By Steve Robinson | May 28, 2007 - 9:02 am
Posted in Category: Olympia HS, Pekin Daily Times

BaseballBLOOMINGTON – There appeared to be no stopping Reed-Custer pitcher Kyle Janssen against Olympia Monday as the two sides battled for an IHSA Super-Sectional title Monday.

Conversely, Stanford Olympia’s offense could not find a way around Janssen’s pitching to get itself started, as Reed-Custer defeated the Spartans 2-0 as a crowd of around 400 people filled Jack Hornenberger Field, gathering to see which team would advance to the State Finals in Joliet beginning Friday.

Reed-Custer junior first baseman Alex King led off the third inning with a double to begin a scoring threat. After senior shortstop Gavin Johnston made the first out of the inning, Janssen smacked a double into the outfield, scoring King, putting the Comets up, 1-0.

OlympiaJanssen reached third on a wild pitch by Olympia’s losing pitcher in the contest, Jacob Hadsall. Janssen would score on a sacrifice fly senior first baseman Tom Kimbro, giving the Comets their second run of the game.

From there, the defense for Reed-Custer (24-10), behind Janssen, took over, contributing to 12 straight outs, keeping the Spartans off the base paths. The Comets defense had 13 straight outs without the Spartans getting a hit, beginning with Janssen’s striking out Olympia senior left fielder Ben Trout.

Olympia sophomore shortstop Matt Frahm was the last Spartans player to get a hit off of Janssen in the form of a single in the third inning before Janssen retired the side.

While all of this seems routine, the fact that Janssen was pitching was not. He had been hospitalized on for a staph infection last week, going as far as to call his coach, Jerry Cougill, to tell him he was going to the hospital.

IHSAFor Reed-Custer, Janssen struck out seven, hitting one batter, and walking none. For Olympia, losing pitcher Hadsall had three walks and two strikeouts.

“(Today’s) was a good a pitched game we’ve had all year,” Cougill said. “What more could you ask for from a kid, literally picking himself up out of a hospital to come out and (be) in a situation like this? What more could you ask for?”

“I’m really of them,” said Ron Smith, head coach for Olympia (22-10). “You never want to lose when you’re that close and get one step closer, but we played a great game.

“I thought we played as well as we have all year defensively,” Smith said. “We just didn’t hit today. We couldn’t get any pressure on them. We couldn’t get a leadoff guy on base. It feels like we just couldn’t get on top of the ball.”

By Steve Robinson | May 25, 2007 - 3:29 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Normal’s Unit 5 School Board voted unanimously to spend $92,500 to research and plan for future school needs. The concerns in question include the need for construction of a middle school, and how much in taxpayer dollars should be sought through a possible referendum vote next February.

The board voted unanimously to pay Peoria-based LZT Associates $92,500 to seek out community input concerning new building needs for the district.

In giving his reasons for approving spending the money, board member John Puzauskas said “buildings are part of our value system. These are prudent costs and relevant costs toward the building of a middle school.”

Board member Gail Ann Briggs said the district needs to involve the community in formalized discussions concerning the building of another school in the district.

Meta Mickens-Baker, the board vice president said she hopes the community will take part in the decision process by attending forums on the subject.

Were the board to receive voter approval to build a middle school, it would be the first middle school Unit 5 has ever had.

Up until the opening of Normal West High School, Unit 5 high school students did not begin their high school years until 10th grade, going to one of the district’s junior high schools through 9th grade.

If construction of the middle school is approved, children in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades would attend.

Over 700 Students to Graduate: A total of 722 diplomas will be handed out to graduates when Normal Community High and Normal Community West High hold separate commencement exercises on Friday, June 1.

Both schools’ graduations will be held at Braden Auditorium in the Bone Student Center at Illinois State University. The ceremony for NCHS’ Class of 2007 will begin at 5p.m., and West’s ceremony will begin at 8p.m.

Diplomas will be handed out to a total of 722 students – 404 at NCHS and 318 at West.

Beyond the Books“Beyond The Books” Grant Winners: Twenty Unit 5 teachers were honored for their having earned grants from the “Beyond The Books” program. Since its creation in 1992, the Beyond The Books Educational Foundation has funded innovative programs for the students of District 87 and Unit 5 public schools.

The winning Unit 5 teachers, the schools where they teach, and the dollar funding received are:

• Amy Schumacher and Angela Ray, Fox Creek Elementary, $300;

• Betty Kinzinger, Northpoint Elementary, $292;

• Holly Tindall and Maureen Backe, Northpoint Elementary, $400;

• Carol Johnson, Prairieland Elementary, $950

• Suzie Schertz, Prairieland Elementary, and Lynne Roberts, Sugar Creek Elementary, $902;

• Tiffany Taylor and Kim Page, Towanda Elementary, $1,026;

• Rita Gyires, Unit 5 district office, Michelle Glatt, Chiddix Junior High, and Kari Hennefent, Kingsley Junior High, $2,974;

• Martha Kindred, Kingsley Junior High, $1,667;

• Kimberly Brandon, Kingsley Junior High, $287;

• Todd Lanning, Kingsley Junior High, $1,000;

• Shawn Schwerman, Zack Gilbert, Dave McMorris, and Courtney Knowles, Parkside Junior High, $300;

• Shawn Schwerman, Parkside Junior High, $1,100;

• Berny Chiro, Normal West High, $300;

• Lisa Tomlin, Normal West High, two separate individual grants of $295 and $280;

• Mary Jo Douglass, Normal West High, $412;

• Megan Novotney, Normal West High, $1,798;

• Trena Loomans, Normal West High, $580.

District 87 instructors also received grants for their projects, and one award was granted for a joint project put together by one team of Unit 5 teachers and one team District 87 teachers.

The four teachers involved in the joint project were: Mary Aper and Tena Sprau, both from Unit 5’s Parkside Elementary, and Teri Merna and Cathy Haas, both from District 87’s Oakland Elementary.

Together, the four teachers created, “Lights, Camera, Read,” where students would learn how to create, plan, and present a play based on books the children had read. The play presentations would take place for the partner school.

Good News From Sugar Creek Elementary: A recent accomplishment by Bridget Caldwell, a third grade teacher at Sugar Creek Elementary, was singled out for a good news item at the meeting, by principal Scott Peters.

For a second consecutive year, Caldwell received a grant from the John Maitland Ag Awareness Fund. The money will be used to support field trips for Sugar Creek kindergarten and third grade students, as well as to purchase materials to bolster the third grade’s social studies curriculum.

Good News From Parkside Elementary: A good news report was presented to the board on Susan Schwingle, school nurse at Parkside Elementary by Parkside Principal Shelley J. Erickson.

Schwingle monitors the health of 800 students at Parkside, Fairview, and Carlock Elementary Schools. Included among her accomplishments: Organizing helping to arrange better medical care for families who are unable to do so. That has included arranging both dental checkups and vision exams for those children.

Property Tax Dollars Coming: Unit 5 earned $22 million in property tax revenue this year, according to Tod Altenburg, the district Chief Financial Officer. He said the district should receive that money on June 4.

NCHS’ New Band Uniforms: The board also approved spending $100,476.48 to Greenville, Ill.,-based Demoulin Brothers and Co. for new band uniforms for Normal Community High School. The current uniforms have been in use since 1990.

By Steve Robinson | May 21, 2007 - 8:37 am
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Incumbent Normal Town Council member Sonja Reece was sworn in for her fifth term as a council member Monday just prior to the start of the council’s regular meeting at City Hall.

Reece was one of three people who ran and either were re-elected or newly-elected in last month’s election. She was away on business when the two other council members who won in April – veteran council member Jeff Fritzen and newcomer Chuck Scott – took their oaths prior to the May 7 meeting.

“Heavy” Omnibus Items: Heavy-duty equipment purchases on the Normal Town Council’s omnibus agenda items took center stage at the group’s regular meeting at City Hall Monday night.

Among the items receiving council approval were:

• A motion for the town to accept the purchase bid for a loader mounted snow blower for use by the Normal Public Works Department, from Cooksville-based Wissmiller & Evans Road Equipment, Inc. The town will pay $52,250 for the new equipment, which will replace one like it which the town originally bought in 1978. Although the older machine is still in good working order, finding replacement parts for it has become an issue.

• A motion for the town to accept the purchase bid for a tandem hook lift truck from Bloomington-based Peterbilt Central Illinois for $36,800.

• A motion for the town to accept the purchase bid of $147,500 for a wheel loader and backhoe loader from Bloomington-based Martin Equipment of Illinois, Inc. The equipment will be used by the town’s Public Works Street Maintenance Division.

• A motion for the town to waive the formal bidding process and authorize the purchase of an In-Car Video System for all squad cars used by Normal Police. The advantage to using the In-Car Video System is that it stores images digitally, eliminating problems of using video tape. The town will spend $123,517 on the upgrade.

• A motion for the town to approve the new street surfacing priority list for fiscal year 2007-2008. Streets requiring resurfacing as soon as possible or within the next 1 to 2 years would be at the top of the list. Streets seen as being in fair condition would be evaluated in two years, and streets seen as being in good condition would be evaluated in three years.

• A motion for the town to pay Bloomington-based Stark Excavating $874,232 for construction of Fell Ave. between Beaufort Ave. and North St. There is some urgency to get this stretch of the downtown project completed because the town expects heavy traffic use brought about by events like the Illinois Special Olympics State Games in mid-June and move-in of Illinois State University students to Watterson Towers when ISU’s fall semester begins in August.

• A motion for the town to approve an agreement with West Des Moines, Iowa-based E. C. Design Group for design services for the irrigation replacement project slated for Ironwood Golf Course. The town will pay E. C. Design Group $1.5 million over the next two years to have the project completed.

Liquor Commission Imposes Fines: Prior to the regular council meeting, the Normal Liquor Commission met to hear about one restaurant and one gas/convenience store which had violated the law prohibiting sale of alcohol to minors.

The commission voted to fine Logan’s Roadhouse Restaurant $250 for a first offense, while a second offense of selling to minors netted a $1,000 for the owners of a Shell gas station and convenience store, located at 1617 N. Main St.

By Steve Robinson | May 18, 2007 - 8:43 am
Posted in Category: Morton HS, Pekin Daily Times, Pekin HS

Pekin DragonsBLOOMINGTON – A youthful Pekin Community High School Track and Field team is sending a veteran discus thrower on to the Class AA State Track and Field Competition next week.

Pekin Community High senior Dustin Hammer will return to State competition at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston as a result of earning a gold medal in the discus throw at the event Friday, held at Bloomington High School.

Seventeen schools, including PCHS, East Peoria, Morton, Washington, and all five of Peoria’s high schools were part of the competition, held at BHS.

PCHS, under head coach Marshall Tucker, finished 13th with 16 points. Host BHS finished first in points with 117 by evening’s end. East Peoria and Peoria Manual tied for 11th with 19 points each, and Morton finished 14th with 12 points.

Hammer’s personal best toss of 151 feet, 2 inches earned him PCHS’ lone gold medal following the event.

He accomplished it despite a minor injury to the ring finger on his right throwing hand that has been nagging him since he competed in the Mid-Illini meet almost two weeks ago.

Hammer said he felt pain in his fingers – primarily that his ring finger felt as though it had been bent backward a little — while going through the motion needed to push a shot put. Tucker said it is a common injury to shot put contestants which limits, temporarily, how much pressure one can place on that hand.

Hammer said, and Tucker agreed that there is no cause to see a physician about the injury.

Morton High SchoolMorton’s Migit Hurdles Into Second Place: Morton High’s Alex Migit turn in the 110 meter high hurdles resulted in a second place finish with a time of 15.23 seconds. Like Hammer, Migit has been hampered by an injury, specifically a recurring hamstring problem.

Migit admits he was over a full second quicker in the event last year, but his injury has slowed him down.

Expectations For Later: PCHS’ 4 x 100 team of Jake Rast, John Hogue, Joe Bond, and Cameron Baldes came in 10th in the event, but Tucker wasn’t bothered by that. He knows he has a young team and considering that they will spend their off-seasons training, the expectation is that, later in the quartet’s careers at PCHS, they will be a matter of concern for future opponents.

Tucker said Friday’s event is “great experience” for his young men.

IHSA“Every meet that we’ve gone out to, every one or three-quarters of them have bettered their own times,” Tucker said.

Tucker said he and his coaching staff have been delivering the same speech to their 42-man team. “We keep telling them, ‘you don’t realize what you have here. If you keep working hard, it’ll pay off in the next couple of years.’”

How’d We Do?: Among some of the other results from the meet were: Robbie Peffer, East Peoria High, Long Jump of 21 feet, 1 ½ inches, finishing fourth; Tim Owdom, Morton, finishing the 3200 meter run in 10:21.92, earning second place.

Special OlympicsBLOOMINGTON – Kayla Mortensen, Pekin, got Pekin District 108’s participation in the Special Olympics Area 6 Area Games off on a winning note Saturday at Wesleyan Stadium at Illinois Wesleyan University.

Winning a gold medal in the Softball Throw competition will do that.

Kayla, 11, daughter of Bill and Dawn Mortensen, Pekin, is a student at Wilson School and has been active in Special Olympics for two years, her father said.

Whether throwing or running, Kayla said that participating in Special Olympics likes doing the activities because “it feels like you are full of energy” while doing them. She said running in gym class daily is something she enjoys.

District 108, under the direction of head coach Michelle Hancock, with assistant Megan Jensen, brought 12 athletes to compete in the Softball Throw and the 50 Meter Dash.

Hancock said that while winning medals is the most obvious benefit to being in Special Olympics, there is one more that might not get thought of by an outsider.

“The pride – that’s the one thing you can really see on their faces,” Hancock said. “They are so proud of themselves, that they came to this and that they participated. And you can bet that when they go back to school, you can bet those schools will acknowledge those kids. That means so much to those kids.”

District 108 is showing some pride in itself for having a Special Olympics program that is celebrating its fifth anniversary. Hancock said the District 108 team has turned the Area Games into an event themselves, holding a picnic lunch following competition, where athletes, parents, grandparents, and coaches cap off the day mingling and enjoying themselves.

“We have moms and dads and aunts and uncles and grandparents and siblings come out, and we make a day of it,” Hancock said.

Citing that cold or rainy weather has usually put a damper on post-event plans for the District 108 team, Hancock said, “this year, the weather has cooperated and we’re going to have a picnic and make a day of it.”

Kayla was among 260 athletes from Tazewell, Peoria, McLean, DeWitt Counties who participated in the Area 6 Special Olympics Games Saturday. Gold medalists in the day-long event advance automatically to the Illinois Special Olympics State Games on Illinois State University’s campus Father’s Day Weekend, June 15-17.

“They asked her at school if she wanted to do it, and it has been this way ever since,” Bill Mortensen said. “Her confidence level has jumped tremendously since she started doing this.”

That confidence has proven beneficial, her mother, Dawn Mortensen, said, as Kayla has become a little more out-going.

“Here, she fits right in and she can excel at something,” Dawn Mortensen added. “It feels like it’s hers.”

Two Relay Teams Advance: The number of relay teams Pekin IRVSRA tried to get to the State Games was almost worthy of a gold medal in itself. Pekin IRVSRA, whose sports teams are nicknamed The Flames, put four 4-person relay teams. These teams tried to qualify for either the 4 x 100 Relay or the 4 x 400 Relay.

IRVSRA Relay team one’s members are: Jimmy Dapron, Fred Holfred, Bernie Harms, and James Wireman; Relay team two’s members are: Holly Felles, Stephanie Perry, Rachel Jones, and Kayla Rogers; Relay team three’s members are: Holly Felles, Kayla Rogers, Jessica Pribble, and Judith Rich-Smith; Relay team four’s members are: Ryan Cole, Josh Holfred, Quinn Inman, and Michael Haskins.

Team three’s all-female squad won gold at the State Games last year. Like all the other teams and individuals at this event, the girls have been practicing for weeks leading to it. The four – Felles, Rogers, Pribble, and Rich-Smith – say they are still fast, and this year, they had an additional witness to verify that.

“They’re still fast,” said Connie Rogers, Kayla’s mother.

“Doing (Special Olympics) gives (Kayla) a feeling of accomplishment,” Connie Rogers said. “It also gives her a challenge each year to try to do better than she did the last year.

“As other people who run track come up, Kayla is continually challenged year after year,” Rogers said.

While Connie Rogers was speaking individually about her daughter, she was really explaining what all Special Olympics participants have an understanding of – that the challenges are always there and these athletes train to meet those challenges.

Bill Wireman, Pekin, James Wireman’s father, said his son is “excited every moment” to be on the 4 x 400 Relay team, which qualified to go the State Games.

“He gets to compete,” Bill Wireman said. He said that although James, 20, has tried other sports and not been completely successful with some of them, he enjoys competing in Track. “He loves track. This is his fifth year going to State Games in track.”

In the end, though, two teams will be going to State.

As for how the relay teams finished, IRVSRA will send one all-male and one all-female Relay team to State Games in June.

The all male team of Dapron, Holfred, Harms, and Wireman came in third. The Relay team of Felles, Rogers, Pribble, and Rich-Smith; and the relay team with Relay team with Cole, Josh Holfred, Inman, and Haskins both each took gold and will advance to State as well.

Grandparents Are Proud, Too: The pride of a grandparent is, probably, double that of a parent when their grandchild reaches an accomplishment. That means the pride Dick Davis and his wife, Deane, grandparents to Hayden Davis have for their 14-year-old grandson, is no different.

Hayden, son of Tim and Charla Davis, Washington, participated as a member of the team from Washington Special Olympics, whose head coach is Scott Deathrage. The younger Davis participated in the Softball Throw, 50 meter Dash, and the 4 x 400 relay.

Dick Davis said there is no difference is being the grandparent of a Special Olympics athlete. “Basically, to me, no…there is no difference. You still love the heck out of them, and want the best for them in whatever they are able to do.”

Deane Davis said her grandson has received a great deal of help and support from his teachers at Washington Middle School. He becomes a freshman at Washington High School this fall.

One other area team, AC Timber Ridge, based in Morton, also took part, primarily in events like the Tennis Ball Throw and the Softball Throw.