban high school’s gym around 10 a.m. Wednesday to commemorate the 17 shooting victims in last month’s attack in Parkland.

Romeoville High School has an enrollment of about 1,800, but Kinder said around 1,300 students came to school Wednesday, with the threat playing a role in the low attendance. Kinder also said the school would make up the originally planned “assembly” at a later date. Romeoville police officers were stationed outside school Wednesday as a precaution.

The Instagram threat posted Tuesday showed a picture of a student with a weapon. Police said that one person posted the picture and others followed it with comments about the school not being safe the following day. Police contacted the student who posted the photo and determined that the weapon was an air-soft gun.

“There was never a threat that was communicated or intended,” Romeoville Deputy Police Chief Steve Lucchesi said.

“No one had the intent for it to be a threat and go viral.”

The uncertainty surrounding the threat prompted the cancelation of a counter-protest planned outside the school during the walk-out. Romeoville resident Savannah Denvir, in conjunction with right-wing group Overpasses for America, organized the counter-protest, but canceled it after talking with police.

“A few of them, maybe five or so, still came anyway,” Lucchesi said. “But it was peaceful. There were no issues.”

Kinder said the counter-protestors were not a concern and didn’t influence the decision to postpone the walk-out.

Loyola women’s basketball ends season with loss to Valpo in conference tournament

By Patrick Engel
Medill Reports

MOLINE – Loyola players and coaches hung around the TaxSlayer Center after their game to watch the Missouri Valley’s award ceremony. They gazed from across the court and offered periodic golf claps as the league’s individual award winners climbed onto a makeshift stage to accept a plaque, certificate or trophy as recognition.

A team made of mostly underclassmen looked on as veteran-laden Drake collected the loot from its merciless run to a second straight 18-0 conference season. Drake players took home seven honors, including the MVC’s player of the year. Barring an upset, the Bulldogs will collect another trophy – a conference tournament championship – and a spot in the NCAA tournament at the conclusion of the weekend.

“That’s a team we want to be in three to four years,” said Loyola freshman Abby O’Connor, an MVC All-Freshman team selection. Continue reading

Two seniors, two different paths and one common challenge

By Patrick Engel
Medill Reports

The floral bouquets were delivered, the tribute videos were finished and the 2-foot by 3-foot action pictures were framed. It was 12:45 p.m., which on March 3, 2018 at Gentile Arena, meant the time had come for a sendoff.

Loyola’s seniors lined up with their families, paraded out to center court, embraced their coach, received bouquets and smiled for the cameras.

“You think about the end even from the beginning of this season,” said senior forward Katie Salmon. “You know going into it, it’s the last first.”

Salmon was the last player called on Loyola’s Senior Day, with guard Jessica Cerda preceding her. They held their pictures and posed for photos at center court with Loyola’s third senior, guard Lee Williams.

Salmon and Cerda, two guiding presences on a team with five freshmen and two sophomores, have combined for 46 starts this season. Saturday was their last one at home. Before an 0-2 weekend against two of the Missouri Valley’s top three teams, they had helped Loyola go 4-4 in the previous eight games. Their careers will end this weekend at the MVC tournament in Moline.

The real story, though, is a confluence of two different needs for change that led to refreshed careers.

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Loyola women’s basketball regular season ends with a thud against Northern Iowa

By Patrick Engel
Medill Reports

Nearly every shot is met with a hand in the face. Passing lanes open for a fleeting moment. Screens are called out so everyone in the building can hear. Switches and double teams come fast, and deflections are frequent.

This is what it’s like to face Northern Iowa’s defense, often an immovable force with no obvious antidote. Loyola discovered as much Saturday afternoon. It’s why the Panthers are inside the top 40 nationally in scoring defense and enter next week’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament as the No. 3 seed.

“They’re just hard-nosed,” Loyola coach Kate Achter said.

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Chicago State men’s basketball ends 40-game Division I skid and hopes to begin a climb upward

By Patrick Engel
Medill Reports

The monstrous ring encircles Tracy Dildy’s fourth finger on his right hand. It’s shiny and silver, with the letters “CSU” intertwined using evergreen gems. His name is on it, as are 2013 and “CIT.”

Yes, it really is a ring honoring an appearance in the Collegeinsider.com Postseason Tournament, a pay-to-play tourney designed for mid-major programs.

Dildy and Chicago State reached the CIT in 2013 by winning the Great West Conference tournament. It took two wins in March 2013 to earn a championship in a conference that no longer exists, and when it did, gave its winner a free bid to the CIT and not March Madness.

It may seem trite, unnecessary, or just downright silly. Dildy, Chicago State’s eighth-year head coach, has his reasons.

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Loyola’s Clayton Custer wins MVC Player of the Year, four other Ramblers pick up awards

By Patrick Engel
Medill Reports

Clayton Custer sat in Loyola’s training room before Tuesday afternoon’s practice, confused by teammate Nick DiNardi’s unprompted congratulations.

“I said, ‘Congrats on what?’” Custer recalled.

DiNardi explained. Custer had just been named the Larry Bird Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. He’s the first Loyola player to win it in the Ramblers’ five seasons in the MVC, and first Rambler to win player of the year in any conference since 1987.

“It’s a huge honor,” Custer said Tuesday. “I’m very humbled by the fact I won this award just because of all the great players that have won it in the past.”

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Tobias Harris’ day of service brings fun moments for him and his father

By Patrick Engel
Medill Reports

COMPTON, Calif. – Torrel Harris hopped into a Mercedes van Friday morning, unsure of its exact destination. He knew he and his son, Los Angeles Clippers forward Tobias Harris, were going to a Compton school as part of Friday’s NBA Cares day of service. He had no idea which one.

The van rolled down East 133rd Street, past a sign for Jefferson Elementary School, then pulled into the school’s parking lot. That’s when the surprise became a special one. Torrel immediately told Tobias why: It was his elementary school.

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