By Steve Robinson | May 28, 2016 - 10:09 pm
Posted in Category: LeRoy, The Normalite

BaseballBLOOMINGTON – LeRoy senior left fielder Teddy Harms explained Saturday his team did not score too early during games last season. He said the Panthers usually didn’t strike until the third or fourth inning. But this year, he added, they had been scoring earlier – some games in the first inning – to achieve wins.

On Saturday, at Jack Hornenberger Field on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus for a chance at a Class 1A Sectional semifinal victory against Ottawa, Ill.-based Marquette Academy, the early scoring pattern showed up again, helping the Panthers outpace the Crusaders, 6-4, to advance to the Danville Schlarman Sectional championship Tuesday against Salt Fork.

After Marquette Academy (26-7) failed to score in their half of the game’s first inning, LeRoy (29-5) took a 2-0 lead, as with one out, a double by senior left fielder Harms scored senior center fielder Ethan Bryant who had doubled in front of him, giving the Panthers a 1-0 lead. After senior first baseman Ricky Vermaat struck out for the inning’s second out, sophomore right fielder Austin Lane doubled scoring Harms, increasing LeRoy’s lead, 2-0. But junior pitcher Brett Egan struck out ending the Panthers’ scoring.

Marquette Academy left fielder Dylan Gerding led off the top of the third inning with a double and advanced around the bases during an out and a single by as Crusaders senior catcher John Lechtenberg giving LeRoy a 2-1 lead.

Marquette Academy went scoreless in the top of the second inning and was hampered by defensive mistakes which LeRoy capitalized on. Panthers senior shortstop Bryce Dooley led the bottom of the second inning by getting to second base on a single and a Crusaders error. Bryant followed hitting directly to Marquette Academy first baseman Logan Komater for the inning’s first out.

Harms then singled and advanced to second on a second Marquette error and Vermaat singled and advanced to second on an error, scoring Dooley and Harms, giving LeRoy a 4-1 lead. That was followed by Lane’s bases-clearing triple, scoring Vermaat, upping the Panthers’ lead, 5-1.

A 6th inning double by Lane scored Harms, who singled to start the inning, increasing LeRoy’s lead, 6-1.

LeRoy PanthersMarquette Academy regrouped in the top of the seventh inning as Lechtenberg smacked a three run home run with no outs, scoring Komater who singled and leadoff man senior second baseman Joe Hawks who started the inning with a walk, slicing LeRoy’s, 6-4. Those developments prompted LeRoy head coach Wayne Meyer to visit the mound to check on his pitcher, Brett Egan. Following the visit, Egan demonstrated to his coach a victory was in hand, striking out Crusaders third baseman Keaton Snyder and watching Crusaders shortstop Jel Raikes get put out at first base.

Egan collected the win, increasing his record to 9-1, while Marquette Academy’s Bryce Fanti was the losing pitcher, his record dropping to 7-3.

Harms said his first inning double “contributed to the momentum of the game. We knew Ottawa Marquette was going to have good offense, and surprisingly, they didn’t have any until the last inning. We knew we were going to have to come out and hit the ball well to counter their offense.”

Of his decision not to yank his pitcher in the late innings, LeRoy head coach Wayne Meyer explained, “Egan had a heavy workload today, but he’s been off a week and we threw a lot of change-ups, so Brett was going to stay out there until we won.”

In regard to the hits Harms got during the contest, Meyer said his left fielder had been hitting pitches under the ball lately. Meyer said he had been trying to get Harms to get his bat to meet “the meat of the bat.” Meyer added, “But when he’s in the middle, he can really drive it.”

“You’ve got to give LeRoy’s kids credit,” Marquette Academy head coach Todd Hopkins said following the game. “They came out swinging the bats and made plays and Egan was outstanding. We were trying to get something going and get the pitch count up the last two or three innings. We got guys on, we got the three runs in our half of the seventh inning, and things just didn’t pan out. Give LeRoy credit. They won the game and they deserve to go on and I wish them the best.”

Fisher Ends LeRoy Softball’s Season: But while the boys were claiming victory, LHS’ Softball team fought hard in the closing innings against Fisher in their Class 1A Sectional semifinal, but wound up falling to the Bunnies, 16-9. The loss gave head coach Doug Hageman’s troops a 28-7 record for the year.

Relay For LifeBloomington, Illinois – May 27, 2016 – A first colonoscopy for Nancy Warner of Bloomington provided news she wasn’t expecting in 2011. From that exam, doctors discovered Nancy had Stage 3 Colon Cancer. To eradicate the disease, Nancy needed a colon resection and six months of chemotherapy.

The chemotherapy drugs, while helpful in killing the cancer, left Nancy in unique circumstances, partially disabled, needing to learn to walk again. But she said, even so, “I’m living the most abundant life I ever have.”

Relay For Life of McLean County is pleased to announce Nancy Warner of Bloomington has been chosen as our Honorary Survivor for this year’s event which will be held from 4p.m. on Friday, June 24 through 10a.m. on Saturday, June 25 at Normal Community High School, 3900 E. Raab Rd. A 2nd Annual 5K Run held as part of our Relay event will take place at NCHS on Saturday, starting with registration at 7a.m.

Having survived Cancer and the side effects of her treatment, Nancy has become involved with Relay For Life of McLean County, in part, to spread the organization’s message and to help encourage others as they raise funds for the upcoming annual event.

“Nancy’s story of surviving cancer is inspirational because her cancer was aiming toward taking her life when doctors detected it through a routine exam,” added Kimberly Wright, Community Manager for American Cancer Society’s Peoria Office. American Cancer Society oversees all Relay For Life events. ACS’ Peoria Office oversees the McLean County Relay event. “Nancy’s story supports the urgency of getting colorectal screenings starting at age 50. Regular colorectal cancer screening is one of the most powerful weapons against colorectal cancer. Regular screening can prevent many cases of colorectal cancer altogether by finding and removing certain types of polyps before they have the chance to turn into cancer.”

“Unfortunately, only a little more than half of people who should get tested for colorectal cancer get the tests that they should,” Wright added. “The American Cancer Society is so thankful to have Nancy on our side as an advocate for early detection through colorectal screenings.”

Relay For Life of McLean County hopes to raise $370,000 in 2016 and have at least 85 teams and 400 survivors and 400 caregivers at their annual Relay event. Relay For Life of McLean County will be held from 4p.m.June 24 to 10a.m. June 25, 2016, at Normal Community High School.

In 2015, Relay For Life of McLean County raised $291,461. Since it began in McLean County in 1994, Relay For Life of McLean County has raised over $7.6 Million to fight cancer. We are looking for more teams to join us in the fight! Since it began in McLean County in 1994, Relay For Life of McLean County has raised over $7.6 Million to fight Cancer. We are looking for more teams to help us join in the fight!

SPONSORS FOR THIS YEAR’S EVENT: Sponsors have helped Relay For Life of McLean County with continuing our efforts. We are honored to have State Farm Insurance as our presenting sponsor for this year’s Relay, as we are honored to have Avanti’s Italian Restaurant and Country Financial as our Gold sponsor.

More information may be obtained by contacting either Catina Struble at 309-706-5367 or Steve Robinson at 309-242-7838.

Unit 5Normal-based Unit 5 School Board members heard from members of the district’s Strategic Planning Committee on six subjects of interest they have been studying to find and bring improvements to for the coming 2016-17 school year. The areas studied were: Facilities, Co-Curricular Activities, Special Education Services, Curriculum and Instruction, Transportation, and Community Partnerships.

While each of these categories received individualized attention in the nearly four-hour session at district headquarters during the May 25 meeting, Transportation became foremost on the minds of those present.

Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, indicated to Board members during the mention of Transportation as part of the district strategic plan that forms had been sent out to parents to inquire as to their needs concerning transportation once the new school year begins in August. With this questionnaire, Daniel explained, “We’re trying to establish how many routes we will need and will determine where we can save money. We are looking at how our fleet can be replenished in future years.”

Unit 5 has 168 buses and Board members used part of the session to pass a resolution to issue no more than $3.5 million in General Obligation Bonds to increase the district’s working cash fund as a means to pay for new buses. In total, the district will apply $7 million in those bonds over the calendar years 2016 and 2017 to pay for new buses. A public hearing was held on the matter of the expenditure at the Board’s May 11 meeting. No members of the public addressed Board members concerning the issue at that time.

Group Insurance Plan Approved: Board members unanimously approved changes to the district health and dental plan for 2016-17, effective July 1. Under the changes, district employees will have options to choose from provided by three preferred provider insurance plans with different benefits. Prior to this, district employees only had one plan to work from. The current plan carries a $500 deductible, requiring employees to pay $128 a month. With the change, employees will have the option of a plan which will have a $750 deductible at a cost of $76.

Board members approved renewal of health and dental self-insurance with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Illinois, and life insurance through Dearborn National Insurance. Those programs will be overseen by Bloomington-based Clemens And Associates.

Oakdale Elementary School Kitchen Expansion Approved: Board members unanimously approved a plan for the expansion of the kitchen facilities at Oakdale Elementary School. Currently, the 150-square-foot kitchen at Oakdale Elementary is used solely to serve pre-cooked meals which are cooked and brought to Oakdale from one of the district’s two high schools. The kitchen expansion will require the demolition of the school’s stage area in the cafeteria, explained Joe Adelman, director of operations for the district. Food service account funds will pay for the expansion.

Board members unanimously voted to approve a contract for J. Spencer Construction LLC of Normal to handle the construction at a proposed bid cost of $196,300. Adelman said once that construction is completed, only two of Unit 5’s 18 elementary schools – Glenn Elementary and Fairview Elementary – will not have full kitchen facilities.

Unit 5 mapNormal Community West High School’s “Good News” Gets Doubled: Normal Community West High School Principal David Johnson introduced Board members to West Teacher Jason Klokkega, who oversees the school’s Freshmen Mentoring Program (FMP). The program comes from having the school’s juniors and seniors serve as mentors, Johnson said, but emphasized it is Klokkenga’s leadership of the program that continues to make it vital for new students at Normal West. Klokkenga has been involved with the FMP program since its inception, transitioned from a director to the coordinator after the retirement of Berny Chiaro. The program has faced numerous challenges this past year, Johnson explained, because the time invested to coordinate the massive program got cut from the school day due State budget issues. Johnson explained in a memo to Board members that he and Klokkenga “managed to piece together a plan to continue FMP, but the work had to be done all outside of the school day. Due to the change in the program it was a difficult, but still successful year due to his work.”

Johnson was happy to report to Board members planning time has been restored for next year and Klokkenga plans to not only maintain and continue to make improvements to the our FMP program. Johnson added Klokkenga, along with his older students involved in the program, have been fundraising in an effort to keep the program’s expenses down to help the school and the district.

Normal West had an additional item of “Good News” to present related to FMP as Johnson introduced Board members to senior Hailey Wickenhauser. Wickenhauser will be graduating from Normal West High School this year and has been an active member of the Wildcats’ cheerleading team, as well as a student in the new entrepreneur class. It is her involvement and leadership in FMP, however, that Johnson wanted to make note of.

As part of the student push to keep FMP strong, Wickenhauser has been a driving force in proposing and organizing the FMP Color Splash Run. She led the effort in coordinating the run, creating the advertising flyer, establishing business and individual sponsorship, and supervising the various aspects to ensure it was successful. Johnson said despite rainy conditions the morning of the event, over $5,000 was raised to help support the FMP program so that it can continue as a strong influence on future Normal West students.

Klokkenga took a moment to salute not only Wickenhauser for her efforts, but also acknowledged her parents, Tim and Dawn Wickenhauser, explaining, “I want to thank her parents. It’s by no chance Hailey is the influential young woman that she is. Her parents have played an influential, integral part in her doing that, and I appreciate that.”

Kingsley Junior High School’s “Good News”: Shelly Erickson, Principal of Kingsley Junior HIgh School, introduced Board members to her school’s Track and Field team who came away winners at IESA State Track & Field Championships.

KJHS’ 4X400 8th grade girls’ relay team came away State Champions, having taken first place with a time of 4:12:76. By coming in that quickly, they shattered the prior school record set in 2010 of 4:15:9.

The 4×400 team members — Kailah Carter, Anita Cavalcante, Rachel Kullman, Natasha Schuckman and Lia Ward — all started the season with the goal in mind to make State, Erickson explained in a memo to Board members. What’s more, Ward is a 7th grade student competing with 8th graders. Erickson said the credit for the team’s success can be given to team coaches Vince Allen, Patrick McCarty and Pete Beaulieu.

District’s “Good News”: Board members were introduced to Julie Hinman, art teacher at Normal Community West High School, who recently participated in the task force for the creation of the Innovative Entrepreneurs class. Hinman’s interest in the course creation came from her personal graphic design and printing businesses that she has created and cultivated over the years. Throughout the curriculum work for the new course, Hinman was able to contribute information about various aspects of creating a start-up business and the importance of networking to advance a business. When time came to select a teacher for the course, Hinman’s private work experience, established connections, relationships to local business owners, and willingness to try something untested in the district gave district officials confidence she would best best suited for guiding students in this field. Hinman has the added advantage of being a National Board Certified Teacher. Her NBCT designation is specific to teaching in Communications and the Arts.

Steve RobinsonBob Grimes, the very knowledgeable Softball coach at Normal Community High School, is calling it a career when his team’s season ends – whenever that will be – having been at the team’s helm since 2002 but also having taught and coached hundreds of kids at numerous levels since 1977.

Currently, Grimes’ team is still in the midst of seeking another shot at a State championship. Since he took the reins, his teams have won at least 30 games a season in the last six years. That leads one to have indications of a mark of a champion even when the team has fallen short of the primary goal of winning State.

In addition to getting his kids through playoffs as a coach, Grimes has a championship of his own he is able to boast about – he was a member of the Boys’ basketball team from Lexington High School in 1974 that made it to State and took the town – and the state – by storm.

The Minutemen, under head coach Don Eiker that year, finished that season with a State Championship, their names etched in State Basketball history thanks to their 21-2 record.

Grimes’ buddies and teammates with him for the journey toward that milestone were: Eddie Moore, Bruce Armstrong, Sam Esley, and Doug Sinko.

“Basically, both of the games we lost were lost in overtime,” the 60-year-old Grimes recalled, as the Minutemen dropped one to Deer Creek Mackinaw and then lost in OT to Chicago Christian in an Elite 8 faceoff.

Of his teammates, Grimes said he has the most regular contact with Moore, seeing him at least once a week. In fact, being a part of that team spurred his competitive drive, he believes. The rest of the starting five all live out-of-town, Grimes said, but have been back to visit now and again.

In the sports Grimes played for Lexington at that time, “We were 9-0 in football my senior year, and 7-2 in that sport the year before. We were 28-2 in basketball my senior year, and we won 15 games in baseball.”

“We weren’t used to losing a lot,” Grimes said frankly.

Grimes’ coaching career began even before he exited Lexington High School to move on to Illinois Wesleyan University. At LHS, he was asked to coach a Girls Athletic Association basketball team—a predecessor to intramural sports back in those days.

After graduating from IWU in 1977, Grimes returned to Lexington and taught in the town’s elementary school by 1978. He was asked to coach Track and Field at LHS, which he did for eight years. “I became the Track coach because they didn’t have anybody else to coach it,” Grimes recalled. “And being a rookie staff member, I got the job.” After a few years, he moved on to Unit 5.

About retirement, Grimes was following behind his wife, Lorene, who just retired from State Farm Bank. The Grimes family also includes daughter and former NCHS Softball player Calli, and her husband who live in Memphis, Tenn., and who just had their first child; and son Bryan who lives outside LeRoy.

“I’m going out on my own terms,” Grimes said. “It’s a move that will benefit our family. I feel good about it. But I think I’m at that point where it needed to end.” He said he told his team of his decision to retire in a team meeting after the girls returned to school from spring break.

Grimes’ boss, NCHS Athletic Director Andy Turner, chuckled a little when asked for a comment about his Softball coach, explaining, “Bob’s been the winningest coach in NCHS Softball history. He put the blueprint on how to run a program and he’s always put family first. He’s always made sure people participating in his program did it the right way. His kids have always done well academically.”

Turner said a large number of students who played for Grimes have moved on to play in college as well. “He’s built a factory on how to build a program,” Turner added.

That factory has, as of May 23, amassed a 422-110-1 record. That included a Class AA State Championship in 2007, and being runner-up in Class AA in 2002. Grimes’ teams have won nine Big 12 Conference titles and are in the middle of trying for a 10th. “He’s done it the right way and everyone who sees his program knows that’s how they want to do it,” Turner added. About three dozen of his former players attended the ceremony between games on May 21 to wish their former coach well in his retirement.

The public address announcer at Saturday’s ceremony honoring Grimes between games of the Ironmen Classic Tournament recounted those stats for fans who attended the event, as Grimes, his wife Lorene, and various family members and former players surrounded him honoring them by seeing their former coach one last time.

NCHS Principal David Bollman announced the formal step of rebooting the tournament by formally calling it The Bob Grimes Ironmen Softball Classic. Bollman presented Grimes with a framed picture of one of the newly-printed shirts.

Prior to the presentation of the framed shirt, Grimes rounded the bases, in reverse order, from third to first, giving high fives to every single player who was participating in this year’s Classic event. Every single one of them. Four teams’ worth of girls from NCHS, Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin, Mt. Zion, and Washington.

Grimes’ players went so far as to add to his memorabilia from the day by presenting him with a home plate signed all of them.

Bollman closed out the ceremony by telling Grimes, “We cannot thank you enough for the memories you have provided us, and we wish you the very best. Those times you will be spending with your family are very well deserved.”

Grimes said he knew nothing about the three dozen or so former players who came were going to be present for his sendoff. He was able to laugh at the fact that when they opted to name the event after him, that “the word ‘memorial’ didn’t follow my name.”

Grimes has said when it came to priorities, it was family first. Here’s hoping once this softball season is completed he will enjoy continuing living by that motto on a full time basis.

By Steve Robinson | May 17, 2016 - 7:51 am
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Ever since her family took to the open road known as Route 66 when she young, Normal resident Terri Ryburn has been fascinated with and had an ongoing love for the once-fabled highway that once became the way to travel from Illinois to California. For over a decade, Ryburn has been restoring a former gas station at 305 Pine St. as a means of trying to lure visitors here to see a piece of Americana.

Ryburn has used mostly Federal grants to help spruce up the little former gas station which has stood at that location since the early 1930s. She has applied for and gotten Federal grants and an occasional State grant to make improvements to the property, but those sources, although fruitful, just bring in enough to get the jobs she needs done accomplished leaving little else for maintenance of an aging but historic facility.

As a result, Ryburn turned to Normal Town Council members to see if the Town would have an interest in contributing to the preservation of a Town landmark. During their regularly-scheduled session at Normal City Hall Monday night, Council members voted by a 6-1 count to approve a resolution which authorized the execution of a development agreement for the Town to purchase the building from Ryburn and restore it, and approved an allocation of $148,000 from proceeds of the 1% Sales tax for replacement of the building’s parking lot.

As a result of the agreement, the Town will purchase the property from Ryburn for $228,550.50, the remaining amount of the mortgage, plus an additional $5,000 as an acknowledgement of the investment Ryburn has already put toward the building. In addition, the Town is purchasing another nearby property Ryburn has owned since 2014 – a vacant lot at 304 Pine St. For that property, the Town agreed to pay Ryburn the amount she paid for the parcel — $24,000.

Ryburn is living in an upstairs apartment at the historic former gas station and will continue to do so paying rent to the Town.

Before voting to buy the property, Council members debated the merits of making the purchase. Citing that Normal needs to attract visitors through its history, Council Member Cheryl Gaines cited that visitors flock to Downtown Bloomington’s Route 66 History Museum and that some of those folks might bypass Normal in the process to get there. She said she thought the Ryburn property, if approved by the Council, would make a good attraction to add to visitors’ lists.

Council Member Jeff Fritzen countered, saying, “We attract visitors already with Softball tournaments and our festivals, so we’re already about the business of attracting visitors.”

Gaines responded having the museum at the Pine Street location would provide Normal with a niche’ for Normal. With the museum at the Pine Street location, Gaines said, “We’re going to be known as a place to stop by, and I think that’s pretty darn exciting.”

Council Member Kathleen Lorenz noted that Normal already has landmarks people flock to, one of which, the Normal Theater, has historical value. The other sites she mentioned were Uptown Circle, where people congregate on and around its grassy mound, and the Children’s Discovery Museum.

Fritzen said he had concerns over about the agreement he made with Ryburn, among them, what sort of time would be used by Town employees for performing maintenance at the structure. City Manager Mark Peterson said the time spent would be minimal. Peterson said the building would be a candidate for being considered an historical structure. However, he added, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds can’t be used if the property it sits on is privately owned. If the property were publicly owned, however, Peterson said, CDBG monies could be applied for by the Town.

Registering a differing view on whether the Town could aid this situation, Council Member Scott Preston expressed the view that “We can help in this without taking possession of the property.” He added CDBG grant monies could be used to pay for maintenance of the property.

Council Member R. C. McBride sounded an alarm about the potential of losing an historic landmark in the Town. “A lot of historic places fall by the wayside and when they do, we ask ‘why,’” McBride noted, adding, “But this is bigger than tourism. Ms. Ryburn has done all she can and unless we intervene, there isn’t anything that can be done.”

“There are ways to achieve Ms. Ryburn’s goal without taking over ownership of the property,” Preston said following the meeting. He said he would have liked to see Normal not pick up the acquisition and maintenance costs on the property.” Preston said he’s behind the project with the exception of the Town taking over the property by purchasing it.

As Gaines sees the matter, spending the money is another way to invest in the Town’s future. “We have got to find a niche in this community to bring people in,” Gaines said. “We have done so much work on the Uptown. It’s a shame we’re getting bypassed.” In terms of being able to claim a share of tourist dollars in the future, Gaines said Ryburn’s project would be a move toward the Town “stepping up our game.”

Ryburn said she was very excited about the Council’s decision. “I’m very excited about it. I’ve been concerned about what’s going to happen to the building in the future.”

Contract For Construction Of New Fire Station Goes To P. J. Hoerr, Inc.: Council members unanimously voted to approve a contract for construction of a new fire station to be built on University Ave. to P. J. Hoerr, Inc., awarding bids to that company. The new fire station, which will double as the new primary headquarters for Normal Fire Department is slated to open in September 2017. P. J. Hoerr, Inc. submitted a bid of $5,856,000. Hoerr beat out six other bidding companies to win the construction contract.

The Town has budgeted funds for this project totaling $7,958,700.

Liquor Commission Grants Licenses For Two Establishments: Council members, serving as Normal Local Liquor Commission, held a special meeting prior to the start of the regular Council session and granted licenses to two businesses. BZill, doing business as Blaze Pizza, 1601 E. College Ave. was granted a Class C and Class H license (beer and wine only – on premises consumption license and outdoor garden license). A neighboring establishment, Chipotle Mexican Grill, LLC, doing business as Chipotle Mexican Grill #2731, 1601 E. College Ave., Suite B, was granted a Class D and a Class H (All liquor on premises, and an outdoor garden license).

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

• Approval of minutes of the regular meeting on May 2, 2016.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures as of May 11, 2016.

• A resolution to accept an agreement from Bloomington-based EA Architecture & Design, Inc. for design services in the amount of $28,000 for the building expansion at the Town maintenance facility at 621 S. Linden St.

• A resolution authorizing the extension of a lease agreement for the Normal Police Department substation on Orlando Ave. with Pria, Inc.

• A resolution accepting temporary construction easements from Advocate Health and Hospitals Corporation for the Virginia Ave. improvement project.

• A resolution to appropriate $880,000 of the Town’s allotment of Motor Fuel Tax funds for the improvement of Greenbriar Drive from approximately 900 feet north of Shepard Rd. to Hershey Rd.

• A resolution to appropriate $1,367,000 of the Town’s allotment of Motor Fuel Tax funds for the improvement of Hershey Rd. from Shepard Rd. to Greenbriar Dr.

• An ordinance approving a license agreement with Evansville, Ind.-based Metro Fibernet, LLC for installation of a fiber optic hut on Town property at 700 Pine St.