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CHICAGO 2015 IN REVIEW Local sports anniversaries, passings and more
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times

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There was plenty of joy, jubilation and success on the fields of play for Chicago's LGBT sporting world in 2015—and tears, too.

Chicagoans had strong showings in multiple sports on a national scene and further expanded this city's grip as a prominent force for gays who love to play sports.

There's an overflowing crowd of participants and spectators on Friday nights along the beach for the multi-leveled beach volleyball league. Saturdays in the fall mean flag football, with multiple divisions and games for men and women. Sundays in the spring and summer mean softball, of course—with the predominantly male Open Sunday Softball League and, about a mile away also played along the lakefront, the women's league.

Pick a day and pick a sport, and you can probably play it in Chicago's strong, ever-expanding LGBT sports scene.

Chicagoans in 2015 won volleyball championships, soccer titles and certainly boasted our city's rank nationally on the softball field. Chicagoans also in 2015 cried at the passing of sporting friends, with three prominent deaths bringing the sporting world together to mourn and console one another.

Richard M. "Dick" Uyvari, an integral part of Chicago's gay sporting surge dating back to the 1970s, died Sept. 2. He was 71 and preceded in death by his longtime partner Joe LaPat, who died in 2008.

Uyvari played a major role in the national gay bowling movement, helping host the International Gay Bowling Organization ( IGBO ) tournament in Chicago, and he played in most of their tournaments. Uyvari also competed in almost every Gay Games ( winning a gold, a bronze, and two silver medals as bowling team captain ), and he helped run the bowling tournament at Gay Games VII in Chicago in 2006. Uyvari and LaPat were key donors to the Gay Games in Chicago.

Uyvari's legacy within the predominantly gay Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association ( CMSA ) is long-lasting. He is a member of the CMSA Hall of Fame and had been the organization's president, secretary, or treasurer of more than a dozen years. Uyvari also served on the boards of the Lincoln Park Lagooners and IGBO.

Uyvari's passing ranked first on the Top 15 Chicago LGBT sports moments from 2015.

Spiking success

The team name is Poppers and at the annual Thirst Seattle NAGVA Championships 2015, it was tops in the B division.

This Chicago team of eight, plus a player from Minneapolis, captured the championship out of 39 teams, ultimately defeating a team called LAVO Killer B's.

The team featured Federico Roque, Guillermo ( Memo ) Madrigal, Mark Saavedra, Nathan Draper, Sean Alexander, Ronald Gonzales, Steven Acosta, Daniel Ibarra-Ramirez and Giovanni Parodi.

"We retired the team name now that we no longer can play together since three of us were uprated," after the championship, said Acosta. "Last year championships were in [Washington] D.C. [for the championship] and got second place. We fought hard, but could not make it. So we came back this year and we really wanted to get first place."

Speedo run

Sure, the annual Santa Speedo Run-Boystown, held in early December, might not qualify as a true sport, but it certainly is entertaining, eye-catching and benefitting a worthwhile cause.

Sidetrack hosted the event once again.

"By all measures, the event exceeded our goals for this unique and fun event," said Sidetrack general manager Brad Balof. "We had [more than] 700 people participate in the event, [including more than] 200 runners, and a lot of holiday spirit.

"It was a joy to be joined by the Chicago Spirit Brigade to cheer on the scantily clad guys and gals running through Boystown. The costumes have gotten more creative and more sexy over the last few years, and even if you weren't a runner, or in a Speedo, there was a lot to enjoy about the event.

"The event organizers bring so much spirit and joy. When you listen to them talk about what they do, it's inspiring. I know that Center on Halsted is grateful for their amazing efforts for this annual event," as the Center benefits from the run.

Several Boystown businesses contribute to the success of the Santa Speedo Run, donating auction, drawing and prize packages, and more.

The 2015 Santa Speedo Run, the fifth annual, brought in more than $42,000.

The event's top fundraisers were David Roberts, Adam Lang, Everett Moran and Alexander DeHilster who collectively brought in about $12,000.

The event benefits the Center on Halsted's new youth housing initiative.

Winning ways

CMSA soccer captured first place at the San Fransisco Folsom Tournament; Kyle Palmer was the team captain. CMSA soccer also finished in second place at the IGLFA Madison North American Championship, with John Rutka serving as the team captain.

CMSA kickball ended its sixth season in 2015, with more than 10 teams and 170 players. The league also gave back to the community by participating in a paper good fundraiser for Gigi's Playhouse, which helps children and adults with Down's syndrome.

Kickball resumes in May.

The Chicago Blaze placed second in the "B" division of the annual Flag Football Gay Bowl, this year held in San Diego. The team, captained by Matt Simpson and Rich Aleong, accomplished Chicago's best showing in any division of Gay Bowl since 2006.

Decade of success

The Chicago Rowing Union ( CRU ) celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2015—and has now taught more than 200 people how to row, built an alumni base of more than 250 members from the LGBT community and its allies, participated in more than 65 competitions ( including six international events ), and brought home numerous medals including a gold medal at the 2014 Gay Games.

In 2015, with membership of about 60 athletes, CRU attended Midsommarfest in Andersonville, marched in the Chicago Gay Pride Parade, raised money for the Broadway Youth Center as part of its Erg-a-thon, competed in seven regattas, and celebrated this milestone season with its 10th-anniversary gala at the Swedish American Museum.

"I've been a part of CRU from the very beginning of both this team and of my rowing experience," said CRU president Bill Moudry. "The sport has had a huge impact on my life not just because of the physical and mental challenge it provides, but also because of the incredible people I have met. In many ways CRU does the same things that any other rowing team does, which in itself is impressive; but what it does differently is provide a gateway into this amazing sport for a segment of the community that may not have had the opportunity or inclination to participate in a team sport previously.

"It's been great to see the team grow and evolve, and I look forward to see what is next."

Jill Manrique, who is the CRU vice president of operations, added, "As an ally to the LGBT community, I am beyond proud to be a part of this organization. I have always loved rowing, but being a part of CRU with its amazing roster of teammates and friends has increased my love of this sport more than I thought possible. This team, this sport, this safe, fun, environment is what being an athlete is all about. I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for CRU."

Top 15 Chicago LGBT sports moments from 2015

1. Dick Uyvari passes away.

2. Poppers volleyball team captures first place at national championship.

3. CMSA Soccer wins first place in San Francisco tournament.

4. Dragons finish second in the Gay Softball World Series ( B Division ).

5. Chicago Dragons ( rugby ) have winning season.

6. Rachel Gore and Jamie Fornal arrive in Chicago, lead Force ( women's tackle football team ).

7. Chicago softball teams have overall success at the Gay Softball World Series.

8. Chicago Blaze capture second place in the annual Gay Bowl ( flag football ).

9. Caitlyn Jenner speaks at Chicago House fundraiser.

10. Women's softball team goes undefeated, wins championship in CMSA Fall Softball League.

11. Jack Neilsen steps down as commissioner after eight years leading the CMSA open Sunday softball league. Michael O. Rice named his successor.

12. CMSA Kickball has success on and off the field.

13. Sadness: Chicago mourns the passing of Carl Sharp and Matt Snyder, among others.

14. Santa Speedo Run-Boystown has its best event ever.

15. CMSA plays host to another successful flag-football tournament: Pride Bowl VIII draws teams from across the United States for late June event.

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