The student newspaper of Vernon Hills High School

The Scratching Post

The student newspaper of Vernon Hills High School

The Scratching Post

The student newspaper of Vernon Hills High School

The Scratching Post

Cougars compete, fight through adversity: Fall teams grow closer, stronger

VHHS athletes have been creating memories, expanding upon their skills, while growing closer with teammates. Collaboration from all grade levels has been key. Upperclassmen have been filling into leadership roles, while underclassmen have stepped up and worked hard to succeed.  Here is a snapshot of our fall sport highlights.


Boys’ Soccer

Ocho Finn (11) fights pressure from a Maine South defender. (Jack Viets)

Varsity Boys’ Soccer kicked off their season by winning the Grant Tournament for the third year in a row. 


Brandon Grunfeld (11), the team’s goalkeeper, said the team’s success comes from their chemistry. 


“We train basically every day; we work hard. We’ve really brought the team together. Before it was a lot of kids from different teams and different areas. But we’re all really coming together and making one unit as a team,” he said. 


According to Grunfeld, the team’s goals for this year include competing for the Conference title and continuing to grow their team connection. 


“We just want to succeed as a team. Of course we want to do better than last year, beat the teams we lost to, but to do that [we need to work as a team]. Soccer is not an individual sport; you’re only as strong as the weakest player on your team, so you have to learn how to play together,” he said. 


Grunfeld loves the team, as well as the sport. 


“I just love the challenge of [soccer]. It’s always been really fun to me, it’s brought me closer to my family. I love the teamwork aspect, how you’re working with other people, making connections. It’s just something that’s always been there for me,” he said. 

Girls’ Cross Country

Jori Ellen (11) competes at the First to the Finish race in Peoria. (Jori Ellen)


Jori Ellen (11) said Girls’ Cross Country season is going well. She said there are a lot of new runners this year, but the team has really bonded together. 


Jillian Leuck (10) agreed with Ellen.  


“I love my team and my coaches. It’s such a positive environment. I’m with my friends and run with them every day, so I really get to know them,” Leuck said. 


Ellen’s favorite part of the season was the First to the Finish race in Peoria. 


“It was a three hour bus ride each way, so we got to talk a lot. The race itself [was memorable]. We got to be with our teammates for a long time, because we left at 5 a.m. and got back 12 hours later,” said Ellen. 


For Leuck, her favorite part of the sport is bus rides back from meets. 


According to Ellen, these bus rides consist of playing music, conversing with teammates and braiding each other’s hair. 


“The race can be super fun, but the bus ride back is super memorable because you’re with your team, and even if they had a bad race, everyone is just enjoying themselves,” Leuck said.


Boys’ Cross Country

Bryant Lester (9) places 2nd for the Cougars at a home quad. (Aanya Gupta)


Stephen Posner (11) said the Boys’ Cross Country season is going well and is a lot of fun.


“We’re way faster than last year. Ever since [Coach Szabo] came, we’ve been getting exponentially faster. He has a really good training plan and takes into account how each athlete is feeling on that day,” Posner said. 


Bryant Lester (9) agreed with Posner and said his first season has been great so far. 


“I’ve adapted well. My teammates have been really good; they’ve helped me adapt to high school. I’ve met a lot of friends from the team, and it’s been great so far,” Lester said.


One of the season highlights for Posner was the First to the Finish race in Peoria. 


“It was super chaotic — a lot of adrenaline. I think there were just under 6,000 people that competed in all the races,” Posner said.


A challenge for the team this year was moving up to Class 3A, the classification of schools with the highest enrollment. 


Lester’s goal for the season is to make it to State, both individually and as a team. 


“I want to make it to State, and I really hope our team makes it to State. We moved up to 3A, so it’s going to be harder, but I do think we have a very good chance to make it,” Lester said. 


Swim & Dive 

Vicky Burda (12) dives into the pool at a meet at Glenbrook North. (Katherine Utsis)


Swimmers Beatriz Gatmaitan (12) and Kamryn Barberis (12) said the season is going really well and they have made new friends this year. 


“A lot of us have been making new times. We’ve also met a lot of new people through swimming because a lot of new people joined from all age groups, from freshman to seniors,” said Barberis. 


Barberis said being a senior on Swim has been bittersweet, but she is having a lot of fun as she closes this chapter of her life. Gatmaitan agreed with Barberis. 


“It reminds me to value the amount of time I have left, just really enjoy myself and spend as much time as I can with all my friends on the team,” said Gatmaitan. 


Divers are similarly having a very successful year. 


Livy Tran (11) placed first at her two meets and said she is having a lot of fun. 


“First meet, it was a partner relay meet and my partner and I won. During the most recent meet, I won the Varsity event,” said Tran. 


Julia Rausa (10) said the team environment makes diving even more fun.


“I look forward to seeing everyone, talking to everyone, and diving too, of course, because it’s fun flipping through the air,” she said. 


Both Tran and Rausa said that their favorite memory this year was a “Cultural Night” where the team had dinner together, brought cultural foods and hung out.



Volleyball huddles together for pregame rituals before their match. (Ruhi )


Girls’ volleyball has been working hard to adapt to new changes, such as a new head coach, and is striving to succeed as a team.


Kiersten Cieslinski (9) a Varsity outside hitter, said the team has been working through initial rough patches and that the connection as a team has improved quite a bit.


“As a team, we’re working on our goal to win Regionals and possibly Conference again. We also want to be over .500, which is winning over half our games,” she said.


Early in the season, the team worked a mud run to build team bonds and work on cheering on participants, since positive encouragement is a big part of volleyball.


Cieslinski is a freshman on the Varsity team, but felt less intimidated than she initially expected because of the inviting environment.


“All the upperclassmen on the team were very welcoming and they were all ‘you’re one of us’. There were no problems, which was very comforting,” Cieslinski said.


Girls’ Golf 

Romy Miller (11) poses with Coach Downey at Pine Meadow Range. (Anna Lee)


Varsity Girls’ Golf started off the season undefeated in their conference. The team had strong finishes in their early-season invitationals.


Anna Lee (12) has been leading the way for the Cougars, placing 2nd at both the Libertyville and Hersey Invites, as well as placing 3rd at the Lake County Invite. 


“I love golf because of the creativity when it comes to hitting your ball on the course and the team aspect. Working with a team is really important because you can collaborate with other people on how to do better and practice with them every day, ” said Lee. 


A season highlight for Lee was during the team’s 2nd CSL Conference win against Niles North. 


Every Varsity score was in the 40s or lower. 


Lee said the best part of playing golf at VHHS is the team environment because it’s very positive and everyone is close. 


Amanda Rakers (12) agreed with Lee. 


“Our team is very close-knit and because they’re only 18 of us on the team, we’re really a second family. We always support each other even when we’re having a rough game, we’re always cheering each other up,” said Rakers. 


Rakers’ favorite memory this season was at tryouts. 


“Coach Hausmann drove into a fence with a golf cart because he got his foot stuck on the pedal. And then he did a 360 and fell into the fence,” said Rakers.


Boys’ Golf 

Boys’ gold poses with their medals after breaking the 18 hole school record. (Lundaa Hayanhirvaa)


Boys’ golf has also had a tremendous start to their season, placing first and breaking the 18-hole school record with a cumulative five over par score of 293 at the Warren Open. The team also won the Glenbard North Panther invitational. 


Lundaa Hayanhirvaa (11) said his personal highlight for the season was shooting 72 at the Warren Open. 


Hayanhirvaa says he looks forward to team bonding and coming together as a team after playing great rounds this year. 


Micah Getlin (11) said he learned a lot this season. 


“This being my first year on Varsity, I’ve definitely learned a lot from the guys that have more experience than me. Coach Healey has also taught me a lot,…Course management has been really helpful,” said Getlin. 


Getlin’s favorite part of the season has been practice. 


“When we play up and down [a game of only getting two shots to putt into the hole], it gets competitive. We always have a good time at practices, and everyone is relaxed but getting better at the same time,” said Getlin. 



Shep Ratnow (12) steps in for a late touchdown against Lakes. (Jack Viets)


Jack Gutowski (10), running back and safety, said he is enjoying this year’s football season, despite starting the season off with a difficult schedule. 


“I like the vibe of everyone: being there to get better, and being there to play the game,” said Gutowski. 


His favorite part of the season was winning 28-21 against Lakes, which was also their first home game. 


Braydon Fichter (10), wide receiver, also has been enjoying this season and feels that it is going pretty well for him. He feels coaching has been very important to their improvement. 


“They make us condition a lot at the end of practice and it’s really hard because we’ve already had a bunch of running during practice. But, it allows us to be conditioned and not stop during the game,” said Fichter. 



Cheer poses for the first home game against Lakes. (Jack Viets)


Cheer has created fun memories and grown close as a team this season. 


Tatum Surber (11) said, “Our season’s been going really well. I really like how close our team is and how fun it is to cheer for the football team.” 


Payton Sobacki (10) and Kailynn Mohrdieck (10) said the team is improving very fast, and their teammates all get along well, which makes the sport fun. 


Surber’s favorite memory was the first football home game against Lakes. 


“It was really fun, since we won. We all got to cheer and were really excited about it.  We made friends with the opposing team’s cheer team; we talked to them, and it was fun to get to know them,” Surber said. 



The dance team poses at the end of their Friday night routine. (Jack Viets)

Dance kicked off their fall season, which is non-competitive, and is working hard to grow their skills and improve. 


Addy Kaiser (11) said that she loves being able to perform with her dance team at Friday night football games and has really enjoyed this season.


“My favorite memory was [the game against Buffalo Grove]. We did a lot with the Cheer team, and we like being with them,” Kaiser said. 


Preparation for Friday night performances begins at practice.


“Our practices usually look like us warming up and then doing across the floors. Then, really cleaning and practicing the dances, making sure we really feel solid before we hit the field,” said Kaiser.


Girls’ Tennis 

Girls’ Varsity Tennis poses for a picture on their home court. (Ruhi Subramanian)

Anika Bhargava (11) said the Girls’ Tennis team has found success this season. Her favorite part of the sport is the team environment. 


“I love that everyone is super fun; I like that the season is going well and that everyone is super accepting and inviting,” said Bhargava.


Her memories this season have come from spending time with her team. 


“I just love going to games with my friends, hanging out afterward, and bus rides too,” said Bhargava. 


Catherine Dinh (11) also said her season is going well; she has recorded a couple double bagels, which means winning both sets in a match 6-0.


This is Dinh’s first year on Varsity, which creates an added challenge. Her goal is to be able to say that she played her best by the end of the season.