By Steve Robinson | March 24, 2012 - 10:02 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Baseball season will have just gotten underway and high school baseball and softball teams will be in the midst of their seasons on Saturday, April 14, but two coaches of freshman football at Normal Community West High School would like junior high kids to consider spending that day playing some Flag Football for a good cause.

“Competition For Cory” will be held at Kingsley Junior High School’s Truman Keys Field to help raise money to help Normal Community West High senior running back/defensive back Cory Ortiz and his family pay for medical expenses resulting from a season-ending injury Cory suffered last September. During a Wildcats away game against Danville on Sept. 23, Cory had the artery in his right elbow severed during a tackle. It was an injury that required emergency surgery at the time, and a total of seven surgeries to completely repair. Cory, to date, has had three surgeries with four to go.

Because Ortiz’s folks are independent business people, they were responsible for the first $10,000 worth of medical costs before their insurance deductible would kick in during the calendar year 2011. The same stipulation kicked in for calendar year 2012, too. The funds raised at “Competition For Cory” will go toward earning the $20,000 total needed.

What play got Cory into this circumstance? “It was a pass play, and I caught the ball and ran a curl route,” Cory said. “I tried to run and was tackled and landed with my arm on the ground, and some kid landed on it, and my arm bent 90 degrees in the opposite direction from how it should,” Cory explained.

He was Life Flighted to a hospital in Champaign where he had one surgery to begin repairing the arm. But, as I say, he has needed seven operations and meeting that deductible twice over two separate calendar years hasn’t been a pleasant prospect for Cory or his folks.

Enter now into the picture Brian Wiltz and Aaron Ellison, two coaches from Normal West’s freshman football squad. Knowing the enormity of the cost facing the Ortiz family weighed on their minds.

“It was a tandem idea of ours,” Ellison said of the notion he and Wiltz gave thought and then put into action with the blessing and appreciation of Cory and his parents.

“We both wanted to do something and we thought football would be the best way to go,” Ellison said. “Cory came to our house for dinner shortly after this all started, and I just knew that some more had to be done to help the situation.”

“The situation,” as Ellison labeled it, had both coaches pondering how they could help Cory and his family out. It was Wiltz who had the Flag Football concept dawn on him.

Cory’s college plans have him attending Utah’s Brigham Young University this fall. He said he has been considering trying out for the Cougars as a walk-on once his arm completely heals.

His return – that is, potentially trying out at BYU – added to having just recovered from the injury by then could make some wary of the idea of playing again. Cory said his mother is a member of that camp. But, he added, “I have a passion for the game.” So passion will try to win out in this case.

As for the “Competition For Cory” event itself, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade boys and girls will play on five-person teams. Normal West players will serve as referees and in other capacities during the event. Wiltz said fliers have gone out to “every middle school in McLean County and beyond, practically.” Links to the team application page as well as other details can be found on Normal West’s Football website,

Cory said that, with every surgery, his strength in the afflicted elbow is returning. He said every surgery gives him hope for a complete recovery.

Wiltz said this event has ways for adults to become involved, too, in addition to donating so their kids can play. The event’s organizers are looking for sponsors, as well as holding a silent auction to raise money at the event as well. There will be inflatables and other fun activities for kids younger that those who will be on teams, so they can enjoy the event as well, Wiltz said.

Wiltz said this is a unique situation, and with that, I would agree. The entire circumstance – from the injury that caused it to the solution for solving at least a portion of the financial need that will hopefully be responded to in order to help solve the problem – are unique in their own way, as well. Here’s hoping the event is a big success. I plan on dropping in on it, so I’ll let you know how things turn out.

On another subject, congratulations to University High’s Softball team, and their new head coach, Al Toliver, for getting the 2012 season and Toliver’s tenure at the helm, off to a great start. The Pioneers managed an 8-6 come-from-behind victory over Bloomington High School last week to start the season.

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members heard from members of the public concerning the recent dismissal by the Town of Shari Buckellew, manager of the Children’s Discovery Museum. Buckellew, who had been with the museum since 2004, was fired during a meeting with Normal City Manager Mark Peterson on March 9.

The Town issued a four paragraph statement to the media that afternoon, indicating that a search for a new museum manager would begin immediately, and that Carol Struck would serve as the museum’s interim manager, effective March 12. The press release did not state a specific reason for Buckellew’s firing.

In the days since Buckellew’s dismissal and the memo issued by the Town, local citizens have written to and spoken to the media about not only how Buckellew’s dismissal was handled, but also were asking for an audience with Council members to vent their opinions further.

Following the regular Council session at Normal City Hall on March 19, employees, volunteers, and supporters of Buckellew – numbering around 60 — attended a Council executive session meeting where they voiced their support for Buckellew and their objections to her dismissal. Because it was an executive session dealing with a matter that had already been decided by the Town, Council members did not comment on Buckellew’s firing.

But 17 people in attendance did not mince words with Council members over it.

Among them was Jane Smolen, who told Council members that, as she saw it, the process to remove Buckellew from her post “not only seemed to demean Buckellew but also seemed to disregard stated Town policies as detailed in the Town Municipal Code.

“I am concerned about not only how the Town looks to others, but how our town actually treats its employees,” Smolen said. “The City Manager’s actions may well affect how our town is perceived by prospective employees as well as prospective investors.” Smollen said prospective replacements for Buckellew’s post would only have to use Google to look up the Town, Buckellew, or the Children’s Discovery Museum to get a snapshot of the situation.

Smolen suggested Council members “investigate and review the circumstances surrounding Ms. Buckellew’s dismissal, including the use of proper procedures.” Smollen also added Council look into her associations with the Museum board, donors, and the Town Council.

Holly Schurter, a Normal resident who had exchanged emails with Peterson on the issue, told Council members, “I understand Mr. Peterson felt he had reason to act as he did. He wants a change in leadership at the Children’s Discovery Museum. It appears he felt anything was justified to get that change in leadership, even to the point of humiliating a city employee when, in his own words, there were no allegations of misconduct.”

“I would ask you, Mayor Koos and Council members, to reflect on how your city management dismissal process of Shari Buckellew has affected the museum staff, donors, citizens, and Shari Buckellew – beloved founder and first manager of the Children’s Discovery Museum — herself,” added Laura Berk, a donor to the museum. “I urge you to set right the manner in which personnel changes are made in the Town of Normal.”

Normal resident Karen Stephens queried Council members as to whether any sort of probation, or mediation with the Town to save her job, was offered to Buckellew. “Until I hear otherwise, I have to assume every one of you fired Shari Buckellew,” Stephens said.

Some in the audience wondered why Peterson was not present for the session. Koos told the gathering he suggested the Council hear the citizens’ comments without Peterson present.

Council Approves Agreement With Chicago Developer For Uptown One: Council members unanimously approved a resolution authorizing selecting and executing an agreement for the Uptown One site in Uptown Normal with Tartan Realty Group and Harlem Irving Companies, Chicago-based developers.

During a special session the Council held last month at the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel and Convention Center, four developers, including Tartan Realty Group and Harlem Irving Properties presented their own vision of what sort of facility should go into the plot of land known as Uptown One Development.

Tartan Realty Group and Harlem Irving Properties is proposing a mixed-use project including 5,900 sq. ft. for a American Bistro Steakhouse, 6,280 sq. ft. for a health spa, and first floor space for a five-story boutique hotel. The five floors above the restaurant would have a mix of 85 one-, two-, and three-bedroom “condo quality” apartments. Tartan Realty Group and Harlem Irving Properties is putting the total estimated cost of the project at $20.5 million, estimating between $3 million-$5 million worth of public investment. The developer would build the project. There would be limited parking in the underground portion of the building, with the rest to be at Uptown Station.

Council Approves Transit Board Appointment: Council members unanimously approved the appointment of Mike McCurdy to the Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System Board of Trustees. He will serve out the remainder of a term currently being served by Peterson. Peterson is vacating the post, and by Town ordinance, becoming an ex-officio non-voting member of the Board.

McCurdy’s interest in local sustainable transportation has been paralleled by his bicycling to work for over the past four years. McCurdy, who is program director at WGLT FM, Illinois State University’s National Public Radio affiliate, was instrumental in beginning a community sustainable transportation project called, “Good To Go,” which is a year-round campaign to promote events and services related to sustainable transportation.

A Twin Cities resident for nearly 20 years, McCurdy began his employment at WGLT in 1991, serving as news director. He was promoted to Program Director five years later. He and his wife, Lisa Wills, have been married for 12 years.

Liquor Commission Renews 67 Licenses: Prior to the Council session, Council members, acting as the Normal Local Liquor Commission, unanimously voted to renew the liquor licenses of 67 businesses that serve liquor in one form or another. Among the licenses renewed, three were catering licenses; eight were for outdoor garden and sidewalk cafes; 11 were for wine tasting; one pari-mutuel betting parlor license; seven entertainment permits; two hotels; one brewpub; and one stadium.

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

• Approval of minutes of the Public Hearing of March 5, 2012.

• Approval of minutes of the Regular Meeting of March 5, 2012.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of March 14, 2012.

• A motion to award the bid for meter vault installations to Bloomington-based Stark Excavating, Inc. in the amount of $97,740 and approve the associated budget adjustment.

• A motion to approve the purchase of two 2012 Mitsubishi Galants from Normal-based O’Brien Mitsubishi – fleet purchasing program in the amount of $27,862.26.

• A motion to authorize Town Staff to work with Oakland, Calif.-based The Stone River Group to seek bids for bulk purchase of electricity for Town facilities.

• A motion to initiate zoning text amendments – Division 13 (Signs).

• A resolution authorizing an agreement for construction materials testing services for the 2012 construction season with Carol Stream, Ill.-based Testing Service Corporation (TSC).

• A resolution authorizing approval of change orders associated with the Gateway Plaza Cistern Project in the amount of $26,884.64 to furnish and install a cistern control vault and to remove and replace electrical lines in conflict with the water storage cistern.

• A resolution authorizing execution of an agreement with Indianapolis-based Tank Industry Consultants for evaluation, engineering, contract administration, testing, and construction services for the elevated Tank #3 rehabilitation project.

• A resolution waiving formal bidding process and accepting a proposal from Stark Excavating, Inc. in the amount of $184,600 for the construction of concrete foundations for a pedestrian walkway over the railroad on the north side of the tracks adjacent to the Gateway Plaza and approval of an associated budget adjustment.

• A resolution ratifying the execution of an agreement with the National Railroad Passengers Corporation (Amtrak) regarding relocation activities and the move of Amtrak to the Uptown Station.

• A resolution authorizing an agreement with the National Railroad Passengers Corporation (Amtrak) for a passenger platform sublease and agreement for construction, operation, and maintenance of the new Normal, Illinois Passenger Platform.

• A resolution conditionally and partially approving a final plat of the resubdivision of Lot 7 of BroMenn Healthcare Subdivision 2nd addition by expedited process.

• An ordinance vacating a portion of Franklin Ave.

• An ordinance authorizing the publication of a zoning map.

• An ordinance amending Division 9 of Chapter 10 of the Town of Normal Municipal Code – Board of Fire and Police Commission.

• An ordinance amending the operating structure of the Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System.

By Steve Robinson | March 15, 2012 - 10:38 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Changes at the top of Normal-based Unit 5 schools continue as District Board members were introduced to the new principal of Normal Community West High School and two other employees whose promotions were announced during the Board’s March 14 regular session at district headquarters.

David Johnson was introduced to Board members as the new principal at Normal Community West High School, effective July 1. He will replace Tom Eder, who was named director of secondary education for the district last month. Johnson has been Associate Principal at Normal West since 2004, and has been at the school since 1995. A graduate of University of Illinois, Johnson has a degree in Bachelor’s degree in Teaching of Chemistry. He earned a Master’s degree from Illinois State University. He also has a superintendent’s endorsement from ISU, as well. Johnson and his wife, Kelly, have four children.

Nicole Maurer was named associate principal at Normal Community High School. Currently serving as the chair of the English department for the school, Maurer has been a teacher at NCHS for 11 years, and at NCHS for the past seven of them. Previous to arriving at NCHS, Maurer taught school in Chicago and Colfax. She replaces David Bollman, who was named principal at NCHS last month. She and her husband, Jon, have two children.

Bruce Weldy, currently principal at Northpoint Elementary School, has been named director of elementary education for the district. Weldy has been in the current post since 2004, and prior to arriving at Northpoint, was principal at Brigham Elementary for five years, and four years as principal at Sugar Creek Elementary. Prior to becoming an administrator, Weldy taught at Northpoint Elementary, and also taught in Lexington and Odell.

Weldy graduated from ISU with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. He also received a Master’s degree and superintendent endorsement from ISU. He will replace Kurt Swearingen, who is retiring in June. Weldy and his wife, Theresa, have one daughter.

April 11 Public Hearing, Board Meeting To Be At NCHS: A public hearing on the matter of the Board’s decision to seek bids for a contractor for it’s the district’s busing operations will take place on Wednesday, April 11 at Normal Community High School, beginning at 5p.m. This hearing will take place prior to the regularly scheduled Board meeting, which will begin at NCHS at 7p.m. The hearing was scheduled for March, but was postponed. In December Board members voted unanimously to seek bids for a contractor for its busing operations over the objections of drivers currently employed by the district.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Renee Nestler, staff representative for AFSCME Council 31, the union representing the drivers, told Board members, “Outsourcing this department is a bad idea. It is a waste of time, energy, resources, and will only create additional problems as process and procedures will change, not only for the affected employees, but as well for the parents, students, and community.”

Community Action Committee Reports Accepted: Board members unanimously agreed to accept four reports Unit 5’s Community Action Committee has spent the school year working on. The subjects CAC delved into this school year were: Alternative methods for financing school construction; Wellness initiatives; Incorporating technology into the K-12 curriculum; and the relationship between Social networking and learning.

Benjamin Elementary’s “Good News”: Board members were introduced to Benjamin Elementary School third grade teacher Jennifer Gibson, by her principal Marlys Bennington. Bennnngton said Gibson consistently works to meet the specific, individual needs of her students. Students in Gibson’s classroom have a variety of needs from learning disabilities to being gifted and talented.

This year, Gibson demonstrated her skill of meeting individual needs and helping her students to learn through an opportunity that she offered to a student with a visual impairment. A student in her class, named Jake, has Nystagmus/low vision. To help his classmates and others understand his condition, Gibson suggested having Jake give a presentation to his class to explain his condition.

Gibson coordinated this presentation with the help of Jake’s parents and Jan Harrell, Unit 5’s vision consultant. The third grade students, totaling 55 in all were divided into two groups, as well as to several adults for his presentation, Jake presented to half of the students, using a power point and props, while the other half of those in attendance had the opportunity to try out special goggles that simulated the effect of Nystagmus, so they could have a better understanding of how Jake sees.

Jake’s parents had purchased a book about Nystagmus and had shared this with Gibson. In turn, Gibson made sure that all staff members who work with Jake had the opportunity to read this book to better understand the condition.

Kingsley Junior High’s “Good News”: Board members received the chance to hear about Kingsley Junior High School’s 8th grade boys’ basketball team’s most recent triumph, having won the Illinois Elementary School Association’s 8th Grade 4A State Championship on February 16, 2012, beating Bolingbrook Jane Addams, 44-38. As it turns out, Bolingbrook Jane Addams is the same team they beat for the 7th grade championship in 2011, as well. Head Coach Clint Carden along with assistant coaches, Scott Vogel, Ben Matthews, Kody Hill, and Alex Lorsbach, and their 8th grade team finished with a 26-0 undefeated season. An all-school assembly was held in their honor on February 22.

Members of the team are: Ethan Pogge, Joe Hughes, Josh Robinson, Peyton Zehr, Alec Bozarth, Dalton Cremeens, Andrew Jennings, Damone Jones, Jim Leone, Emmanuel Ndjoli, Riley Rahuba, Aiden Rich, Griffin Stiles, Hayden Stoewer, and Mitch Turner. The 8th grade managers were Zach Frey, Justin Gorczyca, Drew Klein, Kyle Shoemaker, and Alec Trela.

Each member of the team and the team managers received certificates of achievement, presented to them by KJHS Principal Dr. Lynette Mehall, and State Rep. Dan Brady (R-88th District).

By Steve Robinson | March 11, 2012 - 10:32 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

PEORIA – A third quarter 7-0 run by Breese Central High School acted as a barrier in front of University High’s quest for an Illinois High School Association Class 2A State Basketball Championship, as the Cougars defeated the Pioneers, 53-47, Saturday in front of roughly 2,300 fans at Carver Arena.

The first quarter ended in a 9-9 tie, the lead having changed hands four times, with Breese guard Jacob Timmermann’s tying basket with 50.4 seconds left in the period being the last shot of the quarter.

A pair of threes by senior guard Kyle Morris would lift U-High (28-5) 15-13 with 4:42 until halftime. But Breese (35-1) would retake the lead, 17-15, with 3:10 remaining, courtesy of jumpers from junior forward Austin Rickhoff and senior center Brandon Book.

Two free throws by Pioneers sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop would tie the contest at 17-all with 2:58 remaining in the quarter. From there, head coach Bob Fitzgerald’s troops went on a 5-0 run to close out the half, leading 22-17, on a pair of baskets by sophomore forward Kane Wildermuth and a free throw by senior guard Kurtis Ellis.

After of pair of free throws by Book, pulling Breese in by three, 22-19, the Pioneers increased their lead, 24-19, on a deuce by senior center Mitch Styczynski. From there, Breese went on a 7-0 tear, highlighted by Book’s three-pointer at the 3:18 mark, putting the Cougars up, 26-24. Book would add two more baskets, including a trey, and two free throws to give Breese a 34-28 lead going into the fourth quarter.

U-High would be down by as many as 10, 41-31, before mounting a comeback on baskets by Bates-Diop, Ellis, and sophomore forward Malik Wildermuth, coming within four, 41-37 with 2:42 left.

But Pioneers four trouble would send Book and senior guard Nick Grapperhaus to the free throw line, where they would score a combined 4-for-6, pushing Breese ahead, 46-40, with 1:13 left.

The Pioneers would muster another comeback from there, pulling within two, 49-47 on free throws by junior forward Nick Schroeder and Ellis, combined with two baskets by Styczynski. But the Pioneers would have just 11.2 seconds left and need two possessions to catch the Cougars.

But in those closing seconds, Morris would twice foul Grapperhaus, who would go a perfect 4-for-4 from the line for the final score.

Book was the lone Breese player in double digits, scoring 28. Styczynski was the lone Pioneers player in double figures, scoring 10.

Breese head coach Stan Eagleson, in relaying his happiness at the victory, told The Belleville News-Democrat newspaper, “We’ve been here and I wouldn’t trade those times we brought those other teams up here for anything, but this is the icing on the cake. This is for all the Cougars.”

“It’s a sad time for us right now,” U-High’s Bates-Diop told reporters. “It was a successful season, especially after the season we had last season to this year. We finally made it to Peoria.

Although the loss was a tough memory to live with, Fitzgerald said, “I tried to explain to these kids that when you win 28 games in a basketball season, that puts you down as one of the best U-High teams in history. We’ve got three trophies sitting in a case outside the gym. Tonight, they got a fourth.

“We’re going to put their names on that trophy,” Fitzgerald said. “Twenty years from now, they’re going to be able to walk through and tell their kids, ‘there’s Daddy’s name on that trophy.’ They don’t get that now. It’s hard for all of us to get it right now. But they’ll get it. They all will.”

Pioneers Beat Rockford Lutheran In Semi-Final: The Pioneers reached the title game with a 55-52 victory over Rockford Lutheran at Carver Arena on March 9. That same day, Breese Central beat South Holland Seton Academy, 57-47.

In the game against Rockford Lutheran, U-High jumped out to a fast 6-0 lead on baskets by Ellis, senior center Bryn Agnew, and Schroeder. A fast three by Crusaders guard Tarence Roby cut that lead, 6-3, with five minutes left in the opening quarter. But the Pioneers forged ahead on another 6-0 run with baskets by Bates-Diop, Ellis, and Morris pushing their team in front. The Pioneers owned a 16-8 lead going into the second quarter as a result.

U-High held the Crusaders off while pushing their lead to 20-16, when Rockford Lutheran, behind baskets by Roby, guard Alex Oates, and Nate Wieting cut U-High’s lead, 27-20 with 2:18 remaining in the second quarter.

Following a Bates-Diop jumper, which gave the Pioneers a 29-20 lead, Weiting hit back-to-back answered deuces, pulling the Crusaders within five, 29-24, with 35 seconds left. The Pioneers went up 31-24 on two Ellis free throws, but Rockford Lutheran closed out the half on a trey by guard Thomas Kopelman, slicing the Pioneers’ lead at halftime, 31-27.

Rockford Lutheran pushed to within two, 33-31, as the third quarter began, on baskets by Roby and a free throw from forward Teyvious Montgomery. Pioneers free throws and a basket by Bates-Diop, combined with two baskets from Ellis pushed U-High forward, 41-35 with 1:12 left in the quarter, en route to a 43-38 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Rockford Lutheran opened the game’s final period with a 5-0 run with deuces from guard Derek Seyller and Kopelman, and a free throw by Oates, tying the game at 43-all with 6:21 left in the contest.

An Ellis deuce and a trey by Morris put the Pioneers on a 5-0 run of their own, pushing U-High’s lead to 48-43, with 5:28 left. Two free throws by Roby cut that lead to 48-45 with 5:20 left. Rockford Lutheran’s closest chance to overtake the Pioneers came with help from back-to-back treys by Seyller and Oates, cutting the Pioneers’ lead, 53-52, with 1:04 remaining. Bates-Diop would score a deuce with 40 seconds remaining, giving U-High a 55-52 lead. Rockford Lutheran would use two timeouts to assess the situation, the last one coming with 7.3 seconds remaining.

With the seconds coming off the clock, the Crusaders got the ball to Montgomery, standing just beyond the arc, who fired the potential tying three. But the ball smacked the backboard and bounced away as the buzzer sounded. For the next few moments after that, Montgomery was lying on his stomach, his hands covering his face until one of his coaches walked by to help him to his feet.

Bates-Diop led U-High in scoring with 16 points, followed by 13 from Ellis. Roby was the only player in double-digits for Rockford Lutheran with 13.

“It was a tough game,” Fitzgerald said. “We knew coming in that Rockford Lutheran was a full board team, and that they were going to push the basketball on us. For a while, there, we were just trying to find a way to get baskets.”

For Rockford Lutheran head coach Tom Guse “there were no excuses” for his team’s loss, despite out-rebounding the Pioneers by one, 33-32. “That just shows the character and heart that this group has,” he said. “There are a lot of plays that we left out there that could have gone either way. But that’s what happens when you play good teams.

“You have to give them credit,” Guse said about U-High. “When you get this far, you’re really doing good. You’re one of the top four teams in the state, and we just came up a little short, but very proud.”

By Steve Robinson | March 10, 2012 - 9:35 am
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Three young ladies from the local area were vying to be the top free throw shooter in the state while the State Girls’ Basketball Tournament was at Redbird Arena the past few weekends. Maggie Hayes, from Central Catholic High School, had her shot, or more accurately, shots, at the title when Class 1A and Class 2A schools competed in late February. I will tell you more about her shortly.

The next weekend, University High senior Sarah Telling in Class 3A, and Sara Freed in Class 4A gave it their best shot. Telling made 9 successful treys, while Freed made 7.

Freed called the experience of shooting treys on the larger stage of Redbird Arena, in comparison to doing it at NCHS’ gym, “pretty nerve-racking.”

“It’s a lot different shooting here compared to the high school,” Freed said about shooting threes at the home of the Illinois State University Redbirds. “The brighter lights in Redbird Arena make the whole place seem bigger,” Freed said. “”Those lights make it more intimidating. They make the baskt look like it’s further away.”

Freed’s preparation for this event under the lights was interesting because she rotated where she practiced her shots, changing the venues where she took her 3-point practices on a nightly basis. Those locations included NCHS’ gym, the Four Seasons Club in Bloomington, or in front of her house. She said she did that just to adjust to going through the three-point competition at different gyms.

“You’ve got to change up the basket each and every time you practice, and get your shot down, too,” Freed said. “That way, when you get to State for this event, the situation won’t seem so different.” Her regimen of practice for this event began when competition in girls’ regionals began in February.

Freed had a fan base of roughly 25 friends and relatives in attendance, sitting primarily in one section behind the basket at the north end of Redbird Arena to watch her in action, cheering every basket, rooting for her all the way.

I discovered basketball runs in Freed’s family. Her mother, the former Julie Riddle, now married to David Freed, played basketball and softball, and ran in track & field events as a student at Lexington High School. Julie joked that the experience of watching Sara was nerve-racking for her, too, following it up with a good laugh.

“I could see her determination,” Julie said, talking about the look on her daughter’s face as she went through the competition. “It was in her heart.”

The younger Freed will attend ISU this fall, but is not going to be on any of the Redbirds’ Womens’ sports teams.

For Telling, there wasn’t a real regimen involved with her trying to compete in the 3-Point Competition. “I just practice as much as I can,” she said, adding she tried to get in between 30 to 60 minutes of practice in daily. Telling rotated her practices. She went between U-High and Illinois Wesleyan University’s home court, the Shirk Center, to get used to a longer venue.

Telling is going to attend St. Ambrose University, based in Davenport, Iowa in the fall, where she will study to become a physical therapist. Telling said she “felt happy and blessed to be here” for her chance to compete in the event.

At Redbird Arena, Telling’s biggest adjustment was getting “used to shooting in front of so many people.” There were about 300-plus folks in the stands for the 3-Point Shootout on Thursday, March 1. There were probably just as many present for the event the week before when Maggie Hayes competed.

A week earlier, on Feb. 23, Maggie Hayes, like Telling and Freed, probably couldn’t have pictured herself at the Class 1A/2A Girls 3-Point Shootout. She was competing to be the top 3-point shooter in the State.

Maggie is the daughter of Lexington residents Bill and Michelle Hayes.

As it turns out, Maggie has already established a basketball legacy of sorts. She was part of the Lexington Junior High School basketball squads who made two trips to Illinois Elementary School Association Girls’ State Tournament in both 7th and 8th grade. Both of those years, Lexington Junior High School placed fourth at State. But as 8th graders, Hayes and her teammates helped Lexington Junior High take the IESA State Volleyball title.

Maggie said those early victories taught her what it took to get to and win a State Championship. As a sophomore at BCC, she was on the Saints team head coach Debbie Coffman led to an IHSA State Title in 2010 and to a second place finish last year.

“I feel as though I brought those lessons from Lexington to high school,” Maggie said.

Maggie put their best effort into their 3-Point try that Thursday. Unfortunately, she could not get to the finals, as she saw just six of her 15 tries swish through the hoop.

Still, she has advice for girls wanting to aspire to get to Redbird Arena for the three-point competition in the future. “You need the drive,” Maggie said, adding, “You also need to have a lot fun, otherwise. You can’t go through four years of playing basketball without having fun.”

Maggie is going to attend Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville to study Early Childhood Education, with her life’s goal to become a Kindergarten teacher.