By Steve Robinson | January 30, 2019 - 10:48 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Andrew Meyer is your typical high school senior in many respects in that he’s finishing up his senior year at University High, he’s completed looking at his college options and decided on where he will go to college by now, and looks forward to graduating and beginning his college career.

But Andrew is not typical in terms of being a high school student in that his weekends are occupied participating in a sport he said he enjoys, hockey. To that end, since the beginning of his junior year, he has been playing goalie for the Chicago Bruins, members of the Central States Developmental Hockey League. The level of play the team Andrew is on is called Midget Major Under 18. At that level, players compete in a full 30-game regular season schedule which runs from late September through early February followed by playoffs. The Bruins coach at that level is Mike Rohdenburg.

Also at that level, these young men get a sampling of not just teams from the Chicago area, but also from St. Louis, Arizona, and California. Western states’ teams use up airfare while in-state teams play home games, the Meyers explained.

That also has meant that Andrew, son of Scott Meyer, and Dr. Barbara Meyer, has been on the road most weekends for the team’s home games played in the Chicago suburb of Addison. It has also meant traveling up to Addison for twice weekly practices, too. As long as he kept his grades up, his parents had no issue with Andrew playing for the team, his father explained. To do that, Andrew added, has meant doing homework in his father’s vehicle en route to practices.

As important as his grades are, of course, so is the position Andrew plays. You see, Andrew Meyer plays “between the pipes,” as they say, for the Bruins. That’s right, he’s the goalie. And he’s their first string goalie.

Andrew has been playing hockey since second grade in programs which took place in the Pepsi Ice Center adjacent to Grossinger Motors Arena in downtown Bloomington, known as U. S. Cellular Coliseum when he started. “The fast pace of the game and the excitement it brought to the crowd” is what Andrew said appealed to him when he was young and still holds his interest today.

But Andrew wasn’t always a big hockey fan, he admits. As a kid, he started out as a basketball fan. “I would always watch hockey on TV and he’d watch with me,” Scott Meyer explained. From that interaction, the fascination with hitting the ice grew.

Because there was no league or teams in the vicinity of the Twin Cities when Andrew got to the age level he was at now, when the time came to try out for a team so he could try to continue playing, “I headed up to Chicago to find a team for my age level.” He found the level of competition he was seeking when he tried out for the Bruins prior to the start of last season.

Toward the end of Andrew’s first season, the Bruins won their State Tournament which allowed them to advance to a national tournament. At the national level, the Bruins, under Rohdenburg, won the State Tournament and got as far as the quarterfinals of the national tourney before their season ended. When they finished the national tournament, the Bruins were ranked sixth out of 400 teams nationwide, Scott Meyer explained.

Andrew is needed to participate in two team practices a week in Addison and stays overnight with a teammate when there are back-to-back games on weekends.

It’s been exciting to see your kid excel at a higher level of hockey than what was available here,” Scott Meyer said.

“Andrew was phenomenal,” said Rohdenburg of Andrew after his tryout with the team prior to last season. “I liked him from the first time I saw him. His size and how he moves is what struck me” from the beginning, the veteran coach added. “He has a good knack for the game and for the puck. He has great size, he’s poised in the net.”

Of the commitment Andrew’s parents have made the past two years, Rohdenburg said, “Scott and Barb have been phenomenal. They haven’t missed anything in two years.”

Although last season was exciting for the Bruins what with all they achieved, this season has not gone as well, the Meyers said. They finished the regular season with a record of 12-9-9. There are no overtimes to break ties in CSDHL. But the team is looking forward to getting into the playoffs, Scott Meyer added.

Last month, with three colleges trying to convince him to choose them for his college experience, Andrew committed to attended Illinois State University where he will play for the Division I team the Redbirds have in the sport. In the last four years, Rohdenburg has seen a number of players move up to that level. Andrew will become the eighth player to do so.

In a press release announcing Andrew’s signing with ISU, that team’s head coach, Bobby DiNardi said, “We’re happy to have Andrew as a Redbird. He’s a good kid that I’ve personally watched grow on and off the ice over the years. We’re excited to see his progression in the next four years and fills a huge need for the organization.”

Andrew told me he is considering aiming his major studies at ISU toward the field of Kinesiology. Studying that subject, Andrew said, came into focus for him as what he wanted to do as his life’s work just in the last six months.

Playing for ISU will be fun for Andrew as he continues to apply himself in the sport and work toward his college studies during that period. It will also save on mileage for his folks, too. But what I suspect Andrew has learned from the experience of the last two years will travel with him the rest of his life.

By Steve Robinson | January 29, 2019 - 10:24 pm
Posted in Category: Sports, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – The boys’ championship at the 108th Heart Of Illinois Conference/McLean County Tournament showed each team which got to the contest looked to have the right to be there, showing control in the half they commanded. But in the end, top seed Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley held overtook sixth seed El Paso Gridley for a 40-36 victory and the tourney title.

EPG senior forward Noah Smith led off the game with a bucket which GCMS quickly countered with baskets to open the contest at 2-0, but quickly fell behind 3-2 on a trey by senior guard Bryce Barnes. Junior forward Silas Steiner and senior guard Teron Fairchild doubled the Titans lead, 6-3 with 5:58 in the opening quarter, forcing GCMS head coach Ryan Tomkins to call a timeout.

Following the timeout, a trey by senior forward Caleb Bleich at 4:39 in the quarter, tied the game at 6-all. A foul committed by EPG senior guard Ryne Faulk sent Barnes to the free throw line where he sank one, putting the Falcons up, 7-6. But Titans senior guard Teron Fairchild countered with a trey, giving his team a two-point advantage, 9-7, at the 3:17 mark. Two free throws by Fairchild increased EPG’s lead, 11-7. But the half ended with EPG’s lead reduced to two, 11-9, after Bleich’s jumper with 56 seconds remaining.

Fairchild opened the second quarter for EPG (18-6) with back-to-back baskets – a trey and a deuce to extend his team’s lead, 16-9, at 5:30 left in the quarter. GCMS recovered with a basket from senior guard Connor Birky closing the lead to 16-11. But a Steiner bucket pushed EPG up, 18-11. But EPG junior forward Jack Weber’s foul sent Barnes to the free throw line where he hit both shots, narrowing EPG’s lead to five, 18-13.

EPG (18-6) responded with back-to-back unanswered deuces from senior forward Noah Smith and Faulk, increasing the Titans’ lead to nine, 22-13, prompting GCMS (20-2) to call for a timeout. Following GCMS’ regroup, Barnes hit a deuce with 35 seconds left in the half, but EPG held a 22-15 advantage.

Barnes hit a deuce to open the third quarter, closing EPG’s lead to five, 22-17, but that was brief as EPG added a trey from Fairchild and a deuce from Faulk to go up by 10, 27-17. Freehill hit two deuces to close the gap, reducing EPG’s lead to 27-21, but Fairchild helped push the Titans up again with a deuce, 29-21. When CGMS closed the gap to 29-23, GCMS called time to discuss strategy. After that timeout, Barnes hit a trey with 3:06 left to narrow EPG’s lead to three, 29-26. And from that point on, the contest became defensive in nature with no points scored until the period ended.

But it wasn’t until 6:35 in the fourth quarter when another basket was scored, courtesy of junior forward Jack Weber, putting EPG up, 33-26. A pair of free throws nudged GCMS within five, 33-28 with 6:28 left. A Fairchild free throw at 5:59 put EPG in front by six, 34-28, with 5:59 left.

Barnes hit a deuce to pull GCMS within four, 34-30, with 5:18 left, and that prompted EPG to call a timeout. In fact, once the boys were back on the court after that timeout, head coach Nathaniel Meiss called a second timeout with 4:50 on the clock. After that, Freehill hit his next score, reducing EPG’s lead, 34-30 with 4:44 left. A deuce by EPG’s Smith pushed the Titans further ahead, 36-32. But a deuce by Barnes made it a two-point game, 36-34 with 41.1 seconds left, at which point the Falcons called time.

Once out of the timeout, Barnes fouled an EPG player who missed a lone free throw and the Falcons took another timeout with 41.1 seconds remaining. Once out of the timeout, both defenses were on display until with 15.5 seconds left, Barnes hit a jumper to tie the game and was fouled by EPG’s Steiner in the process. Barnes completed the three-point play, giving GCMS a one-point advantage, 37-36. EPG took two timeouts – right after Barnes’ free throw, and again at 12.8 seconds.

With six seconds left, GCMS senior forward Ryland Holt fouled Steiner, who missed the free throw. EPG’s Weber fouled Holt with 4.5 seconds left, but before Holt to take his free shots, the Titans took a time out. After that, Holt sank one of the two, increasing GCMS’ lead to two, 38-36. The final score was achieved on a rebound shot by Barnes.

“The play we had in the final seconds was that the ball was going to go to Barnes,” explained Tompkins. He added that although the two teams had played a couple weeks ago, EPG gave his kids what they were expecting in terms of play. They’re a tremendous team. It was a battle up at their place two weeks ago and when you have that, you’re always leery to play the same team twice. It was a battle.”

“We had our opportunities, but I’m happy Barnes is graduating,” EPG head coach Nathaniel Meiss said smiling. ”We tried to be really patient offensively toward the end of the third quarter, and that’s something we try to do. I think we defended at a really high level.”

BLOOMINGTON – Being nervous in the face of attempting to win a championship is perfectly natural for any sports team. El Paso Gridley’s girls basketball team, seeded 7th and preparing to face top seed Eureka for the girls’ championship game title in the annual Heart Of Illinois Conference/McLean County Tournament, could be forgiven for some jitters prior to tipoff considering the opponent.

But although those pre-game jitters stretched into the first quarter making the Lady Titans’ task tougher, they managed a comeback only to fall by just four points to the top-seeded Lady Hornets, 41-37, before a crowd of roughly 2,500 fans at Shirk Center on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus.

Only two Lady Titans – senior guard Jaycie Schertz and junior center Sierra Carr, respectfully – managed to score baskets in the first quarter, Carr’s bucket cutting Eureka’s lead to two very early in the quarter. But that was all the scoring the Lady Titans could muster in the period as Eureka senior guard Courtney Heffren responded with a basket that would be the first in a 6-0 run thanks to two back-to-back unanswered scores by senior guard Amy Pineda, which put the Lady Hornets up, 12-4, en route to an 18-4 lead to close out the first quarter.

Eureka’s Heffren and EPG junior guard Addison Benedict exchanged baskets to open the second quarter giving the Lady Hornets a 20-6 lead at 5:12 in the second quarter. Heffren would score twice more and add a free throw, increasing Eureka’s lead, 25-6, before EPG would close out the half on a run of their own thanks to freshman guard Jordyn Cannon’s bucket and free throw followed by Carr’s half-ending basket. The two sides went into the half with Eureka owning a 25-11.

Having established an idea of how the other side plays during the first half, the third quarter began with fouls and free throws, starting with Cannon going 1-for-2 at the line having been fouled by Eureka senior forward Lauren Ausmus. That closed Eureka’s lead, 25-12. But Ausmus went to the line herself sinking two shots after being fouled by Schertz, putting Eureka up, 27-12. Schertz got fouled almost as quickly by Lady Hornets senior guard Morgan Greene, and sank two free throws, closing Eureka’s lead, 27-15 with four minutes in the quarter.

Back-to-back unanswered treys after that from Benedict and senior guard Ashlyn Stone helped EPG come within six, 27-21 with 2:34 left in the quarter. The two treys forced Eureka head coach Jerry Prina to call for a time out. EPG would pull within three, 27-24, thanks to a free throw and a free throw by Stone, again prompting Prina to call another timeout with 10.8 second left in the quarter.

Heffren opened the fourth quarter with a deuce with 6:40 left in the contest and Carr countered for EPG to keep the Lady Titans within three, 29-26, followed by Farney and Ausmus hitting back-to-back unanswered deuces which extended the Lady Hornets’ lead, 33-26, with 5:30 left. Two free throws and a basket by Cannon followed by two free throws by Schertz gave EPG a 6-0 run and brought the Lady Titans as close as they would get on the evening – one point, 33-32 before a deuce by Ausmus would extend the Lady Hornets’ lead back to three, 35-32, at the game’s 3:24 mark. At that point, Lady Titans head coach Nate Ehrhardt called time out. Following the timeout, EPG’s Stone fouled Ausmus, who sank two free shots, increasing Eureka’s lead, 39-34 with 1:54 left.

Right after, Eureka junior guard Darby Leman fouled Cannon who missed both free throws. Eureka’s Greene, having been fouled by Stone, also missed her free throw try. EPG called time out with 38.6 seconds remaining. Eureka head coach Prina called time out, as well, with 34.9 seconds remaining.

Coming out of that time out, Stone fouled Eureka’s Ausmus, sending her to the free throw line where she hit both shots, adding to her team’s lead, 41-34, with 9 seconds remaining. But a trey from Stone with 1.9 seconds remaining would turn out to be the last shot on the night, giving the Lady Titans second place in the tournament.

Although there were no Lady Titans in double-figures, Carr led her team’s scoring with 9 points. She was followed by Stone, Cannon, and Benedict who each sank 7 points. Eureka’s Heffren had a game-high 17 points, followed by Ausmus’ 12.

“At the start of the second quarter, we just asked our girls to settle down,” Ehrhardt said. “They were just a little excited and nervous. We got a little careless with the ball in the first quarter. But once they settled into the game and taking their time being careful with the basketball, that’s when we gradually began to make strides, and Eureka started playing our kind of basketball instead of us playing their kind of basketball.”

As Eureka began to see EPG turn their game around, Ehrhardt said, his team could see EPG’s pressure was beginning to concern Eureka. “When we saw that happening, we just kept our foot down on the gas pedal and taking it at them.”

“EPG had some really fortunate loose ball bounces, but they never quit,” Eureka’s Prina said in commending the Lady Titans on their effort. “That’s what you expect from a team from El Paso Gridley is a team that never quits, a team that’s always going to compete, and we knew we had our hands full.”

The win pushed Eureka, currently first in Class 2A toward a 26-2 mark. The win was the team’s 14th straight win on the season. EPG, who also lost to Eureka in early January, saw their record drop to 12-11 after this contest.

By Steve Robinson | January 25, 2019 - 10:45 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

A member of Boy Scout Troop 12 in the Twin Cities, when Jack DeKeersgieter sought to go after his Citizenship In The Community merit badge, this young man did a little research, but didn’t have to go far to find a cause worth fighting for.

Jack, now an eighth grader at Chiddix Junior High School, lives near Colene Hoose Elementary School in Normal. After a traffic fatality at one of the intersections near the school a few years ago, people wondered why there wasn’t some sort of traffic sign installed there. Knowing of the tragedy and living in the area gave Jack an idea with some encouragement from mom Kristine and dad Paul DeKeersgieter.

The fatality in question happened in September 2016 when Normal resident Lanny Lobdell was killed as he jogged across the crosswalk at the four-way intersection of Grandview Drive and Vernon Avenue. He was struck by a car driven by an Illinois State University student from Belvidere. Normal Police issued a citation to the driver of the car that struck Lobdell for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

“We live near that intersection, so we had seen people run cars through it regularly,” Jack explained. Part of the requirement for the badge, he added, was those seeking the badge needed to come up with an issue which would necessitate talking directly with a Town official.

Kristine DeKeersgieter said Jack might not have remembered the accident, but once she brought it back into focus for him, Jack said doing something to prevent another such tragedy from being repeated was what he wanted to take on to earn his badge.

Jack said the requirement for earning the badge is to address a public official on a topic. From there, the process for Jack, or any other Scout for that matter in the circumstance, was to pick the subject and approach a public official to discuss it.

“The merit badge wants boys to be familiar with Town government,” his mother added. “They want you to go interview a government official and then after the interview is completed, the requirement for the badge is done.”

“The kids are supposed to learn how to navigate through the Town, so that if you have an issue, you find out who you would talk to in the city government,” added Paul DeKeersgieter.

Jack approached Wayne Aldrich, Normal’s Public Works Director, to discuss what could be done to put flashing LED lights at that intersection to help make drivers more cautious about going through it. Aldrich added if Jack could get more than one citizen to agree the sign was needed, and speak with some Normal Town Council members, the Town would be able to justify putting the LED lights at that corner.

Jack’s next step to get the Town to consider putting the new lights in place was to go door-to-door to get residents in the area to sign a petition to the Town asking for the change at that intersection. But before he even began his trek to get signatures, Jack and his mother contacted Annette Lobdell, Lanny Lobdell’s widow, to make her aware of what he was about to undertake. Lobdell and her son, Chad, gave their blessings to Jack’s mission, Kristine DeKeersgieter said.

Jack even devised a plan for tackling the task of getting the signatures, his father said, explaining his son created a color-coded map of the neighborhoods where they would seek those signatures. Jack, his folks, and two siblings canvassed the area. As he was gathering signatures, Jack found it didn’t take long to find a connection to a Town Council member. That’s because one person who answered one of Jack’s ringing doorbells was Missy McCarthy, wife of Normal Town Council Member Kevin McCarthy, who let her husband know about this young constituent’s determination to see that intersection to be made safer.

Probably without knowing what the term means, Jack “is very civic minded,” Kevin McCarthy said. “He found something that was near and dear and important to his community, and he dug and dug, and kept following the lead.”

“His perseverance struck me,” added another Normal Town Council member Jack made contact with to seek help for the change he sought, Kathleen Lorenz. “He accomplished what he needed to simply by talking to Wayne Aldrich, the Town’s public works director. And he could have stopped there after talking to Wayne and been done with it, gotten his badge and been on his way. But he saw the bigger need and showed a pretty mature attitude and perspective for a young person.”

That perspective shined as he was asked by Mayor Chris Koos to sit at the speaker’s table to present and explain his request during a Council meeting in November. He did it with notes and a poise which left the room of roughly 40 folks attending impressed, and his family proud.

“I think he had a good case and a good idea when we originally met,” Aldrich added. “We had used these signs in a couple different areas, as has Bloomington, but I didn’t know if they would be applied at that intersection but I was aware of some safety issue at that intersection.”

At their second meeting in November, Normal Town Council members unanimously passed a motion approving criteria and analysis for installation of flashing LED stop signs and authorizing installation of the signs at the intersection of Vernon Ave. and Grandview Dr., and approving an associated budget adjustment of $3,500.

“Jack’s proposed solution will result in a safer intersection,” stated Town Engineer Ryan Otto. Prior to the flashing sign recently installed, he added, there had just been stop signs at the four corners of that intersection. “He’s an intelligent young man and an advocate for something he believed in. That’s very commendable.”

“We thought the reason he chose this was because he went to Hoose, he goes to Chiddix, he’s lived in that area his whole life, within blocks of this intersection and he didn’t want to see anybody else pass away there,” his mother theorized.

He may be 14 now, but when he gets older and ready to go into the working world, Jack said he would really like to do something that involves how transportation systems are developed. He even uses a computer game that helps kids construct buildings. It’s been something he has had interest in since he was younger, his folks said. His mother said when he gets to college, her son might want to look into classes which teach about urban planning.

This experience, it appears, didn’t just get Jack a merit badge. It appears to have also given him an inkling of what such a career would be like.

By Steve Robinson | January 22, 2019 - 10:31 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

NORMAL – Although neighbors raised objections to the notion of having a fire station close to their residences, Normal Town Council members voted 4-2 to approve an ordinance approving a concept plan for the Blackstone Trails subdivision. The majority of the properties in the subdivision are zoned Single Family Residential with a strip of the property zoned Mixed Residential.

With Mayor Chris Koos absent from Monday’s meeting, Council Member Kathleen Lorenz and Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Fritzen cast the opposing votes to the measure. Lorenz had even floated voting on an amendment tabling the proposed ordinance until further research could be done by Town Staff. That suggested amendment was defeated by a 4-2 tally, with Lorenz and Fritzen voting in favor and Council Members Scott Preston, R. C. McBride, Chemberly Cummings, and Kevin McCarthy voting against it.

Roughly 30 of the residents who live near the proposed subdivision came to the meeting with a few speaking in public comments to Council members, primarily about their objections to a proposed new Normal Fire Department station which would be built, if approved, in the southwest corner of the subdivision.

Former Mayoral Candidate Marc Tiritilli was one speaking against the current proposed location of the new fire station. He said the Town should look at relocating the station to another corner within the area.

“We already pay higher taxes,” complained a neighbor to the Blackstone Trail subdivision, Debbie Schroeder. She complained the Town’s process for rolling out what was planned for the subdivision “wasn’t transparent.” She closed her comments by saying, “Obviously, your moral compass is broken. Residents of the subdivision will not go away today, tomorrow, or at the ballot box.”

The subdivision is comprised of 352 lots, 120 of them large sized, Town Planner Mercy Davison told Council members. The corner planned for the fire station would need to be rezoned for public institutions, she explained. Davison explained, and Fire Chief Mick Humer clarified, the neighborhood had had no prior complaints when NFD equipment had need to come through or near that subdivision.

Property values decreasing was a concern of residents, Council Member McCarthy mentioned, but he was quick to counter what he had heard by saying, “People have shared an area by living next to a Normal Fire station and it hasn’t affected their property values.”

Preston asked City Manager Pam Reece about the selection process used by the Town to determine future fire station sites. Reece said NFD frequently double-checks distances to determine the correct location for any future fire station. She added the department has a record of getting to the scene of a fire call within 5 ½ to 6 minutes 90 percent of the time. She added, based on runs made by NFD, the corner in question was “the best location available.”

Addressing the concerns residents put forth, Cummings told the gathering, “We are listening and we hear you, and this won’t be taken lightly. There are those who know this service is needed and there are those who know there’s a concern for property values.”

In response to a question from McBride, Reece said the earliest a fire station would be functioning at the proposed location could be sometime in 2022. It was after that question that Lorenz asked to have an amendment to consider tabling voting on the ordinance. The two votes, surrounding the amendment and the initial ordinance itself, followed.

The vote to rezone the land on the corner of Hershey Rd. and Shepard Rd. where the proposed fire station would be located, in the northeast corner of the subdivision, came next passing unanimously without discussion.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Council members used an omnibus vote to approve the following agenda items:

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Jan. 7, 2019.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Jan. 16, 2019.

• A resolution authorizing execution of a lease agreement with the Illinois House of Representatives, by its agent, Illinois State Representative 105th District, Dan Brady and with U. S. House of Representatives by its agent, U. S. Rep. Rodney Davis.

• A resolution to authorize the city manager to negotiate and execute a license agreement with Greyhound Lines, Inc. for access to Uptown Station as a transportation provider.

• A resolution accepting a proposal from Monee, Ill.-based Cardno, Inc. for repair and restoration of the Park West detention basin in the amount of $122,400.

• A resolution conditionally and partially approving the final plat of the Credit Union Subdivision by expedited process (ISU Credit Union, 1309 S. Center St.).

• A resolution conditionally and partially approving the final plat of the Bryan Drive subdivision by expedited process and waiving development fees (Habitat For Humanity).

• A resolution authorizing the execution of a contract to approve a three-year towing contract with Joe’s Towing and Recovery.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing an agreement with Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Arbor Professional Solutions Collections Services for ambulance service collections.