Rise of Highland Park athletics

Ever since I have known about Highland Park Senior High, I have been aware of the Highland-Central rivalry. When I was 7, my cousin Stefan Landreau, started at HPSH and there came the football season. Stefan would report back to his parents, Charlotte and Carlos, disappointed at how Highland would lose most sports games to Central and other tough SPPS schools like Como. In particular, they would get trounced in football every year which seemed to be the most important game of them all.

Next, followed Stefan’s younger brother, Ian, who was even more socially involved and outspoken and therefore even more angered and disgusted with how poor Highland athletics were. Maybe it was out of luck, or Ms. Galligan, the former Athletic Director, worked some magic of her own behind the scenes, but something changed in/around 2014.

I was keen to flip the switch in the sports that I could: soccer. I played varsity tennis in 8th grade, and our tennis program has been at the top of the conference, along with Harding, as one of the state’s best in boy’s tennis for several years. The soccer team was a different story.

I know of, and am friends with, some guys from the middle school that entered in with me: Josh Aune, Charlie Weill, Declan Flynn, Gabe Nelson, Mohamed Bue, Charlie Dombrow, and Abdi Gutu just to name a few star athletes in my grade. I had a feeling with the guys above us heading into their sophomore years such as, Amitri, Dreem, Joe, and some upperclassmen that this continued lack of achievement in athletics was bound to change.

Every year since I have been here, the records of our teams have gotten better and better. In my freshman year on the varsity soccer team we had a record of 5-12-1; already better than the past years.

Sophomore year, we were about .500 and saw a coaching change.

These past two years, we have been under a fantastic coach, have really impressive records (as well as two consecutive appearances in the section semis in which we lost to the eventual state champions last year and runners-up this year), have won a conference championship, and a one game slip-up caused us the championship last year.

The rise has not just been in soccer though. We have beaten Central in football for two straight years now (lead by Josh Aune), have been contenders for basketball (lead by Mohamed Bue and Ian Gallagher) and football conference championships, as well as being in section championships for the past couple years as well.

Now, the gradual success does not stop there. In volleyball, we have now won the conference championship four out of the last six years, led by Ellie Egbert and Michaela McGough, and girl’s tennis has had significant improvement in conference play lead by Sami Linssen and Neesha Moore.

Boys track has now won three conference championships in a row, lead by Josh Aune and Abdi Gutu.

The boys lacrosse team, lead by Declan Flynn, has improved their record drastically during my time at Highland.

The biggest surprises, however, came in cross country running and skiing. Both have now won the conference championship six or seven times in the last decade, with many finishes in the top 15 of state in recent years.

This new wave of achievement is remarkable, yet not overwhelmingly surprising or unprecedented. Even with fewer people at Highland, continued work-ethic and persistence have paved the way for significant results building reputation. Highland did have success in the 90’s and 80’s but gradually declined toward the turn of the 21st century.

I am willing to bet that Ms. Galligan’s magic propelled the next wave of athletes into stardom rather than a random group of talented athletes enrolling Highland Park High School. At least, that’s this writer’s opinion.

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