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Our “Faces” photo series seems to have become one of the more anticipated elements in any given school year.

As a prelude to fall, winter and spring high school sports (as well as “summer” sports last school year), we have athletes from across our coverage area descend upon The News-Gazette’s Champaign office to represent their team and school.

It feels like just yesterday we were holding our first (and hopefully only) Faces of Summer photo shoot for baseball, softball, girls’ soccer, track and field and boys’ tennis competitors back in April.

But it is indeed time for the latest Faces of Fall shoot.

Taking place Saturday, we invited hundreds of athletes across football, volleyball, boys’ soccer, golf, cross-country, girls’ tennis and girls’ swimming and diving to show off their school spirit in this unique fashion.

And the descriptor “hundreds” is not an exaggeration. As I’m writing this Friday morning, I had 221 athletes committed to attend the photo shoot. And those are kids whose coaches told me they’d be in attendance.

The Faces of Fall shoot is by far our most significant undertaking of the school year. There’s technically up to nine teams per school — counting boys’ golf, girls’ golf, boys’ cross-country and girls’ cross-country all as separate teams. We permit two athletes per team for this event, as selected by their coaches, which means some schools can have as many as 18 kids representing their brand. Again, we leave it up to each school on who they want to send to this event and do not select the athletes who are attending.

Photo Editor Robin Scholz is on her feet between 10 a.m. and noon, and then again from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. as high-school athletes flood through our building. You’ll be able to see the fantastic results of her efforts in our pages over the next few months and at news-gazette.com within a couple weeks.

We’re also bringing back the services of Ed Bond to record radio promotional material with a select few kids. You’ll be able to hear their voices during commercial breaks on WDWS 1400-AM and WHMS 97.5-FM as they tout upcoming Illinois football games and more.

For those concerned about an event of this size as COVID-19 cases rise once more: We’re continuing to stagger athletes’ arrival and entry into our building by school, with each school allotted a specific amount of time. The last thing we want to do is be the reason a team experiences COVID-19 issues, and we’ve tried to reflect that in our “Faces” photo shoots since the pandemic began.

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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