From great performances (Ryan Pearce) to great teams (St. Thomas More’s boys’ cross-country) to great ideas (Villa Grove’s cheering section), this year’s high school student-athletes rose to the occasion.
TEAMS OF THE YEAR
1. St. Thomas More boys’ cross-country. State championship team had two seniors among top seven (Jacob Helfrich and Sean Kelley) with quality runners waiting to step in.
2. St. Joseph-Ogden boys’ basketball. The Spartans won their first super-sectional game for their first trip to Peoria. SJ-O came home with a fourth-place finish in Class 2A and set a school record for wins (29) after going unbeaten in the Sangamon Valley Conference.
3. Salt Fork baseball. Expectations will be out the roof after a fourth-place state finish by an all-underclassman squad.
4. Centennial volleyball. The bar already was high at a program averaging 33.4 wins the previous five years, before last year’s third-place state team went 37-5.
5. Unity football. Scott Hamilton and his Rockets were once again a threat in the state playoffs. Unity advanced to its fourth state championship game this century last fall and finished its fourth straight year with at least 11 wins.
6. St. Thomas More girls’ basketball. The best is yet to come for the state runner-up Sabers with Area Player of the Year Randa Harshbarger returning along with headliners Lexi Wallen and Tori McCoy.
7. Urbana boys’ soccer. Tigers nearly captured their first state title before falling in the Class 2A title match to Peoria Notre Dame. Veteran coach Randy Blackman won his first state tournament match after the Tigers defeated Arlington Heights St. Viator in the semifinals.
8. Urbana Uni High boys’ soccer. The Illineks, sparked by seniors Patrick Wong, Tarik Koric, Paul Seeley, Freddie Stavins and George Voulgaris, claimed a Class 1A regional, sectional and super-sectional title before losing to Alton Marquette in the 1A state championship match. It was the program’s first trip to state.
9. Urbana football. History-making season for the Big 12 co-champions included the school’s first postseason victory.
10. LeRoy wrestling. The Panthers’ Elite Eight team qualifier (18-1) also had seven individual state qualifiers, including sectional champion Ty Sandy (220 pounds).
11. Watseka volleyball. The Warriors (32-4) lost in the Elite Eight to the eventual Class 2A third-place state finisher.
12. LeRoy football. Panthers won their first Heart of Illinois Conference crown by overpowering Tri-Valley 34-0 and two weeks later set an IHSA playoff record for points with 78 in a Nov. 4 Class 1A win against Flanagan-Cornell.
13. St. Thomas More girls’ soccer. If not for playing the eventual state champions in the Sweet 16, the 14-6-1 Sabers might well have advanced past the sectional finals for the first time.
14. DeLand-Weldon volleyball. The Eagles’ school-record 24-win season could be challenged again this fall as standout Rowan Crozier returns for her senior season.
15. Monticello girls’ cross-country. State runner-up team of all-underclassman runners finished within 48 seconds of one another.
16. Clinton girls’ basketball. The 25-6 Maroons increased their win total for the sixth consecutive season.
17. St. Joseph-Ogden boys’ soccer. The Spartans were 19-4-1 in the fourth year of the program, more than doubling the three-year total for wins (17).
18. Schlarman volleyball. Coach Heidi Crane’s Hilltoppers collected a school-record-tying 29 wins and a Class 1A sectional title despite having a limited roster.
19. Clinton volleyball. Coach Tracey Huls Mathis’ team went 29-9, setting a school record with three 20-win seasons in a row for the first time.
20. Danville girls’ tennis. Coach Mark Bacys’ Big 12 champion Vikings won a sectional crown for the second year in a row.
1. Michael Finke, Centennial. Illini basketball recruit back in action after an appendectomy.
2. Trent Sherfield, Danville. Three Big Ten offers and one from the SEC so far for the All-Area defensive back.
3. Jimmy Fitzgerald, Centennial. Illini and Yale like the Chargers’ junior-to-be quarterback. They aren’t alone.
4. Josh Wallick, Fisher. OK, so is his sport football, wrestling or track? Or, all of the above?
5. Nick Hess, St. Thomas More. A runner with a scary combination: equal parts talent and determination.
6. Andy Bott, Bismarck-Henning. Golfing stud will aim for third straight Area Player of the Year honors next fall.
7. Gabi Rajic, Urbana. Area’s premier swimmer heads into senior season looking to earn fourth trip to state meet.
8. Brittany Hay, Georgetown-Ridge Farm. Two-time All-Area first-team shortstop has a goal to play Division I softball, and that seems realistic.
9. Devin Curry, Watseka. In a conference loaded with premier basketball players, Warriors point guard is clearly among the best.
10. Denzel Smith, Danville. An inside player with outside range on the basketball court.
11. Dedric Byrd, Centennial. We’ve said it before and will repeat: deluxe ball handler can’t be guarded 1-on-1 effectively by high schoolers.
12. Sarah VanWingerden, Mahomet-Seymour. Rising senior already a two-time all-stater, as chosen by the Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association.
13. Hunter Hart, St. Joseph-Ogden. Is he a hitter who can pitch or a pitcher who can hit? Or is he simply a baseball player?
14. Randa Harshbarger, St. Thomas More. Her heart, desire, intensity and attitude make her a prospect in her No. 1 sport, basketball.
15. Brent Schluter, St. Joseph-Ogden. Doesn’t get rattled on the court and displays scoring capabilities from anywhere past halfcourt.
— St. Thomas More boys’ cross-country. The Sabers won the Class 1A crown by 75 points over runner-up Elmwood. Nick Hess, Jacob Helfrich, Sam Powers, Brendan Remington, Sean Kelley, David Horn and Jack Bolger were the state runners;
— Josh Wallick, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher, Class 1A, 285-pound wrestling champion (51-0 record);
— Cameron Mammen, Urbana, Class 2A, 170-pound wrestling champion (33-0 record);
— Penny Xu, Urbana, chess, Board 1 champion;
— Alexus Jimson-Miller, Danville, Class 3A 100-meter hurdles (14.12 seconds);
— Johnny Leverenz, Danville, Class 3A 800 meters (1 minute, 53.28 seconds);
— St. Thomas More, Class 1A 3,200-meter relay, Nick Hess, Sean Kelley, Jacob Helfrich and Sam Powers (7:57.96);
— Ryan Pearce, Villa Grove, Class 1A shot put (60 feet, 01/4 inch) and Class 1A discus (162-1).
TOP SENIOR STUDENT-ATHLETES
1. Emerson Grey, Armstrong-Potomac. Three-sport letterman school’s valedictorian and also an exemplary sportsman, personally thanking his basketball coaches for their efforts after each and every game.
2. Chet McClure, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. Four-time wrestling state qualifier was school’s valedictorian.
3. Alyssa and Anna Hendrix, Bement. The twins — three-sport letter winners who were involved with championships in eight career LOVC track events — shared a spot at the top of the school’s academic honor roll. They were co-valedictorians. They’ll be roommates at Southern Illinois University, where they will be pre-med majors.
4. Sean Kelley, St. Thomas More. School’s salutatorian was runner on state championship track relay and turned down offer to run track at Carnegie Mellon to study engineering in the James Scholars Honors Program at the University of Illinois.
5. Erin Weaver, Tuscola. Three-sport letter winner (and all-conference first-teamer in basketball) was school’s co-valedictorian.
6. Cameron Westjohn, Tuscola. Golf state placer (and baseball letterman) was school’s co-valedictorian.
7. Kristen Belyea, Mahomet-Seymour. School’s Female Athlete of the Year (three-sport starter) was ranked among top 10 academically in her senior class at M-S and was an IHSA honorable mention academic all-state selection.
8. Adam Auten, Monticello. Track state qualifier, who ranked second in his class academically, was one of 13 boys selected to the IHSA’s academic all-state first team.
9. Allison Kaper, Watseka. Three-sport athlete earned 10 varsity letters, was school’s valedictorian and was an honorable mention choice on the IHSA’s academic all-state team.
10. Centennial. Take your pick on the school’s best. Nine senior athletes who earned letters also maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point: Corey Bilger (basketball), Travis Burch (soccer), Allison Hansen (tennis), Katie Janson (softball), Marie Jefferson (swimming), Jeffrey Lavin (basketball, baseball), Kristen Leuck (softball), Chantal Meacham (basketball, soccer) and Kelsey Olion (volleyball).
11. Rachel Fishel, Arcola. Basketball point guard was one of five students to share valedictorian honors.
12. Champaign Central. Take your pick from this spring. All six of the school’s spring-sport teams were feted by the IHSA for its Team Academic Achievement Award after compiling team grade points of at least 3.0: boys’ tennis (3.83 cumulative), girls’ soccer (3.75), softball (3.57), girls’ track (3.42), baseball (3.40) and boys’ track (3.04).
13. Shelby Smith, Shiloh. School’s co-valedictorian, who wants to be a nurse, was a key contributor on the basketball court.
14. Brendan Kuhns, Fisher. Two-sport athlete was school’s valedictorian.
15. Mary Happ, Heritage. Basketball letter winner was school’s salutatorian.
1. Gary Hembrough, Champaign, 73. Died Oct. 9, 2012. Ex-Illini athlete spent 41 years in football, including 11 as head coach at Centennial. He coached the Chargers to their first two playoff berths.
2. Joseph Seeley, Champaign, 52. Died Oct. 13, 2012. A veteran of 10 marathons, was a prominent youth soccer coach in Champaign-Urbana and was also active in the C-U running community.
3. Linda Kulbartz, Georgetown, 67. Died Oct. 14, 2012. Known as “Mrs. Coach,” she accompanied her coaching husband, Tom, to all Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman cross-country and track meets, often charting runner’s splits and offering encouragement.
4. Roger Capan, Gulf Shores, Ala., 67. Died March 2, 2013. Champaign native was a 1968 Olympic speedskater.
5. Mary Blair Polaski, Colorado Springs, Colo., 68. Died March 18, 2013. Champaign native was a national speedskating indoor champion and a former U.S. World Short Track team head coach.
6. Brent McTaggart, Watseka, 36. Died April 13, 2013. Was a teacher and assistant football coach at his alma mater, Watseka High School.
1. Louis Acklin, St. Joseph-Ogden. School salutatorian also gets high marks in the speaking category.
2. Alexus Jimson-Miller, Danville. As articulate as she is athletic.
3. Cameron Mammen, Urbana. Answers questions with candor, honesty and a bit of humor.
4. Leslee Chambers, Judah Christian. Possesses an All-America attitude, and it’s reflected when she speaks.
5. Luke Vaughn, Centennial. Whether in basketball or in track, Memphis recruit and recent prep All-American in shot put and discus was a go-to player for reporters with questions.
6. Micah Johnson, Unity. A confident player and a confident speaker.
7. Nicole Choquette, Urbana. Mastered running, mastered the French horn and mastered the art of being interviewed.
8. Brittany Hay, Georgetown-Ridge Farm. Impossible for anyone to be more bubbly, upbeat, positive and personable.
9. Donald McKinley, Urbana. Talks almost as quickly and fluidly as he does scoring points for the Tigers’ boys’ basketball team.
10. Gina Masko, Fisher. Quirky doesn’t begin to describe the multi-sport athlete. You’re bound to laugh after talking to her.
11. Hannah Houska, Monticello. Runner courteous and polite, an interviewer’s delight.
12. Jon Delzell, Danville. Senior standout swimmer doesn’t mind speaking up about difficult topics.
13. Kalista Lutes, Rantoul. Thoughtful and thought-provoking responses from the hardworking two-sport athlete and talented singer.
14. Tate Estes, Fisher. Three-sport athlete learned well from examples set by older brothers Sam and Boyd.
15. Kirsten Newnum, Armstrong-Potomac. Fiery personality comes out whenever she opens her mouth.
DESERVED MORE PUB
1. Stephanie Sanderson, Heritage. Two-time softball All-Area second-teamer one of best ever not to make first team.
2. Tanner McLain, Rantoul. Hard-nosed basketball player and skilled shortstop on the baseball diamond as a junior is poised for senior year success.
3. Storm Joop, St. Thomas More. Among the area’s top three-sport athletes.
4. Michael Thompson, Urbana. Quintessential example of basketball player who contributes more than just what’s in the points column.
5. Kyle Brazas, Westville. Quarterback in football, guard in basketball, pitcher in baseball. Upcoming senior efficiently and effectively went about his business.
6. Connor Gross, Bement. Small-school athlete with big-time potential in basketball and baseball.
7. Regan Kelley, St. Thomas More. While playing volleyball in the fall, junior also ran on the girls’ cross-country team that qualified for state.
8. Jake Rogers, Milford. Was under the radar this year as a sophomore in football, basketball and track, but that will change with the start of a new school year.
9. Evelyn Brand, Monticello. Golfer set the school record for best nine-hole score with a 36, lowering the previous mark by 4 strokes.
10. Jorriel Stewart, Danville. A late-season hamstring injury prevented her from running in the postseason on a 400-meter relay that broke school records and earned state medals.
11. Austin Matlock, LeRoy. Wrestler qualified for state all four years and never won fewer than 28 matches in a season.
12. Josh Bush, Schlarman. Unless the Hilltoppers unexpectedly revive their football program, he will be the answer to the trivia question: Who scored the school’s last football touchdown? He reached the end zone on Sept. 7 after catching a pass from Clein Gard.
13. Morgan Zindars, Armstrong-Potomac. Junior all-conference softball pitcher was one of state’s top three-point marksmen in Class 1A.
14. Amanda Ypya, Paxton-Buckley-Loda. Millikin basketball recruit was a three-sport starter for the Panthers.
15. Chris Deaville, Rantoul. Backbone of the Eagles’ baseball team as a standout catcher the last three years, senior was one of the lone bright spots last fall on the football field.
16. Addison Bounds, Prairie Central. Area passing leader in football was one of the area’s top 10 scorers in basketball.
17. Brennan Crose, Hoopeston Area. Accounted for 22 goals (scored 11, assisted on 11) for Vermilion Valley Conference champions and made more than three-fourths of his free throws in basketball.
18. Amber Meyer, Tri-County. Two-time All-Area volleyball setter also one of the area’s top distance runners in track.
19. Andy Webb, Atwood-Hammond. Top 10 in the area for tackling in football and scoring in basketball and batted .371 in baseball.
20. Devyn McGuire, Danville. Senior state runner-up in Class 4A three-point shooting contest.
1. Matthew Gocken, Georgetown-Ridge Farm. Checked with the basketball coach prior to the season to see if he would be taking a jersey away from someone who might help the team more if he weren’t on the team.
2. Miguel Fierro, Urbana. Boys’ soccer Area Player of the Year an exemplary example of conduct on and off the pitch.
3. Monticello boys’ track team. At the conclusion of the boys’ Class 2A sectional, each squad member personally thanked the meet officials as well as other finish-line workers.
4. Lindsay Rogan and Allie Shannon, Centennial. Organized a team prayer after each volleyball match and always invited the opposing team to join.
5. Joan Maxwell, Unity. Promising senior season ended by ACL injury in Game 2, so the Rockets’ defensive ace happily accepted a different role: student-coach. Received the Keith Ayers Spirit Award for her dedicated efforts.
6. Oakwood athletics. The Vermilion County principals association selects team sportsmanship winners in four sports (volleyball, football, boys’ basketball and girls’ basketball). The Comets hit the trifecta, winning honors in volleyball, football and boys’ basketball.
7. Villa Grove High School. Requires students who want to be in the cheering section (the Blue Crew) at games to sign a contract stating that their conduct will be respectful to officials, opposing players and coaches. Three cheers!
8. Champaign Central girls’ soccer. When playing at Decatur Eisenhower for that school’s Senior Night match, the Maroons lined up at midfield, shoulder-to-shoulder to honor the Panthers’ seniors. After the match, they cleaned up the bench area and, when arriving at their own school, made sure everything was off the bus.
9. Alec Dutton, Salt Fork. Respect level for his opponents and officials matches his high level of intensity as a competitor.
10. Lexy Terry, Oakwood. Still attended every practice after basketball season ended three weeks early by injury and on game night was the Comets’ top cheerleader.
GAMES OF THE YEAR
1. Football: Mahomet-Seymour 17, Effingham 14. Needing a win to make the playoffs, Mahomet-Seymour got a field goal from Andrew Shroyer in overtime for the triumph Oct. 19.
2. Girls’ basketball: St. Thomas More 62, El Paso-Gridley 48. The Sabers scored six points in the first minute and never trailed, securing their first berth in a state championship game with a Class 2A state semifinal win Feb. 22 at Illinois State University.
3. Football: Unity 10, Williamsville 7. Unity’s Cody Payne hit a 20-yard field goal with time expiring Nov. 10 to get the Rockets into the Class 3A semifinals for the fourth year in a row.
4. Boys’ basketball: Arcola 59, Urbana Uni 58. Freshman Kollin Seaman hit a three-pointer with 0.8 second left to propel the Purple Raiders to a win Dec. 6.
5. Baseball: Salt Fork 2, Galva-Williamsfield 0. Junior Cole Taylor stymied Galva-Williamsfield on five hits in a super-sectional win that sent the Storm into the Class 1A Final Four. He walked no one and struck out five, including Collin Landis with the tying runners on base for the game-ending out in the bottom of the seventh.
6. Boys’ soccer: Judah Christian 1, St. Thomas More 0. The Tribe upset higher-seed St. Thomas More on a penalty kick by Joshua Zuckermann in the Class 1A regional semifinals Oct. 9.
7. Girls’ basketball: Champaign Central 56, Mahomet-Seymour 54. Central’s Laura Litchfield scored the game-winner as time expired for a Maroons win at the Blue Star Classic on Nov. 16. M-S’ Maggie Schmidt had tied the game with a three-pointer on the previous possession.
8. Football: Urbana 36, East Peoria 22. Urbana won its first playoff game in the 39-year history of the IHSA state postseason series Oct. 27.
9. Girls’ basketball: Villa Grove 54, Heritage 44. Courtney Helm scored 23 points as the Blue Devils won their first Little Okaw Valley Conference regular season title by beating Heritage on Jan. 31.
10. Boys’ basketball: Rantoul 77, Mahomet-Seymour 75. Rantoul’s Johnny Jones scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to force overtime, where Rantoul hung on to win Dec. 14 at Mahomet.
11. Football: Salt Fork 16, Milford/Cissna Park 14. The Storm scored the winning points with 1:22 remaining on a 26-yard field goal by Austin Ringus.
12. Boys’ soccer: Urbana Uni High 2, Rockford Keith Country Day 0. Randall Hornbaker’s goal, on an assist by Paul Seeley, accounted for the only goal the Illineks needed in the Oct. 26 semifinals to reach their first state championship match.
13. Boys’ soccer: Urbana 2, St. Viator 1. Jonathan Lukusa’s goal, on an assist by Brian Lopez, accounted for the winning margin as the Tigers posted a semifinal win Nov. 2 to advance to the Class 2A state championship match.
14. Boys’ basketball: St. Joseph-Ogden 60, Cissna Park 57. SJ-O’s Nate Michael scored six of the Spartans’ nine points, including 4 of 4 from the free throw line, in overtime as the Spartans won the Sangamon Valley Conference tournament championship Feb. 2.
15. Girls’ soccer: Centennial 1, Mahomet-Seymour 0. Dagny Olson’s goal in the final two minutes May 18 allowed the Chargers to win their fourth consecutive regional championship.
TOP COMEBACKS OF THE YEAR
1. Alex Mestre, Urbana Uni High. Senior missed soccer season recovering from bad car accident to team with Edo Roth in winning a fourth straight sectional doubles tennis title last month before reaching the state quarterfinals.
2. Bryan Phipps, Monticello. Surgeries on both knees limited lineman to two seasons of prep football, one of which was an All-Area one as a senior. Returned in basketball to make second-team All-Area as a senior.
3. Stacia Simmons, Centennial. Returned from season-ending ACL injury as a junior to earn repeat All-Area first-team honors as a senior, averaging 10 points a game for the Big 12 titlists.
4. Nolan Walsh, Tuscola. Parkland College recruit returned from labrum surgery in December to play center field for the Warriors and bat .293.
5. Chantal Meacham, Centennial. Former Area Player of the Year in soccer missed junior season with an injury but flourished as a senior, earning first-team All-Area accolades.
6. Ashi Bhatt, Champaign Central. Contracted a viral strain of strep with three weeks left in the swimming season and missed two weeks of training. Returned to post personal-best times at sectional and lead a relay to state.
7. Madison Cramer, Georgetown-Ridge Farm. A torn ACL in volleyball ended her sports season as a junior, but she returned as a senior to hit .270 for the softball team.
8. Micaela Childress, Heritage. Injured in basketball and underwent surgery Dec. 19, returned to action in softball in late April and pitched for the Hawks in the postseason.
9. Mitch Negangard, Unity. Suffered a serious knee injury in Week 3 of football season but returned in time to lead the Rockets to the state championship game and followed up by starting in basketball and baseball.
10. Lexi Ballard, Bismarck-Henning basketball. A torn ACL, a broken hand and two concussions didn’t diminish her aggressiveness when she returned as a senior. Was Blue Devils’ unofficial leader in floor burns and the official leader in charges taken (12).
1. Joe Kenney, Mahomet-Seymour. Prep Baseball Report regards shortstop as one of state’s top 50 players, regardless of position, in the Class of 2015.
2. Lexi Wallen, St. Thomas More. One of three girls to make three All-Area first teams in the same school year.
3. Laura Gross, Schlarman. Hard to believe she wasn’t an upperclassman yet with the way she played volleyball last season.
4. Taylor Edwards, Arcola. Purple Riders coaches would probably like to clone her.
5. Tyler Schuring, Arthur-Lovington/Atwood-Hammond. No sophomore slump for coach’s multi-talented three-sport son.
6. Rebecca Maxwell, Unity. Basketball player already competes well above her years.
7. Andrew Donithan, Shiloh. Proved he was not only capable of carrying the Raiders on the basketball court but also dominating a game.
8. Maddy Chalifoux, Champaign Central. Play-making skills bring back memories of her coach Mick Galeski’s college career at Eastern Illinois.
9. Keegan McHood, Argenta-Oreana. Put a ball in his hands and watch him go to work. The formula works in basketball and baseball, the latter a sport in which he was named a Coaches Association Class 2A all-stater.
10. Danielle Staske, Centennial. Always good for a softball team to have a promising young pitcher in the circle. Chargers have one for sure.
11. Devon Laubscher, Cissna Park. Four-sport athlete blazed onto scene with standout performances at N-G Honor Roll track and field meet.
12. Rebecca Kaefring, Centennial. If you haven’t heard of her yet, then stay tuned. Cross-country season will be here soon, followed by track season for the budding distance ace.
13. Taylor Bauer, Watseka. A good sport for all seasons.
14. Sunny Singh, Centennial. Arrow is only pointed up when it comes to dynamic tennis talent.
15. Conner Diedrich, Mahomet-Seymour. Already plays like a veteran on the basketball court.
16. Caleb Hummer, Danville. Big 12 champion runner carrying on — and possibly raising — a family tradition of excellence at the school in cross-country and track and field.
17. St. Joseph-Ogden boys. Regardless of the sport, there is talent galore in the Class of 2015. Basketball, especially, will flourish, but baseball and football have their share of skilled players, too.
18. Heidi Dague, Tri-County. Volleyball standout benefits from year-round devotion to the sport.
19. Kalyn Learnard, Salt Fork. Shows promise as one of the area’s premier three-sport athletes.
20. Maddie Tutich, Monticello. Helped the Sages compete at a high level (second in the state) during cross-country, thanks to being pushed and pushing classmate Maggie Utgaard, who adeptly keeps in step.
1. Tori McCoy, St. Thomas More. If she’s the nation’s top basketball recruit in the Class of 2016, then she’s good enough to top our list of area elite.
2. Nick Bates, Tuscola. How many freshmen play quarterback at a school with the Warriors’ tradition?
3. Jenny Kimbro, Salt Fork. State track runner-up (hurdles) is reportedly just as talented in softball, the sport she plays for a summer travel team.
4. Jon Davis, Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac. Burst onto the scene in cross-country and cemented his status in track, earning a state medal.
5. Mercedes Elliott, Danville. Book these trips for distance runner next three years: Detweiller Park in November for cross-country state meet and O’Brien Stadium in May for track and field state meet.
6. Lauren Whitehouse, Mahomet-Seymour. Hit the ground running after years of training.
7. Lauren Neitzel, Centennial. Promising future after holding her own in tennis as a ninth-grader.
8. Sierra Bell, Schlarman. Hard to believe she still has three seasons of high school competition remaining.
9. Connor Taylor, Salt Fork. Carrying on the tradition of outstanding pitchers produced by the Storm.
10. Karli Allen, Tuscola. Sparkling rookie season in softball, four homers, 44 RBI and .506 batting average to go with 2-0 pitching record.
11. Leah Allison, St. Thomas More. Proved herself as a softball pitcher this spring but has potential to do the same in basketball next winter.
12. Nick Meunier, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. From a family of runners, state track qualifier is keeping the tradition intact.
13. Ashton Hyatt, Champaign Central. Anchored Big 12 champion 3,200-meter relay unit that also qualified for the Class 2A state track and field meet.
14. Wyatt Fishel, Arcola. Demonstrates poise and composure of a veteran in football and basketball.
15. Maddie LeGrand, Champaign Central. Deserves the label “can’t-miss prospect” in volleyball.
16. Payton Woods, Champaign Central. Son of athletic director John Woods is making a name for himself in the area with his swimming and running ability.
17. Taylor Renfroe, Unity. Rockets’ top runner in cross-country at 3 miles and in track at 1,600 meters.
18. Dylan Dodd, Bismarck-Henning. A prospect in football; already arrived in baseball.
19. Javeonte Crider, Danville. Wrestling state qualifier (113 pounds) won 23 of 28 matches in his varsity debut season.
20. Kollin Seaman, Arcola. Purple Riders’ scoring leader only ninth-grader to receive recognition from LOVC in basketball.
COACHES OF THE YEAR
1. Krista Pufahl, Watseka volleyball. First girls’ coach in school history with back-to-back sectional titles and consecutive 30-win seasons.
2. David Behm, St. Thomas More boys’ cross-country and boys’ track and field. Guided the Sabers to the Class 1A team state title in cross-country and to a top-10 team finish at state in boys’ track.
3. Chris Mennig, St. Thomas More girls’ basketball. Some say good players make a coach look good. We believe a good coach makes good players look even better.
4. Randy Blackman, Urbana soccer. The second-longest-tenured head coach in Urbana history guided the Tigers to a state runner-up finish in his 27th year at the helm.
5. Scott Hamilton, Unity football. Is it too soon to reserve a spot for the successful football coach (81.2 career winning percentage for 19 years) on next year’s list?
6. Bonnie Moxley, Mahomet-Seymour girls’ cross-country and track and field. Has directed the Bulldogs to a postseason title in one sport or another for 11 successive years, winning 17 in all after this year’s sectional crown in track.
7. Gary Hansgen, Salt Fork baseball. His role was magnified this year as individuals projected as the top two pitchers in the preseason had only limited roles on the mound for fourth-place Class 1A team.
8. Brian Brooks, St. Joseph-Ogden boys’ basketball. Future looks just as bright as the recent past for the Spartans’ program.
9. Susan Kentner, Bismarck-Henning volleyball. Extended school’s streak of Vermilion County championships to nine in a row and added a regional title for fourth time in past five years.
10. Stan Bergman, Centennial volleyball. Program is a model of consistency. Six straight 30-win seasons part of 14 consecutive 20-win seasons for veteran coach.
11. Terry French, Bismarck-Henning boys’ golf. The school’s only coach since the program started in 2001, he earned his 200th win against Schlarman and guided the team to its second undefeated regular season record (23-0).
12. James Johnson, St. Thomas More girls’ soccer. Directed team to first sectional finals appearance and a berth in the Class 1A Sweet 16.
13. Nancy Stiff, Arcola girls’ basketball. In her 40th year as the school’s only head coach in the sport, compiled a 16-11 record and moved into fifth place on the state list for career coaching wins on the girls’ side.
14. Randy Wolken, St. Joseph-Ogden softball. The Spartans’ school-record fifth consecutive 30-win season raised the career wins total for the state’s winningest softball coach to 889. Next up: the 900 club.
15. Nathan Watson, Urbana football. Guided the Tigers to their first postseason victory as well as a nine-game winning streak, a first at the school in 48 years.
16. Ben Trupin, Central boys’ swimming and diving. Former Maroon standout is continuing excellence in the pool, along with help from co-coach Will Barker (who deserves a nod, too, for six straight sectional championships in girls’ swimming).
17. Ken Ingold, Fisher girls’ basketball and softball. Not many coaches can say they won regional titles in two sports played in consecutive seasons like this veteran Bunnie coach accomplished.
18. Dick Duval, St. Joseph-Ogden, football. Finished his 25th season by winning a first-round playoff game for the 18th time.
19. Kevin Long, Cissna Park, boys’ basketball. Veteran Timberwolves coach is as good as it gets on the sidelines.
20. Phil Anders, Urbana Uni High, boys’ soccer. Yes, the Illineks had talent at every position. It takes a skilled coach, though, to mold it like Anders did.
21. Nick Hipsher, Armstrong-Potomac girls’ basketball. Young coach hasn’t broken through yet with postseason hardware, but Trojans are 57-32 in his three seasons with three Class 1A regional title-game appearances.
22. Susan Thomas, Centennial girls’ basketball. State-ranked Chargers ran the table in the Big 12, hit the 30-win mark and won the third regional title in a row in coach’s farewell season.
23. Sheri Adams McCain, Sullivan girls’ basketball. Guided her alma mater to a 19-10 record, the Redskins’ second-best win total in the past 11 years.
24. Cully Welter, Monticello football, boys’ track and field. Both programs are in steady and capable hands under the direction of the ex-Illini athlete.
25. Tim Lavin, Centennial boys’ basketball. Keeps churning out Division I players almost as frequently as adding postseason plaques to the school’s trophy case.
ASSISTANT COACHES OF THE YEAR
1. Herb Wilkins, Salt Fork track and field. Has coached state medalists for either boys or girls in either the shot put or discus seven of the past 14 years, including the last two. Next year, he’ll have new facilities to work with at Catlin.
2. Todd Orvis, Danville track and field. Tutored distance and middle-distance crew, a group that featured 800-meter Class 3A state champion Johnny Leverenz.
3. Tom Lockman, Central boys’ swimming. Former Unit 4 School Board member lends expertise as a volunteer coach at school where he was a state champion.
4. Dave Fink, Unity football. Rockets’ former softball head coach will start his 13th year as assistant in football this fall. The defensive coordinator has coached in four state championship games.
5. Dan Hageman, Salt Fork football. Has devoted 43 years to coaching football, including four as the head coach at Catlin.
6. Curtis Blanden, Urbana football. Tigers’ defensive coordinator was in charge of a unit overlooked by those who focused on offense, but Urbana tied for the fewest points allowed in the Big 12 during the regular season.
7. Norlyn Loschen, St. Thomas More baseball. Sabers assistant has been a fixture in the dugout, spending 35 years coaching the game, from Little League to high school to Legion to E.I.
8. Jim Risley, Mahomet-Seymour track and field. One of the area’s foremost authorities on pole vaulting.
9. Missy Tingley, Shiloh. Joins husband Dave for an effective coaching team that has directed the Raiders to seven straight 20-win seasons in girls’ basketball.
10. Jason Schreder, St. Thomas More. After serving as interim head coach a year ago, returned to role as assistant for a girls’ basketball program that advanced to the Class 2A state championship game.
1. Unity boys’ basketball coach Bill Ipsen notched his 300th career win (165 with girls and 135 with boys) in the sport Feb. 20 as the Rockets topped St. Thomas More 65-48 in the Class 2A regional semifinals.
2. Tuscola softball coach Lenny Sementi posted his 250th career win May 7 against Meridian, 4-3.
3. Mahomet-Seymour girls’ basketball coach Nathan Seal earned his 200th career victory Jan. 31 in a 56-38 win against Rantoul.
4. Mahomet-Seymour softball coach Mark Jones registered his 200th career win April 30, a 10-0 victory against Eureka.
5. Blue Ridge soccer coach Marty Price picked up career victory No. 100 on Sept. 11 as the Knights shut out Normal Calvary 8-0.
6. St. Joseph-Ogden softball coach Randy Wolken added 30 more wins to his state-record career total, which now stands at 889 through 34 years.
7. St. Thomas More girls’ basketball hit the milestone trifecta Jan. 22 in a 93-19 verdict against Salt Fork. Not only did the team set a single-game program record for points but Jade Brinkoetter and Randa Harshbarger each reached the 1,000 career-point mark.
8. Westville volleyball coach Allen Greenlee retired. In a career that spanned 40 years, he coached boys’ and girls’ sports (six different ones) and was at four different schools, devoting 38 of those years to basketball.
9. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley coach Jim Lewis retired. Since starting in the district in 1980, he coached baseball for 21 seasons, softball for the past two and also helped in football, wrestling and bass fishing. He coached at least one sport each year he was in the district.
10. Monticello coaches Jeff Butler (cross-country and track and field) retired as did Lois Cryder (boys’ and girls’ soccer), each after devoting more than 30 years to their chosen profession and passion. Butler directed the Sages to state trophies in both of his sports. Cryder, the school’s only soccer coach in its 17-year existence, won 258 matches between the two teams and a regional title in her farewell season with the boys.
ALUMNI TO WATCH
1. Hanna Mennenga, ex-Rantoul. Eastern Illinois junior (1.21 ERA) was the Ohio Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year. Her 291 strikeouts broke the EIU single-season mark. She won 23 games and was picked for the NFCA Division I Mideast Region first team.
2. Adam Blackman, ex-Urbana. Wheaton College sophomore earned CCIW Player of the Year honors after scoring a team-high 12 goals to go with six assists. He helped lead the Thunder to its first NCAA postseason berth in three years.
3. Rachael Brewer, ex-Tuscola. Illinois State junior earned NCAA Midwest All-Region Honors in cross-country, and the MVC scholar-athlete was league’s indoor track champion at 1,500 meters.
4. Kegan Skelton, ex-Centennial. Southern Illinois sophomore was named to the Mid-West Conference All-Academic first team (3.22 GPA). He was a second-team all-league diver, finishing runner-up in the 3-meter competition.
5. Stephanie Canfield, ex-St. Joseph-Ogden. Arkansas freshman set the school’s all-time single-season record with a .381 batting average for a 36-20 team that advanced to the NCAA regional finals.
6. Dylan Overstreet, ex-Paxton-Buckley-Loda. Illinois Wesleyan sophomore was named to the CCIW all-league first team and D3hoops.com All-Midwest Region third team. He tied for the conference lead in assists with 130.
7. Audra James, ex-St. Joseph-Ogden. Illinois Wesleyan sophomore was named to the CCIW all-league softball first team. She led the conference in stolen bases (20) and was seventh in batting (.410 average).
8. Dani Bunch, ex-Mahomet-Seymour. Purdue junior placed eighth in the NCAA meet (55 feet, 23/4 inches) in the shot put after setting the school and Big Ten Conference record (56-21/2) earlier in the season.
9. David Keenan, ex-Salt Fork. Parkland product continues to show that Champaign-Urbana produces high-level golfers. Next stop for juco national champion: Chicago State.
10. Kandie Bloch-Jones, ex-Argenta-Oreana. Four-time high jump state placer ready to make the leap onto the collegiate scene as an Illinois scholarship recruit.
11. Layton Seeber, ex-Centennial. Will represent the United States in the 22nd Deaflympics from July 27 to Aug. 4 for the men’s basketball competition at Sofia, Bulgaria.
12. Laura Litchfield, ex-Champaign Central. Got a jump-start on part of her future — the professional part — with a school-related internship as a senior with WCIA, where she learned the behind-the-scenes intricacies from the sports staff experts.
13. Uzuri Williams, ex-Judah Christian. After two years at Parkland College, she has committed to North Central College, in Naperville, for basketball. She averaged 6.3 points for a 24-8 Cobras team.
14. Rayvonte Rice, ex-Centennial. Look for him to show the benefits of a year learning coach John Groce’s system as a redshirt when he becomes eligible to play for the Illini in the upcoming basketball season.
15. Lauren Grubb, ex-Unity. Former All-Area basketball player started 17 of 24 games she played as a sophomore at Parkland College and will take her talents to Iowa Wesleyan.
TEAMS ON THE RISE
1. Schlarman girls’ basketball. Hilltoppers coach Keith Peoples smiled when thinking about making a deeper run next season after a Class 1A sectional semifinal loss in February. With talent he has coming back, bank on it.
2. Champaign Central baseball. Maroons have gone from six wins in 2011 to 13 last year to 19 this year under coach John Staab’s direction.
3. Arcola softball. The entire infield graduates from a regional championship team, but the Purple Riders return a quality battery.
4. Paxton-Buckley-Loda boys’ basketball. Junior-heavy lineup this year will be seniors next season. And Scot Vogel has proven he can coach. A terrific combination to have.
5. Arthur-Lovington/Atwood-Hammond softball. Seven starters return for a team that won 19 games.
6. Cerro Gordo/DeLand-Weldon/Bement football. The first year that Bement joined the co-op, the win total (10) matched the combined total for the previous two seasons.
7. Fisher softball. Despite loss of hitting star Kalli Gosser, several underclassmen could emerge to keep up progress.
8. Blue Ridge boys’ soccer. Back-to-back one-win seasons (2002 and 2003) are a distant memory for a 22-3-1 squad that has posted 61 wins the past three years.
9. Danville girls’ basketball. Coach Brian Anderson’s Vikings won 17 games, a total achieved just once in the previous 16 years.
10. Urbana Uni High girls’ swimming. The Illineks’ team leader in every swimming event was a freshman. In four events, the second-best time was also by a freshman.
11. Shiloh volleyball. The Raiders’ 14-10 record more than doubled the school’s win total for the previous two seasons (12).
12. Clinton girls’ track and field. Coach Randy Anderson’s team won a Class 1A sectional title for the first time in school history. The challenge is harder next year as the Maroons are reclassified to Class 2A.
13. Mahomet-Seymour girls’ golf. After coach Matt Mills’ team captured the first regional title in school history, the Bulldogs went on to secure a top-10 finish at state.
14. Danville football. B.J. Luke and his players will want to show not making the playoffs in 2012 was a fluke. Chances are the veteran coach will make sure it was just a one-year hiatus.
15. Iroquois West girls’ basketball. Key returnees like Taylor Cultra, Elena Sanchez and Andrea Fuoss could propel Raiders to Redbird Arena after they fell one game short last winter.
TOP BOYS’ PROGRAMS
(combined 2012-13 football, basketball, baseball victories)
1. St. Joseph-Ogden 64 (9-29-26)
2. Salt Fork 57 (9-26-22)
3. Centennial 46 (2-22-22)
4. (tie) Monticello 42 (8-23-11)
4. (tie) Unity 42 (12-12-18)
6. (tie) Bismarck-H. 41 (10-25-6)
6. (tie) CG/Bement 41 (10-11-20)
8. (tie) A-L/Atwood-H. 40 (7-24-9)
8. (tie) Watseka 40 (6-14-20)
10. St. Thomas More 39 (5-16-18)
TOP GIRLS’ PROGRAMS
(combined 2012-13 volleyball, basketball, softball victories)
1. Centennial 84 (37-30-17)
2. Clinton 74 (29-25-20)
3. St. Joseph-Ogden 73 (22-21-30)
4. Watseka 69 (32-26-11)
5. Schlarman 65 (29-20-16)
6. St. Thomas More 63 (21-32-10)
7. (tie) A-L/Atwood-H. 57 (26-12-19)
7. (tie) Mahomet-S. 57 (21-14-22)
9. Paxton-Buckley-Loda 51 (25-20-6)
10. LeRoy 49 (16-20-13)
TOP COMBINED PROGRAMS
(total combined 2012-13 football, volleyball, boys’/girls’ basketball, baseball, softball victories)
1. St. Joseph-O. 137 (64 boys, 73 girls)
2. Centennial 130 (46 boys, 84 girls)
3. Watseka 109 (40 boys, 69 girls)
4. STM 102 (39 boys, 63 girls)
5. Schlarman 101 (36 boys, 65 girls)
6. A-L/Atwood-H. 97 (40 boys, 57 girls)
7. Salt Fork 95 (57 boys, 38 girls)
8. (tie) Clinton 90 (16 boys, 74 girls)
8. (tie) M-S 90 (33 boys, 57 girls)
10. Unity 87 (42 boys, 45 girls)