Fantastic freshmen

— Megan Allen and Elle Bodznick, Monticello. Allen produced 22 goals and nine assists for Sages girls’ soccer and lettered in four sports. Bodznick tallied 14 goals and 14 assists, setting the school record for single-season assists.

— Hudson Ault, Prairie Central. Served as part of a Class 2A state-qualifying 800-meter relay unit. He participated in the 100 dash, 200 dash, 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles and high jump, too.

— Ronald Baker III, Babette Bradley, Kaitlyn Helm and Josh Lee, Champaign Central. Bradley and Helm were All-Area first-team selections in girls’ swimming and diving and softball, respectively. Baker was a state qualifier in both wrestling and boys’ track and field. Lee was an All-Area boys’ swimming and diving second-teamer.

— Ellie Barker, Reis Claybrooke, Talia Francom and Camden Heinold, Mahomet-Seymour. Barker and Francom are receiving looks from Division I volleyball programs, according to Bulldogs coach Stan Bergman. Claybrooke was an All-Area boys’ golf second-teamer, and Heinold qualified for the Class 2A wrestling state meet at 120 pounds.

— Aidyn Beck, Judah Christian. Made an immediate impact for Tribe boys’ basketball, averaging 16.5 points and 8.3 rebounds while making 51 three-pointers as a unanimous all-conference first-teamer.

— Ava Boyer and Lia Patterson, Tuscola. Boyer started at second base for a 21-win Warriors softball club, hitting .495 with 10 home runs and 33 RBI. Patterson anchored a Class 1A state-champion 800-meter relay tandem among four state medals for the team state champions.

— Holden Brazelton and Savanna Franzen, St. Joseph-Ogden. Brazelton placed sixth in the Class 1A wrestling 113-pound bracket with a 44-6 overall record. Franzen qualified for state in Class 1A girls’ cross-country, placing sixth, and secured a pair of top-six finishes in state track and field.

— Aubrey Busboom, Paxton-Buckley-Loda. A six-rotation varsity player for Panthers volleyball who put up 441 assists and 170 digs as a setter for a 26-win program. She also played varsity basketball and softball.

— Chaz Dubois, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin. Served as starting catcher for a 19-win Blue Devils baseball team, managing a staff that included sophomore Karson Stevenson and freshman Caden Keleminic.

— Noelle Hunt, Centennial. Qualified for the Class 3A girls’ track and field state meet in the 800-meter relay and long jump, after advancing to the girls’ swimming and diving state tournament in the 200-yard freestyle relay.

— Kaden Inman, Unity. Qualified for the Class 1A wrestling state tournament at 120 pounds, helped the team win its regional and set off down the road toward earning the 1A dual team third-place trophy.

— Alexa Jamison, Salt Fork. Standing 5-foot-5, Jamison showed size isn’t everything on the basketball court when she averaged 20.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 4.4 steals for a 23-win Storm girls’ club.

— Mary Katheryn Kluesner and Shannon Monahan, St. Thomas More. Kluesner banked a team-best 13 goals and 14 assists for STM girls’ soccer. Monahan was a constant threat at the net for Class 1A state-champion Sabers volleyball, piling up 270 kills and 188 digs.

— Natalie Loy, LeRoy. Displayed great ability to get on base for a Class 1A regional-champion softball team as she hit .505 with six home runs and 47 RBI. Also was a varsity volleyball and girls’ basketball athlete.

— Syniyah Quenga, Urbana. Displayed herself as the next big thing for Tigers girls’ track and field in the sprinting department, earning a Class 2A state final berth in the 200-meter dash and placing ninth at 26.86 seconds.

— Nickiya Shields, Danville. Shields was the lone Viking to qualify for the Class 3A girls’ track and field state meet, placing ninth in the 300-meter hurdles and earning a medal.

— Conner Smith, Rantoul. Was a bright spot on an Eagles boys’ basketball team that went through a tough season, averaging 13 points and sinking 59 three-point shots.

— Cameron Steinbaugh, Georgetown-Ridge Farm. Played alongside senior brother Cale Steinbaugh on the basketball court and baseball diamond, gaining all-conference and all-county honors.

— Tanner Thomas, Arcola. Verbally committed to Louisville baseball. Also participates in football, basketball and track and field, catching 10 touchdown passes on the gridiron and averaging 11 points on the hardwood.

— Kurt Zimmerman, Villa Grove. Established a new school record in the indoor 3,200-meter run and placed sixth in a Class 1A sectional meet in that outdoor event. Also qualified for a boys’ cross-country sectional.

Coaches of the Year

— Jon Adkins, Jeremy Davis, Troy Gagne, James Heinold, Rob Ledin and Garret Risley, Mahomet-Seymour. Three were All-Area Coaches of the Year — Davis in girls’ soccer, Gagne in girls’ golf and Risley in girls’ basketball. Adkins led Bulldogs football to one of its best-ever seasons at 11-1, Heinold helped Bulldogs softball to its first-ever state trophy, and Ledin pushed M-S wrestling to a Class 2A dual team state trophy.

— James Barkley, Urbana. He helped return Tigers boys’ soccer to some of its past glory as this season’s team won 19 matches and its first sectional championship since 2012, losing only once the entire fall.

— Barry Bauer, Watseka. Bauer wears many hats with the Warriors, serving as athletic director on top of leading their girls’ basketball team to 25 wins plus a Class 1A regional title and their softball club to another 14 victories.

— Hal Chiodo and Scot Ghere, Ridgeview. Chiodo guided Ridgeview/Lexington football all the way to a Class 1A semifinal as a No. 13 seed. Ghere lifted Mustangs girls’ basketball to its first Class 1A sectional title since 2011.

— Aimee Davis, Scott Hamilton, Kara Leaman and Logan Patton, Unity. Davis’ softball athletes grabbed their second Class 2A state trophy in as many years. Also athletic director, Hamilton’s football program gained its sixth state runner-up trophy in his tenure. Leaman’s girls’ cross-country crew won the Class 1A state championship for the third time since 2015. Patton’s wrestlers were the Class 2A dual team state third-place finishers.

— Mark Dodd, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin. Pushed Blue Devils football to a regular-season sweep, conference title and 10-1 overall record before helping BHRA baseball to 19 more triumphs.

— Lyle Dorjahn, Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond. Directed a Knights boys’ track and field team that won Class 1A regional and sectional titles before ranking second at state. Also a boys’ track and field assistant coach.

— Eric Fenton, Oakwood/Salt Fork. In an extremely competitive local boys’ soccer scene, Fenton keyed the Comets to a Class 1A regional final as a No. 6 seed and saw his athletes secure 18 victories overall.

— Ryan Fitzgerald, Heritage. Helped Hawks volleyball provide a positive boost during a largely difficult school year for Heritage sports, as his program won its first Class 1A regional championship since 2013.

— Josh Haley, St. Joseph-Ogden. Though Spartans baseball didn’t advance as far into the Class 2A postseason as it would’ve liked, Haley still led the group to a program-record 35 victories along with a Class 2A regional plaque.

— Kathy Houpt, Danville. Vikings girls’ tennis captured a conference championship for the first time in seven years under Houpt’s leadership, then won the local sectional and advanced four entries to the state meet.

— Kelly McClure, St. Thomas More. Outgoing Sabers volleyball boss left on a high note, as she oversaw a Class 1A state championship run to conclude a campaign in which the team won 41 matches overall.

— Wayne Meyer, LeRoy. Has exceeded 400 victories in 27 seasons with Panthers baseball, but 2022 brought about a career first: an appearance in the Class 1A state tournament, ending with a fourth-place result.

— Kevin Roy and Andrew Turner, Monticello. Roy aided Sages boys’ basketball to its second Class 2A state tournament appearance in his tenure. Turner coached a boys’ golf club that qualified for the Class 1A state tournament and wound up with the eighth-best score.

— Teri Scaggs and Josh Sterling, Centennial. Scaggs led Centennial boys’ tennis to eighth place at the Class 1A state finals. Sterling’s first season as Chargers boys’ track and field coach saw the team tie for fifth in Class 3A.

— Phil Surprenant, Salt Fork. Storm boys’ track and field now has won two Class 1A team state championships under Surprenant, as well as three state trophies overall, after this season’s squad shared top honors.

— Drew Sterkel, Tuscola. Warriors girls’ track and field secured its first-ever team state championship, with Sterkel’s guidance a factor in Tuscola rising to the top of the Class 1A field.

— Katie VanHootegem, Champaign Central. Repeated as the News-Gazette All-Area girls’ swimming and diving Coach of the Year after she propelled the Maroons to the local sectional title plus four state berths.

— Michelle Wessels, Milford. Was at the helm of a Bearcats volleyball squad that won its second Class 1A sectional title in the last three seasons after previously never winning even one.

— Dave Young, Champaign Central/Uni High. Guided Maroons boys’ swimming and diving to a sectional championship along with seven state berths, oversaw an Illineks girls’ swim and dive roster that placed fourth at the local sectional.

Assistant Coaches of the Year

— Craig Acree, Mahomet-Seymour. Named Assistant Coach of the Year by the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association for his role in Bulldogs’ third-place finish in the Class 2A dual team state tournament.

— David Barney, Westville. Also head coach of the Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Westville soccer cooperative, Barney balanced running his own business with stepping up as a Tigers boys’ basketball assistant.

— Justin Barnhart and Jeff Hastenstab, Centennial. Barnhart is assistant head coach, special teams coordinator, offensive line coach and strength and conditioning coordinator for the program, which made the Class 6A postseason. Hasenstab oversaw a football defense that allowed 18.2 points per game after giving up 96 to Peoria in 2019.

— Mike Bialeschki, St. Joseph-Ogden. He’s the boys’ basketball freshman coach and varsity assistant who factors heavily into scouting and playcalling for the latter group, which won a Class 2A regional title.

— Nick Cole, Rantoul. Eagles’ cross-country head coach is integral to Rantoul track and field qualifying a 1,600-meter relay unit to each of the last five Class 2A boys’ state meets.

— Dave Fink, Unity. Has worked alongside Rockets football coach Scott Hamilton for more than two decades. As defensive coordinator, his group allowed 14.3 points per game this fall en route to a Class 3A state berth.

— Joe Foster, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin. Longtime sidekick to retiring Blue Devils girls’ basketball head coach Mike Stephens. Focuses on shooting improvement, helped BHRA become a multi-time regional champion.

— Dan Groce, Prairie Central. Despite losing 10 starters from Hawks football’s spring 2021 defense, Groce crafted a new unit that allowed an average of 13.8 points per game and shut out three different opponents.

— Tracy Hornaday, Tuscola. A multi-time state medalist as a Tuscola girls’ track and field athlete, Hornaday offered her experience to this season’s Warriors as they won the program its first-ever Class 1A team state title.

— Ben Karoski, Champaign Central. Ball State product runs Maroons boys’ swimming and diving’s drylands program and was one of the individuals who helped Nolan Miller place second in two events at the last boys’ state meet.

— David Kramer, Blue Ridge. Top coaching dog for Knights boys’ track and field also is defensive coordinator for the school’s 8-man football program and runs a year-round weight training program for all school athletes.

— Shawn Lane, Milford. Fall 2021 season was Lane’s 26th in the prep volleyball ranks, included a Class 1A super-sectional appearance. Previously was the Bearcats’ head coach for 16 seasons, now a volunteer assistant.

— Kalyn Learnard, Salt Fork. Recently completed her first season as Storm softball’s head coach, but also stepped up to coach her first varsity girls’ basketball game — a win — when Brian Russell faced a family emergency.

— Carl Long, Danville. Track and field assistant has directed a hurdler to girls’ Class 3A state meet in five of the last six years, including freshman Nickiya Shields‘ ninth-place finish in the 300-meter hurdles this spring.

— Don McCarthy, Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond. He’s been in football coaching for more than 50 years, including a 15-year stint as the Knights’ leader, and presently aids the program on the defensive side.

— Paul Pritts, Judah Christian. While Tribe varsity volleyball was busy winning 20 of its 30 matches, Pritts led the junior varsity squad to a 24-3 record that included winning its own tournament and a showcase in Rantoul.

— Adam Reel, Arcola. Handles both offensive line and defensive line duties for Purple Riders football, which won nine games and advanced to the Class 1A quarterfinals for the second time in the last three years.

— Brad Russell, Georgetown-Ridge Farm. Not only did he push Buffaloes girls’ basketball to its first victory since 2014 — among 10 total — but he assisted G-RF/Chrisman baseball and made sure the team’s field was playable amid a rough-weather spring.

— Jack Stickels, St. Thomas More. Previously a multi-sport athlete at Centennial, he aided Sabers baseball coach Mike Alves while enrolled as a full-time student at Parkland and helped STM to a Class 1A super-sectional.

— Heather VonLanken, Villa Grove. Tasked with bettering Blue Devils softball’s pitching staff, VonLanken helped the team — which contained just one senior — to 19 victories after a 3-6 start.

Colin Likas is the preps coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

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