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The Illinois Department of Public Health announced significant changes to its all-sports policy on Friday afternoon.

All high school winter, spring and summer sports can now be played this school year in regions that reach and stay at Phase 4 of IDPH’s COVID-19 mitigations.

It looked for the longest time like higher-risk sports — basketball, football and wrestling — wouldn’t have any competitions. But that now appears to have changed. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Regardless, I and other sportswriters in regions that hit Phase 4 can now write about and discuss athletes we’re looking forward to seeing in action over the coming months. Here are just a few of my athletes to watch.

➜ Football: Devin Miles, Danville. Senior is our reigning All-Area Player of the Year (back in fall 2019) and is still looking for a college home.

➜ Volleyball: Caroline Kerr and Anna McClure, St. Thomas More. Commits of Tennessee and Ohio State, respectively, swam for the Sabers in the fall.

➜ Soccer: Judd Wagner, Champaign Central; Emmie German, Monticello. Wofford commit Wagner appears likely to take over Maroons this year. German was an All-Area first-team goaltender as a freshman in 2019.

➜ Wrestling: Hayden Copass, Westville/Georgetown-Ridge Farm. Wisconsin signee has been a force to be reckoned with at heavyweight throughout his prep career.

➜ Boys’ swimming and diving: Cade McAndrew, Centennial. Chargers are among area’s best in the pool, and McAndrew projects to be at the forefront.

➜ Baseball: Crayton Burnett, St. Joseph-Ogden. Senior committed to Illinois last November and could’ve contended for All-Area Player of the Year as a junior.

➜ Softball: Kyleigh Block, Villa Grove. Do-it-all athlete is the top returnee for a Blue Devils outfit that could’ve won a Class 1A state title in 2020.

➜ Track and field: Aidan Laughery, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley; Atleigh Hamilton, St. Joseph-Ogden. Laughery will be in the running for at least one Class 1A sprinting title, and Hamilton seeks another 1A long jump crown.

➜ Boys’ tennis: Zachary Donnini, Uni High. Two-time All-Area first-teamer has what it takes to be Player of the Year.

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

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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