By Steve Robinson | February 26, 2017 - 10:58 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

U-High PioneersNORMAL – Kai Bates-Diop made University High School’s first basket against Corn Belt Conference foe Pontiac, tying the game at 2-2, matching a basket by Indians four-season team manager Chas Holt made to get the game started, an arrangement agreed upon between the two teams. As soon as he sank his shot, Bates-Diop took to the sidelines.

For Bates-Diop, the bucket was his first and only bucket of the night and the final one of his playing career. From the time he sank the points to when he came off the court, he was applauded and cheered by the standing room only crowd at the school’s large gym. The sophomore suffered a cardiac arrest during a practice in that same gym Feb. 9.

The quick actions of Pioneers training staff members skilled in use of CPR and an automated external defibrillator, or AED, helped the trainers save his life.

During the practice, Bates-Diop, a sophomore, collapsed. Trainer Maddie Biehl started using compressions on the boy’s chest, assisted by trainer Richard Leon. Biehl and Leon needed to use AED to shock 6 foot-5 Bates-Diop’s heart into restarting. As that was taking place, another trainer, Emily Martz, called 911. Trainer Stephanie Stephens also assisted in the triage trainers did until Emergency Medical Technicians arrived to take him to a hospital.

He was airlifted to a Peoria hospital where he had open-heart surgery. He returned to school for the first time since the surgery Friday, topping off his day with the layup.

american heart associationBiehl describes the Pioneers’ practice session on the day of the medical episode as “typical” until Pioneers team member Trey Heffner burst into the training room to say Bates-Diop had collapsed. Trainers Biehl and Leon began applying AED, while the authorities were called.

Stephens said she believes students and their parents “have learned an enormous lesson about the role athletic trainers play in an athletic setting along with the importance of CPR and AEDs.

At halftime of the U-High-Prairie Central contest, Pioneers training staff members were honored and thanked by the Bates-Diop family for their life-saving efforts.

Outside the gym before and during the game, the American Heart Association had a display set up explaining the importance of CPR and AEDs. The school also raised money by selling baked goods and T-shirts. The shirts had a heart with Bates-Diop’s number 13 and “Kai” inside a heart on the front. On the back was written, “CPR And AEDs SAVE LIVES,” as well as the school’s logo.

Wilma Bates-Diop, Kai’s mother, addressed fans during the halftime event, joined by her husband Richard, and older son, Ohio State University basketball player Keita. “On behalf of our entire family, my husband Richard, Keita, and Kai, we want to thank the U-High family for having the resources to save our son’s life. There aren’t enough words or actions to ever express our gratitude.”

Over 1,000 T-shirts have been purchased to help the fundraising effort. “Thank you all for being part of our family,” Wilma Bates-Diop concluded.

The trainers were honored with certificates for their efforts by the school and the American Heart Association.

Two Incidents Needing AED Use In Two Straight Months: Exactly a month prior to Bates-Diop’s medical incident, on Jan. 9, during U-High’s girls’ home game against Prairie Central High School, U-High parent Kari Niebur, mother of Pioneers’ junior varsity player Lexie Niebur, suffered a cardiac incident in the bleachers prior to the Pioneers-Hawks game. Fast thinking and actions on the part of Linda Ziemer, another U-High team parent, with assistance from Biehl and Joel Smith saved Niebur’s life. Smith, a parent of a Prairie Central player, is also an EMT. Kari Niebur is recovering at home currently, but Lexie expressed her appreciation and thanks to Ziemer and Smith during the halftime ceremony.

Incidents Prove “Trainers Don’t Just Do Rehab And Tape Ankles”: As a result of these incidents, Biehl said, “Parents have come to realize that trainers don’t just do rehab and tape ankles. Sometimes, we have to save a life.”

“We’ve seen two miracles in this gym in the last six weeks,” U-High’s Athletic Director Wendy Smith told the halftime gathering. “In both, we’ve had the right people in the right places to have such a positive outcome.”

Beyond the BooksNORMAL – Believe it or not, there is something more to using a climbing wall than just strapping a harness around your waist and using tether while you try to decide what moves you’ll make to get up – and down – from the wall.

To Physical Education Teacher Michael Jennings’ way of thinking, a climbing wall, like the one in the gym at George L. Evans Junior High School, is seen as a teaching tool students can use to learn to think critically. That’s why, in 2015, Jennings wrote a $10,000 grant to try to obtain funds through the Beyond The Books Educational Foundation to purchase the 25 foot wall which is now used regularly at the school. Currently, EJHS is the only school in Unit 5 that has a climbing wall.

Jennings has been with Unit 5 for five years, four of them at EJHS. Before that, he taught at Normal Community West High School.

“We wanted to offer each student an opportunity to do something they’ve never done before,” Jennings said. “We have 900 students here at Evans and many of them would never have an opportunity to get 25 feet above the ground and develop the skills for this without having it here.”

Among the skills learned from use of the climbing wall Jennings points to are leadership, communication, and improving overall fitness.

“This is vastly different than what any other Program can offer, which is what we’re trying to do,” Jennings said.

The climbing wall gets regular use, providing a workout for students during physical education classes as well as by members of an after-school group called Rock Solid Assistance, where kids don’t just learn climbing but also how to help their fellow students navigate while climbing.

Intangibles that come with rock climbing include communication, taking constructive criticism, and working together as a team. Jennings said going up and down the rock wall “is a challenging process physically and mentally. But it’s also a way to get kids excited about physical education.”

As Jennings sees it, “The more we can offer and the wider range of activities we can offer, the more excited students will be when they come to P. E. That’s getting to class and looking forward to getting something they can’t get at any other school in the district.”

As odd as it may sound, Jennings said, “It’s sometimes a challenge to get junior high students excited about P. E.,” he said. Students, he added, aren’t crazy about working up a sweat and then going back to class.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have the Beyond The Books Foundation and the Shirk Family Foundation who are willing and able to help out educators in Bloomington-Normal,” Jennings said.

Two Normal West High Freshmen Now Helping Others Learn Climbing: Ethan Jett and Andy Sprouls are two former EJHS students who now attend Normal West who used and learned about the climbing wall and have returned to the school to help current students learn to navigate it.

“I saw the wall before and I thought it would be fun to do,” Jett said.

“I enjoyed it when I was here and I was asked if I’d like to come back to help out,” Sprouls added. He said he and Jett have been back helping out ever since.

Educators Showcasing Their Efforts: In 2016, the Beyond The Books Educational Foundation awarded $40,825 to 32 projects which applied for funding. Educators from both Normal-based Unit 5 School District and Bloomington’s School District #87 submitted grant requests.

This event was held to not just celebrate the Foundation’s 25th anniversary but also to showcase some of the projects the Foundation has awarded grants to from teachers in both districts for. A total of 30 exhibits were displayed throughout EJHS’ gym, some of which involved interactive participation.

“This event has allowed the public as well as the educators who have participated in showcasing their awards to share experiences about what Beyond The Books Educational Foundation has provided to students in the classroom in both public school systems,” explained Gail Ann Briggs, a board member for the Foundation as well as a board member of Unit 5 School Board.

“It has been simply awesome to watch the young people participate by climbing the wall or take part in experiments while enjoying this event,” Briggs said.

Other Activities Involved At Event: A creative area was set up in EJHS’ cafeteria for kids to make various kinds of crafts, as well as students in historical costume staying in character, from both history and children’s tales, to introduce themselves to visitors who attended the free event on Saturday, Feb. 25.

Steve RobinsonFor Ridgeview Mustangs’ Jordyn Talley and Heyworth Hornets’ Madielynn Sims, having one more day competing on the basketball court was what counted. They got their one more day competing at the IHSA 3-Point Competition at Redbird Arena on Feb. 23.

Even though both Ridgeview and Heyworth, both Class 1A schools, made exits en route to a championship bid, Heyworth lasted until the Class 1A Super-Sectional – one stop short of making an appearance at Redbird Arena. But for Talley, the 3-Point appearance came after experiencing Ridgeview’s fall in the Regional championship.

One More Day On The Court For Talley: But for Talley, to try to become the top free throw shooter in the Class gave the senior one more day on the court when the competition. That extension allowed her to sink 6-of-15 shots in the allotted 45 second time frame.

“I feel I could have done better, but I’m just glad to be here,” Talley said. “It’s a good feeling to be here. I just wished I had gotten 10-of-15, but you can only do what you can do.”

Redbird Arena “is a different environment” than the Mustangs’ home gym, Talley admitted.

The daughter of Gene and Tonia Talley, she added her coach, Scott Ghere, advised her “to have fun and take it all in.” Concerning the Mustangs having been stopped when they were in their quest to get to State finals by Cissna Park, Talley said, “We were really happy with how far we had gotten. When we lost, we were sad but it’s hard to hang your head when you’ve had such a good season.”

She’s right. When you have a losing season the prior year as the Mustangs did, and recoup to go 23-6, there is no reason to hang your head for too long, even when you lose a Regional. The Mustangs hope to get further next season, Talley said. She believes that’s possible based on “our having such a good season this year. Having gone from a losing season to a winning one this year was nice.”

Talley’s next challenge after high school is attending Parkland College followed by the University of Illinois where she’ll major in Kinesiology. That will, she hopes, lead to a job in sports training.

Heyworth’s Sims “Glad To Shoot A Little Longer”: For Madielynn Sims, the extension of her basketball season meant going 4-for-15 in the 3-Point Showdown. Of the experience, she said, “It was pretty exciting and I was pretty nervous. I’m glad I could shoot the basketball a little longer.”

The 3-Point Shootout was also Sims’ basketball finale in more ways than one, as she will be off to Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, where she will play Softball. She even has a profile page on a college scouting website.

“I’ve always been a softball player and played basketball, too,” Sims said. In addition to making the sport change once she gets to college, she would like to major in Criminal Justice.

Heyworth lost to Harvest Christian in the Class 1A Pontiac Super-Sectional, falling one step short of making it to State.

Sims wasn’t even supposed to have any more basketball beyond that point, but the 3-Point Shootout opportunity became a reality when a girl who was supposed to compete backed out, creating an open slot. “My goal was just to get one basket, so I was happy with what I got,” she explained.

The daughter of Derrick and Celena Sims, she said her head coach, Tony Griffin, “told me to just go out there and have fun and don’t worry about the distractions” shooting in a larger facility can be for high school players.

Sims admitted about the experience, “I was nervous, but I had fun.”

For both Talley and Sims, it sounds as though they enjoyed the experience of demonstrating their basketball skills one last time before heading off to new adventures in college. Here’s hoping those adventures for these young women will be equally satisfying.

Unit 5NORMAL – Two high school students, one each from Normal-based Unit 5 School District’s two high schools, were introduced to School Board members at the governing body’s regular meeting on Feb. 22 at district headquarters, as National Merit Scholarship Finalists. Ethan Schuller attends Normal Community High School and Patrick Lipka attends Normal Community West High School.

Qualifying for a National Merit Scholarship has numerous benchmarks to be met, which include that students achieve one of the highest PSAT/NMSQT scores, the results of which are confirmed by a subsequent SAT score. In addition, applicants are required to write a personal essay, list activities/volunteer service, leadership positions, honors and employment on their application.

Meet Ethan Schuller From NCHS: Introduced to Board members by NCHS Principal David Bollman, was that school’s Merit Scholarship candidate, Ethan Schuller. Outside of the classroom, Ethan, son of Eric and Shuh Schuller, is involved in a wide range of activities, both at NCHS and within the community. As a musician, Schuller has played the violin for many years, including winning awards and participating in special shows. He also used time and effort to learn how to clog, and has been a member of the local Sugar Creek Cloggers for the last several years.

Schuller has also showcased a competitive nature and intelligence as a member of NCHS’ Scholastic Bowl team, and as a member of the school’s Model UN Club. His family has roots in Singapore, where he recently visited. There, he learned more about his heritage, and founded the Chinese Culture Club at NCHS, an organization he currently serves as President. In addition, Schuller serves as team leader for the Miller Park Zoo Junior Zookeeper program. As a result of being involved in that program, Schuller assists in a variety of ways around the zoo, including being a keeper technician.

Schuller said he hasn’t made a final decision on a college yet, but he said that among the ones he is considering are University of Illinois and Illinois Wesleyan University. Prior to meeting with Board members, he said his parents urged him to practice taking the ACT test a number of times to help increase his capability with the PSAT test.

Meet Patrick Lipka From Normal Community West High School: Patrick Lipka, son of Dom and Kathleen Lipka, not only scored well on the PSAT test, but also completed the application process and was then selected as a Finalist. He has been a section leader in orchestra, a captain of the Wildcats baseball team, a freshmen mentor, and a member of the school’s Senior Board. Even with all that, he also had a lead in a recent school musical.

Of receiving the honor, Lipka said, “It’s pretty awesome. It’s great. I put a lot of work into it to get here. To receive this is unlike any opportunity I’ve ever had.”

Unit 5 mapSchuller, Lipka Are Two Of A Possible 15,000 Seniors: Should either Schuller or Lipka be selected, they would be one of only 15,000 seniors to be selected from across the country. That total represents less than one percent of all graduating seniors in the United States.

Normal West Baseball, Softball Coaches Recognized: Board members also recognized in a “good news” item the coaches of the softball and baseball teams from Normal Community West High School. April Schermann was named Sectional Softball Coach of the by the Illinois Softball Coaches Association for the 2016 season, having guided her Wildcats squad to a 29-10 season. The Wildcats finished second in the state in Class 4A, having lost the championship game to Oak Park-River Forest, 4-2 in 10 innings in June at East Peoria.

Schermann was introduced to the Board and recognized by Normal West athletic director Stan Lewis, for her accomplishment of leading her team to three conference championships, six regional titles, four sectional titles, and one Super-Sectional title during her time coaching the Wildcats. Her record at Normal West is 350-108-1.

Hawkins, who will enter his 18th season as head coach at Normal West when the new season starts in March, has accumulated a record of 442-178 and was formally inducted into the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall Of Fame at a dinner in Lombard in January.

2017-18 School Calendar Approved: Among the items Board members approved on their omnibus agenda was the finalized 2017-18 school year calendar. Among the calendar’s highlights are the first day of school on Wednesday, Aug. 16; Normal West Homecoming on Friday, Sept. 22; NCHS Homecoming on Friday, Oct. 6; Christmas Break beginning Friday, Dec. 22; Second Semester beginning Tuesday, Jan. 9; Spring Break running from March 26-30; and high school graduations on Saturday, May 26.

By Steve Robinson | February 20, 2017 - 10:50 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Normal Town Council members unanimously approved a resolution accepting a set of bids from Bloomington-based Rowe Construction Co. to begin projects at Towanda Ave., Broadway Place, and at Ironwood Golf Course. The total amount of money the Town will spend on the trio of projects is $813,982.19. Part of that amount to includes a budget adjustment of $129,849.

That total dollar figure will pay for resurfacing work to be done on Towanda Ave., including a new right-turn lane stretching northbound from Towanda Ave. to Vernon Ave. New traffic lights and upgraded sidewalks will also be part of the work done in that area.

With regard to the Towanda Ave. project, Town Engineer Gene Brown told Council members it won’t be necessary to close that section of the street at night.

Also up to be improved as part of this project are the tunnels under Towanda Ave. at Ironwood Country Club. The current ones will be replaced. Broadway Place will receive a resurfacing job as part of the project.

Tracy Widergren Appointed To Normal Planning Commission: Council members also unanimously approved the appointment of Tracy Widerren to the Normal Planning Commission. Widergren is filling the vacancy on the Commission left by the departure of Joseph Cleary. Cleary left to fill a vacancy on the Normal-based Unit 5 School Board. Widergren will serve a full four year term which will expire on March 31, 2021.

An Illinois State University graduate, Widergren, holding bachelor’s degrees in public relations and English, as well as a Master’s degree in Communication. Currently, Widergren serves as Assistant Director of Marketing and Communication at the University, and is also an instructor there. She has served as a member of the Town’s 2040 Visioning Committee and currently serves on the Town and Gown Relations Advisory Group for the Town of Normal Comprehensive Plan. She moved to Normal in 2003 and currently lives here with her husband, Jason, and son Caleb.

Liquor Commission Grants License To D. P. Dough: Prior to the regular Council session, Council members, meeting in their capacity as the Normal Local Liquor Commission, voted to approve a Class B license for SLCB Enterprises, doing business as D. P. Dough, 121 E. Beaufort St. A Class B license is for beer consumption only on premises.

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

• Approval of minutes of the regular meeting on Feb. 6, 2017.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures as of Feb. 15, 2017.

• A resolution authorizing an agreement for construction materials testing services for the 2017 construction season with Bloomington-based Ramsey Geotechnical Engineering LLC (RGE).

• A resolution approving hourly rates and direct costs for 2017 with Clark-Dietz, Inc.; Crawford, Murphy, & Tilly, Inc.; Farnsworth Group; Lewis, Yockey, And Brown, Inc.; Maurer-Stutz, Inc.; and Wight and Company to provide engineering services for various Town departments.

• A resolution authorizing the execution of an intergovernmental agreement for the police shooting range facility with the City of Bloomington.

• A resolution authorizing an intergovernmental agreement between the Town of Normal and the City of Bloomington for replacement of traffic signals at Towanda Ave. and Vernon Ave..

• A resolution authorizing the installation of fiber optic traffic signal communication lines under the existing traffic signal maintenance contract with Champaign Signal and Lighting Company in an amount not to exceed $25,000.

• A resolution to appropriate $220,000 of the Town’s allotment of Motor Fuel Tax funds for traffic signal improvements at the Towanda Ave./Vernon Ave. intersection.

• A resolution authorizing a license agreement with Evansville, Ind.-based Metro Fibernet LLC, doing business as Metronet, for the placement of antennas and equipment on the Pine Street water tower.

• An ordinance approving an amendment to the license agreement with based Metro Fibernet LLC for the installation of a fiber optic hut on Town property at 700 Pine St.