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IHSA Announces Second Class of Distinguished Media Service Award Winners

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The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) is proud to announce its second class of recipients of the IHSA Distinguished Media Service Award. The 2014 honorees include Champaign News-Gazette Executive Sports Editor and writer Fred Kroner, Daily Herald Fox Valley edition Editor and writer John Radtke and Jim Taylor, the voice of WRMJ radio in Aledo.

The IHSA Distinguished Media Service Award was created based on a recommendation from the IHSA Media Advisory Committee and seeks to recognize media members who have covered high school sports and activities in Illinois for a significant period of time, while maintaining perspective on the amateur events they report on.

“This is another stellar group of honorees,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. “I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with each of these gentlemen throughout my time at the IHSA. Not only are they respected in their communities for the work they do, but they are also quality people.”

IHSA member schools submitted nominations for the award. The IHSA’s media advisory committee, and a veteran’s committee of retired media members that includes former IHSA administrator Jim Flynn, then voted on each nominee. Those who received the required percentage of votes were named honorees. Each winner will be honored at a high school event of their choosing during the 2014-15 school year.

“One of the important parts of this award is the recognition within the community,” said IHSA Assistant Executive Director Matt Troha. “We found it to be a very rewarding experience for the honorees last year during the inaugural round of presentations. I look forward to seeing this year’s winners be honored in front of the students, coaches and communities they have impacted with their exceptional work.”

A brief bio and information on the award presentation date for each honoree is listed below:

FRED KRONER
Presentation: Champaign Central basketball game on Friday, January 30 at 7:30 p.m.
Fred Kroner’s foray into sportswriting began with a seventh grade school project profiling the job. That grade school project sprouted a 41-year career that has combined Fred’s two great passions, “writing and sports.” He began writing soon thereafter as a high school student, working for the Mahomet-Seymour High School Bulldog Journal, as well as for the local weekly paper, the Mahomet Sucker State. After graduating from the University of Illinois, Fred made a stop at the Bloomington Pantagraph and then joined the New-Gazette staff in Champaign, where he has remained for the past 34 years. A few teams’ that stand out from his time there include the 1984 Centennial boys’ basketball team led by Roger McClendon, the Sullivan girls’ basketball team that Scott Thomas coached to an undefeated record in 1991, and Randy Wolken’s St. Joseph-Ogden softball team that won a state title in 2006. Fred cites the variety of prep sports he covers for making the job fun year after year, saying “I love not having to cover the same sport every day. The job never gets old.” Fred’s accolade comes at a fitting time, as he recently announced that he will retire at the conclusion of the 2014-15 school year.

JOHN RADTKE
Presentation: Hampshire at Burlington Central Boys Basketball game on Saturday, December 6
John Radtke says “purity” is what makes high school sports so special. “I’ve been fortunate to cover the Bears, Cubs, Sox, Hawks and Bulls in my career, but nothing compares to the purity and intimacy you get in a high school gym or on a high school field. Covering high school student-athletes and then watching as they become productive and successful adults is as good as it gets.” John will come full circle when he is recognized for his 40-year career working in prep sports, including the past 20 years at the Daily Herald. The Burlington Central High School grad will be honored at his alma mater, where his sports media career began as a radio broadcaster of Rocket athletic events. He learned “the ropes” of the business working at the DeKalb Daily Chronicle as a high school student and joined the Elgin Courier-News staff after graduating from Judson University. John also founded and was the long-time coach of the Northern Illinois Lightning travel softball organization. Not surprisingly, seeing his alma mater qualify for the IHSA Softball State Finals in 2009 was one of the most rewarding moments of his career. John is dedicating this honor to his late father John Radtke, Sr., whose support and love of sports made an indelible impact. “Without his love, guidance and support, when I was 17-18 years old and beyond, I don’t know that I would be what I am today.”

JAMES TAYLOR
Presentation: Mercer County basketball on Friday, January 23
Growing up in the Quad Cities in the 1970’s, Jim Taylor was raised on high school hoops while attending games with his family at United Township High School in East Moline. “Following the Western Big 6 in those years when Jerry Leggett, Cliff Talley, Whitey Verstraete, Don Morris and Duncan Reid were coaching. I guess I got hooked then.” After graduating from Alleman High School, Jim matriculated to Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where he found his calling working at the campus radio station WSIE. Aledo’s WRMJ 102.3 FM hired Jim out of college in 1990 and he has remained there ever since, rising to his current title as the News & Sports Director. Jim says he “loves traveling through the small towns of Illinois,” something he frequently enjoys while leading WRMJ’s vast high school sports coverage. However, he says the best part of the job is “the connection you get from covering your local schools and the relationships you forge.” Jim’s most memorable high school game resulted in a significant relationship being forged, as he met his future wife Nikki at an Aledo-Abingdon boys’ basketball game on December 3rd, 1993. Jim has been named the Best Small Market Sportscaster by the Illinois Broadcasters Association five times in his career.
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