Sporting success after high school

Throughout the years, Libertyville High School has been a gateway for many athletes to continue their athletic careers. Featured below are a few athletes who have graduated from LHS and moved onto Division I collegiate sports within the last four years, with an update on how they’ve been doing since.

Avryl Johnson – University of Kansas Track & Field and Cross Country

Avryl Johnson, an LHS graduate in 2018, was a three-time USA Track and Field All-American and made the state final track meet all four years during her time in high school, where she was all-state once.
As a freshman at KU, she redshirted for her cross country season due to health concerns. After adequate amounts of rest, Johnson’s outdoor and indoor track seasons were “the best seasons I’ve ever had,” she said in a recent interview.
Her indoor 800 meter time dropped seven seconds from her high school best, going from a 2:18 to 2:11. Her outdoor 800 meter run time also dropped from 2:14 to 2:10. She recorded her personal best while running at the National Relay Championships in Arkansas, where she took 11th place.
Johnson said one of her favorite moments so far was “getting to race at the Big 12 Championships for indoor and outdoor as a freshman. It was such a cool experience.” She took 14th overall at the outdoor Big 12 Championships, the third-highest overall place of any freshman.
Along with her accomplishments on the track team, she’s enjoyed her time in Lawrence, Kansas, so far: “The team and coach are such a good fit. Coming to KU last year was a very easy transition because of the people here,” she articulated.
With her cross country season finished and her sophomore track season approaching soon, Johnson hopes to build on her past successes.
“I’m hoping to get a new [personal record] and hopefully medal at conference, along with staying injury free,” she stated.

Ben Kimpler – Miami of Ohio Football

A 2016 LHS graduate, defensive lineman Ben Kimpler was an IHSA first-team all-state selection in his senior year, when he helped propel Libertyville to a second-place finish in the 7A state finals.
Now a redshirt junior at the University of Miami at Ohio (redshirting means withdrawing from activities for a year to further one’s eligibility in college), Kimpler has enjoyed his time at the college thus far.
“I love it here in Miami. I came here for two reasons: the academics and to get the football program back where it used to be. Now, in my redshirt junior year, we put Miami back on the map by making it to the [Mid-American Conference] championship,” Kimpler explained over text.
He has recorded more than 70 tackles in his three years playing at Miami and will have one year left on his eligibility after this season wraps up.
Kimpler said his transition from high school to college was smooth because of Miami’s “freshman bridge program,” where freshmen football players “go to campus mid-June and start taking classes, as well as working out with the team,” he stated. “Being able to get on campus early and get a little head start was huge for me.”
As of Dec. 3, the Redhawks were 7-5 and have the best conference record in their division, which marks the first time they’ve won the MAC East since 2010.
“After clinching our division, our goal now is to bring home the MAC championship. Also, for next year, I hope to put myself in a great position to make it to the next level,” Kimpler stated.

Morgan O’Brien – University of Illinois Volleyball

O’Brien, a former MaxPreps All-American and record holder at LHS for digs in a single season, helped lead Libertyville’s girls volleyball team to a state-runner up title in 2014, when she was only a sophomore.
Currently a junior at the University of Illinois, O’Brien has been a major key to the team in each of her three years. Although she never had a dream school, she “wanted to play in the Big Ten since it is the most competitive volleyball conference. It was also important to find a school that had a good volleyball program and good academics,” she stated.
She also wanted to go to Illinois so that “my family could come and see a lot of my games. I really wanted to stay close to home,” she explained.
As a sophomore, O’Brien took on a major role, taking over the libero position and starting in all of the team’s 36 games. She led the Illini in digs by more than 200, putting her at seventh overall in the Big Ten. She also racked up 111 assists, which was the second-highest count of any player on the team.
As a junior, she currently leads the team in digs, once again, with 329, which puts her at ninth in the Big Ten. As one of the key players on the Illini squad, O’Brien said she hopes to lead her team to a Big Ten conference title before she graduates. Illinois currently sits at seventh in the Big Ten, which puts them right in the middle of the standings.

Joey Gunther – University of Illinois wrestling

Currently ranked as the 11th-best 174-pound wrestler in the country in InterMat’s National Rankings, Joey Gunther has had tremendous success at the college level.
This isn’t a new thing for Gunther; he was an all-state athlete twice in high school, which included a second-place finish in the 160-pound weight class during his senior season in 2015.
Gunther wrestled at the University of Iowa his freshman and sophomore years (he redshirted his freshman year), but decided to transfer to the University of Illinois for his junior year, where he now wrestles with his younger brother Michael as a redshirt senior. Through his four years of collegiate wrestling, he’s recorded an overall career record of 78 wins and 40 losses.
Gunther was named the Big Ten wrestler of the week on Nov. 19 after his upset win over a highly ranked opponent from the University of Missouri, which helped Illinois complete a comeback win over the Tigers.
Gunther stated “this was easily one of the best things we’ve accomplished as a team (upsetting 12th-ranked Missouri.) My favorite moment as an individual is definitely being a three-time NCAA national championship qualifier.”
Gunther was the first Illinois wrestler to win Big Ten wrestler of the week in almost two years, which was one of his goals coming into the season. His final goal for his wrestling career is “to become an All-American. That’s it.”