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It’s been a month and a half since we held our annual Faces of Winter photo shoot, this time outside The News-Gazette’s Champaign office as a COVID-19 safety measure.

A total of 177 athletes from 42 schools/cooperatives showed up to have their picture taken and answer a few questions. All of this will appear in The News-Gazette’s print pages beginning Tuesday, with three athletes selected at random for each day’s newspaper.

Online photo galleries of all attendees will be available at news-gazette.com starting Tuesday as well.

As many as two kids per team were permitted to attend, representing boys’ basketball, girls’ basketball, wrestling and boys’ swimming and diving programs across the area.

This, of course, was before the IHSA decided in October to shift its 2020-21 wrestling season to an April start, and before the IHSA decided in November to delay the other sports’ start time in accordance with Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines.

However, we said all along we’d run the kids’ photos — along with their responses to questions such as “Who is your favorite athlete?” — in our pages no matter what happened to winter season amid the pandemic.

As a preview to Tuesday’s opening of our Faces of Winter series, I wanted to provide some background information about this year’s version.

➜ Rivals Centennial and Champaign Central led the way with eight athletes sent in apiece — two from each of their winter sports programs. Monticello wasn’t far behind with seven, while Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, LeRoy, Mahomet-Seymour, Rantoul, St. Joseph-Ogden, Unity and Westville all sent in six kids.

➜ The responses to four sports-based questions — who is your favorite athlete, what is your favorite sports team, what one sporting event would you attend and what’s your favorite sport besides your winter sport — always elicit interesting responses.

Michael Jordan was a popular choice for favorite athlete, getting 25 picks. Among the favorite sports offered up: roller skating, underground boxing, badminton, dodgeball, lacrosse, cricket, jujitsu, mini golf and table tennis.

Colin Likas is the preps coordinator 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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