CHAMPAIGN — Pat Hettermann, the girls' golf coach at St. Thomas More since the program was formed in 2003, was selected by the National Federation of High School Coaches as the Illinois Coach of the Year.
Her most recent team, led by third-place individual placer Sierra Myerscough, placed fourth in the Class 1A state finals. Under Hettermann's guidance, the Sabers have been represented at the sectional level — or beyond — by at least one squad member. For six consecutive years, St. Thomas More has ended among the top four teams at state.
Russell pays tribute to his dad
URBANA — As Vashoune Russell went through his high school athletic career and later entered prep coaching, the Urbana High alumnus always could count on his father's backing.
"He would definitely support everything I did," the Tigers' third-year varsity head coach said this week of the late Robert Russell. "He was always there for me.
"The first thing he'd ask was how the game went or how practice went. He was always a stand-up guy when it came to sports."
Robert Russell, 55, of Champaign died Jan. 15 following a yearlong battle with brain cancer.
Vashoune Russell's mother, Francis, also is being treated for breast cancer that previously was in remission but has recently spread.
"It's been pretty tough," he said.
The Urbana coach said he'd received numerous calls of condolences and support following his father's death. After missing two Tigers games last weekend, Russell said he was looking forward to returning to his coaching duties "to be able to get away from it."
"The kids really help me because they're so funny," he said. "When they're around me, at some point in practice or in a game, they make me laugh.
"It's kind of a good time (to be able to return to coaching). Just as much as I miss my dad, I miss the kids."
Rantoul's Taylor returns for game
QUINCY — Sean Taylor, a Rantoul native and former Parkland College men's basketball assistant, will return to the area this weekend. The ninth-year Quincy High School boys' basketball coach brings his Blue Devils to Champaign Central on Saturday. The nonconference game at Combes Gym is scheduled to tip off at about 7:30 p.m.
"For me, it is a great honor to coach a game against Central," Taylor said. "I grew up having the opportunity to watch some great Rantoul versus Central games ... and then I had the opportunity to play against some really good Central teams.
"To be able to play on the court named for Coach (Lee) Cabutti is very special. Not only was he a great coach but he is an even better person."
The Blue Devils entered the week with an 11-6 record. Central will return the trip for a game in Quincy next season.
A-O site of Okaw wrestling
ARGENTA — The Okaw Valley Conference will determine its league individual and team champions this weekend with a series of dual meets at Argenta-Oreana, which is hosting the six-school event for the fourth consecutive season.
Defending champion Monticello and Argenta-Oreana, which won the crown from 2007 to '10, will oppose one another in Saturday's finale. Other schools in the field are Clinton, Shelbyville, Unity and Warrensburg-Latham.
Monticello, Shelbyville, Unity and W-L will return to A-O a week later for a nine-school Class 1A regional.
A-O coach Gary Cook said the home site is not a major advantage in the sport.
"There can be, as far as not having to travel, but since most of these schools are so close there is no real advantage," Cook said. "In wrestling, the kids decide it."
A-O senior Aaron Ford, who has been top-ranked in the state at 220 pounds, has 99 career wins entering the Okaw Duals.
Big 12 wrestlers to say adios
BLOOMINGTON — Saturday's Big 12 Conference wrestling meet, to be hosted at Bloomington starting at 9 a.m., will be the 73rd and final one for the league. Mattoon's departure at season's end leaves the Big 12 with nine schools, and administrators have decided to determine subsequent champions on the basis of dual meets between the remaining schools.
This year will be the final one to determine 14 individual weight-class conference champions. Starting in 2013, Big 12 coaches will gather to vote on a 28-member all-conference team that, in theory, will not require each weight class to be represented.
Two area athletes are seeking to become three-time Big 12 champs: Champaign Central senior Nate Volk (152 pounds) and Urbana junior Cameron Mammen (170). Centennial senior Archie Williams (182) is seeking a second league title.
The team favorites are Bloomington, which has won 13 of the last 14 team crowns, Centennial, which never has won a Big 12 team championship, and Mattoon, which won its last Big 12 title in 1997.
Sabers students had a perfect fall
CHAMPAIGN — St. Thomas More received the IHSA's Team Academic Achievement Award in all eight fall sports in which it participated: cheerleading, cross-country, football, boys' golf, girls' golf, girls' soccer, boys' tennis and volleyball. To qualify, the respective teams must achieve a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 during the season in which their sport takes place.
Jeff Huth and Fred Kroner