Distinguished Media Service Award

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. Member schools nominate media members, who are voted on by the Media Advisory Committee and a Veterans Committee.

 

Class of 2013-14

TONY BARANEK | Sportswriter | SouthtownStar, Sun Times Media

Tony Baranek reflects on his childhood saying he was a “voracious reader of the newspaper…cutting sports stories out of Chicago Today and the Chicago Daily News.” When Tony arrived at Bremen High School, he excelled in his English classes and discovered he had a talent for writing, eventually being hired as a stringer for the Harvey Star-Tribune while still in high school. Tony has patrolled Chicagoland and the south suburbs for the SouthtownStar and Sun Times Media since 1974. He recalls athletes like Oak Forest’s Joy Beauregard, Richards softball coach Julie Folliard, Mother McAuley’s girl’s volleyball coach Nancy Pederson and a number of state title teams (Mt. Carmel basketball in ’85, Lincoln-Way East ’02 & Lockport ’04 softball) as those who will always standout from his career. Tony cites the “honesty and passion” of student-athletes and coaches as the reason he loves covering high school sports.

Award Presentation: Halftime of Andrew vs. Lincoln-Way Central football game

 

BRUCE FASOL | Radio Broadcaster | Deep South Sports, WFRX

With coaching in his family tree, Bruce Fasol was indoctrinated into sports at a young age, as he participated in four sports at West Frankfort High School and also began his work in radio as a junior in high school. Bruce returned to the area after attending Southern Illinois University and has spent nearly 40 years in the radio business. He is a staple in the West Frankfort community, having called over 3,000 Redbird athletic contests with broadcasting partner Rick Westermeier, often from their booth perched atop Frankfort High School’s Max Morris Gymnasium, also known as “The Supreme Court”. The Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Famer was named the West Frankfort Citizen of the Year in 2000 and remains active in coordinating community projects throughout Southern Illinois. Bruce’s favorite part of high school sports is seeing athletes grow to become important parts of the community.

Award Presentation
: Halftime of Frankfort vs. Benton boy’s basketball game at Frankfort on November 30, 2013

BOB FRISK | Sportswriter, Columnist | Daily Herald

Bob Frisk’s junior high yearbook lists his life ambition as becoming a sportswriter. He made the first step toward achieving that dream when he became the sports editor for the high school newspaper and yearbook while at Arlington High School in Arlington Heights (Arlington HS closed in 1984, students now attend either Hersey or Prospect). As a high school student, he was also hired by the local newspaper, the Daily Herald, which started a 56-year career at the paper that was interrupted only to attend the University of Illinois, where he covered high school sports for the Daily Illini and Champaign-Urbana Courier during his four years on campus. Bob’s efforts have produced a litany of awards and honors, including IBCA Hall of Fame induction, as well as Hall of Fame enshrinement from three local high schools. Bob retired in 2008 and surmises his love of high school sports with simplicity by saying “sports at this level are still refreshing. I love watching kids compete.”

Award Presentation
: Halftime of Hersey-Prospect boy’s basketball game at Prospect on January 30, 2014.


LANNY SLEVIN | Radio Broadcaster | Miller Group Media, WLPO

Lanny Slevin’s love affair with radio began when he was six years old growing up in Peoria listening to Bradley basketball and Notre Dame football on the radio. He played high school football at Spalding Institute (now Notre Dame HS) in Peoria and attended St. Ambrose University before a 42-year career working in radio that he calls a “childhood dream come true.” Much of that time was spent at WLPO in the LaSalle-Peru area, while also working on the IHSA Sports Report and the IHSA TV Network throughout the years. He counts calling his children’s high school games and emceeing the 100th IHSA Boys Track & Field State Finals in Charleston among his career highlights. Lanny retired following the 2012-13 school year, and fittingly, his final radio call came at an IHSA State Final, as he brought fans the action from the St. Bede softball team’s state tourney semifinal game.

Award Presentation
: Halftime of St. Bede vs. Rockridge football game at St. Bede on Saturday, October 5

 


Class of 2014-15

FRED KRONER| Sportswriter | Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette

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.

Award Presentation: Champaign Central basketball game on January 30, 2015.

 

JOHN RADTKE | Sportswriter | Daily Herald

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.”

Award Presentation
: Hampshire at Burlington Central Boys Basketball game on Saturday, December 6.

 

JIM TAYLOR | News & Sports Director | WRMJ 102.3 FM

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.

Award Presentation
: Mercer County basketball game on January 23, 2015.



Class of 2015-16

J. THOMAS MCNAMARA| Sportswriter/Editor | Decatur Tribune

Growing up in Decatur, Tom recalls that his height prevented him from being an athlete as a high school student at St. Teresa, but he dove into sports as a team manager, which eventually led to the late Bob Fallstrom hiring him as a Sports Clerk for the Decatur Herald as a sophomore. He maintained that path while attending Southern Illinois University and 58 years later still finds himself writing sports in Decatur and Macon County, including the last 38 as sports editor of the Decatur Tribune. One of the great high school historians in the state, Tom has penned three historical record books related to high schools sports in the Decatur area, as well as the autobiography of Decatur native Frank Coppenbarger. He has covered a litany of state championship teams in multiple sports and counts those among his favorite memories. A member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Tom is active in the Our Lady of Lourdes, where he often visits elderly hospital patients and also served on the Richland Community College Board of Trustees for many years. Tom’s presentation is fitting in that it features his alma mater, St. Teresa, playing the school that nominated him, Maroa-Forsyth. He also has a grandchild currently attending both high schools, making it even more of a family affair. Tom says the best part of covering high school sports is “Being with the young men and women who play the games and the coaches who sacrifice so much to work with them to help them be the best they can be in their athletic endeavors, as well as off-the-court efforts.”

Award Presentation: Halftime of St. Teresa vs. Maroa-Forsyth football game on Friday, September 4.


JIM O'BOYE| IHSA TV Producer| KOST Broadcasting

Jim O’Boye will tell you that he spent a total of 16 years producing the television broadcasts of numerous IHSA sport state final events, including football, girls basketball and boys basketball. However, that is a gross understatement, as Jim essentially was the IHSA TV Network for nearly two decades. He worked tirelessly at the site on the day of the broadcasts to produce the events, but also personally tried to ensure that the games were seen from East Dubuque to Cairo and everywhere in between. A Chicago native (Jim began at Mt. Carmel & graduated from Little Flower HS), Jim’s favorite high school sports memory was watching the 1964 state basketball championship game when Pekin beat Cobden. That perspective served him well when he came full circle and began producing America’s Original March Madness, which created several other favorite moments, including Staunton’s upset of Hales Franciscan in the 1993 Class A title game, Simeon’s buzzer beater to win the 2006 Class AA championship, watching Candace Parker dunk at the Dundee-Crown Christmas tournament and then lead Naperville Central to a pair of crowns, as well as seeing legendary coaches Dick VanScyoc (Manual) and Gordie Kerkman (West Aurora) win state titles. Jim has also served as the PA announcer for home St. Rita football games for over 30 years, a tradition that began when his son was playing football for the Mustangs. He calls his time overseeing the IHSA TV Network “the greatest job I ever had!” Jim says the best part of covering high school sports is “talking with the coaches, the pure enthusiasm the kids have for the game, and usually having a great seat, especially when I produced the IHSA telecasts.”

Award Presentation: Pre-game of St. Rita vs. Loyola football game on Friday, October 16.


BOB SAKAMOTO| Sportswriter | Chicago Tribune

For nearly 25 years, Bob Sakamoto was the face of prep sports coverage in Chicagoland. In addition to being a fixture in the Chicago Tribune’s Preps Plus section, he also co-hosted a weekly high school sports show on CLTV and was all-things high school sports. Affectionately known by readers and viewers as “Sako,” fans and athletes alike knew that if Bob was at the football stadium, in the gym or at the softball diamond, it was a big game. Bob spent 32 years at the Chicago Tribune and his Emmy-nominated show High School Extra ran for a decade. The Chicago native is a graduate of Lane Tech High School who graduated from MacMurray College and then went on to earn a Master’s Degree from Northwestern University. He is a member of both the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association and the Chicago Public Schools Coaches Association Halls of Fame. Bob covered a bevy of memorable teams, legendary coaches and future professional athletes during his tenure, and recalls Isiah Thomas, Glenn “Doc” Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Jon Scheyer, Mark Aguirre, Terry Cummings, Ben Wilson, Dwyane Wade, Jarrett Payton, Quentin Richardson, Corey Maggette, Donovan McNabb, Antwaan Randle El and Napoleon Harris as some that stand out from his career. Prior to his preps career, Bob spent four seasons on the Chicago Bulls beat traveling all over the country trying to describe the ascendant, once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon known as Michael Jordan while also getting to know him as a friend. Bob spent four seasons covering the Chicago Bears striving to portray the essence of people like Mike Ditka, Jim McMahon, Mike Singletary, Ron Rivera, Tom Thayer, Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, Jim Harbaugh and Jay Hilgenberg. He says that the best part of covering high school sports is “revealing the true nature of competition among athletes simply playing for the love of the game, along with the passion of a Mt. Carmel football game and the terrific barbecue grill team at Wheaton South football games.”

Award Presentation: Pre-game of Mt. Carmel vs. St. Rita football game on Friday, September 18.


TIM SCHWEIZER| Radio Broadcaster| WFMB 1450 AM

Simply put, Tim Schweizer is the voice of high school sports in Springfield and the surrounding area. His broadcasting career dates back to 1974, when he began calling games on WTAX in Springfield. He remained there until 1997, when he joined the crew at WFMB Sports Radio 1450, where he continues to call games today. A graduate of Springfield High School who was involved in student council, he earned his Bachelor’s Degree at Illinois State University, and later went onto to complete his MBA at Sangamon State University (now University of Illinois at Springfield). He says there are “far too many to list” when it comes to naming the top athletes, coaches and teams he has covered, but does offer that he “always enjoys having a good seat to report on history in the making involving local kids” and that “state finals involving local teams are the best.” Tim works as a public service administrator for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and has been involved with community groups including the Springfield Housing Authority, the Boys and Girls Club, Friends of Brookens Library, Springfield Sports Hall of Fame and the Springfield Junior Football League. Tim was recognized by the Sangamon County Principals Association in 2012 when he was named a “Friend of the County” for his 30-plus years of calling the County high school basketball tournament on the radio. As a man known for his ability to captivate an audience on the radio, Tim keeps it short and sweet when asked what the best part of covering high school sports is: “Promoting the good things being done by high school students, while providing a community service by reporting on local kids and local schools.” He adds that he “feels blessed to have had great working relationships with local coaches and athletic directors.”

Award Presentation: Pre-game of Springfield HS vs. Chatham Glenwood HS boys basketball game on Saturday, December 5.

Class of 2016-17

DAVE BERNHARD| Broadcaster| IHSA TV Network

Each March as a student at Beecher High School, Dave Bernhard’s class would watch the IHSA Boys Basketball State Finals on a small TV in the school gym. Dave reflects, saying, “the games were great to see, but I always thought that the luckiest people that I was watching were the announcers of the games. I have become that luckiest person.” Dave has been “lucky” enough to enjoy an expansive career in prep sports, from his time as a high school teacher and baseball coach, to a writer at the Joliet Herald News, broadcasting on WJOL radio and hosting a weekly prep sports cable TV show in the south Chicagoland suburbs. However, the Bradley University alum’s greatest impact has come as the face and voice of the IHSA TV Network. Dave has been broadcasting IHSA State Finals on statewide television since 2000, and has been on the play-by-play call for over 450 state final contests. All told in 37 years, he estimates he has broadcast over 1,200 high school contests and attended over 2,000 as a media member. “There is an energy that is found at high school events that is unlike that of college or professional sports,” said Dave. “The students in the stands are true classmates. They are in the same classes, working on projects together, helping each other with homework, eating lunch together, and now they come together to support their school. The same goes for the athletes.” Whether covering a weekday regular-season game or calling Derrick Rose’s state championship buzzerbeater, Bernhard treats the games the same based on some words of wisdom NFHS Hall of Famer Gordie Gillespie said to him years ago, “Wherever you are at, that is the Major Leagues”.

Award Presentation: Prior to the IHSA Class 4A Baseball State Championship game at Silver Cross Field in Joliet on June 10, 2017.


JIM MUIR| Radio Broadcaster| WQRL Radio

Few media members are more synonymous with high school sports in Southern Illinois than Jim Muir, and it may be safe to say that no one has enjoyed covering them more than him. “The best way to sum it up is to say that any time anybody saw me with a headset on at a high school sporting event, I loved every second of it. Every single second,” said Jim. The Sesser-Valier High School and Rend Lake College alum will retire as the Sports Director at WQRL radio at the conclusion of the 2016-17 school year after over 25 years and 3,000 broadcasts. He always loved to play sports and compete, but by his own admission, "wasn't a great athlete". However, that didn't diminish his love for high school sports and he always stayed connected any way he could. His broadcast career started on a whim when a friend invited him to co-host a Saturday morning prep sports radio show and as Muir says, “the rest is history.” That history includes expanding the Saturday preps show to two hours and making it year round, extending the station’s coverage to other high schools in the region in addition to Benton High School, and adding girls’ basketball, baseball and softball to the broadcast lineup. During his career, Muir also covered high school sports and wrote columns for the Southern Illinoisan and Benton Evening News. He also published Southern Illinois Sports Connection Magazine for five years. Muir reflects on his career saying, “I just love the atmosphere involved in high school sports, the build-up before a big game. I have been blessed to be a part of so many great games and to have the privilege to watch so many wonderful athletes compete. I'm also thankful to the good folks at WQRL, they gave me an opportunity to expand sports and do some innovative things that nobody else was doing. It's just been a great ride for me!”

Award Presentation: Benton vs. Sesser-Valier Boys Basketball game at Benton Invitational Tournament on January 20, 2017.


DON WERNTZ| Radio Broadcaster| Big Radio Freeport

As an 11-year old kid with a broken wrist, Don Werntz got to know local Freeport radio broadcaster Rick Edwards while watching his Little League team and keeping the scoreboard in the press box. Edwards eventually invited a very nervous Werntz to call an inning of play-by-play on the air, and after a successful debut, told Don to come see him for a job when he was older. Don followed through and as a junior at Freeport High School, made $1.65 an hour working for the station. Don had found his calling, as he chose broadcasting over law school after graduating with degrees in Political Science and Radio/TV/Film from Northern Illinois University. Don has spent his entire career in the Northern Illinois market, calling over 2,500 contests in numerous sports, including many state championship winning teams. However, it’s a team that came up short of a title that stands out above the rest. “I have a special place in my heart for the Freeport Pretzel basketball team in 1973-74 that went 28-2 and advanced to Super-Sectional. That was the first year I had an opportunity to broadcast games on the radio, and it was also my senior year at Freeport High School. So it was literally ‘my team’ with my own classmates and friends. Not many people have the opportunity to do that.” As Don approaches 45 years on the air waves in Freeport, the 2013 Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Hall of Fame inductee's reason for coming back year after year remains the same. “The people. I have met so many interesting players, coaches and fans over the last 43 years. Many of whom have become lifelong friends.”

Award Presentation: Forreston vs. Lena-Winslow Football game on October 7, 2016.