By Steve Robinson | October 29, 2009 - 10:26 pm

VolleyballBLOOMINGTON – Morton High School head volleyball coach Darrin Johnson admitted after his team’s victory over Limestone High in the IHSA Class 3A Volleyball Sectional at Bloomington High School Wednesday that he felt his team “squeaked out a victory.”

In the closing moments of the third game, senior Shannon McGlaughlin set the ball for a kill by senior Heidi Schoenbein in the closing moments of game three, the ball winding up being missed by Limestone defenders.

The Potters won over Limestone with scores of 20-25, 25-10, and 25-23. Morton (22-11-1) will face host Bloomington High School (27-8) Saturday, starting at 6p.m.

Johnson said when his team faced Limestone earlier in the season, the Rockets were missing four of their key players making matters rather easy for the Rockets. But Thursday’s affair was very different.

“We knew this would not be the same kind of match that we had had before,” Johnson said.

“We were planning to advance to face Bloomington,” Johnson said. “Bloomington has beaten us earlier in the year, but at that time, we had one setter out and another was just coming back. Bloomington will see a different kind of team (in us on Saturday).

Johnson said the game two loss “didn’t totally surprise” him because he had seen this pattern before – losing a second game after winning a game one – against Metamora earlier in the season.

“It would have surprised me if we didn’t (win) the second and third games,” Johnson said.

Limestone (16-14) held an 18-9 lead, and Rockets senior hitter Katlyn Roos served the winning point in game one. In game two, Morton junior server Shelbi Ummel ran off six aces in the middle of game two, in the middle of a Potters’ 7-0 run that led to their first victory. Game three was the tightest of the the matches, with Morton winning on the McGlaughlin-Schoenbein collaboration play.

East Peoria Exits Against Bloomington: It was Raiders versus Raiders in the opening match, as East Peoria High took on the hosts, Bloomington High’s Purple Raiders. East Peoria gave BHS a battle in the first game before losing a 25-21 decision, but fell behind quickly in game two, losing 25-9.

The first match was tied 11 times, the last one coming at 21-all, before BHS began pulling away, match point coming on a kill by junior outside hitter Alina Agamy. Agamy ended the night with 10 kills. Game two was close in the early stages, but BHS began pulling away on the strength of serves by sophomore server Emily Burger, who garnered nine service points.

Three players from East Peoria (4-27) – sophomore middle hitter Shelby Lauterbach, junior outside hitters Tiffany McCarthy and Andrea Bury – each registered an ace when serving on the night. McCarthy and junior Shelby Scharp each had seven digs on the night.

Sophomore outside hitter Emily Burger ended her night with BHS (26-8) with nine service points and 17 assists. Agamy had eight service points, including three aces.

East Peoria head coach Melissa Kruse said that, in the first game, her troops played what she thought was “the best, honestly, that they had played the whole season.

“I was proud of them because they played as a team, all six girls – and even the girls who came in off the bench – came on strong,” Kruse said. “Their heads were in the game, they were focused, and they really applied the skills that we focused on this week in practice (which included) working on being a smart hitter and being an effective blocker.”

Too often during the season, Kruse said, her team found themselves hitting directly into an opponent’s block. These two games though, Kruse said, her team “found ways around the blocking.”

Between matches, BHS head coach Joe Sanders said he told his team they needed “to concentrate on executing on our side, and tried (to settle their nerves). It’s the first game of the postseason and I think some of the older (players) attached some emotional significance to the postseason because we’ve gotten into big games the longer it went on and lost. I told them, ‘guys, just relax. Let’s go out there and play our game.’”

By Steve Robinson | October 24, 2009 - 10:00 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – Jamarr Simon made up for lost time during Normal West High School’s Oct. 23 Big 12 Conference football season finale against Champaign Centennial at Wildcat Field.

In what was his final high school game, the 5 foot-11, 220 pound Simon plowed across a very muddy football field, garnering 215 yards on 23 carries, scoring three times, as did junior quarterback Tyler Marcordes, as Normal West beat back the Chargers, 46-26.

In a way, Simon was a man running to make up on a game he did not play in at the beginning of the season against Danville on Sept. 18.

Just four plays into this game, he set a personal rushing record for the season: Rushing for 1,000 yards in a high school season for the first time in his playing career.

Marcordes handed the ball to Simon six times during the Wildcats’ opening drive toward their first score on the night – an 11-play, 80 yard drive that ended with Simon scoring from six yards out at 6:35 in the first quarter. That put West up, 6-0, following the missed point-after by junior kicker Matthew Barnet.

“Yeah, it’s a big accomplishment for me,” Simon said. “It was something I wanted to do, but, personally, I just wanted to win (tonight).”

Champaign Centennial (4-5) responded with a touchdown of their own at the end of their first series of downs – a drive lasting 8 plays over 65 yards, ending with a 6-yard touchdown run by Shaquille Traylor at 2:42 in the first quarter. That tied the game at 6-all going into the second quarter, after the Wildcat defenders stopped the Chargers short on a two-point conversion run.

Normal West FootballWest (4-5) completed a drive begun in the late moments of the first quarter with another Simon running touchdown from 10 yards out, at 11:50 in the second quarter, completing a 6 play, 37 yard drive, increasing West’s lead to 13-6 after Barnet’s successful extra point.

The Chargers’ next drive after that touchdown stopped at West’s 49-yard line, resulted in a punt, which West sophomore defensive back Corey Ortiz blocked and returned to Centennial’s 43-yard line. One play later, Marcordes ran for a touchdown, increasing West’s lead, 19-6, following a missed extra point.

West went into the locker room at halftime with a 26-6 lead on a touchdown pass from Marcordes to senior Anthony Tucker at the 3:49 mark, followed by Barnet’s extra point.

West upped its lead to 33-6 on a 2-yard run by Marcordes at 3:11 in the third quarter, capping a 12-play, 63 yard march, followed up by another Barnet extra point.

Centennial struck back on a 72-yard pass from junior quarterback Jake Chestnut to senior wide receiver Tiger O’Neil at 2:59 in the third. Chestnut connected with senior running back Walter Odom for a successful two-point conversion, cutting West lead, 33-14.

Marcordes bolted for a 26-yard touchdown run with 36.9 seconds in the third, increasing West’s lead to 40-14, following Barnet’s successful point-after. The touchdown capped a 7-play, 55 yard drive for the Wildcats.

Chestnut connected with O’Neil for a second time on the night, at 5:26 in the fourth, on a 34-yard touchdown strike, cutting West’s lead to 40-20, following a missed two-point conversion try.

Simon scored the final touchdown of his high school career from 53 yards out, giving West a 46-20 lead, following Barnet’s missed extra point.

Champaign Centennial’s final score came in the closing moments of the game as Odom ran into the end zone from four yards out, arriving at the game’s final score after a missed two-point try.

Champaign CentennialMarcordes rushed behind Simon statistically, carrying the ball 20 times for 154 yards for Normal West. He was 2-for-3 passing for 34 yards.

Chestnut was 7-for-17 passing for 179 yards and one interception. Traylor was Champaign Centennial’s leading rusher, with 30 carries for 184 yards.

“We treated this week like our playoffs,” West head coach Darren Hess said. “Centennial came in here at 4-4, and we just kept getting better each game this year. I really feel like we’re a playoff caliber team, but unfortunately, we didn’t take care of business when we had to.

“This game was for our seniors tonight,” Hess added. “They’ve been great leaders in our program. My heart was aching for them because we couldn’t play another week. We wanted to send a message tonight, and I think we did against a very physical and big Centennial team.

“Marcordes and Simon had a great offensive night for us, and, we were just very physical on defense minus a few plays,” Hess added. “But I think we just really sent a message.”

Admitting his team had trouble containing Simon and Marcordes, Champaign Centennial head coach Mike McDonnell summed up the contest by saying, “Normal West made plays, and we made plays. Theirs were better. That’s not an excuse. We had some guys out (for both medical and academic reasons).”

By Steve Robinson | October 20, 2009 - 5:41 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – The current recession had Normal Town Council members looking at its money from two perspectives: How the Town could find ways to tighten its budget, and, simultaneously, find ways to raise cash.

“We are experiencing, here in Normal, what every other town in the country has experienced,” said City Manager Mark Peterson, in kicking off the conversation.

“We’re looking for ways to increase revenue while looking at ways to cut costs,” he said. Peterson added he didn’t know how long it would be or how long it would last.

Peterson said the Town likes to keep $4.8 million in reserve to pay for emergencies.

He said it was important that the Town be “proactive” financially. He said that, “for the first time in a long time, we missed our revenue projections.”

Peterson added: “The good news is we’re still in the black and it’s important we take a 3-4 year projection.”

“We’re going to take a hard look a where the cash flow ought to be,” Mayor Chris Koos said.

“This will not last forever, but we probably will need to come back to you to see about getting fund balances up to 10 percent,” Peterson said.

“We’ve cut around the edges and increased some fees,” said Council member Adam Nielsen. “The natural inclination is to cut one’s way out of this.”

Nielsen said he wanted to make sure Normal avoided a deficit-spending situation “at all costs.”

“If we don’t do something, we risk falling into deficit spending in two years,” Nielsen said.

Among the ways suggested by Peterson and Finance Director Ron Hill that the Town could cut costs included postponing a number of capital budget items and a reduction the Town’s vehicle replacement fund.

Peterson said other cities have resorted to wage freezes for non-contract employees, as well as furloughing some employees. The problem with furloughing employees, Peterson said, is that those cuts can lead to reduction in service to the community.

Council member Sonja Reece said, in light of what faces the Town as a result of any action taken by the Council, “(The Town) will learn new ways to do business other than business as usual.”

As a means to begin the process of reducing costs, Council members unanimously passed a motion authorizing Peterson to implement a Voluntary Separation Incentive Program. Some of the employees who volunteer to take advantage of this form of retirement would not be replaced, which would lead to salary savings.

Those that would be replaced would be those Town employees who help the Town maintain essential services.

TIF District For One Normal Plaza Approved: Council members passed an ordinance approving a tax increment redeveloping plan for One Normal Plaza. The Council held a public hearing last month allowing citizens to comment on the proposed Tax Increment Financing district. No one spoke at that hearing. State law requires a TIF district be created in no less than 14 days nor more than 90 days after the hearing.

Parks & Recreation Employee Honored: Prior to the start of the Council session, Mayor Koos recognized a Town employee for service in the military. Clint Johnson, a Park Maintenance Division employee, was honored with a resolution of appreciation prior to the beginning of the Council session.

Johnson serves as a specialist in the 33rd Brigade, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion of the 130th Infantry of the Illinois Army National Guard, and was called to active duty and saw military action in Afghanistan over the past year.

Johnson was deployed to the Middle East and spent 10 months performing security duty as a member of the Provincial Reconstruction Team. While in Afghanistan, a vehicle Johnson was riding in was damaged by an Improvised Explosive Device. Luckily, Johnson suffered only minor injuries as a result of the blast.

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

• Approval of minutes of the Council’s regular meeting held Oct. 5, 2009.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Oct.14, 2009.

• A motion to accept the Water Treatment Plant chemical bids for November 2009 through October 2010.

• A motion to approve a $10,500 funding request submitted by the YWCA of McLean County for the Wheels To Work Program.

• A resolution authorizing an extension and rate adjustment to a contract with Towanda-based Laesch Electric, Inc. for traffic control equipment and highway lighting maintenance.

• A resolution authorizing execution of a pipeline crossing agreement.

• A resolution authorizing a purchase agreement with Northern Illinois Gas Company (NICOR) for a parcel of property located on the proposed site of the Multimodal Transportation Center in the amount of $3,000 plus attorney fees.

• An ordinance rezoning property in the Town of Normal – Calvary United Methodist Church (Northeast corner of Raab Rd. and Towanda Ave.).

• An ordinance annexing property to the Town of Normal – Corn Belt Energy Corporation.

By Steve Robinson | October 18, 2009 - 5:50 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Members of Normal’s Unit 5 School Board received a construction update at the group’s last meeting on Oct. 14 at District headquarters, and what they heard was pretty much what they have heard most of the summer: Work on two new elementary schools has progressed, while work on a new junior high has run into weather-related snags.

Richard Ach, representing Chicago-based Turner Construction, gave a progress report on the construction of three schools for which voters approved money for by passing a $96.7 million construction and renovation referendum in February 2008.

Persistent rain has set parts of the project back, pushing back the proposed completion date for the school until mid-August, Ach had reported previously to the Board. At the Board meeting, Ach said the school’s perimeter foundation walls were “pretty much done,” and that the walls of the school’s gym were up.

Because of the weather-related delays at George L. Evans Junior High, Ach said work crews had found the location “a more challenging site.”

Ach reported the steel deck for the beginning of the school’s second floor had been installed, and the north and south drives to the school and the parking lot had been completed. Ach said his group was two weeks away from adding electricity to the building. He said roof installation has begun at Benjamin Elementary School.

Rainy weather has caused Turner Construction’s crews to lose 53 days of work at the Evans Junior High site, Ach said.

He said Benjamin Elementary and Cedar Ridge Elementary will both be ready by either late April or early May.

Financial Consultant’s Contract Renewed: Board members voted unanimously to renew the District’s contract with PMA Financial Services for the 2009-2010 school year at a net cost to Unit 5 of $4,000. The base amount PMA charged for the services is $5,750, but because Unit 5 has been using PMA for investment consulting previously, the cost of the contract is arrived at after receiving a discount totaling $1,750.

New Buses Purchased: Board members approved the leasing of four 77-passenger buses from Kankakee-based Midwest Transit Equipment at a cost of $39,032. Jim Gillmeister, Unit 5’s Chief Financial Officer, and Joe Adelman, Unit 5’s director of operations, explained to Board members that some equipment disposal has led to a shortage of spare buses, thus requiring the need for new buses. Gillmeister said one of the new buses would replace one which was totaled in an accident last year.

Concerning another transportation matter, District Superintendent Gary Niehaus informed Board members Unit 5 has only received one-quarter of the reimbursement payments for transportation it was expecting from the State of Illinois.

Energy Costs Reduced: Board members heard from Bruce Boswell, the district’s energy education specialist, concerning a study the district had asked for concerning progress in energy conservation and savings. Unit 5 had asked for this report four years ago as part of a study.

Boswell indicated in his report to the Board that, despite increases in student population (up 10.5 percent), the number of buses used (up 16.7 percent), square footage, and utility rates, there has been a reduction in energy used by the district.

District’s “Good News”: Four Board members were recognized by the Board for being honored by the Illinois Association of School Boards. IASB recognized both Board President Meta Mickens-Baker and Board member Gail Ann Briggs for maintaining their individual IASB Master Status within the organization.

The Board also recognized Board member Mark Pritchett for his reached Level I status in the IASB Awards Program. Board member John Puzauskas was also recognized by IASB for having reached Level I status.

Unit 5 mapPepper Ridge Elementary’s “Good News”: Kim Page, social worker at Pepper Ridge Elementary, was recognized in a “good news” item from her school for the way she performs her duties, according to a memo to the district submitted by her school’s principal, Sarah Edwards.

Page has been active in the school’s immunization and registration program this summer, as well as developing club activities for the children during their recess period.

Requests For Redistricting: Board members have approved redistricting for students which will begin in the 2010-2011 school year. And after Board members approved requests for redistricting could be done, District headquarters received 31 requests from parents of students who wanted to make such a change, according to John Pye, assistant superintendent for human relations, in addressing the Board.

The passage of the exceptions was a measure that would assure that students who begin their high school careers in one of the district’s two high schools would be able to complete their four-year careers where they started.

In his monthly report concerning attendance, Pye explained class size for students in kindergarten through fifth grade had an average of 22.7 students per class. At the same time last year, only the total of first grade students in the District was below 1,000, Pye explained.

He said Unit 5 had a total of 330 students, ages 3-5, who were receiving special education services at this time. That is up from the 298 students of that age who were receiving such services at the same time last year.

In its same-day enrollment report, on Sept. 30, Unit 5 had 12,890 students in class that day, compared to 12,689 students on the same day last year, an increase of 201 students, or 1.58 percent.

All but four of the District’s 15 elementary schools saw increases in their populations, compared to last year. The three that lost students from over the same period last year were Brigham (minus 2 students from last year); Carlock (minus 16 students); Glenn (minus 3 students); and Parkside (minus 1 student). One school, Sugar Creek, had no change in its population over the same day figure from last year, again reporting 278 students, as it had done last year.

Two of the District’s three junior highs reported drops in population for the same day count over last year. Chiddix Junior High reported a population of 844 students, down 61 students from the year before. Kingsley Junior High’s population dropped by 35 students over the same day last year, reporting 1,029 students in class. Parkside Junior High gained 23 students from the same day last year, reporting 925 students attending.

With a combined population of 3,585 students, the district’s two high schools, Normal Community High and Normal Community West High, reported a combined increase in population of 49 students, or 1.39 percent.

Music Parents’ Annual Spaghetti Night Set: The Music Parents of Normal Community High School and Normal Community West High School will hold their annual Spaghetti Night at both schools on Monday, Nov. 2 from 5p.m.-7:30p.m., with performances until 8:30p.m.

By Steve Robinson | October 17, 2009 - 10:14 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

FootballNORMAL – Two competing philosophies were in play before Normal Community High’s homecoming game against Danville Friday, Oct. 16.

NCHS was determined to be the first to hand the Vikings a first loss on the season, while at the same time, determined to hold its ground by earning another victory against just one loss.

Yet, after days of rain in the Twin Cities, holding their ground became difficult for anybody who stepped onto a very muddy field at Ironmen Stadium, contributing to Danville’s 12-6 victory.

“It was a tough night’s footing for everybody, both teams,” said Danville head coach B. J. Luke. “But I was real pleased with how our kids stuck their noses in there and got after it.

NCHS (6-2) scored first in the Big 12 Conference game, on the Ironmen’s first series of downs after winning the right to receive the kickoff. Junior running back Keegan McIntosh ran the ball in from three yards out at 8:37 in the first quarter, giving NCHS a quick 6-0 lead, but the extra point sailed wide right.

NCHS FootballDanville (8-0) scored with 3:12 left in the second quarter on a 4-yard run by junior running back Justin March, capping off a 9-play, 80-yard drive. Danville opted for a two-point play, which Ironmen defenders broke up. That tied the game at 6-all – the score both teams lived with going into halftime.

Danville head coach B. J. Luke admitted weather was a factor in the decision to not kick an extra point.

“We’re not outstanding when kicking extra points in the first place,” Luke admitted after the game. “We’re decent (at it) when there’s dry weather. But in the mess here, we felt like we had a better chance of (scoring) two, and then putting some pressure on NCHS that way.”

In addition, the player who normally serves as the holder on field goals, senior running back Mario Crosby, was injured and not playing, Luke said, forcing the Vikings into resorting to two-point trys.

After a scoreless third quarter, the Vikings began the fourth quarter receiving a punt and returning it, beginning work from their own 38-yard line. Nine plays later, senior quarterback Malcolm Anderson connected with senior tight end Cameron Ford from 8 yards out to put the Vikings ahead, 12-6, following another failed two-point try.

“The (field) conditions were the same for both teams,” Ironmen head coach Wes Temples said. He would not comment on what affect the conditions of the field played in the contest.

“Both teams had to play in it. I thought our team played hard,” Temples said. “We just didn’t make enough plays.”

Danville VikingsTemples said his players had been practicing on Ironmen Field all week and knew what the condition of the field was prior to the game, but did not consider altering his team’s playing style because of those conditions.

Luke said his team had no idea of the field conditions they were going to be facing. “We thought we were going to be coming to a field that was in pretty good shape. We thought we were coming into pretty good conditions.”

Luke said he had checked the weather on the internet and, from what he saw, it looked to him as though rain, or more accurately, a muddy field resulting from rain, would not be an issue for either team.

The Ironmen finish the regular season at Champaign Central on Friday night.