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Ask Prep Sports Coordinator Fred Kroner about the spring season.
It's that time again. The last week sure passed quickly. Lets get right to the questions.
Fred...Which looks like the best prep baseball team thus far this season...and which player looks the toughest in our coverage area ??....
Hi Terry. That's a tough question to answer. Baseball is so much different than softball in one major respect. A good softball pitcher can throw four or five games in a week, but that's not possible in baseball. So, one baseball team might be really good when its ace is on the mound and average to mediocre for other games. There are several schools which appear to have at least two quality pitchers. Even though games have been going on for about three weeks, it's still hard to separate teams. In no particular order, I'd look at St. Joseph-Ogden, Tuscola, Schlarman, Monticello, Unity, Mahomet-Seymour and St. Thomas More as some of the better teams based on pitching depth. As for top players, Monticello has a couple of true standouts in Jacob Williams and Nick Stokowski. Of course, at Danville, catcher Chuckie Robinson could be a major league draft pick in another year. What I particularly like about the SJ-O, Tuscola and M-S teams is the depth and the number of different athletes who could be impact players. Hope that gives you a little insight as to how things are looking now.
Fred,It looks like Urbana might have a good year in its spring sports programs.Girls Track and Field leading the way and Girls Soccer. Baseball might have a year above 500 with the athletes they have on the team.Girls softball might improve. What are your thoughts?
Hi Tom. I think you hit it right-on. Girls' track and girls' soccer should be very, very good this spring. Coaches of both sports are working with a number of proven, varsity-tested athletes and will have teams that will be fun to follow as the spring progresses. Softball was in the regional finals last year. I think that would be an attainable and realistic goal again. I haven't had the chance to see the team play yet. Maybe I will see even greater potential when I do see them in action. I think the jury is still out on baseball. There is some good young talent there, no doubt. What that usually means is inconsistency: games where the team is really, really good and other games which will be a struggle. Of the boys' spring sports at Urbana, I think baseball will lead the way. Tennis is still rebuilding and track is going to have difficulty covering all of the events, which is needed to have team success. A .500 season would be a good target for baseball, but who knows? Sometimes young players don't feel that pressure of expectation and if they get on a roll, that might carry them a long, long ways.
Danville's Dennis Hightower was a near miss for first team all area in both football and basketball this year. Who are some of your top area boy's athletes that were highly successful in multiple sports in your many years of coverage?
Oh my! You want to get me in trouble, I see. I’m certain there are MANY more than what I can think of this afternoon right off the top of my head. I’ll give this a shot, focusing only on former prep athletes I’ve seen who were high quality in multiple sports. If I were just picking single-sport stars, right at the top of my list would be Centennial’s Roger McClendon (1984) for basketball. The next person who immediately comes to mind is Urbana’s Tyke Peacock (1979), an outstanding basketball player but a world-class high jumper. He was something else, so graceful when he jumped and with so much spring. After that, there are several dozen that could easily be mentioned — and who probably should be mentioned. These are in no particular order. Oakwood’s Darrin Fletcher (1984) was a standout in football and basketball and, of course, his baseball accomplishments are legendary. Monticello’s Shawn Fatheree (1991) was All-Area in both football and basketball and a state-placer in track. Fisher’s Colten Unzicker (2009) was best-known for his success in wrestling, but was equally talented in football and well above-average in track. Speaking of running sports, two former Schlarman athletes should be noted: Kyle O’Brien (1998) and Scott Krapf (2006) were tremendous in both cross-country and track and they are two of the nicest people you'll ever meet. One of Mahomet-Seymour’s best multi-sport standouts from recent years was Joe Sapp (2003), an All-Area football player and a two-time state runner-up in wrestling. St. Joseph-Ogden’s Lukas Graves (2008) was All-Area in football and baseball and a three-time wrestling state-qualifier. Tuscola’s Dusty Burk (1998) is regarded mostly as a football player, but he was good enough in basketball to earn all-conference honors and in track to set school records in the hurdles. How can I stop now? Bismarck-Henning’s Eric Johnson (1993) was a wrestling state champion, as I recall with an unbeaten record, and was very good in football. Georgetown-Ridge Farm’s Aaron Martin (2005) lettered in four different sports, football, soccer, basketball and baseball, the one which he wound up playing at the University of Illinois. Rantoul’s Dwayne Smith (1999) might have been more successful in high school in basketball and track, but football is the one he pursued in college and he was a record-setting receiver. Armstrong-Potomac doesn’t offer a lot of sports, but Ryan Bird (2003) was as good as they come in basketball and baseball. It looks like I could write a book about this and I'm finding it’s hard to stop. Arcola’s Chad Graves (1990) was a football-basketball standout and Catlin’s J.D. Learnard (2009) was an All-Area selection in both football and baseball. Centennial’s Quincy Washington (1998) was a state-champion sprinter in track and at least a 1,000-yard rusher in football twice. A former Charger whom I just missed covering was U.S. Davidson (1973), whom I followed closely while I was in high school. His name is still prominent among the school’s all-time leaders in basketball nearly 40 years after he graduated and he was a state champion high jumper. Unity has had any number of individuals that could be mentioned. Dylan Sturgeon (2010) was the Player of the Year in football as a senior and a special-mention All-Area choice in basketball. The Rockets' Juan Molina (1991) was a two-time state finalist in wrestling as well as an accomplished football player. My apologies to the numerous schools and dozens of other deserving athletes not noted herein. If I had more time, I’m sure I’d ask myself how could I have overlooked so-and-so. This is not intended to be an all-encompassing, comprehensive list. That would be impossible! I know you didn’t ask about girls, but two multi-sport stars immediately stand out. Prairie Central’s Melanie Ward (1991) was the first from the area to be first-team All-Area in volleyball, basketball and softball the same school year. Then, Westville’s Terra Ramsey (2007) was the first to be All-Area first-team in those sports for two consecutive years. Hands down, the best single-sport female athlete I’ve had the privilege to cover was former Ms. Basketball recipient Courtney Porter, from Shiloh (1990). OK now, I hate to think about whom I’ve forgotten or overlooked.....sorry to those not coming to mind at the moment.
What an assortment of topics this week. Thanks to all who participated. I appreciate it. We'll be back again next week. Enjoy.