Father and daughter on opposite sides of crosstown rivalry

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The crosstown matchups between Naperville Central and Naperville North is one of the most intense rivalries in the state of Illinois, which stretches across all sports including in girls bowling. However, it’s not often that a father and daughter have competed on opposing sides in this particular rivalry, but that is exactly the case with Skye and Tobey Sanford. Skye is a senior member of the Naperville Central girls bowling team while her father Tobey is the head coach of Naperville North boys bowling. This Feature Story is presented by Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Prior to Coach Sanford taking the head coaching position for the Huskies in 2017, nobody in the Sanford family thought bowling would become so important to their lives.

“Bowling’s always been something we’ve done as a family for fun now and then growing up, but I didn’t know it would be part of my life, being a coach. That’s been a great opportunity for me. I didn’t know Skye would choose to do it in high school and so when Skye told us she was interested in going out for the team, we were a little surprised. We didn’t know that was going to be an interest to her,” said Tobey Sanford, head coach of Naperville North boys bowling.

“His [Tobey’s] team seemed like so much fun. Sometimes we would come watch him bowl with his team. It seemed like a lot of fun and a good way to make friends. I was like ‘Okay, I really like bowling.’ And they all seemed like they had a lot of fun. My dad enjoys it, so I would probably enjoy it too. So that influenced me so much to join the team,” said Skye Sanford, bowler for Naperville Central girls bowling.

Sanford family gets into bowling late

Despite getting into the sport just before high school, Skye has developed into one of the best bowlers in Illinois. She ended last season as a sectional qualifier and hopes to bring her entire Redhawks team along with her to that round this year. Her career has been a unique path, but she’s enjoyed every step of the way.

“I was just doing it to have fun and make some friends, but I’ve learned so much about being a team and I’ve had such great experiences like at tournaments that I never thought I would get to experience in a high school sport. So it’s been so much fun. It’s been so much more than I thought it would be,” said Skye Sanford.

The crosstown rivalry always makes for an interesting dynamic in the Sanford family. Of course, the rivalry involves its fair share of trash talk, but at the end of the day, Skye and her father are supportive of each other and their respective teams.

“I’m the only Huskie in my house now and everybody else is cheering for Redhawks. So they give me a hard time sometimes and I give it back as well,” said Tobey Sanford.

“Well I always ask him [Tobey] how his games go because I always want him to do well, but whenever I hear about the Redhawks beating him, I tease him a little bit. And so does my brother because my brother also goes to Central. So we all give him a little bit of a hard time for being with the Huskies, but we always want him to do well and he always cheers us on,” said Skye Sanford.

Redhawk head coach can relate

Steve Ondrus, Skye’s coach at Naperville Central, can appreciate the unique prep sports family experience of rooting for a family member in a rivalry. His daughter Abbey Ondrus might sound like a familiar name in the local area. That’s because she was the hero in the girls soccer state championship last year after her game-winning penalty kick won the 3A title for Metea Valley.

“Abbey’s journey in high school wasn’t always the hero of the game, you know, and to have that experience was amazing. To watch your kid do something that’s really special, and I’m sure Coach [Tobey] will say something similar about Skye, is just a really cool thing. It’s just an opportunity for you to kind of live through your kid, watch them go for their dreams, and do some really cool things. It’s really exciting,” said Steve Ondrus, head coach of Naperville Central girls bowling.

One of the biggest challenges for the Sanford family is not having to root in a rivalry, but finding time to watch each other’s teams compete when the boys and girls schedules overlap.

“I’m a little bummed when we have matches the same night she does and I don’t get to see her bowl, but I’m always keeping an eye on Twitter to see when Coach posts the scores to see how she’s done. I look forward to the part of the season when the boys are wrapped up and I get to go to a lot of Skye’s matches and see her bowl,” said Tobey Sanford.

While there is still work to do in the bowling season with plenty of games left for the Sanford family and this friendly rivalry, he is very proud of how far she has come in her high school career both as an athlete and as a person.

“It’s been more rewarding just to see her grow, be a leader, be a great sport and develop lasting friendships,” said Tobey Sanford.

For Naperville Sports Weekly, I’m Josiah Schueneman.