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Chance encounter led to Marian Catholic senior placing in shot put at state – other local scores

Marian Catholic

CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. (May 23, 2023) – A chance encounter on the first day of school last fall was a game-changer for Marian Catholic’s Kayden Porter and Curt Crossley.

Crossley had just started his new job as a dean at Marian Catholic and Porter had just transferred to the Chicago Heights school from Shepard.

Porter was looking for help navigating her way around the building, and Crossley said, “Let me see, we’ll find out together.”

The talk turned to sports and Porter told Crossley — the Spartans’ new head coach for boys and girls track — that she was a softball player who also had been a shot putter.

One thing led to another, and Porter wound up competing in both sports this spring for the Spartans. She’s focused primarily on the diamond, but Crossley and softball coach Nora Zerante worked it out for Porter to compete in track and field in the bigger meets.
And on the biggest stage of all, Porter delivered last weekend.

The senior became Marian’s first-ever state placer in the shot put, finishing fifth in Class 2A at 38-9.

That was part of a historic day for the Spartans, who placed in four events. Junior Mia Rodriguez became the first Marian athlete to win three medals in one year, taking eighth in both the 100 (12.34) and 200 (25.24) and joining senior Bethany Peoples, sophomore Autumn Price, and freshman Brooklyn Holmes on the eighth-place 400 relay team (49.27).

Crossley, who was a multisport athlete himself at Bishop McNamara in Kankakee, was confident Porter would be able to handle her demanding schedule as a two-sport spring athlete.

“She’s a competitor, works really hard,” Crossley said. And, he noted, Zerante and Porter’s parents bought in. “She practiced (the shot put) whenever there was a rainout or cancellation (in softball).”

Rodriguez’s big day sets her up well for next season.

“Mia is super talented,” Crossley said. “I kept telling her she’d be peaking at the right time.”

All in all, it was a productive season for the Spartans, who broke six program records and had a larger roster than in previous years.

“The whole program has been hungry,” Crossley said.

And it all started when Crossley and Porter crossed paths last fall.

Boys tennis

The doubles team of junior Jonathon Bolton and RJ Macasaet finished second in the Class 2A Oak Forest Sectional on Saturday to qualify for state.

Bolton and Macasaet finished 3-1, including a comeback from a set down in the second round.

Marian’s two singles players, Matthew Jenkins and Nick Kirsch, each went 1-1. Doubles partners Gavin Kreuger and Julian Brown did the same.

Marian finished third in the team race with 16 points, one behind co-champs Brother Rice and Oak Forest.


Gracie Jensen homered and drove in three runs as the Spartans blanked TF North 15-0 in four innings on Monday in the Class 3A Oak Forest Regional semifinals.

Sarah McManus pitched a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts for Marian (20-10), which advanced to Friday’s title game against the Oak Forest/Thornton winner.


The Spartans finished the regular season at 17-17 after beating Andrew 6-3 on Monday. Matthew Gonzalez went 3-for-4 with a double and three RBI for Marian, which used seven pitchers to complete a six-hitter.

Marian beat Hanover Central 9-4 on Saturday behind big days from Nick Mangano (2-for-3, double, 2 runs, walk, RBI) and Gonzalez (2-for-2, 2 walks, 3 RBI).

TF South

TF South

Girls track and field

The Red Wolves’ 400 relay team of Taylor Poole, Janiya Lucas, Laniya Porter, and Nyrobi Moore ran 31st in the Class 3A state preliminaries on Friday with a time of 50.02.

The same quartet qualified for state in the 800 relay, but did not finish the preliminary race.

Illiana Christian


The Vikings opened play in their own Class 2A sectional by shutting out Lake Station 14-0 on Monday.

Mikayla Derks and Cayden Peterson combined on a perfect game with 13 strikeouts. Lydia VanderWoude was 2-for-2 with an inside-the-park homer and two RBI.

Illiana (17-8) plays North Newton on Wednesday in the semifinals.

Illiana dropped its regular-season finale 2-1 to Crown Point on Friday. Derks pitched six-hit ball over six innings, allowing one earned run and two walks while striking out seven. Avery Martin was 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI.

Boys golf

The Vikings won the Greater South Shore Conference Tournament on Monday, shooting a 331 at Lost Marsh to beat runner-up Hanover Central by 23 strokes. Isaac Sherwood, Zach Davids, and Donny Woo all made first-team all-conference, Van Corcoran was named to the second team and Noah Davids received honorable mention.

Boys volleyball

The Vikings finished 25-9 after falling to Southport in four sets in a regional final on Saturday.

TF North

TF North


The Meteors began the IHSA playoffs with a 9-8 quarterfinal win Monday over Thornridge in the Class 3A St. Laurence Regional.

North plays the hosts at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the semifinals.

Girls track and field

North’s Ximena Valdivia finished 32nd in the state preliminaries of the Class 3A 800 on Friday, running 2:31.97.

TF United (TF South/TF North coop)

Girls soccer

United finished 12-5 after losing 8-1 to the host Mighty Macs last Wednesday in the Class 3A Mother McAuley Regional semifinals.

Boys volleyball

United’s season ended on Monday with a 25-20, 25-12 loss to Richards in the quarterfinals of the Stagg Regional.

Boys tennis

United wrapped up its season by competing in the Class 2A Oak Lawn Sectional last weekend. The doubles team of Sijaude Bello and Leandro Morales had the best showing, falling 6-3, 6-2 to a duo from Eisenhower in the first round.


Mike Clark
Mike Clark
Mike Clark is a veteran journalist who has been covering sports in the Chicago area and beyond, from preps to pros, for more than four decades.