Joliet Catholic crowd carries on the traditions
By Tony Graf firstname.lastname@example.org October 6, 2012 1:22AM
Updated: November 8, 2012 11:50AM
Frank Bruno sprinted in the brisk air of the fall night, carrying the giant Joliet Catholic flag before thousands of loyal and loud football fans.
The Hilltoppers had scored twice within two minutes to tie Carmel at 10-10 by halftime Friday night at Joliet Memorial Stadium.
Bruno’s flag had the right kind of gust, and the crowd had the right kind of gusto.
“There’s a new flag this year, brand new,” said Bruno, a senior. “Touchdowns, field goals and momentous game-changers — I run up and down the track in front of the home crowd, trying to instill some energy, some emotion.”
He quickly added, however, that he does not need to do much instilling: This crowd, energetic and full of tradition, knows how to fill a stadium with cheers.
“Generations, generations. You see people 80 and up, and then you see little kids, like I was, up in the stands. So when you got a tradition like that, it’s not hard to be emotionally involved,” Bruno said.
Bruno represents the third generation of his family to attend the school. His grandparents, Frank and Rosemary (Lucenta) Markun, were students.
Frank Markun came to this country from Slovenia. He attended Joliet Catholic High School — “The Hill,” as his grandson proudly called it. Rosemary Lucenta attended St. Francis Academy.
Frank and Rosemary Markun had 11 children — all of whom attended either Joliet Catholic or St. Francis. Among those children is Mary Lynn, a St. Francis alumna.
Mike and Mary Lynn (Markun) Bruno are the parents of the current flag-bearer.
“I’ve got a whole line of people who went through before me, so it’s kind of a continuing legacy now,” Frank Bruno said.
Legacy and laughs
With the traditions, there always is fun. Antonio Acosta, a junior in the student cheering section, held up a gnome figure that was painted in the school colors, brown and white. The Victory Light, a well-known symbol of the school, was on the gnome’s cap.
“This gnome has been everywhere. I honestly don’t know how long it’s been in the Joliet Catholic Academy family. But it’s pretty lucky, I must say,” Acosta said.
Somebody left the intricately designed Travelocity gnome on the floor of the stadium, and Acosta rescued it. It’s been a popular presence in the student section.
“It’s a traveling gnome, because it goes everywhere we go,” Acosta said.
So if you’re keeping score here, you’ve got 1) the school’s tradition, 2) Bruno’s velocity and 3) Acosta’s Travelocity. This is not a commercial, by the way, because no ad writer could possibly make this stuff up.
On Friday night, Anthony Salata was one of many students wearing pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is October. He was wearing a pink T-shirt on a chilly October night, but that’s OK — he was wearing a white-and-pink scarf to keep warm.
Adding a serious note, Salata said of the cancer awareness theme: “Even in the hardships, we overcome.”
Elsewhere at the stadium, Lori Reitz was with the JCA Football Moms, a group that raises funds for the team and an end-of-year banquet. The banquet is for varsity players, along with the coaches and their spouses.
On Friday, the group was selling Joliet Catholic-themed clothing and raffling off a basket full of gifts donated by the community. The group includes Reitz, Susan Harrison, Janet Madrigal, Lupe Bibian, Gloria Dollinger, Michele Slowik and Karen Isaac.
The Hilltoppers eventually won 31-24 in overtime. Frank Bruno did plenty of running — carrying the colors of his team, and carrying a great story of generations into the future.