2020-21 Year in Review chart
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Teams of the Year

— Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond boys’ cross-country. Knights won a Class 1A regional title, first-ever 1A sectional championship and placed second in the unofficial state meet’s small-school division.

— Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond softball. Knights qualified for the Class 1A state tournament for the first time in team history and wound up with a fourth-place trophy and 22 victories.

— Centennial girls’ swimming and diving. Chargers held off rival Champaign Central for the local sectional championship with a largely underclass lineup and boasted both of the area’s two best divers.

— Centennial boys’ tennis. Chargers earned the boys’ team’s first-ever state trophy via a second-place finish that was paced by Max Braun winning the Class 1A singles state crown.

— Champaign Central boys’ swimming and diving. Maroons cruised through their regular-season competition as a wave of underclassmen thrived in numerous events, and they won the local de facto sectional meet as well.

— Iroquois West boys golf. Raiders secured their inaugural Class 1A regional championship trophy and won the Iroquois County Tournament with a veteran-heavy lineup.

— Mahomet-Seymour girls’ soccer. Bulldogs were untouchable locally and snagged a Class 2A regional trophy, at one stage winning 12 consecutive matches during the regular season.

— Mahomet-Seymour wrestling. Bulldogs posted an unblemished 26-0 regular-season duals mark and won a Class 2A super-regional plaque before taking seventh in the sectional round and seventh at the 2A state meet.

— Monticello girls’ cross-country. Sages continued to defy their relative youth, placing second in the Class 1A St. Teresa Regional and winning the 1A St. Teresa Sectional with two seniors in their top seven.

— Monticello football. Sages were one of three local programs to finish unbeaten (Unity at 5-0, St. Thomas More at 4-0), and their 6-0 mark included them outscoring opponents by a combined 207-34 margin with three shutouts.

— Oakwood boys’ basketball. Comets turned in a 10-2 record that included a 9-0 mark in Vermilion Valley Conference play, knocking off reigning league champ Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin to conclude that perfect run.

— Paxton-Buckley-Loda volleyball. One of several very good area programs this spring (Champaign Central, Mahomet-Seymour, St. Joseph-Ogden, St. Thomas More), Panthers dropped just six sets on their way to 16 victories and a 12-0 Sangamon Valley Conference record.

— St. Joseph-Ogden baseball. Spartans finished one win shy of the Class 2A state tournament but still captured regional and sectional championships while sporting a 33-3 record that included a 21-game win streak.

— St. Thomas More girls’ golf. Area’s top golf program for several years — regardless of gender — reigned again last fall en route to its fifth Class 1A regional plaque in as many years and a share of second place in the 1A sectional round.

— St. Thomas More girls’ tennis. Sabers bagged a Class 1A sectional title while competing alongside bigger schools like Champaign Central, Mahomet-Seymour and Urbana, their 28 points nine more than the closest foe.

— Salt Fork girls’ basketball. Storm posted the area’s lone unbeaten record in the girls’ ranks, going 13-0 and securing a Vermilion Valley Conference title behind a defense that allowed 27 points per game.

— Salt Fork track and field. Storm’s girls and boys each returned from Charleston with a team state trophy, with the girls placing third and the boys notching second in Class 1A competition while combining for three event championships.

— Unity softball. Rockets, like their counterparts in Arthur, made the Class 2A state semifinals for the inaugural time in program history, and they also left Peoria with a fourth-place award on top of 25 wins.

— Urbana boys’ soccer. Tigers used impressive numbers and an uber-talented junior class to rack up 10 victories during the spring, including a 4-2 triumph against Big 12 Conference powerhouse Peoria Notre Dame.

— Urbana boys’ track and field. Tigers glided to their first piece of team state hardware since 1942 by tying for third place in Class 2A action, adding a trio of event championships to fuel that outcome.

Future blue-chippers

— Beau Edwards, Arcola. Purple Riders junior hauled in 10 interceptions and caught 26 passes in football before making Class 1A state track and field meet in the high jump and 1,600-meter run.

— Eli Mojonnier, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin. All-Area first-team choice in cross-country and track and field as a junior made his presence felt with a Class 1A 800-meter run state victory.

— Jake Munroe, Champaign Central. Junior baseball shortstop put up ridiculous offensive numbers as the Maroons’ lone All-Area first-team representative, and more should be on the horizon.

— Kyle Johnson, Champaign Central. He burst onto the All-Area boys’ soccer first team last school year as a junior and produced his team’s only goal in this year’s Illinois State Cup tournament.

— Mallory Cyrulik, Clinton. Junior is a star on the basketball court and is receiving next-level interest in that venture, but Cyrulik’s athletic abilities also translate to volleyball and, in the past, track and field.

— Aidan Laughery, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. Junior recently gave his verbal commitment to Illinois football on live television and could win a track and field state title or two as a senior.

— Clayton Leonard, Iroquois West. The junior football lineman is another Illinois commit who could help his high school Raiders turn around their recent misfortunes before he graduates.

— Ryder James, Paxton-Buckley-Loda. Most recent All-Area boys’ track and field Runner of the Year, as a junior, keeps dropping time in the grass and on the track while forging valuable connections along the way.

— Caroline Kerr and Anna McClure, St. Thomas More. Each junior member of the volleyball pairing already has secured her Division I future, with Kerr committed to Tennessee and McClure pledged to Ohio State.

— Brynlee Keeran, Salt Fork. Ridiculous state track and field four-step — competing in pole vault, high jump, long jump and triple jump — plus playing volleyball and softball shows junior's athleticism.

— Jalen Quinn, Tuscola. Junior basketball standout has been offered by 14 schools, including Power 6 programs like Northwestern, Virginia Tech and DePaul.

— Alyssa Williams, Tuscola. Defending All-Area girls’ track and field Athlete of the Year won Class 1A state championships in three events as a junior and worked out visits to multiple Division I colleges this summer.

— Kate Dean, Tuscola. North Dakota volleyball commit may fly under the radar with Quinn and Williams around, but the junior's Division I future will force onlookers to recognize her prowess.

— Taylor Henry, Unity. Reigning All-Area softball Player of the Year as a junior should continue to pick up college steam in the lead-up to her senior season, in which she’ll attempt to return to state with the Rockets.

— Noah Barkley, Urbana. The star of a well-established Class of 2022 within Tigers boys’ soccer, Barkley — another spring All-Area first-teamer — should be drawing college attention.

State champions

— Gracie Jessup, Salt Fork girls’ track and field (Class 1A 100-meter hurdles).

— Alyssa Williams, Tuscola girls’ track and field (Class 1A 100-meter dash, 200 dash and long jump).

— Brianna Dixon, Rantoul girls’ track and field (Class 2A 100-meter hurdles).

— Eli Mojonnier, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin boys’ track and field (Class 1A 800-meter run).

— Isaiah Chatman, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley boys’ track and field (Class 1A 300-meter hurdles).

— Ben Jessup, Nathan Kirby, Ethan McLain and Tate Johnson, Salt Fork boys’ track and field (Class 1A 800-meter relay).

— Garrett Taylor, Salt Fork boys’ track and field (Class 1A discus).

— Jameson Cluver, Watseka boys’ track and field (Class 1A 400-meter dash).

— CJ Shoaf, Mahomet-Seymour boys’ track and field (Class 2A high jump).

— Kyle Burgoni, Unity boys’ track and field (Class 2A 100-meter dash).

— Jeremiah Hamilton, Urbana boys’ track and field (Class 2A 200-meter dash).

— Daniel Mboyo, Jeremiah Hamilton, Cedric Sabin and Jackson Gilbert, Urbana boys’ track and field (Class 2A 400-meter relay).

— Daniel Mboyo, Urbana boys’ track and field (Class 2A long jump).

— Max Braun, Centennial boys’ tennis (Class 1A singles).

— Grant Sant Amour, LeRoy/Tri-Valley wrestling (Class 1A 182 pounds).

— Joe Lashuay, Oakwood/Salt Fork wrestling (Class 1A 160 pounds).

Top student-athletes

— Jack Martin, Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond. All-Area football second-teamer graduated as valedictorian in the Class of 2021 and will join Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s engineering program.

— Maddox Dempsey, Champaign Central. Dempsey still has one more year of high school, but he earned a 3.8 GPA and IHSA Scholar Athlete status as a junior and is considering a future teaching English in Russia.

— Hallee Thomas and Savanna Rudy, Danville. Each was a Vikings valedictorian, with future Eastern Illinois athlete Thomas earning two Class 3A state track and field medals and Rudy competing for Danville volleyball and softball.

— Ethan Garard, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. A four-year participant in golf, basketball and baseball, Garard was part of the National Honor Society while receiving co-team MVP recognition in golf.

— Cade Hettmansberger and Anna Eisenmenger, Judah Christian. Hettmansberger (basketball, baseball) and Eisenmenger (track and field) each received the school’s Christian Athlete of the Year award.

— Danielle Bogle and Tiffany Bargmann, LeRoy. The basketball and softball players both balanced National Honor Society with their sports while boasting GPAs above 4.20.

— Andrew Rudolph, Monticello. Baseball and soccer player stayed busy in numerous non-athletic programs, such as Scholastic Bowl, Academic Challenge, student council, LifeSavers, Interact Club, Rotary and National Honor Society.

— Sophia Martlage, St. Joseph-Ogden. Softball and volleyball athlete recorded a 4.20 GPA and soon will attend Purdue University to study within the Boilermakers’ pharmacy program.

— Noah Eyman, St. Thomas More. Golfer and baseball player earned the Champaign West Rotary Scholarship and an IHSA Scholastic Achievement award while serving as class president and president of STM’s Interact club, among other duties.

— Maris Green, St. Thomas More. She picked up valedictorian status for the Sabers while serving as a veteran presence for a highly successful volleyball program.

— Gracie Jessup and Mackenzie Russell, Salt Fork. Jessup (cross-country, track and field, cheer) and Russell (cross-country, basketball, volleyball, softball, football statistician) boasted a 5.0 GPA, and each was named an Illinois State Scholar.

— Danbi Choi and Curtis Althaus, Uni High. Choi (cross-country/track and field) and Althaus (track and field) were tied to the National Merit Scholarship Program based on preliminary SAT and National Merit Scholarship qualifying test scores, and both are Illinois State Scholars.

— Madison Burwell and Kyleigh Block, Villa Grove. Burwell (volleyball, softball, track and field) was salutatorian and earned National High School Coaches Association academic All-America honorable mention status, while Block (golf, volleyball, basketball, softball) was an NHSCA academic All-America second-teamer.

— Natalie Schroeder, Watseka. An All-Area golf and basketball first-teamer who also played softball, she ranked 10th in her class and earned Aurora University’s James E. Crimi Presidential Scholarship.

— Bryce Burnett, Westville. He has one more year with the Tigers and will enter his senior seasons of football, basketball and baseball ranked No. 1 in his class. He’s also part of the National Honor Society and Outstanding Westville Leaders Society.


— Matthew Correll, 18, died Aug. 15, 2020. The recent Rantoul graduate was a swimmer with the Eagles who also participated in chorus and madrigals.

— Benny Bryan, 89, died Oct. 7, 2020. He compiled a Centennial baseball-best 208 wins while coaching the team between 1978 and 1994, guiding the Chargers to three regional championships and the 1990 Class AA state tournament.

— Byron Bradford, 81, died Oct. 14, 2020. A starting center on two of Arcola football’s unbeaten teams of the 1950s, Bradford went on to assistant coach numerous Purple Riders programs between 1961 and 1994, helping the football team to three state championships and eventually having his last name join that of Steve Thomas on the school’s Thomas-Bradford Field.

— Gerryontae Brown, 16, died Nov. 12, 2020. The Champaign Central student was the victim of gun violence and was remembered as someone with a great smile who always made people laugh.

— Terrence Tetter, 46, died on Nov. 14, 2020. The 1993 Danville graduate and was actively working as a Vikings’ wrestling coach of 13 years, including 10 as the team’s head coach, in addition to teaching special education.

— Nadirah Edwards, 17, died on Dec. 3, 2020. The St. Joseph-Ogden senior was an honor-roll student who participated in National Honor Society, Art Club, the Rube Goldberg team, drama and band.

— Oscar Hicks, 93, died Dec. 24, 2020. He led Unity football between 1955 and 1973, posting nearly 100 wins and ultimately having the team’s field named for him. He also coached basketball, baseball, track and field and cross-country teams.

— Dave Lohr, 82, died Jan. 2, 2021. Lohr was a staple of Tuscola-area Little League and inspired Duff Hoel to coach the high school baseball team in addition to working on the Warriors’ football chain gang between 1978 and 2013.

— Glenn Fisher, 81, died Jan. 7, 2021. He worked as St. Joseph-Ogden High’s head custodian for more than 30 years and continued working on some athletic fields even after his retirement, posthumously having the Spartans’ athletic complex named in his honor as a result.

— Bart Wills, 66, died Feb. 19, 2021. The 1973 Champaign Central graduate served as the center for the Maroons’ 1972 Big 12 Conference-champion team and worked with multiple Champaign County youth programs.

— Jordan Reinhart-Smith, 28, died Feb. 19, 2021. The 2010 Unity graduate was working as Unit 7 School’s maintenance director by day and as an assistant coach on the LeRoy football staff by afternoon and evening.

— Andrew Cotner, 51, died May 5, 2021. The 1987 Centennial graduate graduated with Chargers baseball records in pitching wins, career and single-season strikeouts and single-season earned run average before pitching in the New York Mets’ minor league system.

— Joey Hoopingarner, 18, died May 16, 2021. The Paxton-Buckley-Loda senior died suddenly of COVID-19 and was remembered as a “funny, outgoing and great kid” by those closest to him.

— Chris Oberheim, 44, died May 19, 2021. An officer with the Champaign Police Department, Oberheim was a well-known softball coach in the Monticello community and was easy to spot along the first-base line at Sages softball games.

— Mike Pangburn, 74, died May 30, 2021. He was the voice of Villa Grove football for 23 years and was attending softball games in support of granddaughter and team member Alison during the same month that he died.

— Richard Knight, 84, died June 12, 2021. The 1956 Bismarck High graduate was a longtime school custodian who consistently made his presence felt at Blue Devils athletic events.

— Eli Williams Jr., 62, died June 13, 2021. He coached in the Westville community for more than 40 years, guiding athletes at the junior high and high school levels, and he served as a co-grand marshal with wife Sue at the 2012 Westville Labor Day Parade.

— Bailey Dee, 20, died June 26, 2021. The former Champaign Central basketball player was a victim of gun violence and spent one season with the Danville Area Community College men’s basketball team.

— Gary Wieneke, 83, died July 6, 2021. Recognized primarily for his work with the University of Illinois cross-country and track and field programs, he also oversaw a Unity girls’ cross-country/track and field revival between 2006 and 2015.

All-interview team

— Leah Luchinski, Centennial. Kept finding herself in the spotlight, whether in tennis, volleyball or softball and always was willing to take a few moments to assess the good and the not-so-good.

— Eric Turner Jr., Danville. He always wore a smile on his face and stated his thoughts candidly, even while completely exhausted on the football field or track.

— Braden Finch, Mahomet-Seymour. Carried himself like a starting quarterback during interviews — fittingly, since he was one — and always tried to prop up his Bulldogs teammates.

— Grace and Rose Talbert, Monticello. The distance-running sisters are willing to deeply analyze situations involving them and their Sage friends and offer brutally honest replies to any questions.

— Lucas Wood, Uni High. Defending All-Area boys’ soccer Player of the Year always brought flair to interviews, as shown by him dressing in a suit for his POTY portrait.

Deserved more pub

— Cassi Newbanks, Argenta-Oreana. She’ll play softball at Indiana State after leading the Bombers in volleyball, girls’ basketball and especially softball, also competing for their 2018 Class 1A third-place squad.

— Sophia Rome, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin. Heir apparent to Emily Meidel captained the girls’ basketball and volleyball teams as a junior and earned all-conference and all-county first-team honors in both sports.

— Langston Span, Champaign Central. Competed as a diver in the shadow of All-Area first-teamer Mitchell Hynds — taking second place at the 2021 sectional — and is one of the area’s few Black athletes in the pool.

— Brea Benson, Mahomet-Seymour. Junior shared the girls’ soccer spotlight with All-Area Player of the Year Nyah Biegler and goal-scoring machine Cayla Koerner, but Benson still tied the single-season assists program record with 30.

— Lizzie Stiverson, Monticello. Stiverson’s name appeared in numerous News-Gazette prep highlights articles as she stood out in volleyball, girls’ basketball and softball as a junior.

— Coby Miller, St. Joseph-Ogden. As a junior, he directed the News-Gazette coverage area’s best baseball pitching staff for a team that recorded 33 victories — gaining All-Area second-team recognition — and he also played football.

— Kaylenn Hunt, Tri-County. The future Bradley volleyball athlete may’ve gained a few more headlines if she’d have followed up her three-medal performance at the 2019 Class 1A girls’ track and field state meet.

— Ivan Favila, Uni High. Performance in the Class 1A boys’ track and field state meet showed us what we were missing, as the junior and first-time pole vaulter ranked fourth in that event.

— Bill Layton, Urbana. He was a two-time All-Area boys’ tennis first-team choice and operated as the Tigers’ top dog on the court for the entirety of his high school career.

— Sydney McTaggart, Watseka. Another regular presence in our prep highlights packages, McTaggart still managed to stand out in a loaded local volleyball scene and made the All-Area second team as a libero.

Top comebacks

— Isaiah Chatman, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. Football player and track and field athlete experienced the deaths of his grandfather and step-father in addition to battling COVID-19 but wound up winning the Class 1A boys’ 300-meter hurdles race.

— Bre Crose, Hoopeston Area. Suffered a 2019 knee injury in basketball but recovered to become a varsity volleyball starter, regular basketball presence and Class 1A girls’ track and field state qualifier in the 100-meter dash.

— Mateo Casillas, Mahomet-Seymour. Dealt with a dislocated knee cap during a December 2020 wrestling match — actually having it put back in place on the mat — but hustled back for spring football, baseball and wrestling en route to All-Area Wrestler of the Year status.

— Avery Oberheim, Monticello. Returned to the softball diamond just one day after the shooting death of her father, police officer Chris Oberheim, and reached base once during a game against Bloomington Central Catholic.

— Cede Rentschler, St. Thomas More. A senior captain for Sabers girls’ soccer, she was injured during the season’s first three weeks but still competed before suffering a back injury that required physical therapy — and ultimately returning again before the season ended.

— Dylan Diaz, Salt Fork. Was saddled with a heart condition that led to doctors telling him he could no longer compete athletically, but he proved them wrong after moving to Illinois from Virginia and placed 24th in the Class 1A boys’ track and field state triple jump.

— Ella Boyer, Tuscola. Overcame a significant knee injury to become a key contributor for a 15-win girls’ basketball team and a 23-win softball club.

— Ray Jones, Uni High. After a promising cross-country season in the fall, he developed a knee injury that kept him out until mid-May but worked on an elliptical and bicycle to nearly qualify for Class 1A state in the 3,200-meter run.

— Jackson Gilbert, Urbana. Developed a “dead leg” late in his soccer season — the result of a blow to the thigh which can lead to mobility issues — but recovered to help the Tigers win the Class 2A boys’ state 400-meter relay race and place third in the 400 dash.

— Jaitlyn White, Westville. False-started in a sectional 100-meter hurdles race as a sophomore before bouncing back as a senior to set the race’s new school record, qualify for state and become Tigers girls’ track and field’s first all-state athlete since 1978 via an eighth-place finish.


— KayLee Hohlbauch, Arcola. Ended her Purple Riders career with 28 softball home runs, surpassing the program record previously set by the team’s current coach, Cara Roberts (21).

— Tom Johnson, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin. Retired after 51 years of service to the school district, most recently as the Blue Devils’ athletic director.

— Centennial boys’ tennis. Earned its first-ever team state trophy (second place in Class 1A), first state titlist (Max Braun in 1A singles) and first doubles state medalist (James Braun and Lino Jo, sixth in 1A).

— Erin Houpt, Danville. Already the leading basketball scorer in Vikings history, Houpt surpassed 2,000 career points in a loss to Peoria Notre Dame on March 1.

— Josh Williams, Clinton. The Maroons’ girls’ basketball coach secured his 200th career victory during a Feb. 27 game against Argenta-Oreana. He’s won 182 games at Clinton in 12 seasons.

— Cayla Koerner and Brea Benson, Mahomet-Seymour. Koerner established new girls’ soccer program records for single-season goals (49), assists (30) and points (79), while Benson also achieved 30 assists this spring.

— Sofie Harvey, Monticello. She set the girls’ soccer program’s new single-season assists record by recording 11 for the Sages this spring.

— Trey Bazzell, Prairie Central. Became the Hawks’ all-time leading scorer on the basketball court, concluding his high school tenure with 1,420 points.

— Brianna Dixon, Rantoul. Gave Eagles track and field its first state championship since 1899 when she placed first in the Class 2A 100-meter hurdles.

— Alyssa Williams, Tuscola. Broke school records in the 100-meter dash, 200 dash and long jump, then repeatedly reset each one as the track and field season went on until they now stand at 12.10 seconds, 25.32 seconds and 18 feet, 3 3/4 inches.

— Gracie Cox, Unity. Like Alyssa Williams, Cox found a school record to break and relentlessly bettered it, taking down the discus best and repeatedly improving it to a final mark of 140 feet, 4 3/4 inches.

— Kyleigh Block, Villa Grove/Heritage girls’ basketball. Set new program records for points in a game with 47 and three-pointers in a game with nine, both during a season-ending victory over Warrensburg-Latham.

— Alison Pangburn, Villa Grove softball. Recorded new program bests for triples in a season with eight and runs scored in a single game with five.

— Reached 1,000 career basketball points during the 2021 season. Elijah Tidwell, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin; Mallory Cyrulik, Clinton; Tevin Smith, Danville; Nate Hoskins, Danville; Carson Brozenec, Fisher; Carsyn Todd, Salt Fork; Emily White, Sullivan.

— Reached 100 career coaching wins during the 2020-21 school year. Ryan Reifsteck, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin boys’ soccer; Brian Russell, Salt Fork girls’ basketball; Dave Ellars, Unity girls’ basketball; Aimee Davis, Unity softball; Corey White, Villa Grove/Heritage boys’ basketball.

Super sophomores

— Gavin Parkerson, Armstrong-Potomac. Impressed on the baseball diamond — especially while pitching — to the point where he earned All-Area second-team status and received multiple All-Area votes from Class 3A coaches.

— Kaden Feagin, Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond. Earned All-Area football first-team recognition and now holds offers from Notre Dame, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Rutgers, and he also placed second in the Class 1A boys’ state long jump.

— Nolan Miller and Aidan Williams, Champaign Central. Miller was our 2021 All-Area boys’ swimming and diving Athlete of the Year after he posted 200-yard freestyle and 500 freestyle times that ranked 11th in the state, while Williams also made the All-Area first team after winning the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke at the local end-of-season meet.

— Wade Schacht, Champaign Central. The reigning All-Area boys’ Golfer of the Year can hang with the area’s best of all ages in events like the Twin City tournament, and he also played tennis for the Maroons.

— Lexi Ellis, Josie Hotsinpiller and Ava Towne, Danville. This trio will make Vikings girls’ tennis a sectional title contender this fall, as the three occupy top singles and doubles spots.

— Katie Steidinger, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. She’s Falcons girls’ tennis’ No. 1 singles player and half of its No. 1 doubles tandem while also being involved in dance, choir, Future Business Leaders of America, student council and school musicals on top of working a job.

— Daryl Okeke, Judah Christian. Won a Class 1A 300-meter hurdles sectional championship and finished 14th in the event at the 1A boys’ state meet.

— Mateo Casillas, Mahomet-Seymour. Captured the All-Area Wrestler of the Year honor despite contesting baseball and wrestling seasons simultaneously, finished one win shy of a state title.

— Savannah Orgeron and Durbin Thomas, Mahomet-Seymour. Orgeron was an All-Area girls’ basketball first-team selection, while Thomas was the Bulldogs’ captain and ran the point.

— Mabry Bruhn, Monticello. Our defending All-Area girls’ cross-country Runner of the Year also secured All-Area first-team status in girls’ swimming and diving and girls’ track and field.

— Brianna Dixon, Rantoul. It’s necessary to mention Dixon once again in this package, as her 100-meter hurdles state championship as a 10th-grader suggests even bigger things are on the horizon.

— Shayne Immke, St. Joseph-Ogden. Named to the All-Area softball first team after smashing 17 home runs for the Spartans, finishing just two dingers away from making the IHSA’s top 15 for a single season.

— Ty Pence, St. Joseph-Ogden. The All-Area boys’ basketball first-teamer is receiving significant college interest, with an offer from Illinois leading the charge. Also golfed and started for a 33-win baseball team.

— Mallory Monahan, St. Thomas More. Stepped up in the wake of Anna McClure’s injury absence, throwing down a team-best 174 kills for the 18-win Sabers.

— Maddy Swisher, St. Thomas More. A two-time All-Area girls’ tennis Player of the Year — once as part of a doubles team — Swisher sits atop a local scene that includes quite a bit of talent.

— Garrett Taylor, Salt Fork. Won the Class 1A boys’ discus state championship, his top throw of 170 feet, 11 1/2 inches ranking fifth among all of the nation’s 2020-21 sophomores.

— Shelby McGee, Salt Fork. Served on a conference-champion girls’ cross-country team, a conference-champion volleyball squad and a Class 1A third-place girls’ track and field unit, taking seventh in the state 100-meter hurdles in that last venture.

— Kate Ahmari, Uni High. Already a two-time All-Area girls’ cross-country first-teamer and one-time All-Area girls’ track and field first-team selection as she and Monticello’s Mabry Bruhn consistently battle for top honors locally.

— Mikayla Blanke, Uni High. Turned in an All-Area second-team performance in girls’ cross-country before leading Illineks girls’ soccer in goals (24, a new school record for single-season goals) en route to another second-team honor.

— Reece Sarver, Unity. On a Rockets softball club loaded with talent, Sarver still was able to earn starting catcher duties as she and her teammates rolled to fourth place in Class 2A.

Fantastic freshmen

— Landon Freeman, Armstrong-Potomac. Started both ways for the Hoopeston Area/Armstrong-Potomac football cooperative, also booking a 4.0 GPA and participating in scholastic bowl.

— Gabriella Moreman, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin. A burgeoning star in middle- and long-distance running, she earned a spot on the All-Area girls’ cross-country first team and ran an all-state time in the unofficial Class 1A girls’ state cross-country meet.

— Max Braun, Centennial. Already the All-Area boys’ tennis Player of the Year in his first possible try, Braun didn’t lose even one set on his way to a historic state singles championship.

— Sandhya Subbiah, Centennial. Instantly catapulted her way into the No. 1 singles spot for the Chargers and bagged All-Area second-team status after her performances.

— Sophia Adams, Champaign Central. Found her way onto the All-Area girls’ soccer second team as a forward and helped the Maroons to a Class 2A regional championship.

— Alexander Faulkner, Danville. For Vikings boys’ swimming and diving, he recorded the second-best time in the 200-yard individual medley and fourth-best result in the 500 freestyle during the local end-of-season meet.

— Natalie DeSchepper, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. Qualified for the Class 1A girls’ track and field state meet in the 400-meter dash and 800 relay, ranking 20th in the former race.

— Mary Roland, Heritage. The lone freshman on our latest All-Area volleyball team, the setter helped spur a massive midseason turnaround for the Hawks as they went from 0-6 to 7-7.

— Aleigha Garrison, Judah Christian. Within striking distance of being the top local girls’ distance runner, she raced in state for Class 1A cross-country and the 3,200-meter run, finishing all-state twice.

— Caleb McCullough, Judah Christian. Could’ve been a Class 1A boys’ golf state tournament participant in his first prep season (if there was a state tournament) and finished second in the Champaign County Meet.

— Emily Bogema, Lauren Bossingham, Molly Buckles and Haley Cox, LeRoy. All four were starters/regular contributors for Panthers softball, with Bogema and Bossingham each hitting over .300 and Cox throwing two no-hitters.

— Jack Gallier, Mahomet-Seymour. Not only was he the lone ninth-grader to make the latest All-Area football team, but he also was a second-team selection as a defensive lineman.

— Aron Varga, Mahomet-Seymour. After his family moved to the area from Canada, Varga fit right in with Bulldogs boys’ swimming and diving by pacing the team in four events as an All-Area first-teamer.

— Emma Shields, St. Thomas More. Was encouraged to give soccer a shot right after volleyball season concluded and thrived as a goalkeeper for a Class 1A regional-champion club.

— Macie Russell, Salt Fork. Won a Class 1A 800-meter run sectional championship and broke the school record in that event while also playing softball, and she additionally participated in girls’ basketball and volleyball.

— Maya Jenny, Schlarman. Made her presence felt on a loaded area girls’ tennis scene by placing third in the local Class 1A sectional’s singles draw.

— Josiah Hortin, Tuscola. Snared a varsity letter in golf, boys’ cross-country and boys’ basketball, cracking the All-Area team in cross-country as well.

— Emmitt Holt, Unity. Holt recorded a perfect 12-0 record at 106 pounds for a Rockets wrestling program that is more known lately for thriving at heavier weights.

— Erica Woodard, Unity. Like Gabriella Moreman above, Woodard was an All-Area girls’ cross-country first-team choice and soon could be the new face of Rockets distance running.

— Abby Sabalaskey, Westville. Was a pitching machine for Tigers softball despite coming into the season with a bum throwing shoulder, finishing with four perfect games and a 0.35 earned run average en route to All-Area first-team recognition.

Coaches of the Year

— Lyle Dorjahn, Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond. Oversaw Knights boys’ cross-country winning its second consecutive regional title and first-ever sectional title, followed by a second-place showing at unofficial Class 1A state.

— Jerry Lane, Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond. Motivated Knights softball to its first-ever Class 1A state berth and, ultimately, a fourth-place finish even with an extremely short bench.

— Teri Scaggs, Centennial. Director of the Chargers’ boys’ and girls’ tennis teams led the former to a first-ever team state trophy (Class 1A runner-up) and state medals in both singles and doubles play.

— Katie VanHootegem, Champaign Central. Despite a relatively small roster, VanHootegem’s girls’ swimming and diving crew very nearly secured the local sectional championship.

— Grant Meyer, Iroquois West. Fronted Raiders boys’ golf to its inaugural Class 1A regional championship and eighth place in the sectional round.

— Jeremy Davis, Mahomet-Seymour. Davis led the Bulldogs’ soccer teams — boys’ and girls’ — to a cumulative 27-5-3 record that included the girls’ winning a Class 2A regional plaque.

— Rob Ledin, Mahomet-Seymour. A regular entrant on this list, Ledin propelled Bulldogs wrestling to an unblemished 26-0 duals mark, a regional title, a sectional runner-up effort and a seventh-place Class 2A state finish.

— Dan Burkybile, Monticello. Continued to orchestrate a resurgence for Sages’ boys’ soccer as the squad finished with 13 victories and its first conference championship since 2014.

— Dave Remmert, Monticello. One of the area’s leading cross-country coaches, Remmert’s best work this school year came with a largely underclass girls’ roster that won a sectional championship.

— Cully Welter, Monticello. Also the Sages’ track and field leader, Welter’s top achievement in 2020-21 was aiding Monticello football to the area’s only 6-0 record.

— Jeff Mandrell, Oakwood. Mandrell has seen quick growth in his three seasons running Comets boys’ basketball, as evidenced by a 10-2 record and Vermilion Valley Conference title this year.

— Lindsay Stalowy, Paxton-Buckley-Loda. In a cutthroat local volleyball scene, Stalowy propelled the Panthers to 16 victories — including one over Champaign Central — and a Sangamon Valley Conference crown.

— Josh Haley, St. Joseph-Ogden. He nearly got to experience his third Class 2A state berth in nine seasons running Spartans baseball, as this year’s crew qualified for a super-sectional with 33 wins.

— Alan Dodds, St. Thomas More. Dodds is our All-Area girls’ golf Coach of the Year three years running after keeping the Sabers strong following Pat Hettermann’s retirement.

— Scott Weakley, St. Thomas More. Being moved away from its usual home (Atkins Tennis Center) to Spalding Park didn’t slow Weakley’s girls’ tennis club, which won a Class 1A sectional trophy.

— Brian Russell, Salt Fork. Russell’s sixth season in charge of Storm girls’ basketball resulted in a 13-0 record and a Vermilion Valley Conference championship.

— Steve Trompeter, Salt Fork. In his first full campaign running Storm girls’ track and field, Trompeter helped his athletes to a Class 1A third-place state trophy despite a roster numbering fewer than 10.

— Aimee Davis, Unity. Now the two-time defending All-Area softball Coach of the Year, she used 2021 to guide the Rockets to their first state semifinals appearance and a fourth-place effort in Class 2A.

— Forrest Farokhi, Urbana. In Year 6 at the helm of Tigers boys’ track and field, Farokhi pushed the team to a share of third place at Class 2A state — its first such trophy since 1942 — as well as three event championships.

— Michelle Zimmerman, Urbana. Zimmerman has steadily built up Tigers swimming and diving, especially on the boys’ side during the 2020 as they finished third in an end-of-season six-team meet.

Assistant coaches of the year

— Chad Hopkins, Arcola. Defensive coordinator for a Purple Riders football team that finished 4-1 also serves as the team’s athletic trainer.

— Tracy Hood, Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond. Hood deals with many administrative and organizational responsibilities for Knights baseball amid head coach Bob Silvanik’s self-described restricted availability, and Hood also assists ALAH girls’ basketball.

— Rachel Wells, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin. Wells assists or head coaches numerous teams in the Bismarck area, helping with high school track and field and leading junior high volleyball and basketball on top of teaching fifth grade.

— Alex Amatyleon, Centennial. Also the Mahomet-Seymour girls’ tennis head coach, Amatyleon partnered with Teri Scaggs to oversee Chargers boys’ tennis success at Class 1A state, and he works as a youth leader at his Mahomet church.

— Nicole Winkler, Champaign Central. Junior varsity volleyball coach led that group of Maroons to a perfect 16-0 record and also stepped in as varsity leader when Justin Tomaska went on paternity leave.

— Brian Ennis, Clinton. Entering double digits in years on the Maroons’ girls’ basketball staff, he’s also a 15-year president of the Clinton Athletic Booster Club and oversees the girls’ hoops junior varsity team.

— Carl Long, Danville. Played a key role in Hallee Thomas recording a pair of Class 3A girls’ track and field all-state finishes, including a runner-up showing in the 300-meter hurdles.

— Ali Sizemore, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. Stepped up to aid the Falcons’ track and field hurdles group, including eventual Class 1A boys’ 300-meter hurdles state champion Isaiah Chatman.

— Dr. Paul Schaap, Judah Christian. Assists the Tribe cross-country and track and field programs while also working as a substitute physician with Carle Health. He’s especially helped the school’s distance runners.

— Greg Conn, LeRoy. A football and softball assistant coach, Conn also “has filled numerous jobs throughout the district” and is “one of the hardest workers in town,” according to LeRoy softball coach Doug Hageman.

— Justin Wells, Oakwood. He took a group of Comets boys’ basketball players to play in an Indiana summer league when Illinois still was under more-strict COVID-19 measures and is willing to open the school gym to players at any time.

— Daryl Evans, Prairie Central. He’s entering his 11th year with Hawks boys’ golf and also serves as a pastor at Fairbury Baptist Church.

— Dalton Walsh, St. Joseph-Ogden. Three-sport standout in his high school days with the Spartans, Walsh has been a basketball volunteer assistant the past two years and will lead the junior varsity squad in 2022.

— Kim Zahrn, St. Thomas More. She’s worked alongside Alan Dodds each of the last three years as to keep Sabers girls’ golf atop the area landscape, winning three regional titles along the way, and she becomes the head coach this fall.

— Kalyn Learnard, Salt Fork. Helped Storm girls’ basketball to its first-ever unbeaten campaign and also helped the softball team to a regional championship game after a slow start.

— Herb Wilkins, Salt Fork. Longtime throwing coach for Storm track and field earned his first state champion with Garrett Taylor in the Class 1A discus and helped Taylor and girls’ athlete Olivia Birge to a combined four state medals.

— Mike Rosenbaum, Tuscola. Took a role in Warriors girls’ basketball collecting a 15-3 record last season and, according to head coach Tim Kohlbecker, is “not a yes-man” and will “reign in” Kohlbecker on the sidelines.

— Matt Reed and Dave Ellars, Unity. They also coach the boys’ basketball and girls’ basketball teams, respectively, but they played crucial roles with Rockets softball on the team’s way to a Class 2A fourth-place finish.

— Mike Murphy, Urbana. Has served as Tigers softball’s hitting coach for the last 10 seasons and earlier this year helped the club break through for its first regional championship since 1987.

— Jeff Unger, Urbana. Is a longtime Urbana resident and volunteer assistant with Tigers tennis, offering to the athletes experiences received by playing at the University of Wisconsin during the 1960s and beyond.

In-state alumni to watch

— Austin Hopkins, Arcola. A speedy running back with the Purple Riders before graduating in 2020, Hopkins found a steady defensive role with Eureka College football as a freshman and amassed 11 tackles and one tackle for loss.

— Sierra Bryant, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin. As a Bradley women’s track and field freshman, she helped the Braves set a new program record in the 1,600-meter relay at 4 minutes, 4.09 seconds.

— Emily Meidel, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin. Our 2020 Female Athlete of the Year quickly made an impact with Lincoln Land women’s basketball, leading the team in scoring, being named Mid-West Athletic Conference Player of the Year and earning All-America status.

— Phillip Hall, Danville. Received second-team All-Big Ten status in the distance medley relay for Illinois men’s track and field, courtesy a second-place showing at the Big Ten Indoor Championships.

— Mattie Lieb, Monticello. She was a member of an Illinois State women’s track and field 400-meter relay that placed first in four different meets, and she helped the Redbirds to a Missouri Valley Conference title.

— Mye’Joi Williams, Rantoul. The thrower thrived in her first year with Illinois State women’s track and field, qualifying for the NCAA West Regional in shot put and ending the 2021 season ranked third nationally among true-freshman shot throwers.

— Jordan Brooks, St. Joseph-Ogden. Brooks’ junior season with Eureka College men’s basketball saw him participate in all 11 games for the 8-3 Red Devils, averaging 5.5 points per game.

— JD Barrett, Tuscola. Received All-College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin status as a sophomore with Illinois Wesleyan men’s track and field, competing in the 3,000-, 5,000 and 10,000-meter runs.

— Elyce Knudsen, Unity. Our 2020 All-Area girls’ basketball Player of the Year tore up the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin women’s basketball scene with Millikin, leading the team to a league championship and being named the conference’s Newcomer of the Year.

— McKenzie Krutsinger, Unity. After finishing up a college softball career at Florida Tech, Krutsinger now is a Chicago-based commercial pilot with the SkyWest regional chain.

Out-of-state alumni to watch

— Justin McCoy, Champaign Central. Stormed onto the men’s golf scene at St. Louis’ Webster University, earning Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year status as well as medalist honors in the conference tournament.

— Conor Steinbaugh, Georgetown-Ridge Farm. Led the country in strikeouts-to-walks ratio during Akron baseball’s 2021 season with 39 punchouts versus one free pass, posting a 3-2 pitching record and 2.89 ERA.

— London Acree, Mahomet-Seymour. Was a 2021 Academic All-Big 12 first-team selection for Kansas women’s rowing and will ply her trade next as a George Washington graduate transfer.

— Brooks Coetzee, Mahomet-Seymour. Started in 37 games for Notre Dame baseball as a junior, hitting .274 with career bests in hits, home runs, doubles, RBI and steals for a super-regional qualifier.

— Aliyah Welter, Monticello. Her sophomore season with Louisville women’s track and field was her best yet, as she tied for 16th in pole vault at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

— Katelyn Young, Oakwood. Young instantly was a stud for Racers women’s basketball as a freshman, nabbing All-Ohio Valley Conference first-team status on the back of seven OVC Freshman of the Week awards.

— Jerry Harper, Rantoul. Helped the Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College men’s 3,200-meter relay to second place at the NJCAA outdoor national meet, earning All-America status for indoor and outdoor competition.

— Bailey Dowling and Frankie Izard, St. Joseph-Ogden. The former Spartans softball standouts now play for Alabama and Louisiana-Lafayette, respectively. Dowling was the Women’s College World Series-qualifying Tide’s starting shortstop before suffering an injury, and Izard hit .474 while stealing 14 bases for a 47-win Rajin’ Cajuns outfit.

— Alaina Bowie, St. Thomas More. The four-time All-Area girls’ Golfer of the Year quickly found a role with Butler women’s golf, with her 79.7 18-hole stroke average ranking fourth on the team.

— Jenny Kimbro, Salt Fork. Continued to be a star in her fifth season with Iowa women’s track and field, becoming an outdoor All-American and placing 18th in the NCAA Outdoor Championships’ heptathlon event.

— Morgan Day, Tuscola. Day’s last season as an Illinois State softball player saw her collect a 19-6 pitching record and earn a spot on the All-Missouri Valley Conference first team. She also threw ISU’s first no-hitter in a decade and will spend the 2022 season at Oklahoma State.

— Blake Woodard, Tuscola. He became the Jacksonville Jaguars’ ticket sales account manager in March 2021 after spending time working for the St. Louis Cardinals and University of Illinois.

— Hunter Woodard, Tuscola. The Oklahoma State football offensive lineman entered his sophomore season-opener because of a teammate’s injury and never left the starting lineup afterward, becoming an Academic All-Big 12 selection in the process.

— Ema Rajic, Uni High. The University of California women’s swimmer — who holds the Golden Bears’ 100-yard breaststroke record — is representing the Croatian national team in the Tokyo Olympics, having qualified in the 100-meter breaststroke and 50 freestyle.

— Arielle Summitt, Uni High. Her junior cross-country and track and field seasons with Johns Hopkins were wiped out in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she’ll try to regain her two-time second-team All-Centennial Conference form this fall.

— Katie Kidwell, Watseka. She’s utilizing an extra year of eligibility with Bowling Green volleyball, for with which she received All-Mid-American Conference second-team honors last season as a middle blocker.

Teams on the rise

— Arcola football. Nick Lindsey’s Purple Riders were fairly young this spring after graduating a massive Class of 2020 and still posted a 4-1 record, suggesting there’s more good to come this fall.

— Champaign Central boys’ golf. Mike Osterbur’s Maroons are keyed by 2020 All-Area boys’ Golfer of the Year Wade Schacht among a roster that projects to have four juniors and one sophomore in its top five.

— Clinton girls’ basketball. Josh Williams’ Maroons return a potent 1-2 punch of All-Area first-teamer Mallory Cyrulik and special-mention pick Kaitlyn Rauch, paired with three other varsity-experienced starters and an eighth-grade class that went 13-1 in its most recent season.

— Milford volleyball. Michelle Wessels’ Bearcats picked up 16 wins during the spring and return most of their key contributors, including All-Area second-team outside hitter Caley Mowrey.

— Rantoul boys’ track and field. Mitch Wilson’s Eagles qualified in six Class 2A state events and return eight of the 10 athletes associated with those, not to mention 12 juniors who will be seniors this school year.

— St. Thomas More baseball. Mike Alves’ Sabers picked up a Class 1A regional trophy and started three juniors and four sophomores in the ensuing sectional semifinal, and the team also returns 78 percent of its innings pitched.

— Tuscola girls’ track and field. With reigning All-Area Athlete of the Year Alyssa Williams at the forefront, Drew Sterkel's Warriors also are adding to their underclass crop with talented freshman Lia Patterson.

— Unity softball. Hard to believe considering Aimee Davis’ Rockets placed fourth in Class 2A this year, but the program graduates just one senior from that roster.

— Urbana boys’ soccer. James Barkley’s Tigers rolled to a 10-2-3 record in their condensed 2021 season and bring back many top contributors this fall, including reigning All-Area first-teamers Noah Barkley and Chase Mandra.

— Westville softball. Randy Skaggs’ Tigers broke through for 14 victories earlier this year and nearly knocked off Unity in the regional round. They’ll be paced by All-Area first-team freshman Abby Sabalaskey and are bringing in an eighth-grade class that won a regional.

Top boys’ programs (combined football, soccer, basketball, baseball and wrestling duals wins)

— Mahomet-Seymour: 66

— St. Joseph-Ogden: 58

— Monticello: 57

— Oakwood: 55

— Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin: 49

— LeRoy: 49

— Champaign Central: 46

— Unity: 41

— Centennial: 38

— St. Thomas More: 35

Top girls’ programs (combined volleyball, basketball, softball and soccer wins)

— Mahomet-Seymour: 53

— St. Joseph-Ogden: 52

— Tuscola: 47

— Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond: 44

— Watseka: 40

— Milford: 38

— Paxton-Buckley-Loda: 38

— Unity: 35

— Champaign Central: 34

— Salt Fork: 33

Top combined programs

— Mahomet-Seymour: 119

— St. Joseph-Ogden: 110

— Monticello: 83

— Champaign Central: 80

— LeRoy: 78

— Unity: 76

— Tuscola: 75

— Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond: 73

— Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin: 69

— Milford: 69

Colin Likas covers Illinois football and high school sports at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at clikas@news-gazette.com, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Colin Likas covers Illinois football and high school sports at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

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