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TEAMS OF THE YEAR

1. Schlarman girls’ basketball. Hilltoppers experienced another dominant campaign, capped by a second consecutive Class 1A state championship and four seniors moving on to college ball.

2. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley football. Falcons also repeated as state champs, their win coming in Class 2A, and the squad hasn’t lost a game since Nov. 5, 2016.

3. Monticello football. Sages cruised through a majority of their schedule before overcoming Byron in Class 3A state championship game for program’s first-ever crown.

4. Salt Fork boys’ track and field. Storm qualified for seven event finals in Class 1A and garnered points from each of those advancements en route to first team state victory.

5. Cissna Park boys’ basketball. Timberwolves sent off retiring coach Kevin Long with a bang, riding balanced offense to second place in Class 1A state tournament.

6. St. Thomas More volleyball. Sabers made their second consecutive Class 2A state appearance, though they had to settle for third place versus the top spot this time around.

7. Unity girls’ cross-country. Rockets had higher expectations, but a third-place group display in Class 1A is nothing to sneeze at.

8. Monticello boys’ cross-country. Sages also rose to third place in Class 1A field, return four sophomores from their seven state runners to boot.

9. St. Joseph-Ogden girls’ basketball. Spartans’ second showing at a state tournament resulted in their first piece of hardware, courtesy third place in Class 2A.

10. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley boys’ basketball. Falcons followed football success with inaugural state berth in this event, notching third in Class 2A.

11. Monticello girls’ track and field. Sages produced points in whopping 10 Class 2A events to secure third-place plaque — program’s first.

12. St. Joseph-Ogden girls’ track and field. Spartans followed up on Class 1A winning performance last year by tying for third in 2019.

13. Tri-County girls’ basketball. Titans’ lockdown defense served them well through Class 1A postseason, resulting in a fourth-place reward.

14. St. Thomas More girls’ golf. Sabers worked their way to second Class 1A state fourth-place effort in as many years, retain all but one of golfers who made it possible.

15. Sullivan boys’ golf. Redskins worked around poor Day 1 weather to capture fifth place in Class 1A field.

16. Tuscola baseball. Warriors fell short of repeat Class 2A state berth, still managed a sectional trophy.

17. Unity softball. Rockets lost just six games all year en route to a Class 2A sectional final appearance.

18. Champaign Central boys’ soccer. Maroons were one win away from advancing to Class 2A super-sectional for first time.

19. Mahomet-Seymour girls’ soccer. Bulldogs fell just once to an in-state team across 24 tries, won Class 2A regional trophy.

20. Centennial boys’ tennis. Chargers didn’t snare sectional plaque, but led all local teams at Class 1A state with eight points.

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Rick Danzl/The News-Gazette Schlarman players celebrate in mid court after their win in the Class 1A state championship game at Redbird Arena in Normal on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019.

FUTURE BLUE-CHIPPERS

1. DiamonAsia Taylor, Urbana. Maintains offers from Illinois, LSU, Notre Dame and Auburn, among others, after third straight Class 2A state high jump championship.

2. Bailey Dowling, St. Joseph-Ogden. You could see Alabama softball commit and Team USA member playing in the College World Series as soon as 2021.

3. Capria Brown, Schlarman. State medalist in both basketball and track was committed to Xavier hoops, now fielding other Division I looks.

4. Hunter Hendershot, Mahomet-Seymour. Throwing programs from D-I level and beyond will come calling after junior won Class 2A state shot put and discus titles.

5. Kenli Nettles, Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond. Always-upbeat junior also a stellar athlete, now reigning Class 1A champ in high jump and both hurdling races.

6. Payton Taylor, Salt Fork. Rare four-sport star made positive presence felt for Storm in football, basketball, baseball and track and field.

7. Makail Stanley, Argenta-Oreana. Silent confidence and humble attitude pair well with Stanley’s sprinting prowess, wrestling power and football talent.

8. Ryan Wierschem, Champaign Central. May not be a state champion yet, but junior was swimming times unlike anything else seen in area.

9. Elyce Knudsen, Unity. Seems to be good at any sport she plays, so it’s hard to tell whether she’ll play collegiately in basketball or softball.

10. Justin McCoy, Champaign Central. Two-time All-Area boys’ Golfer of the Year will gun for state supremacy as a senior later this year, which would further ramp up college intrigue.

11. Alaina Bowie, St. Thomas More. Well-spoken athlete thinks about golf beyond just Xs and Os and produces results — both individually and as a team leader.

12. Emily Meidel, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin. Dynamo on the basketball court should garner some D-I interest, but she’s strong at volleyball as well.

13. Madi Eberle, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. Southern Illinois commit has racked up 594 strikeouts across her sophomore and junior softball seasons.

14. Allie Trame, St. Thomas More. Reigning All-Area volleyball Player of the Year and Alabama commit offers a powerful swing and good court vision.

15. Emelia Ness, Monticello. Hurdling sensation likely on her way to becoming a state champion, will have to settle for college interest until then.

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Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette ALAH's Kenli Nettles reacts to winning the 100 Hurdles in the class 1A State Finals at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston on Saturday, May 18, 2019. Next to her is Salt Fork's Gracie Jessup.

STATE CHAMPIONS

Mathias Powell, Mahomet-Seymour, Class 2A boys’ cross-country.

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley football, Class 2A state champion.

Monticello football, Class 3A state champion.

Ezra Elliott, Hoopeston Area, Class 1A wrestling (138 pounds).

Logan Deacetis, Prairie Central, Class 1A wrestling (160 pounds).

Micah Downs, Clinton, Class 1A wrestling (182 pounds).

Brandon Hoselton, Prairie Central, Class 1A wrestling (195 pounds).

Luke Luffman, Urbana, Class 2A wrestling (285 pounds).

Schlarman girls’ basketball, Class 1A state champion.

Atleigh Hamilton, St. Joseph-Ogden, Class 1A long jump (18 feet, 7 3 / 4 inches).

DiamonAsia Taylor, Urbana, Class 2A high jump (5-11).

Kenli Nettles, Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond, Class 1A high jump (5-7), 100-meter hurdles (14.29 seconds) and 300-meter hurdles (43.68).

Jordan Harmon, Unity, Class 2A 3,200-meter run (11 minutes, 9.06 seconds).

Payne Turney, Clinton, Class 2A 800-meter run (2:17.54).

St. Joseph-Ogden girls’ Class 1A 800-meter relay (1:44.81).

Chandlar Ifft, Prairie Central, Class 2A pole vault (16-0).

Hunter Hendershot, Mahomet-Seymour, Class 2A shot put (62-1 1 / 4) and discus (182-4).

Ramsey Hunt, Tri-County, Class 1A triple jump (46-3 1 / 4).

Mathias Powell, Mahomet-Seymour, Class 2A 3,200-meter run (9:24.15).

Mason Barr, Ridgeview/Lexington, Class 1A 110-meter hurdles (13.94) and 300 hurdles (37.70).

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Rick Danzl/The News-Gazette Urbana's Luke Luffman rolls off Westville/G-RF's Hayden Copass in their 285-pound championship match during the Class 2A State tournament at the State Farm Center in Champaign on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019.

TOP STUDENT-ATHLETES

1. Dawson Rogers, Salt Fork. Future University of Illinois runner posted a 5.0 GPA to garner valedictorian honors while managing football, cross-country, soccer and track careers.

2. Chelsea Harrison, Villa Grove. A valedictorian with a 5.1 GPA, she competed in volleyball, softball and dance and attended Parkland College to become a certified nursing assistant.

3. Ben Setterdahl, St. Joseph-Ogden. Spartans football’s team captain maintained a 4.49 GPA for valedictorian honors, now heads to Clemson to study civil engineering.

4. Kylie Neuman, Oakwood. Not only did she excel in volleyball, basketball and softball, but she also registered as co-valedictorian.

5. Dana Hergenrother, St. Thomas More. Class salutatorian was a four-year varsity soccer athlete and two-season varsity hoopster who will attend Notre Dame in the fall.

6. Sydney Walker, Cerro Gordo. Salutatorian starred for a solid Broncos volleyball team, averaging 3.10 kills per set.

7. Claire Retherford, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. Salutatorian averaged 13.3 points in basketball but really shined in track and field, making state in shot put and discus.

8. Tyler Maxwell, Blue Ridge. Valedictorian was a potent soccer player as well for the Knights, potting four assists in 2018.

9. Andrew Swanson, Paxton-Buckley-Loda. Salutatorian banked the second-best SAT score in his class to go with a 4.0 GPA, also suited up in football and basketball.

10. Raine Bernhard, Uni High. State swimming qualifier managed a 4.0 unweighted GPA and now will move on to Carleton College (Minn.) to continue her career in the pool.

11. Luke Luffman, Urbana. He wasn’t just a three-time state-champion grappler, as the Tiger and future Illini also sported a 5.21 GPA.

12. Kevin Clapp, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin. Not a senior, but golfer was first in his junior class with a 4.21 GPA and could be in line for a National Merit Scholarship.

13. Lacey Steinbaugh, Georgetown-Ridge Farm. Volleyball and softball standout wrapped up a 4.92 GPA and a Danville Area Community College Presidential Scholarship.

14. Davin Yoo, Champaign Central. State-advancing swimmer not graduating just yet, was recently named one of school’s three outstanding juniors by C-U Kiwanis.

15. Maeve Kirby, St. Thomas More. Golfer and softball player excelled in the classroom with a 4.34 GPA and will take her academic talents to Illinois.

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by Liz Brunson for The News-Gazette Centennial's Ryan Rowitz swims a leg of the 400 Free Relay at the IHSA State Swimming Prelims at Evanston Township High School on Friday, February 26th, 2016.

REMEMBRANCES

Jeff Reese, 69, died on July 27, 2018. He was a longtime football, basketball and softball official who worked at St. Joseph-Ogden High School for 30 years.

Tyler Karuzis, 28, died on Aug. 23, 2018. He was a 2008 Westville graduate who was a member of the Tigers’ 2005 final four football team and 2006 and 2007 state runner-up football teams.

Murelle Plotner, 19, died on Dec. 8, 2018. She was a 2017 St. Joseph-Ogden graduate who ran cross-country for the Spartans.

Larry Donaldson, 78, died on May 23, 2019. He was a super-fan of Watseka athletics.

Amy Blue-Short, 48, died on June 6, 2019. She was the mother of St. Thomas More softball assistant coach Maureen Short.

Bryce Barnes, Gavin Clifton

Stephen Haas/The News-Gazette Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley's Bryce Barnes (18) chases Maroa-Forsyth's Gavin Clifton (6) during the first half of the IHSA Class 2A State Championship game at Memorial Stadium Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign.

ALL-INTERVIEW TEAM

1. Bryce Barnes, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. The future Illinois football player was never afraid to spice up his quotes, especially during heated rivalry events, and knew how to represent an entire team.

2. Hannah Dukeman, St. Joseph-Ogden. Even if there always seemed to be a teammate getting a little more limelight, the Ball State commit still was glad to offer her take on the day’s events.

3. Haley Elam, St. Thomas More. Her vocal nature on the volleyball court and soccer field absolutely translated into chats with the press.

4. Schlarman girls’ basketball. Coach Keith Peoples actually had his athletes go through some media training, and it paid off during another run to a state title.

5. Garrett Dixon, Monticello. Distance runner isn’t one for cliches, yet it doesn’t seem like it takes him long to come up with thoughtful responses.

6. Ameia Wilson, Danville. Her intelligence shines through in any interview, as the future University of Michigan athlete carefully articulates her track and field thoughts.

7. Makail Stanley, Argenta-Oreana. Nothing is off limits in a chat with Stanley, who isn’t afraid to offer both his immediate opinions and his future targets.8. Philip Coulter, Judah Christian. He’ll start and end an interview with a firm handshake and provide unique basketball analysis in between.

9. Jordan DeLuce, Centennial. The golfer and soccer goaltender seemed to look forward to a postmatch chat as much as stopping shots.

10. Cade Scott, Unity. Infectious energy that Scott puts into all his quotes leaves media members feeling upbeat after a conversation.

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Rick Danzl/The News-Gazette Ezra Elliott, Hoopeston Area, top, tries to turn Garrett Lashuay, Oakwood/Salt Fork during a 126-pound preliminary match of the IHSA Class 1A State Wrestling Tournament at State Farm Center in Champaign on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018.

DESERVED MORE PUB

1. Annie Nelson, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin. She’s going to play basketball at DePauw and was impressive both in that realm and playing softball and running track in the spring.

2. Claire Ring, Tuscola. Even without a full girls’ golf team around her, Ring constantly bettered both female and male challengers, also starring in softball.

3. Ezra Elliott, Hoopeston Area. Undefeated senior wrestling campaign was long in the making and should have gotten more love as a result.

4. Caden Ellis, Sullivan. Also a solid basketball player, Ellis was in running for our boys’ Golfer of the Year.

5. Anna Jennings, Cissna Park. A driving force for a successful Timberwolves volleyball outfit also made positive strides in track and field.

6. Anika Kimme, Uni High. Illineks’ distance-running standout was a state advancer in both cross-country and track.

7. Emma Towne, Danville. Impactful tennis and soccer athlete earned a few All-Area first-team suggestions from local coaches in the latter sport.

8. Austin Bridgman, Armstrong-Potomac. Like Kimme, Bridgman earned small-school spots in state cross-country and track ventures.

9. Wyatt Steidinger, Prairie Central. He played a huge role in the Hawks’ postseason football qualification and wasn’t a slouch in basketball or track either.

10. Baylee Cosgrove, Paxton-Buckley-Loda. We’ll be hearing more about the sophomore after she was among local leaders in softball batting average and RBI.

11. Skyler Peterson, Argenta-Oreana. Often had to share the spotlight for a final-four football squad, then made his presence felt in basketball and baseball.

12. Will Delaney, Fisher. Returning starting quarterback was critical to Bunnies’ breakout year, and also suited up in basketball.

13. Elijah Hall, Rantoul. Paved a solo path to Class 2A cross-country state and joined plenty of pals in Charleston for the 2A track and field showcase.

14. Evan Wilson, Heritage. Oft-dominant baseball pitcher also benefited cooperatives with Villa Grove in football and basketball.

15. Rusty Kuhlmann, Watseka. Continued to raise the small-school throwing bar locally all spring while repping the Warriors off the track at state.

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Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette St. Joseph-Ogden's Bailey Dowling (7) connects on home run in a prep softball game at SJ-O High School on Wednesday, March 27, 2019.

MILESTONES

1. Bailey Dowling, St. Joseph-Ogden. Surpassed the IHSA all-time softball home run record with her 61st, topping mark set by former Illini Stephanie Abello, and has 65 going into her senior season.

2. Caine Wilson, Salt Fork. Indiana State track and field signee set or improved four individual school records — 200-meter dash (21.86 seconds), 400 dash (50.81), 110 hurdles (14.96) and 300 hurdles (38.69).

3. Hunter Hendershot, Mahomet-Seymour. Picked good time to overcome Bulldog boys’ track and field records in shot put (62 feet, 1 1 / 4 inches) and discus (182-4), doing so at Class 2A state meet.

4. DiamonAsia Taylor, Urbana. Secured Tiger girls’ track and field bests in high jump (5 feet, 11 inches) and long jump (19-1 / 4) — both at Class 2A state finals.

5. Kennedy Bauer, Watseka. Established new single-game girls’ basketball rebounding record with 24 en route to all-time Warriors best of 834 boards.

6. Betsy Ruckman, Uni High. Finished with an Illineks’ career high of 56 goals, marked on a celebratory soccer ball she posed with in All-Area first-team photo shoot.

7. Quemarii Williams, Danville. Used historic backdrop of UI Armory to etch name in Viking boys’ track and field records, clocking program-best 49.54 in 400-meter dash.

8. Mathias Powell, Mahomet-Seymour. Repeatedly broke his own 3,200-meter run school record in his final prep season, finalizing it at 9 minutes, 3.51 seconds.

9. Lacey Steinbaugh, Georgetown-Ridge Farm. Dished out career- and school-record number of volleyball assists with 1,915 over four campaigns.

10. Kasie Anderson, Georgetown-Ridge Farm. Thrived with Steinbaugh’s helping hand, earning own career and school bests with 745 volleyball kills.

11. Connor Birky, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. Tied the school’s nine-hole golf record by carding a 3-under 33 at Railside Golf Club.

12. Dawson Rogers, Oakwood/Salt Fork. Storm student now ranks first in cooperative’s soccer history after recording six goals in a single match.

13. John Staab, Champaign Central. Picked up his 361st career triumph in charge of the Maroons to claim top spot in school history.

14. Terry French, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin. Only coach Blue Devils golf has ever known picked up 300th career dual victory during 2018 campaign.

15. James Johnson, St. Thomas More. Coach of both Sabers soccer squads snagged his 100th career triumph on the girls’ side.

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Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette Danville's Tevin Smith (10) and Urbana's Miller Calhoun (40) in a prep basketball game at Urbana High School on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019.

GAMES OF THE YEAR

1. Dec. 7, 2018. Danville boys’ basketball staged an improbable comeback against Bloomington, overcoming a nine-point deficit with less than a minute to play and taking an 81-78 victory in a state-ranked matchup.

2. Sept. 20, 2018. St. Joseph-Ogden volleyball faced match point on the road versus rival St. Thomas More, then reeled off five consecutive points to steal the bout in three sets.

3. Nov. 23, 2018. Monticello football, behind two receiving touchdowns and one rushing score from Alek Bundy, held off Byron 24-20 in the Class 3A state championship game at Memorial Stadium.

4. March 1, 2019. Urbana boys’ basketball’s chance at ending a regional title drought seemed to have slipped away against Effingham, until Jermale Young drained a buzzer-beating three for a 57-56 triumph.

5. March 1, 2019. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley boys’ basketball managed to stifle Bloomington Central Catholic star Luke Yoder long enough for a 58-53 victory in sectional final action, amid a raucous crowd in Tolono.

6. Oct. 17, 2018. The Judah Christian boys’ soccer Cinderella run continued with a 1-0 sectional semifinal win over Cornerstone that was sealed by a Tyler Grenda goal and Griffin Fazio’s stout goaltending.

7. Feb. 22, 2019. Though Tri-County girls’ basketball ultimately suffered a 64-63 defeat to Eastland in a Class 1A state semifinal, a thrilling fourth-quarter rally from the Titans made this a must-see game.

8. Feb. 11, 2019. Watseka girls’ basketball advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second time in program history and first since 2013, with Mallory Drake’s 19 points keying a 45-39 sectional semifinal win over Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin.

9. Oct. 19, 2018. Villa Grove/Heritage football was battling for its playoff life in a Week 9 bout at Cerro Gordo/Bement when Cole Thomas broke off a 60-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter, and the Blue Devils went on to win 14-7.

10. Oct. 24, 2018. Champaign Central boys’ soccer survived a rugged sectional semifinal with Jacksonville, carding a 2-1 win behind numerous Peter Wagner saves and a decisive late goal from Pablo Diaz.

11. Sept. 22, 2018. St. Thomas More football posted a wild rally, trailing Rantoul 38-20 entering the fourth quarter inside Memorial Stadium but eventually leaving with a 50-38 victory.

12. April 15, 2019. Unity and St. Joseph-Ogden softball engaged in a see-saw battle before the Rockets finally broke away for coach Aimee Davis’ first win over the Spartans in five years, by a 15-10 score.

13. Jan. 11, 2019. Centennial boys’ basketball senior Bryson Cowper sank a three-quarter-court shot that made the rounds on ESPN’s social media and helped the Chargers past Champaign Central 58-54.

14. Sept. 25, 2018. Armstrong-Potomac volleyball fell behind early on the road against Oakwood, then produced 37 of the final 53 points to persevere in three sets and remain unbeaten in conference play.

15. May 25, 2019. Lucas Kresin’s walk-off single lifted Tuscola baseball by St. Joseph-Ogden 1-0 in a Class 2A baseball sectional title game in Bloomington that featured dominant pitching from Tuscola’s Logan Tabeling and SJ-O’s Crayton Burnett.

Caroline Bachert, Cassidy Bagby, Fran Hendrickson, Jordan Harmon

Stephen Haas/The News-Gazette Unity's Caroline Bachert (478), St. Joseph-Ogden's Cassidy Bagby (463), St. Thomas More's Fran Hendrickson (422) and Unity's Jordan Harmon (484) lead the pack during the IHSA Class 1A Tuscola Regional at Wimple Park Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, in Tuscola.

TOP COMEBACKS

1. Ben Greenberger, Mahomet-Seymour. Following major shoulder surgery that required two years of recovery, Greenberger returned to Bulldog baseball as a pitcher in 2019.

2. Natalie Bates, Tuscola. Multi-sport standout suffered a torn ACL playing basketball her junior year and rebounded to become The News-Gazette’s Female Athlete of the Year as a senior.

3. Anthony Colunga, Hoopeston Area. After rupturing the ACL and MCL in his left knee, Colunga returned to positively impact Cornjerker football and qualify for Class 1A state wrestling at 220 pounds.

4. Olivia Key, Arcola. Another athlete afflicted by a torn ACL, Key recovered to haul in 6.1 rebounds per night on the basketball court.

5. Magan Harris, Watseka. The senior battled through Kleine-Levin syndrome, a rare disorder resulting in phases of excessive sleep, to toss multiple no-hitters for Warrior softball.

6. Kennedy Record, St. Thomas More. After previously dealing with and overcoming concussion symptoms, she was a second-team Illini Prairie Conference member in softball for the Sabers.

7-8. Jordan Harmon (Unity) and Olivia Rosenstein (Urbana). The distance-running friends overcame similar leg injuries to finish 1-2 in the Class 2A 3,200-meter run at state.

9. Brayden VonLanken, Tuscola. Warriors’ big man battled a neck injury throughout football season and still led that team and Tuscola’s basketball and baseball teams to postseason success.

10. Drew Reifsteck, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin. Was out with injury early in the Blue Devil boys’ basketball season, but returned in triumphant fashion at the Vermilion County Tournament, which BHRA won.

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Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette Central's Mira Chopra (14) an Urbana's Kynzee Boastick (3) and Urbana's Raevyn Russell (14) in a Class 3A Unity Regional volleyball semifinal at the high school in Tolono on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018

SUPER SOPHOMORES

1. Brandon Hoselton, Prairie Central. Captured his second consecutive state wrestling title at Class 1A 195 pounds, and his first unbeaten prep campaign.

2. Mira Chopra, Champaign Central. After compiling 2.39 kills per set and earning All-Area volleyball second-team honors, she committed to the University of Michigan’s program.

3. Reed Broaders, Uni High. Reigning All-Area girls’ swimming and diving Athlete of the Year raced for two state-qualifying relays, won a pair of individual-event sectional championships.

4. Atleigh Hamilton, St. Joseph-Ogden. Pushed Spartan girls’ track and field to a share of third place at Class 1A state with top long jump leap, strong relay efforts.

5. Logan Deacetis, Prairie Central. Like Hoselton, he earned a perfect record for the year, capping it off with his inaugural state crown at Class 1A 160 pounds.

6. Erin Houpt, Danville. All-Area first-teamer in both girls’ tennis and girls’ basketball likely to be leader of both squads as a junior.

7. Hayden Copass, Georgetown-Ridge Farm. Lone Buffalo in wrestling cooperative with Westville had program’s best season with runner-up display at Class 2A 285 pounds.

8. Khailieo Terry, Champaign Central. Still a dunking machine, he pulled out to the point in his second prep season and developed some outside shooting.

9. Tevin Smith, Danville. Showed future should be bright for Vikings by not backing down in run to Class 4A sectional final, All-Area first-team recognition.

10. KayLee Hohlbauch, Arcola. Near local lead in girls’ basketball rebounding (8.4 per game) and softball batting average (.486).

11. Aryan Lalwani, Uni High. From a bevy of 10th-grade Illinek standouts, he placed 20th at Class 1A boys’ cross-country state and qualified for 1A track and field state in the 1,600 and 3,200.

12. Luke Sokolowski, Monticello. Given the next-big-thing label by elder teammate Garrett Dixon, he helped Sages to Class 1A boys’ cross-country hardware and made 2A state track 1,600 final.

13. Kyleigh Block, Villa Grove. Important to Blue Devil volleyball (2.87 kills per set), basketball (15.1 points per game) and softball (.458 batting average, five pitching wins).

14. Caroline Bachert, Unity. Clocked the 19th-best Class 1A girls’ state cross-country time for the eventual third-place squad.

15. Kaylenn Hunt, Tri-County. Secured Class 1A girls’ state track and field medals in the long jump (fifth), triple jump (sixth) and high jump (seventh).

16. Zach Rogers, Bement. Represented Bulldogs well in rare break from Cerro Gordo cooperative, tying for 29th at Class 1A boys’ golf state final.

17. Mia Kirby, St. Thomas More. Carded the second-best outcome for Saber girls’ golf at the Class 1A state showcase, landing a share of 39th place.

18. Jeremiah Hamilton, Urbana. Had a say in all 13 of Tiger boys’ track and field’s Class 2A state points by finishing third in the 200-meter dash, running leg of fourth-place 800 relay.

19. Crayton Burnett, St. Joseph-Ogden. Late-season starting quarterback for postseason-qualifying football team added stellar pitching (0.40 ERA) for sectional-finalist baseball outfit.

20. Tanaya Young, Rantoul. Soared to third place in Class 2A girls’ state long jump and accepted a share on a fifth-place 400-meter relay.

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photos by Liz Brunson for the News-Gazette/ Uni's Sally Ma smiles after winning the 400 Free Relay at the Centennial Girls Sectional Swimming/Diving Meet at Unit 4 Pool, Centennial High School in Champaign IL on Saturday, November 10th, 2018.

FANTASTIC FRESHMEN

1. Sally Ma, Uni High. Continued Illinek girls’ swimming and diving’s strong newcomer tradition by placing 10th at state meet in 50-yard freestyle, winning two sectional titles.

2. Jalen Quinn, Tuscola. Warrior boys’ basketball’s leading scorer in regional-winning campaign also contributed to football, baseball before and during lengthy playoff runs.

3. Caroline Kerr, St. Thomas More. All-Area volleyball first-teamer excelled at setting for Sabers’ talented hitters during jaunt to third place in Class 2A field.

4. Anna McClure, St. Thomas More. Another integral ninth-grader among state-advancing Sabers boasted big arm on outside, should be All-Area first-teamer sometime soon.

5. Aidan Laughery, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. All-Area boys’ track and field first-teamer took fourth in Class 1A 200-meter dash, seventh in 100 and ran on two state-scoring relays.

6. Tavius Hosley, Unity. Small but skilled grappler advanced all the way to Class 1A 106-pound state championship match and collected a 45-7 record in the process.

7. Beau Edwards, Arcola. Accounted for all four of Purple Rider boys’ track and field’s points at the Class 1A state meet by virtue of finishing sixth in the 1,600-meter run.

8. Elizabeth Sims, Mahomet-Seymour. Found herself among a youth movement in Class 2A girls’ state cross-country race, winding up eighth, and later qualified for state in 2A 3,200.

9. Ryder James, Paxton-Buckley-Loda. Earned second-best area clocking in boys’ Class 1A state cross-country meet (12th place), also competed in 2A 3,200-meter run.

10. Cale Steinbaugh, Georgetown-Ridge Farm. Averaged 15.2 points and 2.5 steals for Buffalo boys’ basketball, hit .408 and pitched way to 2.60 ERA in baseball.

11. Sophia Rome, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin. Made her way into a starting role for Blue Devil volleyball and girls’ basketball and posted track and field’s best throwing results.

12. Emma Bleecher, Unity. All-Area first-team choice in volleyball was Rockets’ lone varsity freshman and averaged 2.89 kills per set for a 28-9 crew.

13. Gurveena Singh, Centennial. All-Area girls’ tennis first-team selection won Class 1A Champaign Central Sectional singles title and finished 26-9 in that respect.

14. Gunveer Singh, Centennial. Brother of aforementioned athlete posted 14-0 ledger at No. 3 singles and 16-7 mark with Thomas Scaggs at No. 1 doubles.

15. Carter Hall, Champaign Central. Followed junior brother Dalton to Class 2A state wrestling tournament, finishing in sixth place at 113 pounds with a 38-7 record.

16. Emmie German, Monticello. Lone All-Area girls’ soccer first-team goalie helped Sages allow half as many goals as in previous year with 2.05 goals-against average.

17. Robert Buford, Rantoul. Made himself at home in Eagles boys’ track and field, serving as a quarter of Class 2A third-place 1,600-meter relay, seventh-place 400 relay.

18. Kassadee Ifft, Prairie Central. Latest in line of family’s pole vaulting prodigies climbed to third place in Class 2A by clearing 12 feet, 3 inches for Hawk girls’ only state points.

19. Mallory Cyrulik, Clinton. Recorded strong stats for Maroon girls’ basketball (11.2 points, 7.7 rebounds per game) and track and field (qualified for Class 2A state in both hurdles races).

20. Andrew Lin, Uni High. All-Area boys’ swimming and diving first-teamer secured a Class 1A sectional crown in the 100-yard backstroke, later placing 22nd at state.

Kevin Long

Stephen Haas/The News-Gazette Cissna Park head coach Kevin Long celebrates after cutting down the last piece of the net after his team's 55-33 win over Judah Christian in an IHSA Class 1A Sectional Championship game at Ridgeview High School Friday, March 1, 2019, in Colfax.

COACHES OF THE YEAR

1. Cully Welter, Monticello. Led Sages football to its first-ever state championship in 10th year before guiding Monticello girls’ track and field to first team state trophy (third place) in third try.

2. Keith Peoples, Schlarman. Got the most out of his senior-heavy girls’ basketball crew, as Hilltoppers roared to second consecutive Class 1A-winning performance in his eighth and final campaign.

3. Mike Allen, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. As with Peoples above, Allen led Falcon football to a repeat Class 2A state title, as well as another unbeaten campaign in Year 18 at the helm.

4. Phil Surprenant, Salt Fork. Stated after Storm’s boys’ track and field’s Class 1A team state title he and his pupils knew 40 points would put them on top — exactly what they scored in second year with “Soup.”

5. Kevin Long, Cissna Park. Twenty-fourth and final go-round with Timberwolves’ boys’ basketball was his best, as big Stadeli twins and rotation of hot-shooting guards equaled second place in Class 1A.

6. Stan Bergman, St. Thomas More. He’s since moved on to lead Mahomet-Seymour volleyball, but fourth and last dance with Sabers’ program produced third-place effort in Class 2A.

7. Ryan Tompkins, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley. After never winning boys’ basketball sectional title in previous 16 years, Falcons soared to third place in Class 2A for Tompkins’ Year 17.

8. Kevin Taylor, St. Joseph-Ogden. His even-keel demeanor did Spartan girls’ basketball well in just second season, as he pushed all the right buttons for Class 2A’s third-place squad.

9. Joe Morrisey, Tri-County. Soft-spoken but passionate sixth-year Titan girls’ basketball boss oversaw continuation of cooperative’s success in sport — specifically fourth-place outcome in Class 1A.

10. Kelly Steffen, St. Joseph-Ogden. Fourth year in charge equaled a fourth team state plaque, this time coming with a share of third place in Class 1A.

11. Kara Leaman, Unity. Like with Steffen above, it’s four seasons and four pieces of team state hardware for Rocket girls’ cross-country boss, helping squad to Class 1A third place in 2018.

12. Dave Remmert, Monticello. Sixth-year boys’ cross-country coach snagged third team state trophy with Sages, who rushed to third position in Class 1A.

13. Nick Clegg, Champaign Central. In just Year 2 with Maroon boys’ soccer, Clegg brought club to Class 2A regional crown that had eluded it since 2007.

14. Ben Richter, Sullivan. Fourth campaign in charge of Redskin boys’ golf saw Sullivan’s first sectional championship in that timeframe, fifth-place state showing.

15. Alan Dodds, St. Thomas More. Taking over for longtime Saber girls’ golf leader Pat Hetterman didn’t faze him, as Sabers retained No. 4 spot in Class 1A state field.

16. Adam Carver, Tuscola. Another newcomer — replacing Duff Hoel after third-place state effort — kept Warrior baseball engaged en route to a Class 2A super-sectional appearance.

17. Teri Scaggs, Centennial. Leader of both Charger tennis programs oversaw two Class 1A team sectional victories and nine points earned at state.

18. Courtney Lehmann, Centennial. Another multi-team coach — in swimming and diving — keyed those Chargers to one team sectional win and eight overall state berths.

19. Mark Bacys, Danville. Balancing eighth-year girls’ tennis coaching and new athletic director duties, he paced Vikings to first team sectional championship since 2013.

20. Aimee Davis, Unity. Fifth year mentoring Rocket softball resulted in Class 2A sectional final appearance, 27 triumphs, first win over rival St. Joseph-Ogden in that stretch.

21. Logan Patton, Unity. Second season with Rocket wrestling included six Class 1A state advancers as well as two runner-up finishes on that stage.

22. Kelsie Briggs, Mahomet-Seymour. Debut campaign in charge of Bulldog girls’ soccer saw team win 24 times and capture Class 2A regional trophy.

23. Dave Young, Champaign Central. Also the Uni High girls’ swimming and diving coach, he pushed the Maroon boys’ swim team to a sectional title and four state advancements.

24. Nicholas Kauffman, Arthur Okaw Christian. Girls’ basketball leader witnessed Conquering Riders win National Association of Christian Athletes national championship behind 33 victories.

25. Lenny Sementi, Tuscola. Though 18th year running Warrior softball didn’t include IHSA hardware, it did come with area-best 29 wins.

ASSISTANT COACHES OF THE YEAR

1. Kody Kidwell, Georgetown-Ridge Farm. Buffalo baseball aide, at high school and junior high levels, also worked third shift as a Danville police officer.

2. Leconte Nix, Champaign Central. Maroon alumnus has helped football, boys’ basketball and baseball squads for more than 10 years with obvious enthusiasm.

3. Hannah Newman, Uni High. Champaign Central graduate and former Bowling Green swimmer “is key in developing outstanding (girls’) swimmers at Uni,” according to head coach Dave Young.

4. Kerry Cheely and Heather VonLanken, Villa Grove. Along with head coach Jeana Block, they’ve been working with still-young Blue Devil softball players since some of those athletes were 7 years old.

5. John Weimer, Mahomet-Seymour. Retiring after 34 years of teaching, he wore hats as assistant in football, baseball, basketball and track for as many as 27 years.

6. Eric Gebben, Argenta-Oreana. Special teams coordinator for Class 1A final four Bomber football program has full trust of head man Steve Kirk.

7. Kim Zahrn, St. Thomas More. First-year Saber girls’ golf leader Alan Dodds described Zahrn as a seamless substitute during any of his work-related absences.

8. Aaron Ennis, Unity. Recently hired as Maroa-Forsyth’s boys’ basketball coach, he helped the previous five school years with Rocket football, boys’ hoops and baseball.

9. Hannah Stoens, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin. Recently relocated to Massachusetts, she was described by head Blue Devil girls’ track coach Susan Kentner as “a major influence on our distance program.”

10. Jacob Hilgendorf, Tuscola. A former college post player on the basketball floor, he helped guys like Brayden VonLanken develop during a regional-championship season.

vbhs

Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette St. Thomas More's Haley Elam (38), St. Thomas More's Maris Green (8), St. Thomas More's Allie Trame (14) cheer on St. Thomas More's Anna McClure (1) as she goes to serve in as Class 2A volleyball sectional championship match at Bismarck-Henning High School in Bismarck on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018.

TOP TWITTER PRESENCES

1. Tuscola. Accounts engage in witty banter with local reporters and are frequent to thank those writers for covering Warrior athletics.

2. St. Joseph-Ogden. It feels like each of the Spartans’ athletic programs has its own account — and each one offers helpful insight for ongoing events.

3. St. Thomas More. Led by co-athletic director Josh Hinkley, Saber accounts stay active before, during and after showcases.

4. Monticello. Probably the best area school at effectively dishing out press releases and other timely information via Twitter’s platform.

5. Paxton-Buckley-Loda. Need to know if a Panther athletic event is under threat from weather?

Allison

Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette Volleyball player of the year Mica Allison at her home in rural White Heath on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017.

THE ALUMNI TO WATCH

1. Mica Allison, St. Thomas More. Volleyball setter has transferred from Auburn to Illinois for sophomore year, and Saber fans no doubt are looking forward to seeing her in action.

2. Hunter Woodard, Tuscola. Redshirted with Oklahoma State football last fall and should be a force along the offensive line in his first season.

3. Ema Rajic, Uni High. Set a California women’s swimming school record in the 100-yard breaststroke (58.97 seconds) as a freshman, following up on IHSA state dominance.

4. Taylor Edwards, Arcola. Four-year Illinois softball pitcher will use final bit of college eligibility to compete for Nancy Fahey’s women’s basketball team.

5. Brooks Coetzee, Mahomet-Seymour. Saw time in about half of Notre Dame baseball’s outings as a true freshman, will look to take next step in college development.

6. Varun Chopra, Uni High. Averaged about 73 strokes per 18 holes across 27 rounds in sophomore year for another successful Illinois men’s golf team.

7. Katie Kidwell, Watseka. Bowling Green volleyball middle blocker was named to the all-Mid-American Conference first team for averaging 1.83 kills, 1.12 blocks per set.

8. Conor Steinbaugh, Georgetown-Ridge Farm. After two years at Lincoln Trail College, baseball pitcher is making way to Division I Akron for junior campaign to continue his career.

9. Riley Baker, St. Joseph-Ogden. Freshman season with Eastern Illinois men’s track and field saw him make the all-Ohio Valley Conference second team in the 400-meter hurdles.

10. Rachyl Anderson, Salt Fork. Southern Illinois-Edwardsville thrower saved best for last in freshman stint, tossing discus personal-best 147 feet, 11 inches at Ohio Valley meet.

Hugo Garza, Cade Kresin

Stephen Haas/The News-Gazette Arcola's Hugo Garza (52) shakes hands with Tuscola's Cade Kresin (29) after a high school football game at Tuscola High School Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, in Tuscola. Tuscola won the game 34-0.

TEAMS ON THE RISE

1. Champaign Central girls’ basketball. Maroons graduate just two seniors — neither regular starters — and return likes of All-Area first-teamer Chanice Willis.

2. Blue Ridge boys’ basketball. Knights should be senior-heavy in 2019-2020, as they possessed seven varsity juniors on 16-win team this season.

3. St. Thomas More boys’ soccer. Sabers could boast as many as 11 seniors starters — that’d be the entire lineup — after capturing 13 victories in 2018.

4. Georgetown-Ridge Farm softball. Buffaloes will miss four seniors, but have developed younger key contributors in Taylor Stal, Bailee Whittaker and more.

5. Arcola football. Purple Riders graduated just nine from a 45-strong roster that advanced to the second round of Class 1A playoffs.

6. Unity boys’ basketball. Rockets were in transition year for 2018-19, now set to return all but three members of group that won 16 contests.

7. DeLand-Weldon volleyball. Graduation of senior Raeanne Allen hurts, but almost all of other athletes should return from 18-victory 2018 squad.

8. Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond baseball. Knights had no seniors on their roster this school year, yet still collected an 18-11-1 ledger.

9. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley softball. Madi Eberle’s return alone is worth a great deal, but Falcons graduate just two from sectional semifinalist.

10. Heritage volleyball. Gracyn Allen and two other upperclassmen move on, but Aliya Holloman and many others stick around after 23-win campaign.

fbMONT

Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette Monticello's Braden Snyder (10) hands off to Monticello's Alek Bundy (35) n a Class 3A semi-final football game at Monticello on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018.

TOP BOYS’ PROGRAMS

(Combined 2018-19 football, soccer, basketball, wrestling and baseball victories)

1. Champaign Central 83

2. Monticello 81

3. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley 80

T4. Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin 76

T4. Unity 76

6. St. Joseph-Ogden 75

7. Oakwood 69

T8. LeRoy 63

T8. Prairie Central 63

10. Mahomet-Seymour 61

sochsg

Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette Mahomet-Seymour's players with the regional plaque in the Class 2A Urbana Regional championship match at Urbana High School on Friday, May 17, 2019.

TOP GIRLS’ PROGRAMS

(Combined 2018-19 volleyball, basketball, softball and soccer victories)

1. Arthur Okaw Christian 86

2. St. Joseph-Ogden 81

3. Mahomet-Seymour 77

4. Tuscola 68

T5. Unity 65

T5. Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond 65

7. Watseka 63

8. Champaign Central 62

9. Oakwood 61

10. St. Thomas More 60

@SJOgirls

Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette St. Joseph-Ogden's bench celebrates their upcoming victory in a Class 2A Supersectional game at Pontiac High School on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. Robin Scholz

TOP COMBINED PROGRAMS

(Combined 2018-19 football, volleyball, soccer, basketball, wrestling, baseball and softball victories)

1. St. Joseph-Ogden 156

2. Champaign Central 145

3. Unity 141

4. Mahomet-Seymour 138

5. Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin 134

6. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley 131

7. Oakwood 130

8. Tuscola 128

9. Monticello 124

10. Arthur Okaw Christian 121

QUOTES OF THE YEAR

— “They sing before games. Kind of ironically, they sing like three-part harmony songs. We try to encourage it. I’ve told them — at this point, we’re playing on found money — to just be loose and enjoy themselves.” — Judah Christian boys’ soccer coach Josh Birky on his team advancing to a sectional final.

— “I was running it, and I thought I’d be floating or flying — like, having a great epiphany about life. And then I was like, nope, I’m just finishing.” — Clinton junior Payne Turney on winning the Class 2A girls’ 800-meter run.

— “Everybody’s like, ‘Oh, you’re going to get nervous whenever you’re out there.’ Well, I can’t see how it would be a lot worse than the state football game, you know? And it actually is. It doesn’t seem like it, but there’s so many people here. You just can’t hear.” — Monticello senior Jack Spence, comparing state wrestling’s atmosphere to that of state football.

— “I’m just so ready for the season. It’s going to be epic. I’ve been preparing for the past six years of life, and this is my time. I plan to take it.” — Champaign Central junior Chanice Willis after a girls’ basketball win over rival Centennial.

— “After a slow start to the career, you get competitive. You don’t want to go out like this. You want to make sure you can leave with a little dignity.” — outgoing Danville boys’ basketball coach Ted Houpt on what motivated him to stay on the sidelines.

— “This is a heavily debated topic. I can promise you 100 percent that if we ran like 110 yards or 200 meters, like in track, I’d beat him. That’s what I try to tell him.” — Argenta-Oreana senior Makhi Stanley on who’s faster between himself and junior brother Makail.

— “We had a Navy ship called the U.S.S. CP, and the slogan on the back of the shirt was, ‘All in a ship to win a ’ship.’ We were kind of bold, probably, but I believe in thinking big, especially when it’s realistic.” — Cissna Park boys’ basketball coach Kevin Long on shooting for a state championship.

— “We walked down and took the ball bags in her car, and we got in her trunk and just hid in there. So when she opened up the back of the trunk, we scared her and it was awesome.” — Mahomet-Seymour senior Maddy Wade, on pranking girls’ soccer coach Kelsie Briggs.

— “He rolled me across the asphalt a couple times. Helped me up.” — Jon Holt, grandfather of Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley senior Ryland Holt, on playing basketball against Ryland over the years.

— “Sugar is what took my mind off it. The next day, I came in and I was like, ‘You know what? Whatever happens, happens.’ I just know that I’m going to give it my best effort, and I can eat sugar afterward. I can go even faster just to eat sugar.” — Uni High sophomore Reed Broaders on her motivation at the girls’ swimming and diving state meet.

— “It’s going to be hard to the point where you want to quit. But then you have to remember, why did I start this. ... I love this sport. I have to look back at the little girl who was playing in the YMCA. Like, do it for her.” — Schlarman senior Anaya Peoples on her road to basketball stardom.

— “The pool is very dark. I had dark-tinted goggles. So I ran into the wall. Time wasn’t so good, but I was fine.” — Centennial senior Lizzie Gile on a previous experience at the girls’ swimming and diving state meet.

— “She said, ‘Let’s go. We can do this. It’s the last minute of our basketball career.’ I think she wanted to give her energy to everybody else on the floor.” — Tri-County senior Grace Burnside on girls’ basketball teammate Maiya Eskew’s speech after Eskew fouled out in the Class 1A third-place game.

— “You hear about kids that just don’t wake up the next morning or have something heart-related where they just drop. I’d check on him at 2 a.m. because of worries about that.” — Peter Borich, father of Urbana senior Payton Borich, about Payton’s diagnosis of supraventricular tachycardia.

— “I also understand that when you set a goal like winning state ... it can sort of be arbitrarily defined. Hypothetically, I could go out and shoot 67 and 67 and get beat. So I’m more focused on trying to play the best I possibly can in the postseason and see where everything falls after that.” — Uni High senior DJ Nelson on his state boys’ golf aspirations.

News-Gazette

Prep Sports Coordinator

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