CHAMPAIGN – Athena Liao shocked herself Saturday. This weekend, she'll get a chance to show the state how far she's come.
The Urbana senior, who spent much of the season recovering from summer knee surgery, is seeded seventh and eighth in her top events at the state swimming and diving meet in Winnetka.
WESTVILLE – Everyone has heard the timeless saying that it isn't the size of the dog in the fight, but rather the size of the fight in the dog that matters most.
That line of thinking rings as true in the Westville locker room as it does anywhere, and senior Aaron Johnson, listed at a generous 5-foot-7 and 140 pounds, is one of the big dogs.
TUSCOLA – Travis Surma's body has been through a lot.
As a sophomore, the Tuscola safety's season ended after he broke his hip. In his junior and senior seasons he has sustained concussions, reinjured his hip, bruised his quad and suffered what is believed to be a broken thumb.
TUSCOLA – In Week 6, facing defending Class 2A champion Maroa-Forsyth, Tuscola coach Stan Wienke said the paid attendance was 4,200.
With a lot of folks entering the facilities before the gates officially opened, the attendance was probably closer to 4,500, he said.
ARCOLA – They've been called underdogs. Overachievers. A Cinderella team.
Here's one more title you can affix to the Arcola football team: Final Four qualifiers.
MOUNT OLIVE – It got to the point Saturday where the Tuscola fans who made the 130-mile trip to Mount Olive were more interested in what was going on in a game a little closer to home than the game they had driven so far to watch.
"Arcola's up 14-8," one fan shouted. Later, more of the same. "It's 14-14." Then, "21-14 Arcola." You get the picture.
CHAMPAIGN – It's a tradition that the coach of the sectional championship swimming and diving team gets tossed into the pool – with clothes on – by the team's members.
Champaign Central's Will Barker got that honor Saturday, but as much as the Maroons enjoyed shoving their veteran coach into the Unit 4 pool's water, they had an ever better time in the preceding three hours.
MAROA – Going into Saturday's Class 2A quarterfinal showdown against defending state champion Maroa-Forsyth, Westville knew it would take a total team effort to beat the talented Trojans on their home field.
That was exactly what the Tigers got in a 32-20 victory that sent them to their third straight state semifinals, where they'll face Casey-Westfield next weekend.
ST. JOSEPH – Zach Becker didn't leave the field while Saturday's Class 3A football quarterfinal game was in progress.
The St. Joseph-Ogden senior was in no hurry to depart after the Spartans suffered a 26-22 loss to Plano in a rematch of last year's state championship game. He lingered while reporters gathered around for interviews and while family and friends tried to console him.
WESTVILLE – When the football team steps on the field tonight, the Westville Tigers will be in familiar territory. They will play undefeated Maroa-Forsyth.
The game is a rematch of last season's Class 2A state championship game. Westville's 2006 season ended when it ran into the Trojans, but the Tigers get a shot at redemption at 7 p.m. on Maroa-Forsyth's field.