Kirk reflects on five-sport senior year

Rochelle senior Reese Kirk recently completed his season with the Hub varsity baseball team. Baseball is one of five sports (golf, bowling, soccer, wrestling) Kirk has participated in during the 2020-21 school year. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Rochelle student-athlete takes advantage of unprecedented circumstances

ROCHELLE — Reese Kirk was in the Rochelle Hub dugout when the varsity baseball team battled Dixon in the IHSA 3A Regional Semifinals on Friday. The game went into extra innings, with the Dukes ultimately outlasting the Hubs to eliminate Rochelle from regional contention.

Roughly 12 hours later, Kirk was in the Rochelle Township High School gymnasium Saturday morning, wearing his Rochelle Hub singlet and competing for the varsity wrestling team in its Senior Day triangular meet with Belvidere and Winnebago. Despite having already graduated and receiving his high school diploma, Kirk was motivated to make the most of his senior year and do what no Hub or Lady Hub student-athlete had done before: become a five-sport athlete.

“I wanted to wrestle over the weekend because I was forced to choose between baseball and wrestling this year,” Kirk said. “I thought I should take advantage of my opportunity so I could help our team out as much as possible. I wanted to play as many sports as I could because of the added sports season this year and I wanted to challenge myself with the workload.”

Kirk’s desire to play five sports stemmed from the unprecedented challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the cancellation of spring sports last year as well as the suspension of nearly all summer athletic activities last year and the indefinite pause of winter sports through late 2020 and early 2021. While the traditional school year is made up of three athletic seasons (fall, winter and spring), the 2020-21 school year was quite different, with the IHSA approving a revised calendar that included an unprecedented fourth summer season.

Rather than let the COVID-19 pandemic hinder his senior year, Kirk took advantage of the unique opportunity to play additional sports. Kirk suited up for the Rochelle Hub varsity golf team during the fall before trading his golf spikes in for bowling shoes during the winter. After bowling for the Rochelle Hub varsity team in the winter, Kirk competed for the Rochelle Hub varsity soccer team in the spring before playing baseball during the new summer season.

“I was looking forward to picking up new sports,” Kirk said. “I never had the chance to play some of these sports and I never thought I’d be able to compete with some of the best players in the conference. I really enjoyed playing soccer and bowling for the varsity teams this year.”

Kirk will continue his academics and athletics at Kishwaukee College, where he plans to play golf and baseball while studying business. Despite his previous experience in three of the five sports, Kirk had never played high school soccer or bowling before his senior year. But with participation numbers down at RTHS across most sports, Kirk made an immediate impact with both teams, starting on the varsity bowling team and earning starting reps on the soccer team.

“My advice for student-athletes would be that, if you have an opportunity to try something new, then go ahead because you never know when you’ll need sports to help you later in life,” Kirk said. “My advice would be to play as many sports as possible because you can only play for so long and it’s important to cherish those moments.”

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