8:52 p.m. CDT, May 15, 2010
The H emblazoned across the chests of Bo, Ike and Luke Muzikowski has earned them the nickname “The Hope Brothers” from rival runners.
It also stands for home.
The Muzikowski brothers have built their educational and athletic careers like few students have. Bob and Tina Muzikowski, their parents, co-founded Chicago Hope Academy, where they have become standout students and Class 1A distance runners.
“We helped build the school, laid the grass out, helped with construction,” said Ike Muzikowski, a junior at the West Side high school. “We’re always around helping out. It’s like cleaning our house because it’s our second home.”
Bob Muzikowski was the co-founder of Chicago’s Near North and Near West Little Leagues in the 1990s. The former originated in the Cabrini-Green housing projects and was the inspiration for books and a controversial movie imitation, “Hardball.” His experiences with the Near West league, where his children played, led him to question their friends’ educational options.
Tina home-schooled their seven children until her husband decided with some colleagues about six years ago to open a more affordable Christian school in the city. He sold his investment and insurance business to partially fund the project, which included buying and renovating a former Catholic grade school with the help of several mission groups.
Hope Academy, in its fifth year, will have an enrollment next school year of about 200 students. The cost per student is $12,500, but each is offered at least a $4,500 scholarship from donated funds. It sits two blocks from the Muzikowski’s home, so senior Bo, junior Ike, freshman Luke and sophomore sister Tanner are always nearby if their parents need help with tutoring, office work or manual labor.
“Everyone knows us as ‘The Muzikowskis,’ as the standard, but it’s fine. I enjoy being here,” said Ike, who runs, plays soccer, basketball and rugby and is the kicker for the football team. “It’s not that much pressure. We just do it naturally because we have to be leaders and help out. It came from our dad because he sacrificed so much to get this started. We feel we have to give back to what he’s done for everybody else.”
The school has had moderate athletic success, especially from the three brothers on Hope’s eight-man track team.
Their running careers were born while Bob Muzikowski pushed a jogging stroller in weekend 5K races in Chicago. His children would hop out to run with him and eventually competed on the AAU circuit.
When Hope Academy was cleared for participation in Illinois High School Association series last school year, Bo and Ike placed 15th and 26th in the 1A state cross-country meet. They finished 11th and 13th in the 1A 3,200-meter run at last year’s state track meet. Both were feats considering Hope runs more than a mile to a park’s track for practices and uses parking garages for hill workouts.
“(Running in the city) can be difficult. Sometimes it’s hard on your shins. Sometimes red lights stop you,” said Bo, who will run next year at Columbia University. “It’s a setback, but you work with it.”
Bo and Ike will try to qualify again for the state track meet at the 1A Lisle Sectional on Friday in the 3,200 and 1,600 and with Luke and Isaiah Jindrich in the 3,200 relay.
“It’s all friendly competition (among brothers),” Luke said. “It’s a positive for our team. It feels good, knowing that no other teams have the kind of relationship we have.”
The Muzikowski file
Names: Bo, 18; Ike, 17; Luke, 15.
School: Chicago Hope Academy.
2010 times: 3,200 — Bo, 9:56; Ike, 10:06; 1,600 — Bo, 4:39; Ike, 4:40; 3,200 relay (all three with Isaiah Jindrich) — 8:26.
Top 1A state finishes: Cross-country — Bo, 15th in 2008; Ike, 26th in 2008, 17th in 2009; Track (2009) — Bo, 11th in 3,200; Ike, 13th in 3,200.
FYI: The brothers, three of seven children, all run cross-country and track, play soccer and play piano. Ike also is the kicker for the football team and plays basketball.
Source: Chicago Tribune