By Steve Robinson | November 28, 2015 - 10:48 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Steve RobinsonWhen newly-elected U. S. Rep. Darin LaHood (R-18th) came to address a group of about 150 students taking various history classes at Normal Community West High School on Nov. 25, I think those in attendance in the auditorium thought the kids, understandably, would be the ones getting an education.

But during the 45-minute session with students who were there as part of either their International Studies, World History, Advanced Placement Government, or International Politics courses, we adults quickly learned the kids have been paying a little more attention to world matters than their being in an all-too-plugged-in world might have us believe.

LaHood, who had been a Federal prosecutor in Las Vegas at one point in his career, found out these kids wanted to go beyond the standard surface questions young people of this age usually pose to newsmakers who visit. LaHood, a Republican state senator and son of former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, easily won a special election in September to replace U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock. The younger LaHood’s victory brings the number of U. S. House of Representatives members back to 435. Schock was forced to resign as result of a scandal which included spending irregularities related to redecorating his Washington, D. C. Congressional office in the style of something similar to rooms found in the British television drama “Downton Abbey.”

“I sat where you sat today, as a student, 30 years ago, a student interested in current events,” LaHood told the students. “I appreciate your being interested in these things.”

How interested were the kids? Just consider the questions they asked: “How could you talk about the importance of our country but not be in support of Syrian refugees coming into the country?,” “Can you explain why there was a pause on allowing refugees into the country after the recent terror attacks in Paris?’, “How do we reduce the National debt?”, as well as an inquiry about cybersecurity.

LaHood’s visit had help in being arranged from West Social Studies teacher Jason Klokkenga, and the kids presented thought-provoking questions in an age where all the electronic gadgets they carry with them causes we older folks to think they aren’t paying enough attention to the world we’re likely to leave them. But these kids were definitely engaged in the concerns of today’s world, and their questions, and their attention to LaHood’s answers, proved that. It was an impressive period to observe.

Without getting into specifics about any of the Republican frontrunners, LaHood admitted the GOP needs “to broaden their appeal to young people” in order to win the Presidency in 2016.

Ben Bross, a West senior, asked LaHood a question during the session concerning how LaHood learns to compromise with Democrats and his fellow Republicans in a climate where neither side seems to come across as wanting to do so regardless of the issue. LaHood answered he goes into such a situation knowing full-well he probably won’t get everything he’s looking for in certain proposed legislation, but that he does his best for what he believes is best for his constituents.

“I thought his answer to my question was a good way to explain it,” Bross said of LaHood’s response to his question. Bross is looking to attend Southern Illinois University after high school and is looking to become a doctor.

Thomas Lipka, a sophomore, said he was most impressed with LaHood’s call to the students to consider becoming involved in politics regardless of whatever their party affiliation. “At home, we’ll talk about politics a small bit,” Lipka explained. “Having Rep. LaHood come here and talk to us was something I really liked. I also enjoyed hearing about how he explained how our country deals with the overseas terror attacks. That was really impressive.”

Lipka said he found LaHood’s explanation of why reducing the nation’s debt — now somewhere around $19 Trillion — isn’t easy to achieve quickly, “Finding out which programs to try to decide to cut was something I didn’t realize was that complicated,” Lipka said.

Another West sophomore, Izzy Lahr, said she found LaHood’s explanation concerning freezing allowing Syrian refugees from entering the country the most interesting item for her. “Personally, I believe we should let the refugees in when it’s so bad in their country where they come from,” Lahr said. She said she understands background checks are run on this group of folks wanting to enter our country.

Klokkenga admitted before the session the students were encouraged to ask the newest lawmaker for the area tough questions. They succeeded beyond what any of we older folks could have imagined. Let’s hope these kids stay that engaged as they become young adults. Something tells me we’ll need them to be very soon.

By Steve Robinson | November 22, 2015 - 10:03 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Steve RobinsonThe high school basketball season is already upon us, or so the calendar, or at least, our first snow of a week or so ago would indicate. There will be plenty of stories forthcoming about the next sports season to come. But first, a final note from Illinois High School Association State Volleyball Tournament which was held at Redbird Arena.

I had occasion to talk to Jim Dady, a Lexington native and Normal resident who was one of a number of volunteers who helped make that tournament run smoothly. Jim and his wife, Candy, were a presence that many teams saw behind the scenes.

Jim celebrated a milestone of sorts worth acknowledging at the tournament – the event was something he has been involved with for 20 years. Actually, if you count a couple of years in the 1990s when his daughter, Rebecca, played for University High School, Dady has had a longer association with the tournament.

“As a way of kind of giving back to the sport, my wife and I agreed to volunteer for the tournament,” Jim Dady said. “What started out as doing such a thing a time or two has become 20 years for Jim Dady.

In 1994, Jim Dady recalls, the Pioneers finished second behind Wheaton St. Francis. By 1995’s tourney, Jim went from athlete’s father to volunteer. Candy is now part of a small group of friends who are now responsible for coordinating the volunteers for the overall event. Next summer, as school begins again, I hope to bring you an insider’s view of what it takes for these folks to coordinate the volunteers.

Dady explained that, except for how games are scored now – including giving a side out on every serve a point – not much has changed in the time he and his wife have been involved with the tourney.

Jim Dady said with even the passage of time, he hasn’t had any real issues when he deals with players, coaches, or fans at this event. He said he gets satisfaction from what he calls the “stability” of seeing returning teams compete from one year to the next at the tourney. For him, being part of this tournament “has been a wonderful experience and I’m going to keep doing it as long as I can.” At 69, and a cancer survivor, we can hope Jim will see plenty of teams coming to Redbird Arena to compete in the years to come.

On a volleyball-related note, Normal Community High senior Micki Quackenbush was named to the first team of the all-Big 12 Conference Volleyball squad for the third consecutive year. League coaches unanimously made the selection of Quackenbush and also bestowed a first team selection honor on NCHS senior Ginny Gerig.

With that bit of business conducted and the Thanksgiving holiday past us and heading toward Christmas, I can now make plans to cover basketball. But not just basketball – that would be, from my point-of-view, basketball, basketball, and still, more basketball. I tell people that I have watched a lot of young men and young women run up and down basketball courts in the winter over the years, and this year, provided the weather cooperates, doing so shouldn’t be a problem. I’m looking forward to it. I know the fans are.

By Steve Robinson | November 16, 2015 - 10:12 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL –Normal Town Council members did not have to decide an issue concerning a case of eminent domain at their regular session in Council Chambers at Uptown Station Monday night, as the matter was resolved with a financial settlement between the property owners and the Town.

The meeting’s agenda was to include an ordinance authorizing the Town acquiring .0238 acres of property through the process of eminent domain in an attempt to make improvements on a portion of Raab Rd. Normal is in the last stages of making improvements on East Raab Rd. from Normal Community High School to Towanda Barnes Rd.

The project will be undertaken beginning next spring and will involve a two-lane road pavement project and installation of curb and gutter, storm sewers, and sidewalk, and is anticipated being completed by December.

The land has an appraised value of $3,500, and the Town agreed to a $10,000 settlement with the Weber family, the property owners, in order to obtain the additional section of property, explained City Manager Mark Peterson.

Peterson said as a result of achieving the settlement, the Town can move forward on the next steps of the State-funded project, including beginning work on the bidding process. He added that being a project in which funds from Illinois Department of Transportation were to be used, completing obtaining the property first was a necessity to be able to use State funds.

Issuance And Sale Of Bonds Approved: Council members unanimously approved a resolution authorizing issuance and sale of Series 2015 Economic Development Revenue bonds in order to provide loans for financing the Land of Lincoln Goodwill Industries Project. Land of Lincoln Goodwill Industries incurred debt associated with acquisition and remodeling of new facilities located at 302 Landmark Dr.

The funds will be used by Land of Lincoln Goodwill Industries to refinance its debt. They are asking the Town to issue Industrial Project Revenue Bonds totaling $2.3 million to do that.

A public hearing on this matter was held prior to the start of the Council session during which no members of the public addressed the issue. Peterson told Council members the Town has no responsibility for the debt incurred because the Town was not the entity that incurred it.

Council Approves Purchasing North School Street Dwelling: Council members unanimously approved a resolution approving the Town’s purchase of 614 N. School St. The home is located in a neighborhood which is primarily single-family dwellings, but has a license from the Town to house up to 10 residents. College students have been the principal tenants of the home, and Peterson said that has led to both issues involving City Inspectors and Normal Police. He said the Town is mulling the possibility of demolishing the structure and selling the land it sits on.

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

Approval of minutes of regular meeting held Nov. 2, 2015.

Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Nov. 11, 2015.

A resolution to appropriate $477,350 of the Town’s allotment of Motor Fuel Tax funds for the improvement of Virginia Ave. from University St. to Franklin Ave.

A resolution conditionally approving an amended site plan for Advocate BroMenn Medical Center (Mecherle Hall and 1913 wing).

VolleyballNORMAL – Bloomington Central Catholic High School’s road to their first State trophy in Volleyball needed to go through an undefeated squad from Orion when the two sides met for a Class 2A matchup at Redbird Arena on Saturday, Nov. 14. At points in the two-game match, the Saints were kept down by Orion’s defense but a dramatic come-from-behind turn in the second match helped BCC earn the school its first-ever State title in the sport. BCC defeated Orion, 25-20 and 25-21.

The first contest was tied five times, the last tie coming at 13-13 before BCC (35-5) began pulling away on a ball handling error by Orion’s Ashton Lee, a serving ace by Carlie Zafziger, and a kill from Kate Hoerdemann, putting BCC in front, 17-14. With Hoerdemann serving, kills from Maddie Malinowski and Erika Moore upped the Saints’ advantage, 22-16 before Saints’ attack errors allowed the Chargers to close in during the match, 22-16. Two final kills by Hoerdemann closed out the contest.

Game 2 ran in a similar fashion with serves by Orion’s Taylor McCunn baffling BCC enough to let the Chargers jump out to an early 4-1 lead. Serves by BCC’s Nafziger and Holt helped the Saints keep pace as the game saw four ties – the last one at 13-13 – before BCC went on a four-point spree to lead, 17-13. Behind serves by Macy Hancock, Orion (40-1) pulled within two, 18-16. But BCC would get two more points, increasing the Saints’ lead, 20-16, prompting Orion head coach Jack Wheeler to call a time out.

But BCC kept rolling, holding Orion back spoiling the chance at a perfect season while earning a first trophy in the sport in school history.

BCC outpaced Orion in digs, 75-58. Holt led all players with 26 assists, with only Orion’s Hancock coming closest in that category with 15. Malinowski scored 10 points and had 10 kills to lead BCC. Hoerdemann had two serving aces while Nafziger had one. Lee led Orion in scoring with 12½ points. Hancock led her team in assists with 15. McCunn contributed her team’s lone serving ace. BCC took total take aways by a 110-106 tally.

Central Catholic“We’ve been down in other games we’ve had to get here,” BCC head coach J. R. Banister said. “We just had to talk about staying in control and getting our passes down. That would get our middle hitters involved again and go back to running our offense.”

“We’ve been working for this for the whole season, and we’ve just been working really hard lately,” Malinowski said. “It’s just awesome.”

Orion’s seniors, disappointed by the loss were teary-eyed during their postgame news conference at the thought of not ever playing together again, Wheeler said. “Today, Bloomington was a little bit better than we were. We played a good match. We played hard. We never quit.”

Saints Hold Off Timothy Christian In Semifinal: BCC got to the championship by taking two games from Elmhurst-based Timothy Christian High School, 25-22 and 25-21. Game 1 had both sides exchanging points early to a 10-10 tie before a kill by Bailey Coffman and two serves by Nafziger pushed the Saints up, 13-10. Timothy Christian (36-5) came within one three times –15-14, 18-17, and 22-21 – after that before the game’s last two kills for BCC by Malinowski polished off the Titans.

Game 2 looked to be an even contest with Timothy Christian’s Ava Venema committing an error putting BCC up 1-0, but then immediately following it up with a kill to tie the game at 1-all. But from there, BCC went on a 12-0 blitz with Moore serving and recording five service aces. It wasn’t until she committed a serving error that the streak ended.

But then, Timothy Christian began a run of their own behind serves by Abby Groters and a kill by Kendra Teune, cutting BCC’s lead, 14-7. Kills late in the contest from Teune, Venema, and a service error provided by Nafziger helped Timothy Christian pull within four, 23-19, and a kill by Dani VanLaten pulled them closer, 24-20, before BCC’s Maddie Holt committed a ball-handling error, cutting BCC’s lead again, 24-21. Moore provided a kill of Teune’s final serve to bring in the final score.

Malinowski’s 7 kills led BCC followed by 6 from Moore, who led the Saints in service aces with 6. Hoerdemann led in take aways with 17. Holt contributed 20 assists. Holt and Moore each had 7 digs defensively of BCC’s total 24. For Elmhurst Timothy Christian, Teune had 23 take aways and 12 kills while VanLaten provided 22 assists. Zoe Stanton had 8 digs.

By Steve Robinson | - 10:11 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, The Normalite

VolleyballNORMAL – Normal Community High School’s Volleyball squad finished the season in fourth place in Class 4A as a result of dropping a two-game set to Cary-Grove High School, 25-18 and 25-19 before 700 fans at Redbird Arena at the Illinois High School Association State Tournament.

Game 1 was evenly paced in terms of scoring up until being tied 9-9 before Cary-Grove began surging forward on serves by Delaney Bayer and kills from Sarah Graham, Alli Splitt, Erin Olson, and Rachel Maguire, giving the Trojans a 16-10 lead.

A kill by Annie Trimpe helped NCHS (30-11) reduce that lead, 16-11, before the Lady Iron experienced a ball handling error and a pair of attack errors, aiding Cary-Grove to increase their lead, 21-11. the Lady Iron did mount a late rally courtesy of a Trojans’ attack error, and kills by Ginny Gerig and Kendall Sosa, to pull within eight, 23-15, but could not maintain that climb to overtake their opponents.

Game 2 fell into much the same pattern with Cary-Grove pulling away, 10-6, following a Gerig service error. A Trimpe kill and a service ace by MaKenna Barnhart pulled NCHS within one, 14-13, before the Trojans took advantage of errors, either in scoring or on attack, by the Lady Iron, advancing further, 20-15.

Ally Vasquez led the Trojans with 8 of her team’s 28 total kills, and Graham posted 21 take aways. Olson contributed a game-high 22 assists. Splitt and Rachel Rosch each recorded a service ace in the contest. NCHS recorded 19 kills, and each team posted 83 take aways. NCHS had 45 digs to 41 for Cary-Grove. NCHS outpaced the Trojans in scoring aces, 5-2, with two each from Barnhart and Gerig, and one from Peyton Kelly.

Cary-Grove head coach Patty Langanis said, “This was a group of seven seniors and I’ve been with them so long, they deserve to win this. We knew we wanted to be aggressive with our serving and attack Normal’s corners. Normal was hitting us aggressively. Once we got our blocking a little bit established, it helped. Normal is a big team in the front court, and we were really fortunate that we could get our blocks set.”

NCHS“We have a group of girls who’ve worked really hard all year and they are a focused group who knows what it takes to be successful,” NCHS head coach Christine Konopasek said. “We’re really fortunate to have what all these girls have seen and done in, really, the last three years. And even though it’s not the outcome we would have liked, I’d like to think it shows a lot that they fought and battled in their last match.”

“We’ve overcome a lot, and many people wouldn’t have guessed we would wound up in the State Tournament,” Gerig said. “That, in itself, I think, is an accomplishment.”

For Quackenbush, “It has meant so much to me to be part of this group because I felt we were the underdog. We had a lot to prove to people and I thought we did.”

NCHS Loses Semifinal To Glenbard West : NCHS had hoped to make it to the Class 4A championship game but Glen Ellyn-based Glenbard West proved the path there would not be possible. After matching point-for-point to an 11-11 tie in Game 1, Glenbard West (36-5 after this game) scored 8 unanswered points with Quiana Ware serving. Kills by Micki Quackenbush, MaKenna Barnhart, and Natalie Schilling, coupled with an attack error from Glenbard West’s Ella Ridinger allowed the Lady Ironmen to pull within four, 22-18, before the Hilltoppers surged forward to a first victory.

Game 2 saw the two sides pace the contest point-for-point, tying 13 times, the last tie coming at 20-20 before a Barnhart service error gave the Hilltoppers a 21-20 advantage, followed by kills by Ridinger and Ananda Patterson en route to handing NCHS a 25-23 loss, placing the Lady Ironmen in the 3rd place game.

Schilling led the Hilltoppers with 11 kills and 37 take aways. Her teammate, Kate Wagner contributed a game-high 25 assists. Claire Wagner gave the Hilltoppers their only ace serve of the contest. NCHS outpaced Glenbard West in kills, 30-28, and in take aways by a 106-96 count. Each team had 53 digs. Each team had one serving ace, NCHS’ provided by Barnhart.

Glenbard West head coach Pete Mastandrea said afterward, “I saw spectacular defense from NCHS. We knew they were in a two-person serve-receive, and we were really, really focused on attacking it. Boy, oh boy, they did a tremendous job of handling our serve.”

“I think Glenbard West played an extremely consistent match and worked incredibly hard so that we were unable to be effective in our offense,” explained Konopasek. “We need to tip our hat to them a little bit. They worked extremely hard to be on the right side of the score tonight.”