What a school year! State championship teams, state championship individuals, top-ranked teams. Underclassmen who have already committed to Division I universities. Athletes who are being wooed by Division I coaches. Some memories are still vivid in our minds. Some had almost been forgotten. ¶ Our sports staff (special thanks to contributor Troy Gentle) has checked its records and scoured the microfilm to compile our comprehensive annual Year In Review. ¶ Decisions on whom to list in a majority of the categories were excruciatingly difficult. Two of the easiest choices were the Senior Athletes of the Year. Those honors went to Monticello’s Steve Schroeder and St. Joseph-Ogden’s Chelsea Blaase, both of whom were state champions in two sports during the school year. They shared their thoughts on what high school sports meant to them. ¶ In all, more than three dozen area schools had athletes or teams listed in at least one category. For the first time, new categories have been added — including an overwhelmingly popular one to recognize top assistant coaches (maybe next year we’ll expand the list) — and some categories (such as outstanding student-athletes) were returned after a brief hiatus. As we celebrate a school year completed, we can’t help but look ahead. In 61 days, the high school football teams will line up for the season openers.
TEAMS OF THE YEAR
1. LeRoy wrestling. State championship team featured 20-match winners in 11 of 14 weight classes.
2. Tuscola baseball. Five of nine batters for state runner-up team were seniors, four had played football.
3. Tuscola football. State runner-up finish marked third year in a row in the finals.
4. Bismarck-Henning boys' golf. Three of top four scorers for state runner-up team were underclassmen.
5. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley girls' track and field. State runner-up team scored points in seven events, winning three.
6. Unity boys' cross-country. Strong five-runner senior pack within 49 seconds of each other for state's second-place team.
7. St. Joseph-Ogden softball. Third-place team in Class 2A set area season record with 41 wins.
8. Monticello girls' cross-country. Third-place state finish marked first team trophy for school in any girls' sport.
9. Unity bass fishing. Best second-day score vaulted Rockets from 35th to ninth at state finals.
10. LeRoy girls' basketball. En route to a fourth-place finish at state, defeated top-ranked Annawan in 1A super-sectional.
11. St. Thomas More boys' cross-country. Four underclassmen and one senior had a 59-second split at state, leading the Sabers to fourth place.
12. St. Joseph-Ogden girls' track and field. Spartans' third state trophy for girls' track was for a third-place performance.
13. Monticello boys' cross-country. Two top-10 individuals led Sages to third-place trophy at state.
14. Unity football. Third straight year of advancing at least to the state semifinals.
15. Monticello boys' track and field. A school with eight sectional titles in the past decade under Jeff Butler claimed its first state hardware for third place.
16. St. Joseph-Ogden boys' track and field. State's fourth-place team just six points from a state championship despite not winning any event.
17. St. Thomas More girls' golf. Four seniors provided the spark for state's fourth-place team.
18. St. Joseph-Ogden football. Spartans made playoffs for the 21st consecutive year.
19. Tuscola softball. State fourth-place team tied school record for single-season wins (26).
20. Urbana Uni High boys' soccer. Illineks followed their first regional crown with their first sectional title as well as a school record for wins in a season (22).
1. Chuckie Robinson, Danville. Baseball coaches from LSU and Miami only go after the best prep players.
2. Cameron Mammen, Urbana. Projected as a defensive back or wide receiver, senior-to-be will have his choice of football offers.
3. Micah Johnson, Unity. Sprinter's speed makes receiver/defensive back a target of high-profile football programs.
4. Katelynn Martinez, Centennial. Playmaker has a Division I future in basketball, though she is equally talented in soccer.
5. Alexus Jimson-Miller, Danville. Athletic resume in track only surpassed by her academic achievements in the classroom.
6. Kandie Bloch, Argenta-Oreana. State champion high jumper an even better prospect in basketball who's playing for an elite AAU team.
7. Madie Baillon, St. Thomas More. Area's premier tennis player two years running has one more prep year before taking her game to the next level.
8. Ryan Pearce, Villa Grove. Discus state champion also in demand as a linebacker.
9. Rachel Jones, Centennial. Rising senior and Chargers' block leader has already given a commitment to Bradley for volleyball.
10. Jesse Hahne, Schlarman. All-stater in cross-country and track continuing Hilltoppers' standard of excellence for distance runners.
11. Joel Wurm, La Salette. At 6-foot-6, senior-to-be is as good as advertised, according to former DACC basketball coach John Spezia.
12. Chelsea Cross, Centennial. Two-time All-Area first-teamer has already eclipsed 1,000-point mark in basketball.
13. Kalli Gosser, Fisher. Great contact hitter in softball who can play infield and outfield.
14. Hannah Walker, Champaign Central. For two years in a row, has been regarded as the area's top lockdown defender in soccer.
15. Kevin Carroll, St. Thomas More. Area receiving leader an electric player who is a sure-handed pass catcher.
— Chelsea Blaase, St. Joseph-Ogden, Class 1A cross-country (17 minutes, 12 seconds)
— Steve Schroeder, Monticello, Class 1A cross-country (14:28)
— Danville First Baptist (11-5), Division II Illinois Christian Schools Association champion
— LeRoy wrestling (27-1), Class 1A team champion
— Sydni Meunier, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, Class 1A 800-meter run (2:11.30)
— Sydni Meunier, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, Class 1A 1,600-meter run (5:07.88)
— Chelsea Blaase, St. Joseph-Ogden, Class 1A 3,200-meter run (11:21.25)
— Sullivan/Okaw Valley, Class 1A 800-meter relay, Mollee Decesaro, Amanda McClain, Emily Neuhauser, Paige Neuhauser, (state-record 1:42.82)
— Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, Class 1A 1,600-meter relay, Jordyn Nettleton, LaToya Baillie, Sydni Meunier, Angel Gaesser, (3:59.22)
— Kandie Bloch, Argenta-Oreana, Class 1A high jump (5-10)
— Rachel Ballard, St. Joseph-Ogden, Class 1A triple jump (37-1 1/2)
— Tuscola boys' Class 1A 800-meter relay, Jeff Broch, Broc Smith, Chris West, Alex Kemp, (1:28.79)
— Monticello boys' Class 1A 3,200-meter relay, Tim Easton, Andrew Hanselman, Jesse Galaway, Steve Schroeder, (8:01.08)
— Steve Schroeder, Monticello, Class 1A 3,200-meter run (9:39.01)
— Ryan Pearce, Villa Grove, Class 1A discus (166-11)
— James Boyle, Urbana Uni High, journalism (editorial writing)
— Nikita Dutta, Urbana Uni High, journalism (feature writing)
— Kathryn Powell, Urbana Uni High, journalism (feature photography)
— Sarah Yockey, Urbana Uni High, journalism (copy editing)
1. Kyle Pool, Iroquois West. Valedictorian had a 4.64 grade-point average on a 4.00 scale while participating in golf, basketball and baseball.
2. Jamie Blue, Urbana Uni High. Area Basketball Player of the Year maintained a 4.0 grade-point average while excelling in three sports.
3. George Foehrer, Georgetown-Ridge Farm. Valedictorian carried a 5.0 GPA and lettered in football and track.
4. Kelsey Cleland, Tuscola. Valedictorian carried a 4.0 GPA and was a standout in volleyball as well as on the fourth-place state softball squad.
5. Scott Huisinga, Monticello. One of 13 boys statewide to earn first-team honors on the IHSA Academic All-State unit. A football receiver, he was a special mention All-Area choice.
6. Sydni Meunier, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. Two-event individual state champion in track as a junior and senior was one of the school's valedictorians with a 4.0 GPA.
7. Micah Plank, Sullivan. Salutatorian earned all-league recognition in basketball and was the leadoff batter in baseball. Also lettered in cross-country.
8. Dani Stigers, Heritage. Valedictorian was the first baseman for softball regional champions, a hitter in volleyball, and hopes to someday be an FBI agent.
9. Brandon Divan, Oakwood. Valedictorian earned all-county laurels in cross-country and track and field.
10. Rachel Ballard, St. Joseph-Ogden. One of the school's valedictorians, Iowa recruit earned four individual medals at the state track and field meet.
11. Shannon Siuts, St. Thomas More. Salutatorian was a three-year setter in volleyball.
12. Scott Woodard, Unity. One of four Rockets who graduated with perfect 4.0 GPA, he was also an all-stater in cross-country and track and field.
13. Justin Meyers, LeRoy. Co-valedictorian was a state wrestling individual finalist three consecutive years and will study and wrestle at Northwestern.
14. Lauren Houmes, Hoopeston Area. Valedictorian was an all-stater in cross-country and track and field.
15. Kelly Wachtel, Centennial. Two-time All-Area pick in volleyball also a straight-A student.
1. Morgan Buerkett, 19, died July 24, 2011, along with her parents, Dana and Jon Buerkett, in an airplane crash near Rantoul. A volleyball player from St. Thomas More, Morgan Buerkett had finished her freshman year at the University of Chicago.
2. John Gremer, 75, died Oct. 12, 2011. An Urbana H.S. Hall of Famer and an Illinois Football Coaches Association Hall of Famer, Gremer not only coached football at Urbana but the ex-Illini was also involved with wrestling and baseball.
3. Tommy Stewart, 86, died March 25, 2012. State Hall of Fame football coach won a school-record 199 games in Champaign with the Maroons and 207 in his 33-year career. Retired in 1983 but was the last coach to guide the Maroons into the playoffs four straight years.
4. Dale Doehring, 66, died April 11, 2012. Former St. Joseph-Ogden athletic director also a well-known basketball referee who worked three state tournaments. Was a head coach in basketball and football as well as a two-time state AD of the Year.
5. Chris Markwell, 29, died April 11, 2012. A former state qualifier and 30-match winner in wrestling — coached by his father, Dave at Oakwood — before graduating in 2001. Also a letterman in baseball.
6. Brandon Umbarger, 17, died May 26, 2012, following an automobile accident. A basketball and baseball player at Heritage High School, the outfielder was unanimously chosen to the Little Okaw Valley all-conference first team this spring as a junior.
7. Patrick Bechely, Watseka, 23, died June 16, 2012, following an automobile accident. The multi-sport athlete was All-Area special mention in basketball as a senior at Watseka in 2007.
1. Mickaela Fleming, St. Joseph-Ogden. Bubbly and cordial, even following a loss.
2. Steve Schroeder, Monticello. Doesn't require leading questions to put a thought in his head.
3. Stacia Simmons, Centennial. Affable and engaging, two good traits for a future TV journalist.
4. T.J. Onstott, Tuscola. A go-to answer man when it comes to Warrior football and baseball.
5. Emma Cabutti, Mahomet-Seymour. Comfortable, confident and at ease when questions are posed.
6. Travis Britt, Rantoul. Our basketball Player of the Year should breeze through speech class in college.
7. Jamie Blue, Urbana Uni High. Her comments are thoughtful, insightful and reflect the genuineness of her personality.
8. Taylor Black, Unity. Always upbeat, always confident, always easy to talk to.
9. Mariah Coleman, Heritage. Willing to address even the toughest of questions with candor and honesty.
10. Corvon Butler, Champaign Central. Basketball player on target with his shots as well as with his comments.
DESERVED MORE PUB
1. Ashlen Portwood, Milford. Senior three-sport star not only earned 11 varsity letters but also was a first-team all-conference player seven different times.
2. Luke Zocher, Monticello. Ninth place at state cross-country would be the lead story some years; last fall it was only fourth among area athletes and second among the Sages.
3. Abby Immke, St. Joseph-Ogden. A four-year softball letter winner who committed five errors — for her career — but was overshadowed by teammates who are prominent on all-time state record books.
4. J.J. Malone, Blue Ridge. Soccer standout broke the IHSA all-time record for goals (162), which was re-broken later in the season by a Crete-Monee player. He also set the area single-season record for goals (64).
5. Angel Gaesser, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. Area's second-best 800-meter runner ever overshadowed by teammate who clocked the swiftest time ever.
6. Max Stutsman, Salt Fork. State runner-up in the Class 2A three-point shooting contest also a top baseball player.
7. Hilary Smith, Heritage. If All-Area softball first team had 14 spots instead of 13, pitching ace would have made it.
8. Rachel Ballard, St. Joseph-Ogden. Iowa recruit a rarity at the state finals, a four-event individual medalist.
9. Korie Vire, Georgetown-Ridge Farm. Season-high 43-point game made him one of three 20-point scorers on Buffaloes' basketball team.
10. Alex Mestre and Edo Roth, Urbana Uni High. No regular season schedule per se but still managed to make state consolation semifinals in tennis as a doubles duo.
11. Scott Davis, Champaign Central. How many coaches of a major sport (basketball) coach a second sport (boys' tennis) and win three consecutive sectional championships?
12. Shane Overshiner, Westville. Area's fourth-leading football rusher narrowly missed All-Area first-team honors and track's sixth-best 100-meter sprinter just short of All-Area mention in the spring sport as a junior.
13. Emma Hoyer, Urbana Uni High. Junior is well above average in three sports, but she's often overshadowed when it's time for individual recognition.
14. Jordan Sizemore, Fisher/GCMS. Soccer standout set the program's record for career goals scored.
15. Malik Williams, Judah Christian. Small-school standout would have fared well if he attended a larger school.
1. Urbana boys' basketball. Tigers' 66-48 win Jan. 6 at Mattoon was No. 1,100 in the program's history.
2. Argenta-Oreana wrestling. Bombers posted 600th dual-meet win.
3. Bob Sermak, Oakwood. Baseball coach earned his 400th career victory with a 10-7 win May 9 at Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman.
4. Kelly Hilligoss, Chrisman. Volleyball coach registered her 100th varsity victory.
5. Mahomet-Seymour girls' tennis. The Bulldogs made their official varsity debut at the Charger Open on Sept. 24.
GAMES OF THE YEAR
1. May 26, 2012: Down 4-1 after five innings and 6-5 in the bottom of the eighth, Tuscola rallied to beat Schlarman 7-6 in an 11-inning sectional baseball title game.
2. Jan. 14, 2012: Dustin Walls' floater with 2.6 seconds remaining led Centennial to a 61-60 upset of Big 12 leader Champaign Central in boys' basketball.
3. Feb. 20, 2012: Ashley Walker scored 20 points as LeRoy upset the state's top-ranked girls' basketball team, Annawan, 56-53 in a 1A super-sectional.
4. Sept. 2, 2011: Central's Jamir Stovall caught a touchdown pass with six seconds left to secure the Wright Street trophy for the seventh year in a row for the Maroons, who edged Urbana 31-28.
5. Nov. 5, 2011: Bismarck-Henning lost a heartbreaker at unbeaten Marshall, 20-15, on a tipped pass in the end zone as time ran out in their Class 2A playoff game. B-H had gone ahead, 15-14, with 17 seconds remaining.
6. May 28, 2012: Amber Miller and Sam Ledbetter had fifth-inning RBI as Tuscola rallied to hand top-ranked Dwight a 2-1 Class 1A super-sectional softball loss.
7. Feb. 27, 2012: Taylen Alexander's three-pointer with 15.7 seconds left lifted the Chargers past Urbana 55-54 in a regional game where the Tigers led for all but 26 seconds.
8. Dec. 27, 2011: In a game between two girls' basketball teams that finished with at least 20 wins, Tuscola needed two overtimes to top Ridgeview 59-54 in the opening game of the Sages Holiday Hoopla Tournament. The Mustangs' Megan Jones hit shots to force OT and a second OT.
9. Feb. 6, 2012: Kaitlyn Redeker's buzzer-beating rebound basket enabled CPCI to upset Salt Fork 36-34 in a regional semifinal girls' basketball game.
10. May 5, 2012: Terry Deaville was the winning pitcher as Rantoul beat Bloomington Central Catholic 6-2 in the Corn Belt Conference tournament title game, a contest that started at 11:57 p.m. due to weather delays.
11. Sept. 16, 2011: Justin Coy scored with 53 seconds left and Kyle Nourie converted the game-winning extra point to lead Fisher past Ridgeview 21-20.
12. Oct. 21, 2011: Danville's Vikings stopped a two-point conversion with 1:36 remaining, clinching their 27-26 win on the road when Trent Sherfield recovered the subsequent onside kick by Normal Community.
13. May 9, 2012: Armstrong-Potomac completed a 2-1 21-inning baseball triumph against Schlarman, which ended the third-longest game in IHSA history. The first 13 innings were played April 18.
14. Feb. 14, 2012: In the final regular season home game for seniors such as Travis Britt (28 points), coach Brett Frerichs' Rantoul boys' basketball team topped Bloomington Central Catholic 70-62 to reach the 20-win mark for the first time in 22 years.
15. April 28, 2012: Champaign Central's softball team ended a 56-game losing streak dating back to 2010 by winning 26-22 at Decatur Eisenhower.
1. Audrey Mooney, Tuscola softball. Retrieved the bat and handed it to a Milledgeville player who bunted foul ... and after the next pitch, threw the runner out after she tried again to bunt toward third base.
2. Reece Imler, Danville baseball. Senior bypassed a trip to Florida with friends to remain with his teammates for their sectional and super-sectional games.
3. Cameron Lee, Oakwood, football, basketball. During workouts last summer, borrowed the family van and made sure younger student-athletes at the school had rides to their workouts.
4. Desiree Bainbridge, Salt Fork. When students at an away match were trash-talking to the Storm's JV volleyball players, she suggested the varsity team sit near them in hopes their presence would discourage the rude behavior.
5. Reed Collins, Bismarck-Henning. School's career tackling leader didn't get credit for his best stop. He once tackled a teammate to prevent him from going after an opposing player.
6. La Salette student body. They attend basketball games en masse and cheer loudly nonstop, but they are quiet and respectful when free throws are being shot.
7. Kalli Gosser, Fisher. Because it was important for her to be at the All-Area softball team photo shoot, she drove all night with her father, Kevin, from a softball tournament in Texas in order to arrive on time.
8. Tanner Kelley, Georgetown-Ridge Farm. Two-way football standout played hard until the whistle blew, then lent a hand to teammates and opponents alike to help them off the ground.
9. Tuscola football team. Huddled on the field for a postgame prayer at Brown County for an athlete from the home team whose father had died the week before their playoff game.
10. Chantal Meacham, Centennial. An injury sidelined the 2011 Area Soccer Player of the Year all season, but she only missed practices or games for surgery or therapy.
TOP COMEBACKS OF THE YEAR
1. Nicole Choquette, Urbana. Missed track last spring as a sophomore while on sabbatical with her parents, but this year earned a state medal and set school records in the 400 and 800 meters.
2. Jacob Williams, Monticello. Sat out his entire junior baseball season with an elbow injury but returned as a senior pitcher to lead the area in strikeouts.
3. Elene Bauer, Uni High. Senior was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease last summer, underwent surgery that kept her out of cross-country, but returned to soccer this spring and was an All-Area special mention honoree.
4. Lane Ferguson, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. A two-way starter on the 2009 state semifinal team, knee surgery kept him out the entire 2010 season though he attended every practice and game. As a senior, he earned all-league recognition as a lineman and as a linebacker.
5. Ryan Pearce, Villa Grove. As a sophomore in 2010, he was a two-way starter in football but suffered a torn ACL in Week 1. As a junior in 2011, he returned to lead the team in tackling with 105 stops in addition to rushing for 1,091 yards.
6. Kendyl Cummins, Mahomet-Seymour. Softball player appeared in 91 games her first three years but missed all but one game this season following shoulder surgery. Her career isn't finished: She has signed to play at MacMurray College.
7. Hilary Smith, Heritage. Standout senior pitcher missed most of her junior year in basketball due to shoulder surgery and sat out nearly two-thirds of her junior softball season with a broken finger.
8. Adam Crutchley, Villa Grove. Missed all but three regular season meets of senior year in cross-country with a stress fracture but returned for the postseason to capture all-state honors.
9. Philip Meyer, Tuscola. Football quarterback as a sophomore and senior who led Warriors to state played multiple offensive positions as a junior when Jud Wienke quarterbacked the team. All three years, he played in state championship games.
10. Cameron Mammen, Urbana. A high ankle sprain in football sidelined the junior during the first portion of the wrestling season, but the 170-pounder returned strong to place fifth in the Class 2A state meet.
1. Jeff Finke, Centennial. The next in a long line of Chargers who will play Division I basketball.
2. Brittany Hay, Georgetown-Ridge Farm. Already a two-time All-Area pick who isn't shy about her softball goal. "I want to play for the Illini," she said.
3. Nick Hess, St. Thomas More. Top-finishing sophomore (19th) at state cross-country meet.
4. Andy Bott, Bismarck-Henning. Lost playoff to a senior for state golf medalist honors.
5. Johnny Jones, Rantoul. Could be the Eagles' emerging star on the hardwood.
6. Connor Gross, Bement. A coach's son, he knows his way around a gym and a baseball diamond.
7. Emily Foley, Monticello. Good in cross-country. Even better on the track.
8. George Gunter, Urbana Uni High. State medalist in 800 meters this spring.
9. Josh Wallick, Fisher. Even as a 10th-grader, wrestling state medalist competed well with the big boys in three sports.
10. Randa Harshbarger, St. Thomas More. Three-sport standout tenacious in basketball.
11. Devin Curry, Watseka. One of area's top three-point marksmen also among the leaders in assists.
12. Gabe Rajic. Urbana. Swimmer was a sectional champion in the 50-yard freestyle and also reached state in the 100 freestyle.
13. Evan Miller, Champaign Central. Swam area's top time in 100 breaststroke, helped two relays reach state.
14. Austin Aten, Champaign Central. Halfway through his prep tennis career, more than halfway to 100 career wins at No. 1 singles.
15. Jaycee Hillsman, St. Thomas More. All-Area basketball standout should hit 1,000-point career mark midway through his junior season.
16. Sarah Van Wingerden, Mahomet-Seymour. Only area sophomore selected by coaches for all-state accolades.
17. Avona Greene, Centennial. Part of a superb youthful sprint corps that includes other sophomores Bertha Frazier and LaToyah Mason.
18. Erin Walker, Tuscola. All-Area pitcher can also hit the ball, which will be key in 2013 as Warriors seek to replace a bulk of their offense.
19. Caroline Dodds, St. Thomas More. Whether golfing or running, a name to remember.
20. Jordan Caroline, Champaign Central. If he improves as much from sophomore to junior year as from freshman to sophomore year, look out.
1. Lexi Wallen, St. Thomas More. All-Area second-team selection in two sports (volleyball, basketball) and All-Area first-teamer in another (soccer).
2. Taylor Edwards, Arcola. Basketball leader excelled in two spring sports simultaneously, pitching in softball and earning an 800 medal in track.
3. Tommy Watson, Tuscola. Starting third baseman batted .297 for state runner-up baseball team.
4. Sunny Singh, Centennial. Playing No. 1 singles, Area Player of the Year won 28 of 31 matches this spring.
5. Emmanuel Komba, Champaign Central. Midfielder regarded as area's premier young player.
6. Kegan McHood, Argenta-Oreana. Equally talented in basketball and baseball.
7. Brandon Klein, Champaign Central. Wrestler won 27 matches at 170 pounds and was one win away from a state berth.
8. Caleb Hummer, Danville. Broke numerous age-group distance records in a varsity breakout season.
9. Maddy Chalifoux, Champaign Central. Skilled midfielder adept at scoring no matter the defensive coverage.
10. Laura Gross, Schlarman. Her skills in volleyball and basketball belie her age.
11. Joe Kenney, Mahomet-Seymour. A special ninth-grader who stepped in to lead the area in homers and RBI during his rookie season.
12. Kayln Learnard, Salt Fork. Sparkled in basketball and softball and will be a fixture in the lineup for years to come.
13. Emily Neuhauser, Sullivan. Made a quick impact in basketball and was part of a state championship relay team in track.
14. Tyler Schuring, Arthur. Maturity beyond his years helps him cope with pressure situations in any sport.
15. Olivia Ness, Monticello. Only freshman hurdler in Class 1A to earn a state medal.
16. Rebecca Kaefring, Centennial. Individual state qualifier in cross-country and track.
17. Emily Zelhart, Blue Ridge. Volleyball setter handed out more than 400 assists in first year on varsity.
18. Antonio Alvarez, Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac. State-qualifier won 29 of 31 matches at 106 pounds.
19. Joey Schott Jr., Centennial. Third-place finisher in Class 2A regional won 21 matches at 106 pounds.
20. Alyssa Knake, CPCI. Top scoring games were against 20-win basketball teams Ridgeview and Watseka.
COACHES OF THE YEAR
1. Jeff Butler, Monticello. Lone area coach to direct two teams (cross-country and boys' track and field) to state trophies.
2. Pat Hettermann, St. Thomas More. Girls' coach has started a dynasty, four straight top-four team finishes at state.
3. Susan Kentner, Bismarck-Henning. For the eighth consecutive year, guided the Blue Devils to the Vermilion County tournament championship.
4. Doug DeWald, LeRoy. State championship marked third time in four years his teams have placed among the top three.
5. Erica Kostoff, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. Orchestrated the pieces so well that Falcons earned the school's first state trophy in track and field in history.
6. Dike Stirrett, Unity. Coach of state runner-up cross-country team has been successfully mentoring distance runners for decades.
7. Randy Wolken, St. Joseph-Ogden. What does state's winningest softball coach (859 and counting) do for an encore after an area-record 41-win season?
8. Rick Reinhart, Tuscola. Can he make it four in a row and guide the Warriors into Class 1A football state finals again?
9. Danielle Cooley, LeRoy. Fifth-year coach has won more games each season, wrapping up 2012 with 27 wins and a fourth-place state finish in girls' basketball.
10. Phil Anders, Urbana Uni High. Boys' soccer team had never won more than 17 matches until last year's 22-win season placed it among state's Elite Eight teams.
11. Jason Schreder, St. Thomas More. An assistant for three years, took over as interim head coach while Chris Mennig was on a year's sabbatical. Guided the Sabers to girls' basketball regional and sectional crowns before falling to eventual state champion Quincy Notre Dame.
12. Val Cornwell, Arthur. Lancers went from seven wins the previous year to a school record-tying 24 and the program's first volleyball regional championship.
13. Dale Schuring, Arthur-Lovington. How's this for credentials? Earned Area Coach of the Year award from three different newspapers in boys' basketabll.
14. Duff Hoel, Tuscola. Took his alma mater to state championship game in the 1A baseball tournament.
15. Gary Gritton, Danville. Coached Vikings to first sectional baseball crown in 29 years.
16. Stan Bergman, Centennial. When will the streak of 30-win seasons end in volleyball? No. 5 was achieved in 2011.
17. Terry French, Bismarck-Henning. One of the area's top amateur golfers is evolving into one of the area's top high school coaches.
18. Ben Trupin, Champaign Central. Directed the boys' swimming team to its fifth Twin City crown in a row.
19. Allie Lindemann, Urbana Uni High. Second-year head coach took the Illineks to a record 25 wins and first girls' basketball regional title in 26 years.
20. Jerry Hewerdine, St. Joseph-Ogden. Veteran girls' track and field coach guided the Spartans to their third team state trophy on his watch.
21. Susan Thomas, Centennial. Repeat Big 12 Conference girls' basketball champs have won 78 games during the past three seasons.
22. Lenny Sementi, Tuscola. Softball team has been on the brink of state before, but made breakthrough to capture fourth-place trophy.
23. Laura Koterba-Buss, Centennial. Girls' cross-country team won fourth straight Twin City title.
24. Scott Hamilton, Unity. His 18th year as football coach ended with 18th straight trip to playoffs and 10th season with double-figure wins.
25. David Behm, St. Thomas More. Guided youthful boys' cross-country team to a fourth-place state finish.
ASSISTANT COACHES OF THE YEAR
1. Tom Willard, Mahomet-Seymour. Twenty years on track staff includes many years as a volunteer working with throwers, and he willingly offers tips to athletes from other schools at major meets.
2. Heather Black, St. Joseph-Ogden. Softball assistant worked with infielders and also pitcher Elizabeth Everingham, who set the area season record with 32 wins.
3. Kyle Bielfeldt, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. Only person in the district who is an assistant in two sports — football and girls' basketball — and is regarded as "an amazing motivator," according to AD Mike Allen.
4. Bob Beck, Villa Grove. The first assistant hired in 2007 when Chad Musselman became head coach. Musselman said, "any decision that I make related to football runs through Bobby first."
5. Jeff Baughman, LeRoy. Lead assistant for state championship wrestling program a master technician who formerly coached a junior high state championship team (Normal Parkside).
6. Tom Brown, Urbana. Basketball assistant for 18 years (the first four at the middle school) was called upon as varsity interim coach four times in the past 12 years.
7. Andy Romine, Tuscola. Offensive line coach in football and someone his colleagues believe would make "a great head coach," according to AD Ryan Hornaday.
8. Jerry O'Neill, Schlarman. In 20-plus years as an assistant, is preparing to work for his fourth boys' basketball head coach after helping three different girls' coaches with the Hilltoppers.
9. Caleb Engelhardt, Tuscola. The pitching coach for the state runner-up Warriors' baseball team. "Pitching is what wins championships," head coach Duff Hoel said.
10. Mary Butler, Monticello. Head coach Jeff Butler's wife is the assistant with a title. She is "Mrs. Coach."
ALUMNI TO WATCH
1. Hope Elam, Champaign Central. In first season of pro basketball in Iceland, averaged a double-double. Likely playing in Spain next season.
2. Garrett Cox, Mahomet-Seymour. Bradley golf recruit is enjoying an eye-opening summer on the junior circuit.
3. Trey Russell, Urbana. Outfielder for Joliet's juco national champions should fit right in at Eastern Illinois after earning All-America laurels.
4. Jade Ackerman, St. Thomas More. Illini track sprinter showed big-time potential during sophomore season.
5. James Kinney, Centennial. Junior guard earned San Jose State's Most Productive Player award.
6. Mary Lacine, Champaign Central. Eastern Illinois sophomore swimmer broke her own school record in 400 individual medley.
7. Katie Jean, St. Thomas More. Illinois State University golfer an MVC Scholar-Athlete first-teamer for the second time (4.0 grade-point) who averaged 78.9 for 18 holes as a sophomore.
8. Casey Fletcher, Oakwood. First year of juco competition at Kankakee Community College ended with All-America honors. Could there be a draft call in 2013?
9. J'Lynn Ayers, Danville. Incoming freshman recruit has potential to be Parkland College basketball's most-dominant post player in years.
10. Audra James, St. Joseph-Ogden. As a freshman at Illinois Wesleyan University, set the Titans' all-time record for single-season batting average (.486).
TEAMS ON THE RISE
1. Arthur boys' basketball. Knights made the Sweet 16 this year with an all-underclassman lineup, which will be even better next winter.
2. Urbana football. Coach Nathan Watson's program has improved two straight years. Next step: a return to the playoffs after a third consecutive year of gains.
3. Watseka girls. In the same school year the volleyball team reached the 30-win mark for the first time, the girls' basketball team had its first 20-win season.
4. Rantoul baseball. Corn Belt Conference tourney titlists hit 20-win mark with a strong nucleus of non-seniors.
5. Heritage volleyball. New coach takes over a program that won its first regional crown in the sport and has returning junior setter Taylor Wienke.
6. St. Thomas More girls' soccer. A school-record for season wins was achieved with three all-Area first-teamers, each of whom was an underclassman.
7. Centennial wrestling. Twin City title and first 20-win dual-meet season shows which direction the program is headed.
8. Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman softball. Could first 20-win season be the start of a lengthy streak?
9. Arcola girls' basketball. Purple Riders' 20-win season school's first in 13 years and follows an 11-win campaign.
10. Paxton-Buckley-Loda boys' track and field. Strength in field events propelled Panthers to share of first IHSA sectional title in program's history.
TOP BOYS' PROGRAMS
(combined 2011-12 football, basketball, baseball victories)
1. Unity 56 (11-24-21)
2. St. Joseph-Ogden 52 (6-23-23)
3. Paxton-Buckley-Loda 48 (2-24-22)
4. Salt Fork 47 (9-20-18)
5. Mahomet-Seymour 46 (8-14-24)
6. Bismarck-Henning 44 (9-27-8)
7. Rantoul 43 (1-21-21)
8. Georgetown-Ridge Farm 42 (6-25-11)
9, (tie) Cerro Gordo 41 (6-19-16)
9. (tie) St. Thomas More 41 (5-18-18)
TOP GIRLS' PROGRAMS
(combined 2011-12 volleyball, basketball, softball victories)
1. St. Joseph-Ogden 91 (26-24-41)
2. Centennial 77 (34-27-16)
3. Heritage 71 (24-19-28)
4. (tie) Bismarck-Henning 68 (25-24-19)
4. (tie) Watseka 68 (32-23-13)
6. Paxton-Buckley-Loda 61 (19-18-24)
7. Tuscola 60 (13-21-26)
8. Clinton 58 (22-18-18)
9. Mahomet-Seymour 57 (19-17-21)
10. (tie) Blue Ridge 56 (23-13-20)
10. (tie) Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley 56 (10-19-27)
TOP COMBINED PROGRAMS
(total 2011-12 football, volleyball, boys'/girls' basketball, baseball, softball victories)
1. St. Joseph-Ogden 143 (52 boys, 91 girls)
2. Centennial 116 (39 boys, 77 girls)
3. Bismarck-Henning 112 (44 boys, 68 girls)
4. Paxton-Buckley-Loda 109 (48 boys, 61 girls)
5. Mahomet-Seymour 103 (46 boys, 57 girls)
6. Heritage/East Central 102 (31 boys, 71 girls)
7. (tie) Tuscola 100 (40 boys, 60 girls)
7. (tie) Watseka 100 (32 boys, 68 girls)
9. (tie) Monticello 95 (40 boys, 45 girls)
9. (tie) Unity 95 (56 boys, 39 girls)
QUOTES OF THE YEAR
— "As Jay Eshleman (PBL pitcher) says, 'Three-fourths of the world is covered by water, and the rest is covered by Drew Schrodt,'" — Paxton-Buckley-Loda baseball coach Rick Johnson on the defensive prowess of outfielder Drew Schrodt
— "We rise to the challenge against Mother Nature. We love bad conditions. Our best workouts are when there's thunderstorms and blazing heat. For the Sages, the worse the conditions, the better we race. I wish it would have kept raining," — Monticello cross-country runner Steve Schroeder after leading the Sages to first place at the Spartan Classic on Sept. 24
— "We needed to win one this century," — Centennial wrestling coach Ed Mears after the Chargers ended Central's 12-year win streak at the Twin City Duals on Dec. 20
— "One hundred years from now, when I've had time to reflect, I still won't be able to describe the feeling. Second (individually) three years running (stinks), but this takes care of all of it," — LeRoy wrestler Justin Meyers, after the Panthers won the team state championship on Feb, 25
— "Our whole defense was designed to stop Dennis Hightower," — Urbana football coach Nathan Watson after the Danville senior quarterback rushed for 145 yards in an Aug. 26 Viking win, 43-27
— "The mascot is injured, that's how banged up we are." — Centennial girls' soccer coach Hsiung Marler on May 2 about the rash of injuries that plagued his team all year
— "I turned down a Florida trip to be here. Disney. The beach. Go-karts. I delayed it twice," — Danville outfielder Reece Imler, who stayed with his team for the sectional and super-sectional baseball games
— "We started with no kids, no courts, and no chance. Now, we've solved the first and the second, and we're looking for our chance," — Mahomet-Seymour girls' tennis coach Eric Schacht on Sept. 27 about the program's first year of existence
— "It keeps us very united and helps us remember the big picture," — Centennial volleyball player Kelly Wacthel on Sept. 29 after the chargers wore a "J D M" armband in memory of Jon, Dana, and Morgan Buerkett, who died in a July plane crash
— "When the playoffs come, it separates the men from the boys. We showed we're men tonight," — Danville quarterback Dennis Hightower, following a 40-27 Class 6A playoff win at Normal West, the lone team the Vikings had lost to during the past three regular seasons
— "It was just me and my coach (Rod Riblet). I basically had to wrestle my dad at home in the living room. I didn't get to practice, so I worked out in the weight room;" — Paxton-Buckley-Loda wrestler Jacob Meyer on Jan. 21 about being the first (and only) member of the inaugural PBL wrestling
— "I can't stand there and yell names of a play. They know everything we're doing. I have to use signals, codes or wristbands so they don't have any clue what play we're running;" — Current Shelbyville (and ex-Tuscola) coach Stan Wienke on Sept. 9 after playing his former team for the first time
— "I took up diving just as something to pass the time, to have something to occupy myself. And I never thought I would get this into it," — Centennial diver Luis Tian on Feb. 18 after qualifying for state
— "I knew I was in love when I discovered that unlike volleyball I could serve the ball without hitting the net every time," — GCMS tennis player Katie Ricks on Sept. 20;
— "Gauge (Snider) is an easy target. He's like 8 feet tall," — PBL quarterback Weston Weber talking about a teammate who is actually 6-4
— "We just can't figure out two halves. If we can figure out two halves, we can probably be a pretty scary team. As a coach, I've got to come down and lower my blood pressure at halftime, but we've been a second-half team all year," — Urbana boys' basketball coach Vashoune Russell after his team's 71-48 win against St. Thomas More on Dec. 10 at the Shootout at the Hall, played at Parkland College
— "I didn't want to hear that. I won't sleep tonight hearing that," — Rantoul football coach Shane Carter after the Eagles gave up 609 yards of total offense in a 68-44 loss to Charleston on Aug. 26
— "The first person that came up to me was Philip Meyer's uncle, and he asked me if I knew how much this game meant to our alumni and community. That kind of gave me the chills just thinking about it," — Tuscola football career tackling leader T.J. Onstott, on Nov. 5 about the renewal of the Tuscola-Arcola Cola Wars in the football playoffs
— "It will be a little difficult to practice as I have several runners who have no idea about the sport of golf, and watching and practicing golf-course etiquette does not come naturally to them. I can only hope the golfers are as poor as me and my runners will not be in any danger as long as they stay in front of them," — Hoopeston Area cross-country coach Rich Stipp on Oct. 4 about using Hubbard Trail Golf Course as the site of the Vermilion Valley Conference meet
— "Actually, that's a problem here. Not that he almost ran into it, but that he smells the fumes the whole way," — Monticello cross-country coach Jeff Butler, on Nov. 5 about state champion Steve Schroeder getting close to the pace truck during the state meet
— "I was hoping to double last year's win total. I just didn't expect this kind of run." — Arthur volleyball coach Val Cornwell, whose team started the season 10-0 on Sept. 15 and ended 24-7 with the school's first regional title
— "It's definitely bittersweet. You're happy, but a little let down. It's hard to be upset when you know there are more than 300 teams at home watching on the Internet," — Tuscola senior Audrey Mooney after the Warriors finished fourth in the Class 1A state softball tournament
— "The wind brought it back to goal. We didn't expect it. Andy (Drackley) didn't expect it. I don't know if the guy who shot it expected it. Things just fall that way sometimes." — Centennial soccer player Peter Mehnert on Oct. 25 about Springfield's first goal in the Chargers' 2-0 sectional loss
— "He's one person who I can honestly call my hero. He's always been there for me, always had a word of advice." — Champaign Central basketball player Jordan Caroline on his grandfather, Illini football great J.C. Caroline
— "There are a couple of girls I've been coaching since their first year and this was their first win in three years at any level. Everybody was crying. It was crazy." — Champaign Central softball coach Ashley Bordeaux after the Maroons broke their 56-game losing streak on April 28 at Decatur Eisenhower
Prep Team of the Year
SCHOOL 2011 rank
1. St. Joseph-Ogden 1
2. Tuscola 12-T
3. LeRoy 6
4. Monticello 12-T
5. Unity 23
6. Bismarck-Henning 16
7. Centennial 2
8. Mahomet-Seymour 3
9. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley 7
10. Urbana Uni High 21
Past Schools of the Year
2005 St. Joseph-Ogden
2006 St. Joseph-Ogden
2007 St. Joseph-Ogden
2011 St. Joseph-Ogden
2012 St. Joseph-Ogden
The rating game
In 2005, we asked Fred Kroner to come up with a formula to fairly evaluate all of our area schools against one another, whether they competed in five sports or in 20.
Like he has done the past seven years, he eliminated conference championships as a possible factor because not all area schools belong to conferences. That left him with six categories in which points were awarded.
The subsequent point total was divided by the number of sports a school offered, and that revealed an average by which schools were rated from first through 41st.
Here’s how St. Joseph-Ogden repeated for its fifth overall Area All-Sports title, which places equal weight on boys’ and girls’ sports. The Spartans had five teams that won at least 20 games. Each mark in that column resulted in three points, starting the school with 15 points. In three sports, SJ-O won regional titles. Each of those was worth two points, adding an additional six points to the total. A sectional championship was captured in two sports. At a value of four points each, that earned St. Joseph-Ogden eight more points. One super-sectional title added six more points. Finally, in each sport where SJ-O earned state medals, six points were tallied per sport. The Spartans had individual medalists in five sports and top-four finishes in three team sports, so their overall score was boosted by another 48 points. No “extra credit” is given for a school with multiple state placers (for example, five track medalists) instead of one in a particular sport. Finally, the school had the Player of the Year or Coach of the Year in three different sports, which added an additional six points.
When all columns are combined, St. Joseph-Ogden collected 89 points from its 13 sports, which meant an average of 6.85, a slim edge over runner-up Tuscola (6.36).
*3* *2* *4* *6* *2* *6*
SCHOOL 20-WIN REGIONAL SECTIONAL SUPER-SECT. AREA STATE NO. OF TOTAL AVG. PER
(PREVIOUS YEAR RANK) TEAMS TITLES TITLES TITLES POYs MEDALISTS SPORTS POINTS SPORT
1. St. Joseph-Ogden (1) 5 3 2 1 3 8 13 89 6.85
2. Tuscola (12-T) 4 3 3 2 2 4 11 70 6.36
3. LeRoy (6) 2 3 2 1 2 4 11 54 4.91
4. Monticello (12-T) 1 1 3 0 4 7 15 67 4.47
5. Unity (23) 4 2 1 0 1 5 13 52 4.00
6. Bismarck-Henning (16) 4 2 1 0 1 3 12 40 3.33
7. Centennial (2) 4 4 1 0 6 5 20 66 3.30
8. Mahomet-Seymour (3) 2 3 2 0 1 5 16 52 3.25
9. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (7) 1 1 1 0 3 3 11 33 3.00
10. Urbana Uni High (21) 2 2 1 0 2 1 10 24 2.40
11. St. Thomas More (5) 1 6 0 0 2 4 18 43 2.39
t-12. Argenta-Oreana (17) 2 0 0 0 0 3 12 24 2.00
t-12. Champaign Central (15) 2 1 3 0 4 2 20 40 2.00
14. Danville (33) 2 1 2 0 3 2 18 34 1.89
15. Arthur (—) 1 2 0 0 1 1 8 15 1.88
16. Heritage (34) 2 2 0 0 1 0 7 12 1.71
17. Prairie Central (4) 2 1 0 0 0 2 13 20 1.54
18. Paxton-Buckley-Loda (20) 3 1 1 0 0 0 10 15 1.50
19. Ridgeview (11) 2 1 0 0 0 1 10 14 1.40
20. Hoopeston Area (32) 0 0 0 0 0 3 13 18 1.38
21. Fisher (29) 0 2 1 0 0 1 11 14 1.27
22. Rantoul (24-T) 2 1 0 0 1 1 13 16 1.23
23. Arcola (—) 1 1 0 0 0 1 9 11 1.22
t-24. Georgetown-Ridge Farm (31) 2 0 0 0 0 1 10 12 1.20
t-24. Villa Grove (24-T) 0 0 0 0 0 2 10 12 1.20
26. CPCI (—) 1 2 0 0 0 0 6 7 1.17
27. Blue Ridge (22) 2 2 0 0 1 0 11 12 1.09
28. Sullivan (26) 1 0 0 0 0 2 14 15 1.07
t-29. Arthur Okaw Christian (12-T) 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 3 1.00
t-29. Schlarman (9) 1 2 0 0 0 1 13 13 1.00
t-29. Watseka (36-T) 2 1 1 0 0 0 12 12 1.00
32. Tri-County (28) 1 1 0 0 0 0 6 5 0.83
33. Chrisman (8) 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 3 0.80
34. Urbana (27) 0 0 0 0 0 2 19 12 0.63
t-35. Armstrong-Potomac (—) 1 0 0 0 0 0 5 3 0.60
t-35. First Baptist (—) 1 0 0 0 0 0 5 3 0.60
t-37. Salt Fork (10) 1 0 0 0 0 0 11 3 0.27
t-37. Shiloh (18) 1 0 0 0 0 0 11 3 0.27
t-39. Iroquois West (36-T) 0 1 0 0 0 0 8 2 0.25
t-39. Oakwood (36-T) 1 0 0 0 0 0 12 3 0.25
41. Clinton (30) 1 0 0 0 0 0 14 3 0.21
NOTE: The 20-win category also includes teams with at least 10 wins in football.