By Steve Robinson | August 27, 2018 - 10:44 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

In the two preceding high school football seasons, Heyworth High fans struggled along with their team as the Hornets could only muster three victories total during that period. At the end of last season, the athletic director at that time, Charlie Lockenour, who was soon to retire, joined by his successor, Josh Klokkenga, interviewed coaches to find one who would improve matters after Brian Bradshaw’s two years on the sidelines ended in his firing.

Before Lockenour exited, Heyworth hired Derek Logue to try to lead the Hornets going forward. Logue, a 2008 Normal Community High School grad who played under Hud Venerable as his head coach, knows a little something about getting into playoffs as he was part of the Ironmen’s 2005 and 2006 squads, the latter one of which went undefeated, 14-0. During his sophomore year in 2005, he witnessed a 12-2 season and in his senior year, 2007, saw NCHS get to a semifinal contest which they lost to Joliet Catholic.

That means during his last three years of high school, he saw and took part in being on a team that amassed a 38-3 record, including winning a Class 6A title.

The 28-year-old Logue said one of his goals after graduating from Eastern Illinois University was to become a head football coach. He said he began looking at what openings were present statewide. Seeing Heyworth’s opening and being from Normal, “I was familiar with Heyworth and I went after it. It just felt right,” he said. He added he asked around about the program and the position to make sure it could be a good fit.

About applying for the job, Logue said, “It just felt right.”

Turning the Hornets around “is a process and it’s going to take time,” Logue said. “It’s not an overnight fix or solution, and I know that,” the 28-year-old said. “I was kind of excited about the opportunity to get something built and going in the right direction.”

The Hornets belong to Illinois High School Association Class 1A, but Logue has been an assistant for teams at varying levels throughout the state. That includes being an assistant in Class 1A Arcola when the head coach was Gerald Temples, father of former NCHS head coach Wes Temples; Class 4A Mattoon, Class 5A Mattoon, and even at NCHS the year after he graduated from his alma mater while he attended Heartland Community College.

Of the new assignment, Logue indicated, “There’s really something about how a town can really rally behind you. I felt how special that small town feel was in Heyworth,” adding he looked forward to building up the Hornets program.

“I want to be able to give the fans something to be excited about and head their program in the right direction,” said the former NCHS starting center. He added getting players to follow what he’d be asking of them to get going in that direction “is a process that will take time.”

“We’re going to become tougher and we’re going to become stronger,” Logue said. “We have to get the kids to buy into our system.” He said he wants his charges to learn what it takes to be mentally and physically tough and to learn to cope with adversity.

Off the field, Logue and his wife, Megan, have two sons, 3-year-old Lucas and 6-month-old Alec.

Klokkenga has been Athletic Director at HHS since July 1 and said, “Derek’s passion and his drive were things I remember from his interview. He wants the boys to be driven and explained every drill would be a competition. He wants a competitive nature in practice because he believes it will translate on game nights.”

The Hornets’ education in learning what they needed to go further in the Heart Of Illinois Conference standings while learning to handle adversity got its first test when they hosted El Paso Gridley to open the season Aug. 24. The Hornets drew a blank, losing to the Titans, 28-0. That gave them the handling adversity lesson. Logue is no doubt hoping that the lessons they learned from that game can be worked upon in hopes of cranking out a win at home against Flanagan Friday night starting with the 7p.m. kickoff.

During last weekend’s annual Sweet Corn and Blues Festival in Uptown Normal, known to locals by the short abbreviation of CornFest, the event’s big highlight, the Corn Eating Contest, generated the usual excitement in both the kids’ and adult divisions. It even produced a renewed family rivalry (more on that shortly), and crowned a newcomer in the kids’ race.

But Kathleen Rea, daughter of Bruce and Amy Rea of Normal, couldn’t be considered your average newly-crowned corn-chomping champ. That’s because up until a few weeks ago, the fresh-faced home schooled youngster didn’t even eat corn because she didn’t like it.

“The thing is,” the 11-year-old sixth grader said, “A couple weeks ago, I didn’t even like sweet corn, but now, I do.” She liked it enough to train, as it were, for the event by doing something every parent frowns on as a behavior exhibited by their children: Racing through their meals. She was among a dozen kids who entered the competition.

Kathleen’s inspiration for her first attempt at speed eating was having seen hot dog and watermelon eating contests on television, she explained. She said she observed the winners of those events had a technique, which to her thinking, was similar to using their teeth like a drill and just bearing down to get the food down.

She said she likes studying science and art in school, and hopes for one of two kinds of careers when she’s old enough: Either a fashion designer or a dolphin trainer. She downed five ears of corn in her rookie debut winning the kids’ contest, and received a small backpack as reward for her first prize finish.

Adult Contest Becomes Adelman Family Rematch: In the contest’s adult division, things were just as intense with about the same number of contestants – two of whom have become very familiar to those who have been witnesses to this event before. Father and son competitors Bill and Charlie Adelman have squared off before, last year with Bill outpacing his son.

This year, the two were stationed side-by-side when the contest started and stayed neck-and-neck for most of the contest as they both employed the technique Bill had taught his son when they first entered the contest six years ago: To hold the cob vertically and just sheer off the niblets with their teeth.

Charlie is now a sophomore at Bloomington Central Catholic High School and is on the Saints junior varsity and varsity football squads in the combo positions of fullback and linebacker. Now 16, he had won the corn eating contest’s kids division three times and won in the adult division, too. He claims he ate his last meal at noon Saturday and began fasting to prepare his stomach for this event. But a confidential source (his younger brother, Will) reported Charlie had a slice of pizza Saturday night for dinner.

Even with his training, as father and son stood side-by-side in the five minute event, it ended in a tie at 12 ears downed per man. That forced an overtime the result was a draw, too, each one of them downing three more ears.

Charlie admits when Bill taught him the technique at first, he didn’t fully understand the logic of it until he put it into practice for himself. But now, he appears to have mastered it as well as he was instructed to by his dad – enough to achieve that draw, at least.

But there was no denying the Town didn’t have to claim a draw when it came to the success of this year’s two-day event, and the Corn Eating Contest provided some entertainment to top off that success.

By Steve Robinson | August 25, 2018 - 10:33 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

NORMAL – As they are for any team’s opening game, thoughts of a positive season were on the minds of players, coaches, and fans alike when University High took to the Hancock Field turf against Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin in a Central State Eight season opening matchup.

But at the 9:16 mark in the fourth quarter, with the Cyclones up 42-0, the cheering stopped and the stadium was silent as fans watched trainers for U-High and then paramedics attend to sophomore wide receiver Savion Jackson who was knocked unconscious during a kickoff return. At first, there were murmurs in the crowd and then complete silence as fans watched the 5 foot-10, 165 pound Savion being worked on. From the time trainers and paramedics got to Jackson to the time he was wheeled off the field, roughly 20-25 minutes passed. Once Jackson was headed to the ambulance on a stretcher, fans could be heard applauding the young man.

Some U-High students cried and held one another from the time Jackson was first attended to and continued doing so even after the game had been called and the ambulance left the stadium. Frustration and grief had some Pioneers players starting back toward the school building located at the corner of Main and Gregory Streets, but they were corralled by assistant coach Mike Troll who ordered them to stay on the field for a message from head coach John Johnson, and Troll added they needed to walk back to the school as a group.

“He woke a couple of times,” Johnson said about Jackson during that post game talk. “His vitals are very good. He’s going to be okay. Guys, we lost a football game, but that’s just a bunch of light bulbs on a board. We’ve got to play for Savion from here on out, right…?”

“He’s going to be back, he’s going to fine, he’s going to be okay,” Johnson added as he spoke to his players, many of whom were either sobbing or wiping away tears and putting arms around one another.

Following his talk with his players, Johnson told reporters Jackson “jerked and convulsed twice which was a good sign because he was breathing.”

As for the game itself and their opponents, “Like I told the kids, they’re strong up front on both sides of the ball.”

Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin (1-0 in Central State Eight, and overall), ranked third in Illinois High School Association Class 6A, held that 42-0 lead which stood at the point in the game when Jackson’s injury occurred. Once Jackson regained consciousness and was asked questions by medical personnel and was secured to a gurney, a public announcement was made that the game was over.

The Cyclones scored three times in the first quarter, stunning the Pioneers home crowd, starting with a five yard touchdown run by senior running back Joey Milbrandt, followed by an extra point by senior kicker Cade Holloway, giving the visitors a quick 7-0 lead. The Cyclones would score twice more in the quarter, allowing them to go into the second quarter with a 21-0 lead, which they extended to 28-0 at half, and 35-0 after three quarters.

Springfield SHG head coach Ken Leonard had nothing but complimentary things to say about how U-High played against them. “I thought U-High’s secondary did a good job,” he explained. “I thought they tackled well. As a team, they made us work for it because they hung tough.” The loss left U-High with an 0-1 mark overall and in conference play.

By Steve Robinson | August 23, 2018 - 10:37 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – In his comments at the regularly-scheduled meeting of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board on Aug. 22 at District Headquarters, district superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel announced the new school year got off on “a smooth start” when school opened for the year on Aug. 16. And after a few days of bus schedules being in place, Daniel explained, the district received a number of requests for route changes.

A total of more than 900 requests put in by parents for route changes to be exact. “It’s important that kids be on the right bus headed for the right school,” Daniel said addressing the matter. On another subject, he said the district is expecting to receive a grant for its early childhood program. Those additional funds would allow more youngsters to participate in the program, he said.

Board Approves Sale Of Bonds For Working Cash: On occasion, we all need to juggle money in our personal accounts to help make a payment or two. Board members did just that, unanimously voting to sell $16.5 million in working cash fund bonds. The cash would be put to work in the district’s working cash fund.

A public hearing was required to be held by State law prior to the vote, but no one addressed the hearing on the matter.

In another matter related to how the district spends money, Michelle Lamboley, executive director of special services for the district, informed Board members Unit 5 has added four psychologists working four days a week at district junior high schools.

New Program Beginning At Cedar Ridge Elementary Introduced: Cedar Ridge Elementary School Principal Karrah Jensen and three of a team of teachers who have been working on an intervention program which would tie into the school’s Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) initiative addressed Board members at the session.

The intervention program, known as Rocket Ready, named after the school’s team nickname, would be implemented with the school’s already-established PBIS program, and would among other things, help children to address three Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) skills, among them, to “use social awareness and interpersonal skills to establish and maintain positive relationships.”

In addition to Jensen, Board members also heard about Rocket Ready from Leslie Kokotek, a special education teacher at the school; Jara Hendren, Rocket Ready interventionist; and school psychologist Maggie Lakebrink. Other Cedar Ridge Elementary staff who are involved but were not present at the meeting were: Melinda Miethe; Danyelle Babbs; Marielena Gozur; Dina Dixon; Kim Day; and Nancy Braun.

According to team members who addressed Board members, youngsters in kindergarten, first and second grades are currently participating in the program, and it’s hoped third through fifth graders will soon be added.

PJHS Bus Lane Project Awarded To Bloomington Contractor: Board members unanimously voted to award a Bloomington contractor a project to build a new bus lane at the southwest corner of Parkside Junior High School . Of six companies submitting bids, J.G. Stewart Contractors, Inc. submitted the lowest bid for the project of $64,768, outbidding five competitors from Bloomington , Goodfield, Morton, and Springfield .

Pay Increase For Substitutes In Public Comment: In the public comments section of the meeting, Pam Etcheson, a substitute teacher in the district, asked the district to consider a raise in pay for fill-in teachers. Currently, she explained substitute teachers receive $80 per day for a full day and $40 per day for a half-day. She explained that once subs pay for gas and other expenses, the current amount doesn’t go as far as people might think.

As if the rate of pay wasn’t an issue, she said, when teachers receive their money is another concern. If a teacher works at the beginning of a month, that person doesn’t see the check until the middle of the following month, Etcheson explained. She said she would like to see the district consider a faster time lapse for getting checks to substitutes, as a result.

District Celebrates 70th Anniversary, Debuts New Logo: Prior to the meeting, district officials held a reception in the cafeteria of Kingsley Junior High School to celebrate the district’s founding in 1948. Throughout the room, there were published articles and scrapbooks noting noteworthy events from each of the district’s elementary, junior high, and high schools, including the years they were founded.

As part of the celebration, the district debuts a new logo, which was one of five district residents were able to make a final selection on in a vote on Facebook. Each of the designs was created by Ben Matthews, a freelance graphic designer who was approached by the district to create them. The voting took place for about two weeks with the design receiving the most votes being declared the choice, according to Board President Barry Hitchins. “I think the people of Unit 5 made an excellent choice in the logo that will represent the district going forward,” he said.

The logo retains orange as its primary color, and has double semi circles at its sides. Those meet bold black letters at the top and bottom. At the top reads, “ McLEAN COUNTY ” and at the bottom reads “UNIT 5.” A mortarboard sits in front of an open book in its lower third.

From that mortarboard, 70 white straight lines, or beams, one for each of the 70 years Unit 5 has been in operation, extend upward.

Dayna Brown, director of communications and community relations for the district, explained the district wanted to give the new logo “a more modern feel, to make it more applicable to what Unit 5 is today and into the future.”

By Steve Robinson | August 20, 2018 - 10:52 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members only had a couple omnibus items to attend to at the governing body’s regularly scheduled meeting in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station Monday night and Town employees benefited from one of the items on the agenda because it was a resolution to authorize the renewal of group health, dental, and life/accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) program

But the Town received a positive surprise when the bill came due for that insurance, according to City Manager Pam Reece. She explained the Town had budgeted for an 8 percent raise in the cost of the group insurance only to discover that the increase they were presented was just 2 percent above the Town’s previous payment.

As a result, the Town was able to put $55,000 back into the Town’s general fund, Reece said. “Looking at our medical insurance programs, we thought our premiums, likely, would go up 8 percent,” Reece said following the meeting. Accordingly, Reece said, the Town planned for just that much of an increase when the bill came due.

General fund dollars are spent on items relating to the Town’s operations and maintenance needs, Reece reminded.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council meeting of Aug. 6, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Aug. 14, 2018.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the City Manager to enter into a solutions agreement with Superion, LLC to provide a hosted solution for general governmental software.