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Amundsen High's Sports Trophies, Plucked from Trash, Preserved by A.D.

By Justin Breen | September 16, 2013 8:20am
 Amundsen High School athletic director Erik Olson recently restored the school's various conference and city championship sports trophies.
Amundsen High School athletics trophies
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RAVENSWOOD — Many reminders of Amundsen High School's proud sports history found themselves in a garbage can in the school's basement.

That's where several of Amundsen's 13 city championship trophies were discovered a few years ago by boys soccer coach Alexander Perez.

"Heartbreaking," said Perez, 42, a 1991 Amundsen alumnus who helped coach the Vikings to seven city crowns. "Our kids that won those city titles worked very, very hard for them to be downstairs, in a garbage can."

Most of the trophies, including conference titles, had made their way to the school's basement — and somehow into the trash bin — several years ago after murals were painted in its main hallway. The ones that remained on the first level, including a 1934 Chicago Relay Carnival swimming trophy, were out of order chronologically and had lost much of their original luster.

So after the trophies and plaques were rescued from the garbage, the school's second-year athletic director, Erik Olson, decided this summer to restore the hardware — polishing and refurbishing the wooden-and-brass awards in the hallway just outside the main office. He also used a laser level to make sure the trophies were properly aligned.

"It had bothered me that the plaques were in a random order and not appreciated," said Olson, 31, of Roscoe Village. "It dishonors the legacy of the alums and the legacy of the school. I wanted to develop an esthetically pleasing way to appreciate them."

Olson appreciates school history. He graduated from Benton Community (Iowa) High School, where "trophy cases are everywhere in the building." He fondly recalls the prep cross-country team on which he competed as a senior winning the conference and district championships.

Amundsen, which opened in 1930, was a football powerhouse in the 1950s and '60s. The school even won a few city titles in ice skating in the 1980s.

The top sport though was boys soccer in the late '90s and early 2000s after Olson said a flood of Balkan War refugees increased the school's enrollment from about 1,300 to 2,000. During that time, Amundsen went to the boys soccer state finals in 1998, 1999 and 2001.

"All the soccer players back then wanted to come here because we were winning championships," said Perez, who has been either an assistant or head soccer coach since 1995.

Amundsen hasn't claimed a city title since that 2001 soccer squad, but Olson said he made sure to leave room on the walls for future honors.

And he hopes the school's next generation of administrators never have to relive the recent ordeal.

"I just feel strongly that even if plaques and trophies aren't your thing, please take the time to take care of them properly," Olson said. "Don't make a decision that will affect the school's legacy."