By Steve Robinson | October 30, 2008 - 10:33 pm
Posted in Category: Pekin Daily Times, Pekin HS

VolleyballNORMAL – Pekin Community High Volleyball Coach Yvonne Thompson is quick to say her Lady Dragons team has been taking the last couple of seasons “little by little.”

Last year, her squad racked up just six victories. This year, the Lady Dragons were 9-21, but managed to enter the IHSA Class 4A Playoffs as a fourth seed, facing top seed Quincy Senior High School.

But, it turned out the Lady Dragons were no match for the faster, bigger Lady Blue Devils, as Quincy Senior High defeated PCHS, 25-13 and 25-9 to advance to the championship of the Normal Community Regional. Both games took just 37 minutes to play.

QSHS (33-3) will face the winner of a contest between Normal’s two public high schools, Normal Community and Normal West, on Thursday.

“I can’t say this game summed up our whole season because we can play better (than we did tonight), but that’s just how things turned out,” Thompson said.

Pekin Dragons“Playing Pekin twice (during the regular season) and then coming out here, I think we held our focus and did what we had to do,” explained QSHS Volleyball Coach Barb Crist.

“Having played them twice, we knew what had to be done and that it needed to be done,” Thompson said. “We just came up short against a team that was taller and stronger than we were.”

In both contests, PCHS kept within one, 3-2, giving the impression each game would require players with staying power. But the play of QSHS junior middle hitter Maddy Barnes, particular when serving, gave QSHS an advantage in game two, racking up five points while her teammate, senior middle hitter MacKenzie Davis, helped QSHS rack up nine points as a result of her serves in game one.

Server Brogan Epkins had 7 assists for the Dragons on the night. Tori Ehrett led in digs with 6 for PCHS, and middle hitter Michaela Quilty added four kills. The Lady Dragons recorded no aces on blocks.

Hannah Kvitle had 20 assists on the night, leading all players. Davis had 11 digs and three aces. Barnes and sophomore Brittany Houghton each had three blocks. Houghton had six kills on the night, followed by Taylor Holtmeyer, Bethany Foster, and Barnes, who each had five.

Thompson admitted once QSHS started garnering points on serves, she tried using in-game substitutions of PCHS players to slow that defensively, but it did not work.

IHSA“(QSHS) just kept serving that ball on us,” Thompson said. “If we can’t pass, then, all of the sudden the point totals start moving up.”

Crist said she had noticed that the Lady Dragons had improved between their matches against QSHS as the season moved along. QSHS won the prior contests.

“I thought (PCHS) would have been tougher because we had played them early in the season and again at mid-season, and they had improved a whole bunch (between prior matches). And tonight, I was anticipating a lot more from them.”

Thompson said she has just two seniors, but there are six juniors who will come up in the ranks next season, giving their coach hope that what they learned this season will carry over to be considered added experience next year.

Relay For LifeBLOOMINGTON – In an effort to bring the subject of Cancer to the forefront of legislators’ minds, a tour bus nicknamed the “Fight Back Express” has toured the country.

On Friday, the Fight Back Express, sponsored by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, made a stop in the parking lot of State Farm Corporate Headquarters. Members of the local chapter of Relay For Life of McLean County were on hand in the chilled morning air to greet the bus’ arrival.

The Cancer Action Network, represented at the bus’ arrival by Network volunteer Ann Wheet, is the advocacy wing of the American Cancer Society.

The bus is covered with nearly 100,000 signatures, having begun its journey in Ohio on Memorial Day. The University of Illinois campus in Champaign was the last locale the bus would visit that same day before heading for he last stop for the bus is Capitol Hill in Washington, D. C. on Nov. 4, Election Day.

Roughly 100 people came out to greet the bus, and add more signatures already there.

“Basically, the purpose of this bus is to let our legislators know that we care about (the issue of) Cancer,” explained Wheet. “We want to make Cancer a national priority when we vote. So this is kind of a grassroots effort to get support for initiatives that would make sure that we continue to have Cancer (research) funding through the Federal government.”

Wheet said freezes and cuts for Cancer research in the nation’s Federal budget have slowed such research for the last five years.

“We’ve had some great progress since 1971 in the battle against Cancer. The number of Cancer deaths is dropping,” Wheet said. “However, without the government as our ally, we can’t continue that path.”

In addition to problems with funding on the Federal level, Wheet pointed out that although states individually have helped to make sure citizens have access to breast and cervical screenings, not everyone has the access to get to those screenings.

As a result of that, Wheet said, many people become diagnosed with latent-stage Cancer. Wheet said funding to help people get to those screenings early enough to catch the Cancer early would help people find and treat the condition sooner.

Normal Town Council member Sonja Reece, a Cancer survivor herself, represented the Town at the ceremony.

By Steve Robinson | October 25, 2008 - 10:31 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

FootballNORMAL – When a team goes into a slump, even a slight one, coaches will often challenge players to step up their game play in order to reverse the damage.

University High head coach Dusty Burk issued just such a challenge to his team after the Pioneers skidded through two straight Corn Belt Conference losses to Rochester and Mahomet in recent weeks.

Burk’s challenge paid off, as the Pioneers beat Prairie Central, 41-12, at Hancock Stadium, to round out the 2008 regular season, including the conference schedule.

Finishing the schedule with a 6-3 mark, including a Corn Belt Conference mark of 5-3 puts the Pioneers in the Illinois High School Association Class 5A Playoffs for the second straight year. It will be the first playoff achievement for first-season Pioneers head coach Dusty Burk.

In a steady rain that lasted for three-quarters of the contest, U-High (6-3, 5-3 Corn Belt) gained control early, starting with a 8-yard running touchdown by senior running back Will Brucker with 4:28 on the clock in the first quarter. The successful extra point by senior kicker Caleb Katz gave U-High a 7-0 lead, which they held going into the second quarter.

Brucker responded the challenge a second time, at 8:19 in the second quarter, scoring on a 37 yard rushing touchdown. Brucker’s score capped a quick 3-play, 45 yard drive for U-High. That was followed by another successful Katz point-after, putting the Pioneers up, 14-0.

U-High Pioneers footballOne possession ending in a punt for Prairie Central gave the Pioneers their next scoring opportunity. Senior quarterback Jake Todino connected with senior receiver Vinny Chiodo on a 19 yard touchdown pass with 5:08 in the second quarter. But Katz’s extra point try struck the right upright, and was ruled no good. Despite that, U-High owned a 20-0 lead.

U-High carried a 27-0 lead into halftime, courtesy of a 21-yard touchdown pass play from Todino to senior receiver Luke Harbors, with 1:02 left until halftime, followed by a successful Katz extra point.

Katz provided an offensive score himself, with 7:06 left in the third quarter, scoring on a 1-yard run, capping a four play, 10 yard drive for the Pioneers. That score increased U-High’s lead, 34-0, before Prairie Central scored for the first time on the night.

Prairie Central (3-6 overall, 3-6 Corn Belt) made the most of a fumble recovery at U-High’s 32 yard line with 3:42 left in the third quarter. One play later, Hawks junior quarterback Jeremy Peters connected on a touchdown pass to junior receiver Josh Fields, cutting the Pioneers’ lead to 34-6 following the Hawks’ failed two-point conversion try.

It was on the Pioneers’ next possession, late in the third quarter, where Brucker left the game, assisted by coaches after injuring his left shin.

“Anytime you see a kid go down with that kind of injury, you hate to see that,” Burk said. “I just hope that, for his sake, he’s fine and it’s nothing serious. Obviously, we’d like to have him back next week. But the more important thing is that he come back and comes back healthy.”

Katz scored his second touchdown on the night for U-High with 10:08 left in the contest, capping a 2-play, 17 yard drive. Katz’s successful extra point try increased U-High’s lead to 41-6.

For Prairie Central, Peters connected with Fields again, this time on a 7-yard pass, with 8:33 left in the contest, cut U-High’s lead to 41-12, but the Hawks’ second 2-point conversion try of the night failed, resulting in the final score.

Prairie Central Football“I think I’m fortunate to come into a program where there’s a good class of seniors, and some seniors with experience” Burk said in complementing his team after the victory. “So we had some high expectations this season.

“Plus, after going 3-3, they really showed their character this last third of the season,” Burk said. “So, I’m ecstatic. I’m happy about the way they’ve responded to how we have pushed them lately.”

“The kids are excited about (getting to the playoffs),” Burk told reporters after the game. “Our whole program is excited. It was a good way to finish the season. When we were at 3-3, this could have gone one of two ways and I’m proud of how things went.

“After the losses to Rochester and Mahomet, we really challenged the kids those weeks in practice,” Burk said. “We put (the responsibility) on their shoulders, and they responded the right way. As a coach, I couldn’t be prouder of how they responded these last three weeks.”

The Pioneers, seeded fifth in Class 5A, will play Streator (6-3) in their opening round playoff game.

U-High’s junior varsity team pulled off a come-from-behind victory, in a light rain, beating the Hawks’ JV team, 30-24.

By Steve Robinson | October 22, 2008 - 4:26 pm
Posted in Category: Pekin Daily Times, Pekin HS

SoccerNORMAL – Coming into the Class 3A Soccer Regional at Normal West High’s Wildcat Field as the number four seed, Pekin Community High School knew facing top seed Moline High would be a battle.

And since Moline forward Kelin Vallejo and PCHS goalie Austin Graves are both sophomores, it’s a battle Dragons head coach Michelle Bodily’s team might be revisiting in future years with her players.

But this time, top seed Moline turned away the fourth seed Dragons, 1-0, on a straight shot goal by Vallejo at the 37:44 mark in the first half. The win increased Moline’s record to11-8-2, and will put them in the Regional championship here Saturday. Moline will face either second seed East Moline United or Regional host and third seeded Normal West.

Pekin DragonsPekin (7-9-3) had mustered 7 shots on goal, 9 corner shots, and was flagged for 11 fouls. Dragons sophomore goalie Austin Graves had five saves in the contest.

The top seeded Maroons fired 9 shots on goal, got in 5 corner shots, and had one offside shot. Moline was flagged for 14 fouls.

Having witnessed officials raise 25 flags in total in the game, Dragons head coach Michelle Bodily said she knew her squad was going up against “a very skilled team. It was a very physical game.”

In the last six minutes of the defensive contest, PCHS shifted players around, bolstering their offense to put pressure on Moline goalie Josh Scott. But the Maroons were able to beat back Pekin’s offensive to claim victory.

“We were close four or five times,” Bodily said of Pekin’s last onslaught against Moline, which featured the Dragons crowding the Maroons’ end of the field to put pressure on Scott.

IHSA“We threw a couple extra people up front (of Moline’s goal), trying to get a shot at the end of the game,” Bodily said in explaining the strategy employed in the last minutes of the game. Unfortunately for PCHS, Moline defenders pushed back, forcing Pekin back into their own territory.

“Our boys gave it everything they had,” Bodily said. “(Scott) just had some great saves in the end.”

“I’m proud of the boys,” Bodily said afterward. “They’re a great team.”

PCHS loses eight seniors after this season, but has six juniors in the wings, ready to play as seniors in 2009. “(What we had this year) are eight very skilled seniors.

“It’s a hard way to end the season, but I am very proud of them,” Bodily concluded.

By Steve Robinson | October 20, 2008 - 10:35 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – The building that houses a popular flower shop, comics store, and records store in Uptown Normal will be getting new look in the future, thanks to resolutions passed by Normal Town Council members at the group’s regular meeting at City Hall Monday night.

First, Council members unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the execution of a redevelopment agreement with Kup Tcheng, owner of 111 W. North St, and with Roger and Sherrillyn Taylor, owners of 113 and 115 W. North St.

The businesses affected by the agreement at 111 W. North St. are Washburn Flowers and Mother Murphy’s.

The building was once known as the Normal State Bank Building.

The businesses affected by the agreement at 113-115 W. North St. are Waiting Room Records and Acme Comics, both on the building’s first floor, and Puyear And Associates, located on the building’s second floor.

Then, Council members unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the execution of an agreement with Bloomington-based Felmley Dickerson Co. for façade renovations to 111-115 W. North St. in the amount of $221,811.

The expenditure breakdown includes items such as masonry cleaning and restoration, storefront reconstruction, window and door replacement, cleaning & painting, balcony roof reconstruction, and insurance costs.

The Taylors’ financial participation is expected to be $68,657, while Tcheng will pay $24,935. The Town of Normal will add $127,761 to come to the final agreed upon total cost.

Fairview Aquatic Bid Approved: Council members also approved a resolution accepting a bid of $2,212,000, and approving a contract with Bloomington-based Johnston Contractors, Inc. for the Fairview Aquatic renovation project.

The slides at the aquatic center are roughly 20 years old and in need of replacement at the 25-year-old facility.

City Manager Mark Peterson reported to Council members that, this past Summer, the water slides needed to be shut down on numerous occasions to plug leaks and perform other kinds of maintenance.

Peterson credited staff members from Normal Parks and Recreation, responsible for maintenance at the water park, “at a time well beyond the length of time (it was anticipated to be used).”

Peterson said it is anticipated the renovation project will be complete in time for when pools open next year.

Liquor License Renewals Paid: Normal Liquor Commission members held a meeting prior Council session and were informed that all 52 of the Town’s liquor license holders have paid license fee in advance of the Sept. 30 deadline, avoiding being charged a late fee by the Town.

With Mayor Chris Koos not present at Monday’s meeting, Mayor Pro Tem and Liquor Commissioner Sonja Reece informed Commissioners that 17 of the 52 establishments opted to pay their fee in two installments.

“Sister Cities” Committee Appointee Announced: Council members unanimously approved the appointment of a Normal resident to the “Sister Cities” Committee. Walter Allen becomes the newest member of the committee, whose term will expire next March.

Allen is currently attending Illinois State University, and has been a member of the Uptown Normal Business Association.

Allen is filling the remainder of a Committee term served by Joe Reid. Reid, is remaining on the Committee, but as a Bloomington resident, having moved there.

There are 17 members of the Sister Cities Committee – 10 from Normal and seven from Bloomington.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of minutes of the Council’s regular meeting held Oct. 6, 2008.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Oct. 15, 2008.

• A motion to accept the Water Treatment Plant Chemical Bids for November 2008 through October 2009.

• A motion to approve payment of $2,440 from CDBG funds for water service connection fees for the Habitat Subdivision, 415, 419, and 419 ½ W. Vernon.

• A motion to waive the formal bidding process and accept an emergency repair order quotation from Peoria-based ThyssenKrupp Elevator, to complete repairs of an elevator at the Children’s Discovery Museum and approve a budget adjustment.

• A motion to authorize the preparation of the 2008 Property Tax Levy ordinance.

• A resolution to waive the formal bidding process and to authorize execution of an agreement with Tinley Park-based Resource Management Associates to perform testing services pertaining to the Fire Lieutenant Promotional Process.

• A resolution to waive the formal bidding process and to authorize execution of an agreement with Tinley Park-based Resource Management Associates to perform testing services pertaining to the Police Sergeant Promotional Process.

• A resolution accepting the public improvements in the Original, First, and Second Additions to North Fields Subdivision for Maintenance.

• A resolution accepting easement for Water Main Purposes – First Addition to The Oaks On Hovey PUD.

• A resolution accepting easement for Water Main Purposes – Grace Baptist Church.

• A conditional resolution approving a final plat for the Kings Mill Acres Subdivision.

• A resolution conditionally and partially approving the final plan for the Willow Trails Apartments planned unit development in the Town of Normal.

• An ordinance rezoning property east of Airport Rd. and north of the Vineyards I Subdivision in Normal.

• An ordinance rezoning property in the Interchange City West Subdivision.