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Glenbard East six-sport athlete Lauren Huber a true ironwoman

Like most high school athletes, Lauren Huber saw her usual schedule go out the window because of the pandemic.

Glenbard East’s Lauren Huber wins the 300 hurdles at the Upstate Eight Conference girls track meet at Fenton.
Glenbard East’s Lauren Huber wins the 300 hurdles at the Upstate Eight Conference girls track meet at Fenton.
Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

Like most high school athletes, Lauren Huber saw her usual schedule go out the window because of the pandemic.

Huber lost her junior track season when the Illinois High School Association canceled all spring sports in 2020 as COVID-19 took hold.

When her senior year began last fall, Huber didn’t know if she’d be able to cycle through her usual sports of volleyball, basketball and track. So she decided to improvise.

The result was likely the busiest and most ambitious schedule of any prep athlete in the state. For the 2020-21 school year, Huber has competed in six sports: tennis, bowling, volleyball, basketball, track and softball.

As her hectic year winds down against the backdrop of sports returning to a semblance of normal, she regrets not a minute of it.

“We’ve been waiting all year for things to open up,” she said. “You can’t be unhappy about being too busy.”

Here’s a look at how Huber’s school year unfolded:

When volleyball was pushed back indefinitely as a higher-risk sport, Huber opted to play tennis, one of the few fall sports that proceeded on schedule.

“That ended and there was a while we were thinking basketball might not happen,” Huber said.

So she joined the bowling team. When the IHSA abruptly announced in January basketball was coming back soon, Huber found herself juggling two sports.

That segued into volleyball, which was a spring sport according to the state’s revised four-season calendar.

Now it’s the IHSA’s summer season and Huber is nearing the finish line of her personal marathon by juggling track and softball.

Many schools wouldn’t let an athlete try so many sports, but Glenbard East is the exception to the rule.

“They’ve been really flexible and understanding,” Huber said of her coaches. “Our athletic director (D’Wayne Bates), he played four sports in high school, so he’s supportive of it.”

Girls basketball coach Nicole Miller isn’t surprised Huber — who will play that sport at Illinois Wesleyan — has been able to pull this off.

“She’s the best female athlete that’s walked through our doors,” Miller said, “Incredible, incredible work ethic. Amazing athletic skill, jumping ability, speed, endurance.”

Huber led Glenbard East’s girls track team to the first conference title in program history Thursday, winning the 800 meters and 300 hurdles and taking second in the shot put.

The 800 is Huber’s best event. But she had never competed in either the shot or hurdles before this spring.

“She can do any event,” girls track coach Molly Gstalter said. “She’s such a quick learner, such a coachable athlete.”

Huber credits her parents for helping make it all work. That includes driving her from one event to another this spring, sometimes while she’s changing uniforms in the car.

Much as Huber enjoys staying busy in sports, she’ll be ready for a break when track and softball wind down in a few weeks.

“It’ll be weird having no schedule,” she said. “(But) I think we’re trying to make up for lost time (with) family vacations.”

More multi-taskers

Huber isn’t the only local athlete with a heavier workload this school year.

Libertyville senior Andrew Clark has juggled five sports: cross country, basketball, swimming, water polo and track.

Clark, who is heading to Georgetown with hopes of competing in club cross country, has done that sport, basketball and water polo throughout high school.

This year, the stars aligned to do more

“I’ve always been interested in doing swimming and track,” he said. “The seasons kind of lined up.”

Like Huber, he was pessimistic about basketball as months passed without word from the IHSA.

“I honestly didn’t think it was going to happen,” Clark said.

But it did, and as he nears the end of a busy but rewarding year, Clark has no regrets.

“It’s definitely been exhausting at times,” he said. “Overall, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s been rewarding to meet a lot of new people.”

Unlike Huber and Clark, Elk Grove senior Joe Gaskill isn’t doing any new sports this year. But he faced some challenges when the sports calendar opened up all at once.

“We went from almost nothing, (then) there was a point I was doing three (football, wrestling and track) in one week,” Gaskill said.

An excellent student with a 4.5 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale. Gaskill plans to play football and baseball at Illinois Wesleyan. Right now, he’s wrestling at 170 pounds and playing shortstop for the Grenadiers.

“I don’t mind being busy,” he said. “I was like, if I have the opportunity to (do all three sports), I’m going to go for it.”

After all those idle months, how could it be any other way?